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2. Choosing the Right Installation Medium

Content:

2.a. Hardware Requirements

Introduction

Before we start, we first list what hardware requirements you need to successfully install Gentoo on your box. This of course depends on your architecture.

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

Introduction

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:

  • The Gentoo Alpha LiveCD

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 Internet connection.

Stage1 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 Internet connection.

Stage2 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.

Stage3 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 gentoo-alpha-1.4rc1-test3.iso.bz2.

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 LiveCD.

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 Unix/Linux systems):

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 Start.

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

(List available hardware drives)
>>> show device
dkb0.0.1.4.0        DKB0       TOSHIBA CDROM
(...)
(Substitute dkb0 with your CD-ROM drive device)
>>> boot dkb0 -flags 0

Code Listing 3.5: Booting a CD-ROM using MILO

(Substitute hdb with your CD-ROM drive device)
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 disk):

Code Listing 3.8: Tweaking hard disk performance

Activate DMA:                                       # hdparm -d 1 /dev/hda
Activate DMA + Safe Performance-enhancing Options:  # 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

# passwd
New password: (Enter your new password)
Re-enter password: (Re-enter your 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
New password: (Enter john's password)
Re-enter password: (Re-enter john's password)

You can change your user id from root to the newly created user by using su:

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 document):

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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Page updated November 4, 2004

Summary: You can install Gentoo in many ways. In this chapter we explain how to install Gentoo using a Gentoo LiveCD.

Sven Vermeulen
Author

Daniel Robbins
Author

Chris Houser
Author

Jerry Alexandratos
Author

Seemant Kulleen
Gentoo x86 Developer

Tavis Ormandy
Gentoo Alpha Developer

Jason Huebel
Gentoo AMD64 Developer

Guy Martin
Gentoo HPPA developer

Pieter Van den Abeele
Gentoo PPC developer

Joe Kallar
Gentoo SPARC developer

John P. Davis
Editor

Pierre-Henri Jondot
Editor

Eric Stockbridge
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Rajiv Manglani
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Jungmin Seo
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Stoyan Zhekov
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Jared Hudson
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Colin Morey
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Jorge Paulo
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Carl Anderson
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Jon Portnoy
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Zack Gilburd
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Erwin
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Joshua Kinard
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Tobias Scherbaum
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Grant Goodyear
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Gerald J. Normandin Jr.
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Donnie Berkholz
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Ken Nowack
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Lars Weiler
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