by July 6, 2001 0 comments

In the past, whenever PCQ has given out a
Linux CD, one of the most important pieces in the magazine has been the article on how to
install Linux. Users have found the piece to be invaluable and having followed it to
the T, have come out to tell the success tale. But there have been problems, particularly
with graphics cards. In this issue, we’ve tried to humanize the article and the
installation process, and together with the new Linux graphical installation of Red Hat
6.1, hope that more of our readers get it right this time.

After the March 1999 issue of PC Quest, we
received over 10,000 successful installation reports. This time we hope to do much better.
Do let us know your story by mailing us at
Please note that this is only for registering your Linux usage. For installation-related
support, please
write to linux

First of all, a few assumptions to
set the starting point. I’m assuming that your computer already has an operating
system, most probably Win 95/98. As long as you have enough free disk space, this
won’t be an issue at all. At PCQ Labs, we installed Linux from the CD you’re
currently holding, on to dozens of machines and in various permutations and combinations.
At this stage, I’m also assuming that you’ve at least 2 GB of free disk
space. Also, that your computer allows you to boot from the CD-ROM drive. If it
doesn’t, don’t worry. We’ll also tell you how to install without a bootable

Are we ready to go? It’s a fairly
painless and safe process, but in order to be absolutely sure, let’s use golden rule
#1. Back up your critical data before doing anything. A very important assumption at this
stage: I’m assuming that you’re not only reading this article, but are actually
trying the steps out at the same time.

If the hard disk has been in use for a
while, I’d suggest that you quickly run a disk defrag on it and then use FIPS (see
box on the next page) to create a new partition where Linux can be installed.

As a first step, you’re advised to
read the manual. Yes, all the three Red Hat Linux 6.1 manuals are included on the CD. Just
pop the CD into the drive, and use your favorite browser to open the file
“index.htm” in the directory /doc/rhinst. This actually describes the entire
process, and will be your primary guide. You can also check out the Red Hat Linux 6.1
Getting Started Guide (/doc/rhgsg/index.htm) and the Red Hat Linux 6.1 Reference Guide

After you’ve read through the manual
(or at least the initial sections), the next step is to boot from the CD. Most modern
systems allow this, though you might have to enable the function in the system BIOS.

If your system doesn’t allow you to
boot from the CD, you can do the following. From the DOS Prompt, change to the directory
\dosutils on the CD and run the batch file autoboot.bat. So, if your CD-ROM drive is D:,
run cd d:\dosutils, autoboot.

If even this doesn’t work, then from
the \dosutils directory, run the batch file makedsks.bat (the file’s there this
time). This should make a bootable floppy disk with which you can boot up. From there on,
the rest of the procedure is the same.

susceptibility of system information

Filename Related
to growth
cron crond Medium
dmesg   syslogd Low
maillog      sendmail  High
messages     syslogd  High
secure      telnetd / ftpd  Medium
wtmp      login  High

“dmesg” is a file that
contains boot-up messages and is perhaps the smallest of the log files.
“maillog”, as is obvious, contains a log of all incoming and outgoing e-mail.
These are created by the message transfer agent (MTA) on the system. Sendmail is the
default MTA on Linux, and logs generated by it are logged in maillog. The amount of log
information in this file depends on the log level setting in the sendmail configuration

“messages” is a good storehouse
of information. The kernel and many other applications that you use are programmed to log
their information to this file. The log information in this file is coordinated by a
mechanism called syslog (short for system log), with the syslog daemon (syslogd) providing
the mechanism on the system. “named” logs its messages in this file, and so does
“pppd” when you use it in debug mode. I have a small script, “nuke”
that I wrote to kill processes on my system, and this uses syslog to log information in
the messages file about the processes it killed. The "secure" file logs connect
and login attempts into your ftp server, as well as failed remote login attempts into your
machine. The "wtmp" file provides a record of user logins and their session
times, and "last" is a utility that uses this file to provide the data in a
readable format. last is typically used to examine the chronological sequence of logins to
the system.

Now that you’ve some idea of how
system information uses up disk storage, it’s important to prune these files and
release disk space. logrotate can be used very effectively to do this. But, it isn’t
enough to rotate and throw away the system information. It’s essential to scan the
system information at least on a daily basis, to ensure that the system and all
applications are working fine. From the system security perspective, it’s an
invaluable practice to scan this information. Hence, there is a need to backup these
important log files. (Refer to the article Backups and Disaster Recovery in PC
, March 1999, page 83)

I’ve touched upon a very small but
essential part of system administration here. The amount of system log information
generated is proportional to usage, the number of users as well as the applications
running. For example, if it’s a personal machine and you use e-mail heavily,
you’ll probably have to pay attention to the size of /var/log/maillog.

If as a systems administrator, I were to be
granted a wish, I’d wish that future releases of Linux include in them an automated
report generator that would give me a report periodically—a summary of the valuable
information in all these log files. In my next article, we’ll take a closer look at

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