VirtualBox Slowing Down Mah Linux (gasp!)

As I booted up my laptop tonight, I noticed that things were extremely sluggish. It didn't take long at all to realize just how painfully slow things were. The problem didn't appear to be during boot, as the boot sequence was about as fast as it usually is. No, the speed was attacked as X was being loaded.

It has been a few days since I had time to use my laptop, and I thought I might have had to do a hard shutdown the last time I used it (for whatever reason). This lead me to wonder if it could have been something with the filesystem being corrupted. Usually a reboot solves these sort of problems for me, so that's what I chose to do. Unfortunately, it didn't do the trick. Upon rebooting, the laptop started up fine during boot, but as soon as X started up everything was slow again.

Some time when I was trying to see why my computer was running so slow, I pulled up the system monitor to see if any processes were obviously hoarding the CPU power. There were a few processes that stood out, and they all started with VBox. The next thing I thought of was the last system update I did. It involved a new kernel, and that last system update was done the last time I used my laptop.

It dawned on me that I hadn't recompiled my VirtualBox drivers since I did my system update. I kicked off the usual /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup command. As soon as it was done, my computer was all the sudden very responsive--the way it usually is.

Giving OpenSUSE 11.1 An Honest Chance

I've decided that if I ever want to really understand Linux, I'll have to give as many distributions as possible a chance. In the past, I've tried to use OpenSUSE on my HP Pavilion dv8000 laptop, but it never seemed quite as robust or useful as many other distributions that I've tried on the same machine.

With the recent release of OpenSUSE 11.1, I downloaded the final 32-bit DVD ISO as I normally do for newly released distributions (even if I don't plan on using them--it's an addiction). I proceeded to install the GNOME version of it in a virtual machine to see what all the hubbub was about. Evaluating an operating system within a virtual machine is not the most effective way to do things, but everything seemed fairly solid. As such, and since I have always had difficulties keeping any RPM-based distro around for any length of time, I plan on using OpenSUSE 11.1 through March 2008 (perhaps longer if it grows on me). If it hoses my system, I will go back to something better. If it works, I will learn to use and appreciate it better.

The Installation

The first step when the installation program starts is to choose what language to use, after which you choose the type of installation you're going to be doing. Your choices are:

  • New Installation
  • Update
  • Repair Installed System

You also have the option of installing "Add-On Products" from another media. At this step, I chose to do a new installation.

Next, you get to choose your time zone. The interface is very intuitive. You get a map of the world, and you click on the region you want to zoom in on. Once you're zoomed in, you can select a city that is near you to specify your time zone. Alternatively, you can choose your region and time zone from a couple of drop down lists.

After setting your time zone, you get to choose which desktop environment you want to install. Your choices are:

  • GNOME 2.24.1
  • KDE 4.1.3
  • KDE 3.5.10
  • XFCE 4.4
  • Minimal X Window
  • Minimal Server Selection (Text Mode)

I will choose to install GNOME because it seems to be the desktop of the future, especially with the hideous beast that KDE has become in the 4.x series...

Now you get to play with the partitioning. Usually the installer's first guess is pretty good, but I've got a different arrangement for my partitions, so I'm going to customize things a bit.

The next step is to create a regular, unprivileged user account for your day-to-day computing needs. This screen is pretty self-explanatory if you've ever registered for an e-mail address or installed any other operating system.

One thing that seems to have been added to OpenSUSE 11.1 is the option to use your regular user password as the root password. This is probably a nice addition for a lot of people, but I'd rather feel like my computer is a little more secure by having a different password for administrative tasks.

You're also give a few other options, such as being able to receive system mail, logging in automatically, and modifying your authentication settings. Other than the administrative password option, I left everything the same. If you're like me, and choose to have a different administrative password, you will be prompted to enter the new password at the next step.

