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2. Booting the Installer LiveCD


2.a. Hardware Requirements


Before we start, we first list what hardware requirements you need to successfully install Gentoo on your box using the Installer LiveCD.

Hardware Requirements

CPU Any AMD64 or EM64T CPU
Memory 256 MB
Diskspace 1.5 GB (excluding swap space)
Swap space At least 256 MB

2.b. The Gentoo Linux Installer LiveCD


A LiveCD is a bootable medium which contains 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. The Gentoo Installation CDs are maintained by Gentoo developers.

There currently are two Installation CDs available:

  • The Installer LiveCD contains everything you need to install Gentoo. It provides a graphical environment, a graphical as well as console based installer which automatically carries out the installation for you, and of course, the installation instructions for your architecture.
  • The Minimal Installation CD contains only a minimal environment that allows you to boot up and configure your network so you can connect to the Internet. It does not contain any additional files and cannot be used during the current installation approach.

2.c. Download, Burn and Boot the Gentoo Linux Installer LiveCD

Downloading and Burning the Installer LiveCD

You can download the Installer LiveCDs from one of our mirrors. They are located in the releases/amd64/2007.0/livecd/ directory.

Inside that directory you'll find an ISO-file. That is a full CD image which you can write on a CD-R.

After downloading the file, you can verify its integrity to see if it is corrupted or not:

  • You can check its MD5 checksum and compare it with the MD5 checksum we provide (for instance with the md5sum tool under Linux/Unix or md5sum for Windows)
  • You can verify the cryptographic signature that we provide. You need to obtain the public key we use (17072058) before you proceed though.

To fetch our public key using the GnuPG application, run the following command:

Code Listing 3.1: Obtaining the public key

$ gpg --keyserver --recv-keys 17072058

Now verify the signature:

Code Listing 3.2: 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 <downloaded iso file> (replace /dev/hdc with your CD-RW drive's device path).
  • With K3B, select Tools > Burn CD Image. Then you can locate your ISO file within the 'Image to Burn' area. Finally click Start.

Booting the Installer LiveCD

Important: Read this whole subsection before continuing, as you will probably not have the opportunity to read it before doing things later.

Once you have burned your LiveCD, it is time to boot it. Remove all CDs from your CD drives, reboot your system and enter the BIOS. This is usually done by hitting DEL, F1 or ESC, depending on your BIOS. Inside the BIOS, change the boot order so that the CD-ROM is tried before the hard disk. This is often found under "CMOS Setup". If you don't do this, your system will just reboot from the hard disk, ignoring the CD-ROM.

Now place the LiveCD in the CD-ROM drive and reboot. You should see a boot prompt. At this screen, you can hit Enter to begin the boot process with the default boot options, or boot the LiveCD with custom boot options by specifying a kernel followed by boot options and then hitting Enter.

Specifying a kernel? Yes, we provide a few kernels on our LiveCD. The default one is gentoo. Other kernels are for specific hardware needs and the -nofb variants which disable framebuffer.

Below you'll find a short overview on the available kernels:

Kernel Description
gentoo Default kernel with support for K8 CPUS (including NUMA support) and EM64T CPUs
memtest86 Test your local RAM for errors

You can also provide kernel options. They represent optional settings you can (de)activate at will. The following list is the same as the one you receive when you press F2 through F7 at the bootscreen.

Code Listing 3.3: Options available to pass to your kernel of choice

Hardware options:

acpi=on         This loads support for ACPI and also causes the acpid daemon to
                be started by the CD on boot. This is only needed if your
                system requires ACPI to function properly.  This is not
                required for Hyperthreading support.

acpi=off        Completely disables ACPI.  This is useful on some older
                systems, and is also a requirement for using APM.  This will
                disable any Hyperthreading support of your processor.

console=X       This sets up serial console access for the CD.  The first
                option is the device, usually ttyS0 on x86, followed by any
                connection options, which are comma separated.  The default
                options are 9600,8,n,1.

dmraid=X        This allows for passing options to the device-mapper RAID
                subsystem.  Options should be encapsulated in quotes.

doapm           This loads APM driver support.  This requires you to also use

doslowusb       This adds some extra pauses into the boot process for the slow
                USB CDROM of the IBM BladeCenter.

dopcmcia        This loads support for PCMCIA and Cardbus hardware and also
                causes the pcmcia cardmgr to be started by the CD on boot.
                This is only required when booting from a PCMCIA/Cardbus device.

doscsi          This loads support for most SCSI controllers.  This is also a
                requirement for booting most USB devices, as they use the SCSI
                subsystem of the kernel.

hda=stroke      This allows you to partition the whole hard disk even when your
                BIOS is unable to handle large disks.  This option is only used
                on machines with an older BIOS.  Replace hda with the device
                that is requiring this option.

ide=nodma       This forces the disabling of DMA in the kernel and is required
                by some IDE chipsets and also by some CDROM drives.  If your
                system is having trouble reading from your IDE CDROM, try this
                option.  This also disables the default hdparm settings from
                being executed.

noapic          This disables the Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller
                that is present on newer motherboards.  It has been known to
                cause some problems on older hardware.

nodetect        This disables all of the autodetection done by the CD,
                including device autodetection and DHCP probing.  This is
                useful for doing debugging of a failing CD or driver.

nodhcp          This disables DHCP probing on detected network cards.  This is
                useful on networks with only static addresses.

nodmraid        Disables support for device-mapper RAID, such as that used for
                on-board IDE/SATA RAID controllers.

nofirewire      This disables the loading of Firewire modules. This should only
                be necessary if your Firewire hardware is causing a problem
                with booting the CD.

nogpm           This disables gpm console mouse support.

nohotplug       This disables the loading of the hotplug and coldplug init
                scripts at boot.  This is useful for doing debugging of a
                failing CD or driver.

nokeymap        This disables the keymap selection used to select non-US
                keyboard layouts.

nolapic         This disables the local APIC on Uniprocessor kernels.

nosata          This disables the loading of Serial ATA modules.  This is
                useful if your system is having problems with the SATA subsystem.

nosmp           This disables SMP, or Symmetric Multiprocessing, on SMP-enabled
                kernels.  This is useful for debugging SMP-related issues with
                certain drivers and motherboards.

nosound         This disables sound support and volume setting.  This is useful
                for systems where sound support causes problems.

nousb           This disables the autoloading of USB modules.  This is useful
                for debugging USB issues.

