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2. Choosing the Right Installation Medium
2.a. Hardware Requirements
Before we start, we first list what hardware requirements you need to
successfully install Gentoo on your box. This of course depends on your
The Alpha Architecture
Check the following requirements before you
continue with the Gentoo installation:
You need at least 1 Gb of free disk space
For the Alpha architecture, you should check with the Alpha/Linux FAQ
2.b. Make your Choice
Still interested in trying out Gentoo? Well, then it is now time to
choose the installation medium you want to use. Yes, you have the
choice, no, they are not all equal, and yes, the result is always the same: a
Gentoo base system.
The installation media we will describe are:
Before we continue, let's explain our three-stage installation.
The Three Stages
Gentoo Linux can be installed using one of three stage tarball files.
The one you choose depends on how much of the system you want to compile
yourself. The stage1 tarball is used when you want to bootstrap and
build the entire system from scratch. The stage2 tarball is used for
building the entire system from a bootstrapped "semi-compiled" state.
The stage3 tarball already contains a basic Gentoo Linux system that has
been built for you.
Now what stage do you have to choose?
Starting from a stage1 allows you to have total control over the
optimization settings and optional build-time functionality that is
initially enabled on your system. This makes stage1 installs good for
power users who know what they are doing. It is also a great
installation method for those who would like to know more about the
inner workings of Gentoo Linux.
A stage1 installation can only be performed when you have a working
||Pros and Cons
Allows you to have total control over the optimization settings and optional
build-time functionality that is initially enabled on your system
||Suitable for powerusers that know what they are doing
||Allows you to learn more about the inner workings of Gentoo
||Takes a long time to finish the installation
If you don't intend to tweak the settings, it is probably a waste of time
Not suitable for networkless installations
Stage2 installs allow you to skip the bootstrap process and doing this
is fine if you are happy with the optimization settings that we chose
for your particular stage2 tarball.
A stage2 installation can only be performed when you have a working
||Pros and Cons
||You don't need to bootstrap
||Faster than starting with stage1
||You can still tweak your settings
||You cannot tweak as much as with a stage1
||It's not the fastest way to install Gentoo
||You have to accept the optimizations we chose for the bootstrap
Not suitable for networkless installations
Choosing to go with a stage3 allows for the fastest install of Gentoo
Linux, but also means that your base system will have the optimization
settings that we chose for you (which to be honest, are good settings
and were carefully chosen to enhance performance while maintaining
stability). stage3 is also required if you want to install Gentoo using
prebuilt packages or without a network connection.
||Pros and Cons
||Fastest way to get a Gentoo base system
||Suitable for networkless installations
||You cannot tweak the base system - it's built already
||You cannot brag about having used stage1 or stage2
Write down (or remember) what stage you want to use. You need this later when
you decide what LiveCD (or other installation medium) you want to use. You might
be interested to know that, if you decide to use different optimization settings
after having installed Gentoo, you will be able to recompile your entire system
with the new optimization settings.
Now take a look at the available installation media.
The Gentoo Alpha LiveCD
The Gentoo Alpha LiveCD is a bootable CD which contain a
self-sustained Gentoo environment. It allows you to boot Linux from the CD.
During the boot process your hardware is detected and the appropriate drivers
are loaded. It is maintained by Gentoo developers.
The Gentoo Alpha LiveCD is a small, no-nonsense, bootable CD which sole
purpose is to boot the system, prepare the networking and continue with the
Gentoo installation. It does not contain any stages (or, in some cases, a
single stage1 file), source code or precompiled packages. For example the
alpha variant of this LiveCD can be found in the
releases/1.4_rc1/alpha subdirectory and is called
2.c. Download, Burn and Boot the Gentoo LiveCD
Downloading and Burning the LiveCDs
You have chosen to use a Gentoo LiveCD (if not, then you are reading the
wrong document). We'll first start by downloading and burning the chosen
Visit one of our mirrors and go to
releases/1.4rc1/alpha which is where the LiveCD(s) of your choice
are located. Inside that directory you'll find so-called ISO-files. Those are
full CD images which you can write on a CD-R.
In case you wonder if your downloaded file is corrupted or not, you can
check its MD5 checksum and compare it with the MD5 checksum we provide (such as
gentoo-alpha-1.4rc1-test3.iso.bz2.md5sum). You can check the MD5
checksum with the md5sum tool under Linux/Unix or md5sum for Windows.
Once downloaded, decompress the ISO file (as it is stored in a compressed format
using the Burrows-Wheeler text compression algorithm) using bunzip2 (on
Code Listing 3.1: Decompressing the iso.bz2 file
# bunzip2 gentoo-alpha-1.4rc1-test3.iso.bz2
Another way to check the validity of the downloaded file is to use GnuPG to
verify the cryptographic signature that we provide (the file ending with
.asc). Download the signature file and obtain the public key:
Code Listing 3.2: Obtaining the public key
$ gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys 17072058
Now verify the signature:
Code Listing 3.3: Verify the cryptographic signature
$ gpg --verify <signature file> <downloaded iso>
To burn the downloaded ISO(s), you have to select raw-burning. How you
do this is highly program-dependent. We will discuss cdrecord and
K3B here; more information can be found in our Gentoo FAQ.