Finally, you're shown a summary of the installation tasks that will take place. I'm going to customize my software selection just a bit so I don't have to do it manually after the installation is complete. For example, while I do like GNOME to a degree, I prefer to use KDE 3.5.x, so I will choose to install that environment as well just in case I need the comfort of KDE programs. Also, since I like to use the command line interface for a lot of things, I will choose to install the "Console Tools" package, just because it sounds useful. Lastly, I will choose to install a few development packages, such as C/C++, Java, Python, and Tcl/Tk. These changes bumped up my installation size from about 2.8GB to just over 4GB.

After reviewing the remaining tasks, all you need to do is hit the "Install" button. You will be prompted to verify your desire to install OpenSUSE, after which the package installation will begin. While the installation is taking place, you have the option of watching a brain-washing slideshow, viewing the installation details as it progresses, or reading the release notes.

The actual installation took nearly 40 minutes on my laptop. While this isn't necessarily a great improvement over past releases, I'm sure the story would have been much different had I not customized the software I wanted to have installed. The introduction of installation images a few releases ago drastically improved installation times. If you don't customize your package selection, you'll probably notice the speed difference.

When all of the packages have been installed, the installation program begins to configure your newly installed OpenSUSE for your computer, with a "reboot" in between. This is when all of your hardware, such as your network adapters, graphics adapter, sound card, printers, etc are probed and configured. Strangely enough, this step seems to take a lot longer than it does in Windows, which is usually not the case with Linux. What is OpenSUSE up to I wonder?

When all is said and done, the installation program finishes on its own and loads up your desktop.


There are a couple things that really annoyed me right off the bat about OpenSUSE 11.1. The first was that the loading screen and installation program didn't use my laptop's native resolution. My screen is capable of 1680x1050. The installation program chopped off about 1.25 inches of screen real estate on either side of the program. I don't know if this was an intentional occurrence or not. It seems like the artwork in the installation may have been limited to a non-widescreen resolution. If so, that's completely retarded. I'd like to think that more computer users these days have a widescreen monitor than not, at least the ones who would be playing with Linux.

The second annoyance was that the installation program wouldn't use my external USB DVD drive, which I like to think more reliable than my internal DVD drive. I mean, everything would start up fine--I got the boot menu, the installation program loaded fine, and things seemed like they would work. That's up until the package repositories (the DVD) were being built. Then the USB drive just kept spinning and spinning. Once I popped the disc into my internal drive the program proceeded as expected.

Your Desktop

I thought it was interesting that I chose to install GNOME, but since I chose to install KDE 3.5.10 alongside it that's what it booted me into after the installation was completed. No real complaints, though, since I prefer KDE anyway. Nonetheless, I switched back to GNOME to stretch my limits all the more. At least the desktop took up the full resolution that my screen can handle, unlike the installation program and boot screen.

Things seem fairly responsive... nothing like Slackware though. I just received a little popup notification with an excuse for the lag I might be experiencing: the daily indexing has commenced and should be finished soon. Whatever it's up to, it's taking up a consistent 100% of my CPU. How nice. I hope whatever it's indexing ends up being useful.

Sound worked right from the get-go, which is nice. Hardware acceleration for my Radeon Xpress 200M doesn't work, nor does my Broadcom wireless card. These will be fixed soon.

The Wireless

It looks like the most important step in getting my wireless to work was executing these commands as root:

modprobe b43

I did a lot of stuff to try to get my wireless to work before I executed those commands, but nothing did the trick until I tried them. Also, to make the wireless available each time you reboot without requiring the modprobe b43 command, you need to edit your sysconfig.

To do that, open up YaST and find the "/etc/sysconfig Editor" option. Expand the "System" node, and navigate to Kernel > MODULES_LOADED_ON_BOOT. Then put b43 in the value box. Apply the changes. The next time you reboot your computer, the wireless should be available from the get-go.

The Video Card

This section only really applies to folks with ATI graphics adapters.