Volume/Device Management:

dodevfs         This enables the deprecated device filesystem on 2.6 systems.
                You will also need to use noudev for this to take effect.
                Since devfs is the only option with a 2.4 kernel, this option
                has no effect if booting a 2.4 kernel.

doevms2         This enables support for IBM's pluggable EVMS, or Enterprise
                Volume Management System.  This is not safe to use with lvm2.

dolvm2          This enables support for Linux's Logical Volume Management.
                This is not safe to use with evms2.

noudev          This disables udev support on 2.6 kernels.  This option
                requires that dodevfs is used. Since udev is not an option for
                2.4 kernels, this options has no effect if booting a 2.4

unionfs         Enables support for Unionfs on supported CD images.  This will
                create a writable Unionfs overlay in a tmpfs, allowing you to
                change any file on the CD.

unionfs=X       Enables support for Unionfs on supported CD images.  This will
                create a writable Unionfs overlay on the device you specify.
                The device must be formatted with a filesystem recognized and
                writable by the kernel.

Other options:

debug           Enables debugging code. This might get messy, as it displays
                a lot of data to the screen.

docache         This caches the entire runtime portion of the CD into RAM,
                which allows you to umount /mnt/cdrom and mount another CDROM.
                This option requires that you have at least twice as much
                available RAM as the size of the CD.

doload=X        This causes the initial ramdisk to load any module listed, as
                well as dependencies. Replace X with the module name. Multiple
                modules can be specified by a comma-separated list.

noload=X        This causes the initial ramdisk to skip the loading of a
                specific module that may be causing a problem.  Syntax matches
                that of doload.

nox             This causes an X-enabled LiveCD to not automatically start X,
                but rather, to drop to the command line instead.

scandelay       This causes the CD to pause for 10 seconds during certain
                portions the boot process to allow for devices that are slow to
                initialize to be ready for use.

scandelay=X     This allows you to specify a given delay, in seconds, to be
                added to certain portions of the boot process to allow for
                devices that are slow to initialize to be ready for use.
                Replace X with the number of seconds to pause.

Now boot your CD, select a kernel (if you are not happy with the default gentoo kernel) and boot options. As an example, we show you how to boot the gentoo kernel, with dopcmcia as kernel parameters:

Code Listing 3.4: Booting an Installation CD

boot: gentoo dopcmcia

You will then be greeted with a boot screen and progress bar. If you are installing Gentoo on a system with a non-US keyboard, make sure you immediately press Alt-F1 to switch to verbose mode and follow the prompt. If no selection is made in 10 seconds the default (US keyboard) will be accepted and the boot process will continue. Once the boot process completes, Gnome will start up and you will be automatically logged in to the "Live" Gentoo Linux system as "gentoo" in graphical mode. You will be logged in as "root", the superuser on the other consoles and should have a root ("#") prompt there. You can switch to those consoles by pressing Alt-F2, Alt-F3, Alt-F4 Alt-F5, Alt-F6. Get back to the graphical desktop you started on by pressing Alt-F7. To switch to other consoles from within X, you must prefix the above with Ctrl. You are able to run commands as root from any terminal within the graphical environment by using the sudo application. You can even become root within a terminal to perform multiple tasks.

Code Listing 3.5: Using sudo to run applications

(Example only)
(Editing the group file)
# sudo vi /etc/group
(Becoming root for a session)
# sudo su -

Extra Hardware Configuration

When the LiveCD 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, 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. These tasks require root access.

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. You will need root access to use 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
(Or with Safe Performance 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. You need root access to change the root password and add new users.

To change the root password, use the passwd utility:

Code Listing 3.9: Changing the root password

$ sudo su -
# 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

You can also change the password for the "gentoo" user in the graphical environment. This account is already suitable for use on the Internet.

Code Listing 3.12: Changing the gentoo password

$ passwd
New password: (Enter your new password)
Re-enter password: (Re-enter your password)

Optional: Viewing Documentation while Installing

If you want to view the Gentoo Handbook (either from-CD or online) during the installation, you can view it with Mozilla Firefox (from the graphical environment) or with links (from a terminal environment).

Code Listing 3.13: Viewing the on-CD documentation with Firefox

# firefox /mnt/cdrom/docs/handbook/html/index.html

If you would prefer to use links to see a text-only version of the handbook, 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.

Code Listing 3.14: Viewing the on-CD documentation with links

# links /mnt/cdrom/docs/handbook/html/index.html

You can go back to your original window by pressing Alt-F7.

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 Firefox or links 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 3.15: Viewing the online documentation with Firefox

# firefox

Code Listing 3.16: Viewing the online documentation with links

# links

You can now choose to proceed by using the GTK+ based installer (which needs X) or the Dialog based installer that can be run on a console.

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Page updated June 29, 2007

Summary: Using our Installer LiveCD you can boot up your system into a running environment that allows you to install Gentoo.

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