With cdrecord, you simply type cdrecord dev=/dev/hdc (replace
/dev/hdc with your CD-RW drive's device path) followed
by the path to the ISO file :)
With K3B, select Tools > CD > Burn Image. Then
you can locate your ISO file within the 'Image to Burn' area. Finally click
Booting the Alpha LiveCD(s)
When your Alpha is powered on, the first thing that gets started is the
firmware. It is loosely synonymous with the BIOS software on PC systems. There
are two types of firmware on Alpha systems: SRM (Systems Reference
Manual) and ARC (Advanced Risc Console).
SRM is based on the Alpha Console Subsystem specification, which provides an
operating environment for OpenVMS, Tru64 UNIX, and Linux operating systems. ARM
is based on the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) specification, which provides
an operating environment for Windows NT. You can find a
detailed guide on
using SRM over at the Alpha Linux website.
If your Alpha system supports both SRC and ARCs (ARC, AlphaBIOS, ARCSBIOS) you
should follow these
instructions for switching to SRM. If your system already uses SRM, you
are all set. If your system can only use ARCs (Ruffian, nautilus, xl, etc.) you
will need to choose MILO later on when we are talking about bootloaders.
Now to boot an Alpha LiveCD, put the CD-ROM in the tray and reboot the system.
You can use SRM to boot the LiveCD. If you cannot do that, you will have to use
MILO. If you don't have MILO installed already, use one of the
precompiled MILO images available on taviso's homepage.
Code Listing 3.4: Booting a CD-ROM using SRM
>>> show device
dkb0.0.1.4.0 DKB0 TOSHIBA CDROM
>>> boot dkb0 -flags 0
Code Listing 3.5: Booting a CD-ROM using MILO
MILO> boot hdb:boot/vmlinuz initrd=initrd.img root=/dev/ram0 init=/linuxrc
You should have a root ("#") prompt on the current console and can also switch
to other consoles by pressing Alt-F2, Alt-F3 and Alt-F4. Get back to the one you
started on by pressing Alt-F1.
Now continue with Extra Hardware Configuration.
Extra Hardware Configuration
When the Live CD boots, it tries to detect all your hardware devices and
loads the appropriate kernel modules to support your hardware. In the
vast majority of cases, it does a very good job. However, in some cases (the
SPARC LiveCDs don't even do autodetection), it may not auto-load the kernel
modules you need. If the PCI auto-detection missed some of your system's
hardware, you will have to load the appropriate kernel modules manually.
In the next example we try to load the 8139too module (support for
certain kinds of network interfaces):
Code Listing 3.6: Loading kernel modules
# modprobe 8139too
Optional: Tweaking Hard Disk Performance
If you are an advanced user, you might want to tweak the IDE hard disk
performance using hdparm. With the -tT options you can
test the performance of your disk (execute it several times to get a
more precise impression):
Code Listing 3.7: Testing disk performance
# hdparm -tT /dev/hda
To tweak, you can use any of the following examples (or experiment
yourself) which use /dev/hda as disk (substitute with your
Code Listing 3.8: Tweaking hard disk performance
# hdparm -d 1 /dev/hda
# hdparm -d 1 -A 1 -m 16 -u 1 -a 64 /dev/hda
Optional: User Accounts
If you plan on giving other people access to your installation
environment or you want to chat using irssi without root privileges (for
security reasons), you need to create the necessary user accounts and change
the root password.
To change the root password, use the passwd utility:
Code Listing 3.9: Changing the root password
To create a user account, we first enter their credentials, followed by
its password. We use useradd and passwd for these tasks.
In the next example, we create a user called "john".
Code Listing 3.10: Creating a user account
# useradd -m -G users john
# passwd john
You can change your user id from root to the newly created user by using
Code Listing 3.11: Changing user id
# su - john
Optional: Viewing Documentation while Installing
If you want to view the Gentoo Handbook (either from-CD or online) during the
installation, make sure you have created a user account (see Optional: User Accounts). Then press Alt-F2 to
go to a new terminal and log in.
If you want to view the documentation on the CD you can immediately run
lynx to read it:
Code Listing 3.12: Viewing the on-CD documentation
# lynx /mnt/cdrom/docs/html/index.html
However, it is preferred that you use the online Gentoo Handbook as it will be
more recent than the one provided on the CD. You can view it using lynx
as well, but only after having completed the Configuring your Network
chapter (otherwise you won't be able to go on the Internet to view the
Code Listing 3.13: Viewing the Online Documentation
# lynx http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/handbook/handbook-alpha.xml
You can go back to your original terminal by pressing Alt-F1.
Optional: Starting the SSH Daemon
If you want to allow other users to access your computer during the
Gentoo installation (perhaps because those users are going to help you
install Gentoo, or even do it for you), you need to create a user
account for them and perhaps even provide them with your root password
(only do that if you fully trust that user).
To fire up the SSH daemon, execute the following command:
Code Listing 3.14: Starting the SSH daemon
# /etc/init.d/sshd start
To be able to use sshd, you first need to set up your networking. Continue with
the chapter on Configuring your Network.
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