I found a tutorial on, strangely enough, which described the process for getting ATI drivers to work on OpenSUSE 11.1. The first step is to download the official ATI drivers for Linux. Each of these commands should be executed as root:


Next, you need to download the kernel source and ensure that you have a few other utilities required for compiling a kernel module:

zypper in kernel-source gcc make patch

Now you should be able to run through the ATI driver installation utility, accepting all of the defaults:


If you're on 64-bit OpenSUSE, you need to take an extra step to make the driver available:

rm /usr/lib/dri/ && ln -s /usr/lib64/dri/ \

Backup your existing xorg.conf configuration file and configure Xorg to use the new driver:

cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.orig
aticonfig --initial -f

Finally, configure Sax2 with the ATI driver:

sax2 -r -m 0=fglrx

Upon rebooting your computer, you should be able to use the hardware-accelerated 3D capabilities of your ATI card. To verify that things are up and running, execute fglrxinfo as a normal user. This command renders the following output on my system:

display: :0.0  screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: ATI Radeon Xpress Series
OpenGL version string: 2.1.8304 Release

Other Thoughts

After having played with OpenSUSE 11.1 for a couple hours, I think I might be able to keep it around for a little while. Despite the lack of speed exhibited by other Linux distributions, the "stability" that OpenSUSE seems to offer is attractive to me. It will likely take some time to get used to RPMs over DEBs for package management.

How bad can it be? I mean, it comes with OpenOffice 3.0.0, which is nice. It can handle dual-head mode on my laptop thanks to Xinerama, which no other distro to date has been able to do. This gives me a little more screen real estate to work with, which helps out a lot when I'm developing a Web site or working in an IDE. The package managers are slow, but how often do you really install software anyway?

Again, we'll just have to see how things pan out. Let's hope it turns out to be a positive experience.

Installing Slackware 12.2 On Your EeePC (701 4G, in my case)

Welcome to my second article about installing Slackware on an Asus EeePC. This is a follow-up article to the one I posted in May 2008 soon after Slackware 12.1 was released. In this article, I will assume that you're doing a fresh installation of Slackware 12.2 and that you have access to an external USB CD/DVD ROM drive.

In all honesty, the installation process is extremely similar to what I did with 12.1. However, looking back at my previous article, I realize that my steps may not have been the most useful in the world. This time around I will try to be more helpful.

Getting Slackware

The first, and most obvious step, is to get a copy of Slackware. Simply head on over to and retrieve the appropriate ISO(s) using whichever method you prefer. I downloaded the DVD version of Slackware. If you download the CD ISOs, you really only need the first 3 ISOs. The remaining 3 are source packages for the binary packages you install from the first three discs. Rarely do you need the source code for these packages.

After retrieving the Slackware ISO(s), you must burn them to a disc of some sort: ISOs that are ~650MB should be burned to CDs and anything larger should (obviously) be burned to a DVD. Be sure you burn each ISO using the "burn disc image" functionality in your disc writing software--simply burning the ISO file onto the disc in a regular data session will not do what we need.

Booting The Install Disc

After you have a good copy of the installation disc (the DVD or the first of the CDs), put the disc into your CD/DVD ROM drive and reboot your computer. To ensure that your computer boots from the disc rather than the hard drive, hit F2 when you see the initial boot screen. Then go to the "Boot" tab and verify that your external CD/DVD drive takes precedence over the internal SSD. While we're in the BIOS, let's hop over to the "Advanced" tab and set "OS Installation" to "Start". This will increase the chances that your external drive will be recognized or something.... mine didn't work until I made that change. When you're all done with that, exit your BIOS, saving your changes.

The computer will reboot, and it should access your installation disc immediately after the initial boot screen disappears. Once you boot from the installation disc, you should be presented with a screen which allows you to pass some settings to the installation kernel.

The installation boot screen

To make the installation go faster, use the following boot string:

hugesmp.s hdc=noprobe

This makes it so the installation will see the internal SSD as /dev/sda instead of /dev/hdc, which also boosts the read/write times by about 13 times.

