RHEL 6 for the Clueless: Installation

By Ed Hurst | Posted at 5:48 AM

In the last part of this series, we prepared to install Linux. Now's the time to take the leap and actually perform the installation, a process that is typically easy enough, but may include some complications I will outline below.

To start, drop the DVD into the player and reboot.

The first thing you may encounter is display troubles. Some Intel chipsets cause the installer to freeze. If the entire screen goes black and stays that way, then try again. Reboot from the DVD and at the first screen which displays, select “Install with basic video driver.” This should get you past that well known problem. You'll get a very primitive text-mode display for the next few steps, but at some point, if RHEL can use the graphics chips at all, it should give you a graphical display of some sort later.

The next issue is a very long pause while RHEL checks the hard drives available, as well as the networking environment. Depending on the circumstances, the installer will pause for an awfully long time, with the message about initializing the hardware. Be patient. As long as the screen is not simply blank, it's okay.

The next step is the DVD media test. Run it the first time you use that particular DVD. RHEL is running a check to make sure it can read the entire disk. If you use the same disk again on another machine, it shouldn't be necessary to scan it again, and you hit the tab key, highlight the word “skip” and hit enter. Either way, when it asks if you want to check another, select “continue” because we don't have another.

This is where the installer's hardware detector, called Anaconda, tries to pull up a graphical display if it hasn't already. As with Windows, the “display” includes keyboard and mouse. Make sure you select the proper keyboard layout and default language. Then, it will check the hard drives again. RHEL will ask you if you have any specialized drives, which is highly unlikely. Just select “Basic storage device.” Sometimes RHEL will think it has found something odd and will throw up a warning about reinitializing the drive. There's nothing you can do, really, so let it go ahead and do so. Then select “fresh install.”

Next is some networking configuration. Unless you have a LAN with some internal domain name, simply give your computer a name meaningful to you, a single word using all lower case letters. Unless you connect to the Internet via dialup, click that button for “Configure Network.” It will show you what RHEL has found possible so far. The main point here is to put a checkmark in the box marked “Connect Automatically.” This way you won't struggle to configure it later, wondering why it's not connecting. If you are limited to dialup, you cannot configure that here.

Select your timezone; the list is alphabetical by well known cities in your timezone. Here in the US, that's choices like New York (Eastern Time), Chicago (Central Time), Denver (Mountain Time) or Los Angeles (Pacific Time). For the rest, just hunt around until you see something close to you. Unless you know your computer's internal clock is set to UTC (Greenwich Mean Time), uncheck the box.

Next is where you enter your root password we discussed in the previous lesson. At some point later you will create your user account. Two or more letters for the username is fine, but really long names can be hard to type, so keep it simple.

Then we come to drive selection. If you have more than one hard drive in your computer, this can be pretty complicated. All the more so if they aren't connect via the same bus. Some computers, like mine, can run both the older PATA drives with the flat wide gray cable, and SATA drives with the slender cable. Most operating systems will default to booting from the PATA drives, which is fine for the most part. You get to select which drives will be installed and which should be simply mounted to preserve the data. If anything is going to go wrong, this is most likely where it will be. It works best if all you have is a single drive large enough to run Linux, or the drives are of the same type. Again, I highly recommend you devote all the drive space to RHEL. Dual booting is dicey for Linux newbies, and RHEL doesn't make it simple. But RHEL can figure out how to configure and use the drives just fine by itself if you don't complicate things. Once you make up your mind, it will format immediately.

When RHEL asks you to select an installation profile, I am going to recommend you choose the “Development Workstation” — that's Desktop plus the means to compile software. If you don't have at least 80GB, your system may be too small for anything but the basic Desktop profile. Otherwise, we will need to build some packages soon, a lot of them if you have special needs. We'll cover that later. RHEL 6 comes rather stripped down, even when you install the full set of development libraries, and you will inevitably build some libraries before you build the packages which rely on them. Once you finish choosing your profile, RHEL will write the packages to the hard drive. Take a break, because this won't be quick at some 1400+ packages.

If all goes well, the installer will eject the DVD tray and wait for you to acknowledge the need to reboot. Shortly you will see a nice boot screen animation, then the welcome screen with some notes you should read. Next is the Linux equivalent of the “click-wrap” license. You can read it, but it simply declares the software could not possibly have a warranty, and if you play with any of the source code and make changes, you have to share it back with the community.

For users of the official RHEL release, you can enter your login credentials here, and connect to the Red Hat Network (RHN) for updates and so forth. Both CentOS and Scientific Linux (SL) skip that. Eventually you will have a chance to login to your user account.

Welcome to Linux.