Last weekend, I got my system ready to install the latest and greatest from the openSUSE community. After I wrote that post, I thought I was going right into the installation, but life intervened (as it so often does). Between tending to other priorities (some of us are still working while the economic crisis continues) and wanting to reserve a large block of time for the install, just in case anything went wrong, I didn’t get to install openSUSE 12.1 until Wednesday.
The good news is that it went pretty smoothly. Let me tell you about it…
The last item of preparation last week was to burn the KDE LiveCD to use for the installation. I kept the Transmission BitTorrent client going 24×7 throughout this period, sharing the 32-bit DVD, KDE and GNOME ISO files (in case you’re wondering, the share ratio indicating the demand for each file wound up at over 5 for the DVD, and both live CDs around 2, with GNOME slightly ahead) for roughly a week.
Before I shut down the laptop, I popped the burned CD-RW into the holder, without sliding it in. I powered down the machine, and the CD drive pulled in the disc. After a couple of deep breaths, I fired up the laptop, and the CD loaded and displayed the KDE desktop, as expected. Two things made me happy to begin with:
- The desktop displayed in both the laptop and my attached second monitor. They were identical images, so I couldn’t (yet) use the big monitor as an extension of the desktop, but it was a good start for the open-source Nouveau driver.
- KDE also found my Ethernet cable, attached to the DSL router. I was slightly disappointed it did not immediately locate the wireless card, but I was pretty hopeful that the networking piece of the install would go smoothly.
In the KDE folder view that presented itself on the LiveCD was a lovely Install button. The adventure was about to begin. Clicking the button generated a warning box, telling me I didn’t have enough memory (less than 1GB) to complete the install and run anything else. While thinking “Wow, you mean with a newer system I would have been able to get screen shots? Or even tweet the whole process?”, I resigned myself to reality and started the install. Sorry folks!
The openSUSE installation process has changed a bit since the v10.3 install I documented in openSUSE Linux Unleashed back in 2007, but similar to more recent versions. On the first screen, the installer identifies the language and keyboard you use, with drop-down menus in case it guesses wrong. It also displays the GNU General Public License v2 text, which you do not have to “sign,” but have the option to read.
Clicking Next takes you to the gorgeous full-color world map that allows you to define your time zone, either by clicking your spot on the map, using the drop-down menus or some combination of both. Because this is YaST, you get the option to use the Network Time Protocol (NTP) to set your clock with the help of time servers associated with ultra-accurate atomic clocks. As I had yet to set up my Internet connection, this didn’t work—but I got it working (set to the us.pool.ntp server) later. Click Next.
The third screen offered a suggestion for partitioning the hard drive. YaST reproduced the existing partition table exactly as I had it written down last week, and recommended only reformatting the root (/) partition. For a truly clean install, I could have reformatted /home too, but I was getting anxious and lazy, so I let it slide.
After the suggested partition table, you get three check boxes to select from:
- Create an LVM-based proposal; this Logical Volume Method would start over and create new partitions across physical hard drives. Choosing this option also allows you to encrypt certain volumes.
- Propose a separate home partition, selected by default (though I don’t know whether that was because I already had that setup). This is an excellent idea, by the way, for the simple reason that you can store and backup all your data in one place. Then you can choose whether to continue using that data when you change computers or operating systems.
- Use btrfs as the default filesystem. This new filesystem type (pronounced “Butter-FS”) is intended to be faster and better organized than ext4, the dominant filesystem for UNIX/Linux. But it’s new, and relatively untested.This is not checked by default, and I seriously considered selecting this option, but chickened out on my main production system.
When I clicked Next, I ran into the first glitch of the install, based on the fact that the LiveCD was still running. While the install program (YaST) was trying to identify an initial set of software packages, PackageKit was using the same YaST Software Management module to check for new software, generating an error message from the install program. I had to press Ctrl+Esc to get the System Activity module up to kill PackageKit to continue. that’s Tip #1 for a first-time installer!
Once the software conflict was resolved, the fourth screen of the install appeared, where I created my first user. YaST asks for your Full Name, and offers your first name as your user name. You can change this manually if you prefer something else. You are then asked to type a password twice for that user.
Here you also get three check boxes for this user:
- Use password for system administrator. This is how Ubuntu does things, but critics (like me) suggest that this is a bad convenience-vs-security tradeoff. I prefer to have a separate admin password, so I clear this box.
- Receive system mail. Because I am the main user of this system, I do check this box, so when the system wants to tell me something it found in its logs, it will tell me (not the Root account that I never log into directly).
- Autologin. This box is checked, and is OK to my mind if you’re the only user of your computer (or at least the Linux side). OTOH, if you like to choose your desktop from the login screen, you might not ever see the login screen.
Also on this screen, you can select an authentication method (how the system is to know that you are really you). By default, openSUSE will use the classic UNIX method of a passwd file in /etc. If you have one, you can also select a digital certificate stored on a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server, a Network File Server (NFS) or a Windows share. Your password will be encrypted using a SHA-512 key, the most secure protocol available, by default. You could choose a lesser cipher (DES, MD5 or SHA-256), but I don’t know why you’d do such a thing.
If you opted to create a different Root/admin password, clicking Next lets you set that password, otherwise you will see the Summary page of all the decisions you’ve made up to this point, with a final opportunity to make changes. You can also select what happens at boot time on this machine. openSUSE presumes you want to start at runlevel 5, with a graphical desktop, but if you just want to run a server of some type, with just command-line access, you can choose that here.
Click Next, and you’ll get the last warning to turn back. The installer then formats the partition(s) it’s slated to and starts “copying the root filesystem.” You can walk away or read a magazine article while it works. On my laptop, the install took 27 minutes. You will be asked to reboot the system.
After the reboot, the automatic hardware configuration kicks in, and two minutes later, your shiny new KDE desktop appears on your screen! From starting the LiveCD to a new working system took less than an hour, and would have been even faster had I not been taking copious notes.
Of course, I wasn’t quite done yet. You remember the problem I had with PackageKit earlier in the process? Well, I still hadn’t done my network setup, so the newly installed PackageKit replacement, called Apper, tried to find updates and promptly crashed.
I opened YaST, and set up my DSL connection with AT&T. After some poking around, I finally found KNetworkManager in the KDE “Configure Desktop” settings application and set up the wireless connection too. Finally, I set up my software repositories in YaST without a hitch. The KDE Crash Reporter was then able to get a proper backtrace, which was sent off to the KDE team.
Over the course of the holiday weekend, I’ve had to fix a few settings, and install a bunch more software, but overall I’m a happy guy! Yes, I’ve successfully booted to Windows and booted back to openSUSE again. I hope your install/upgrade goes as well as mine. If you’re still on the fence about installing, here are some of the other new features. Don’t forget: Have a lot of fun!