During the boot process you will be asked to specify your keyboard map. Unless you want something special here, just hit the enter key to proceed.

Partition Your SSD

Next you will need to login as root and partition your SSD. You can do this using one of the following two commands:

fdisk /dev/sda
cfdisk /dev/sda

Here are some steps in case you're not familiar with these utilities:

  1. Remove all partitions (unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: d to delete (you may have to select multiple partitions to delete if you have more than one for some reason)
    2. cfdisk: Select all partitions individually with up/down arrow keys and use the left/right arrow keys to select delete from the menu at the bottom. Hit enter to run the delete command when it's highlighted.
  2. Create one partition that takes the whole SSD (again, unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: n (for new); enter; p (for primary); enter; 1 (for the first primary partition); enter; enter (to start at the beginning of the drive); enter (to select the end of the drive)
    2. cfdisk: Select the new command with the left/right arrow keys and hit enter when it's selected. Make it a primary partition, and have it take the whole SSD (3997.49MB in my case).
  3. Set the type of the new partition to be Linux
    1. fdisk: t (for type); enter; 83 (for Linux); enter
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the type command at the bottom and hit enter when it's selected. Choose 83.
  4. Set the new partition (or the first, if you decided to make more than one) to be bootable
    1. fdisk: a (for bootable); enter; 1 (for primary partition 1); enter
    2. cfdisk: Select the bootable command from the bottom using the left/right arrow keys. Hit enter when it's selected.
  5. Write the changes to the partition table and quit
    1. fdisk: w
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the write command from the bottom. Hit enter when it's selected. Type 'yes' to verify your intent, acknowledging that your previous data will be "gone". Then select the quit command.

Installing Slackware

As soon as your partitioning has finished, go ahead and run setup to begin the actual installation program.

The first screen of the installation program

Since we don't have a swap partition, can jump straight to the TARGET option. Use the arrow keys to highlight this option and hit enter. Select /dev/sda1 from the list, and format it with ext2. On the EeePC, most people prefer this format since it is a non-journaling filesystem. That means fewer writes to the SSD, which supposedly translates to a longer lifetime.

After the SSD is formatted, you will be asked to select the installation source. Again, I'm assuming that you want to use your fresh Slackware 12.2 disc, but you are free to choose what you want if you know what you're doing.

Selecting the installation source

I went with the default "Install from a Slackware CD or DVD" and told it to auto scan for my disc drive. It was found at /dev/sr0.

Choosing Your Packages

Next, you are given the opportunity to tweak the package series which will be installed on your EeePC. I chose the following series: A, AP, K, L, N, TCL, X, and XAP. I planned on using XFCE instead of KDE on my EeePC simply because it is much more light-weight and still capable of what I need. If you want KDE, be sure to check the appropriate series.

Selecting the packages to install

Once you mark each of the package series you wish to install, hit the "OK" button. You'll then have to choose which prompting mode to use. I chose menu, simply to be a little more picky about which packages I wanted installed. Installation took approximately 28 minutes with my package selection and setup.

Configuring Your System

When all of the packages are done being installed, you will be presented with some other screens to finish up the installation process.

  1. Choose whether or not you want to make a bootable USB... I skipped it.
  2. Choose how you wish to install LILO. I chose simple.
  3. Choose your frame buffer mode for the console. I chose 640x480x256.
  4. Specify any optional kernel parameters. Ensure that the hdc=noprobe from earlier is here to speed up your system considerably.
  5. Specify whether you wish to use UTF-8 on the console. I chose no.
  6. Specify where to install LILO. I chose MBR.
  7. Specify your mouse type. I chose imps2.
  8. Specify whether or not you wish to have gpm run at boot, which allows you to use your mouse in the console. I chose yes.
  9. Configure your network.
  10. Give your EeePC a hostname. This can be whatever you'd like.
  11. Specify the domain for your network. This can be whatever you'd like as well.
  12. Configure your IP address information. I just chose DHCP.
  13. Set the DHCP hostname. I left this blank.
  14. Review and confirm your network settings.
  15. Choose which services you wish to have running immediately after booting.
  16. See if you want to try custom screen fonts. I usually don't bother.
  17. Specify whether your hardware clock is set to local time or UTC.
  18. Choose your timezone.
  19. Select your preferred window manager. I chose XFCE.
  20. Set the root password.

At this point Slackware has been installed on your EeePC and you can exit the setup menu and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reboot your computer.

First Boot

You should now go back into your BIOS and set "OS Installation" back to "Finished", exit and save changes, and reboot again.

Slackware's default LILO boot screen

You should then see the Slackware boot screen. By default, it has a 2-minute timeout, which seems absolutely absurd to me, so we'll change that later. Just hit enter for now and watch your new Slackware boot. The first boot will usually take a bit longer than subsequent reboots because all sorts of things need to generate their first configuration file.

When your system is ready, you'll be presented with a login prompt. Just login as root, using the password you specified in the last step of the installation process.

Tweaking Your Slackware

Here are some of the first things I do when I install a new copy of Slackware:

Add An Unprivileged User

This step is very important, because one thing that sets Linux apart from other operating systems is security ;). If you run your Linux system as root all the time, you're begging for problems.

To create a new unprivileged user, I use the adduser command. It walks you through the process of creating a user. This is the user you should use to do your day-to-day computing. Only use the root user when performing system administration tasks. Trust me :)

Tell X Windows to Start Automatically

I have no problem with the command line interface in Linux. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. However, on a device such as the EeePC, not having a GUI just doesn't seem all that practical. It's also not very impressive to your potential converts when they look over your shoulder and see that your tiny gadget just displays a black and white screen when you turn it on...

So, to help ourselves be a little more productive and to impress our followers, let's tell X Windows to start up automatically when we turn on the computer. To do that, we want to edit /etc/inittab and change the following line:


to be:


You can use whatever program you feel comfortable with, such as vi or nano. The next time you reboot your computer, you should see a GUI as soon as all of the services are fully loaded.

Along with this step, I suppose we can mention the configuration of X Windows. I usually run xorgsetup as root to get things up and running. Usually there is also a bit of tweaking to get things like the scroll wheel on the mouse to function. This part in particular took quite some time for me to figure out.

Enable The Scroll Wheel on the Trackpad

Some of you might be able to live without being able to scroll a page or whatever without using the scroll feature on most mouse devices these days, but I'm not one of them. Here is my entire /etc/X11/xorg.conf file:

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     " Configured"
    Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
    InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
    InputDevice    "SynapticMouse" "AlwaysCore"
    InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"

Section "Files"
    RgbPath      "/usr/share/X11/rgb"
    ModulePath   "/usr/lib/xorg/modules"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/TTF"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/OTF"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/Type1"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/misc"
    FontPath     "/usr/share/fonts/75dpi/:unscaled"

Section "Module"
    Load  "xtrap"
    Load  "GLcore"
    Load  "record"
    Load  "dri"
    Load  "dbe"
    Load  "extmod"
    Load  "glx"
    Load  "freetype"
    Load  "type1"
    Load  "synaptics"

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier  "Keyboard0"
    Driver      "kbd"
    Option       "XkbModel"  "pc104"
    Option       "XkbLayout"  "us"

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier  "Mouse0"
    Driver "mouse"
    Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
    Option "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
    Option "Buttons" "5"
    Option "zAxisMapping" "4 5"
    Option "SHMConfig" "on"

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier "SynapticMouse"
    Driver "synaptics"
    Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
    Option "Protocol" "auto-dev"
    Option "SHMConfig" "on"

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier   "Monitor0"
    VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
    ModelName    "Monitor Model"

Section "Device"
        ### Available Driver options are:-
        ### Values: <i>: integer, <f>: float, <bool>: "True"/"False",
        ### <string>: "String", <freq>: "<f> Hz/kHz/MHz"
        ### [arg]: arg optional
        #Option     "NoAccel"               # [<bool>]
        #Option     "SWcursor"              # [<bool>]
        #Option     "ColorKey"              # <i>
        #Option     "CacheLines"            # <i>
        #Option     "Dac6Bit"               # [<bool>]
        #Option     "DRI"                   # [<bool>]
        #Option     "NoDDC"                 # [<bool>]
        #Option     "ShowCache"             # [<bool>]
        #Option     "XvMCSurfaces"          # <i>
        #Option     "PageFlip"              # [<bool>]
    Identifier  "Card0"
    Driver      "intel"
    VendorName  "Intel Corporation"
    BoardName   "Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller"
    BusID       "PCI:0:2:0"

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Screen0"
    Device     "Card0"
    Monitor    "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth 24
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     1
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     4
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     8
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     15
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     16
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport   0 0
        Depth     24

A lot of that stuff might not be necessary, but it's what works for me. Normally the process for enabling the scroll wheel is pretty easy, but something seems to have changed in this respect with the release of Slackware 12.2. I had to edit the /etc/modprobe.d/psmouse script to make this line:

options psmouse proto=imps

look like:

options psmouse proto=any

After making that change, things seemed to work a lot better.

Make LILO to Boot Faster

There are a couple tricks we can use to make LILO boot our EeePC slightly faster. The first is to add the compact option somewhere, and the second is to decrease the menu timeout.

Open up /etc/lilo.conf with a text editor of your choosing as root. Add a single line with the word compact somewhere. I put it under the line that says boot = /dev/sda so the top of lilo.conf looks like this:

# LILO configuration file
# generated by 'liloconfig'
# Start LILO global section
# Append any additional kernel parameters:
append="hdc=noprobe vt.default_utf8=8"
boot = /dev/sda

I also changed the line that said timeout = 1200 to be timeout = 50 to make LILO only hang around for 5 seconds instead of 2 minutes.

After making these changes, we must reinstall LILO to the MBR with the new settings:

lilo -v

Here's my /etc/lilo.conf with most of the commented lines removed:

# LILO configuration file
# generated by 'liloconfig'
# Start LILO global section
# Append any additional kernel parameters:
append="hdc=noprobe vt.default_utf8=0"
boot = /dev/sda

# Boot BMP Image.
# Bitmap in BMP format: 640x480x8
bitmap = /boot/slack.bmp
bmp-colors = 255,0,255,0,255,0
bmp-table = 60,6,1,16
bmp-timer = 65,27,0,255

timeout = 50
vga = normal
# End LILO global section
# Linux bootable partition config begins
image = /boot/vmlinuz
root = /dev/sda1
label = Linux
# Linux bootable partition config ends

Network Tweaking

While the wireless adapter seemed to work great for me out of the box this time, the ethernet adapter is still not functional. I compiled and installed the atl2 driver to solve the problem. You can get it from Here are the steps I took to install it:

tar jxf atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2
cd atl2-2.0.4
cp atl2.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/net/
depmod -a
modprobe atl2

The next tweak I added for networking was to boost boot times... The DHCP address request hangs the entire boot process out of the box if you don't have an ethernet cable plugged in while booting. To remedy this problem, add the following line to the first section of your /etc/rc.d/rc.inet1.conf:


This will tell your computer to continue booting if an IP address hasn't been assigned after 5 seconds of waiting.

Enable Frequency Scaling

We all like out battery to last a long time, right? Well, the EeePC 701 doesn't have the greatest battery in the world, but we can help increase the battery life by enabling the CPU frequency modules. I put this stuff in my /etc/rc.d/rc.local script:

# /etc/rc.d/rc.local:  Local system initialization script.
# Put any local startup commands in here.  Also, if you have
# anything that needs to be run at shutdown time you can
# make an /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown script and put those
# commands in there.

modprobe p4-clockmod
modprobe cpufreq_ondemand
modprobe cpufreq_conservative
modprobe cpufreq_powersave
modprobe cpufreq_performance

cpufreq-set -g ondemand -d 450Mhz -u 900Mhz

Add Your SD Card to /etc/fstab

I have an SD card that I leave in my EeePC all the time, and it's formatted with ext2 just like the internal SSD. Without this tweak, I have to mount the SD card each time I turn on the computer, which gets bothersome. My fix is to add the SD card to /etc/fstab, which takes care of mounting the device at boot.

First, you should make a directory that will be used to mount the device. I made one as such:

mkdir /mnt/sd

Now you need to determine your SD card's UUID. I started out by unmounting my SD card and taking it out of the slot. Then I executed this command:

ls /dev/disk/by-uuid

Next, I popped the SD card back in and executed that command again. The UUID that appears the second time but not the first time is your SD card's UUID.

It's time to add the magic line to your /etc/fstab. Add a line such as:

UUID=[your SD card's UUID] /mnt/sd ext2 defaults,noatime 1 1

somewhere in the file. While we're digging around in /etc/fstab, we might as well add the noatime option to the internal SSD to help reduce disk writes. Save the file and exit the editor. Then mount everything (using mount -a) or just the SD card (using mount /mnt/sd).

For posterity's sake, here's my entire /etc/fstab file:

/dev/sda1        /                ext2        defaults,noatime         1   1
UUID=30293ff4-5bee-457a-8528-ec296f099e9a /mnt/sd ext2 defaults,noatime 1 1
#/dev/cdrom      /mnt/cdrom       auto        noauto,owner,ro  0   0
/dev/fd0         /mnt/floppy      auto        noauto,owner     0   0
devpts           /dev/pts         devpts      gid=5,mode=620   0   0
proc             /proc            proc        defaults         0   0
tmpfs            /dev/shm         tmpfs       defaults         0   0

Preventing Shutdown Hangs

Sometimes the sound card seems to make Slackware hang when you're shutting down. Everything seems to turn off fine, but the little green power LED still shines bright. The solution to this problem appears to be adding the following line:

modprobe -r snd_hda_intel

to /etc/rc.d/rc.6 right before the "Unmounting local file systems." line (around line 195).

Enable Volume Hotkeys and Sleeping

Slackware 12.2 is already listening for ACPI events by default, so we just need to insert our custom stuff into /etc/acpi/


set $@

#logger "ACPI Event $1, $2, $3, $4, $5"

case "$1" in
        case "$2" in
            power) /sbin/init 0;;
            sleep) /etc/acpi/actions/;;
                if grep -q closed /proc/acpi/button/lid/LID/state
            *) logger "ACPI action $2 is not defined";;
        case "$3" in
            # Fn+F2 Wireless/Bluetooth button
            # Fn+F7 Mute button
            00000013) amixer set Master toggle;;
            # Fn+F8 Volume down
            00000014) amixer set Master 10%-;;
            # Fn+F9 Volume up
            00000015) amixer set Master 10%+;;
    *) logger "ACPI group $1 / action $2 is not defined";;

And to handle the closing of the lid or pressing the sleep button, we need to create a new script in /etc/acpi/actions/ called

# script by Fluxx from linuxquestions slackware forum
# discover video card's ID
ID=`/sbin/lspci | grep VGA | awk '{ print $1 }' | sed -e 's@:@/@'`

# securely create a temporary file
TMP_FILE=`mktemp /tmp/video_state.XXXXXX`
trap 'rm -f $TMP_FILE' 0 1 15

# switch to virtual terminal 1 to avoid graphics
# corruption in X
chvt 1

/sbin/hwclock --systohc

# remove the webcam module
rmmod uvcvideo

# write all unwritten data (just in case)

# dump current data from the video card to the
# temporary file
cat /proc/bus/pci/$ID > $TMP_FILE

# suspend-to-ram
# (samwise) not using this it stuffs up the screen brightness
echo -n mem > /sys/power/state

# suspend-to-disk
#echo -n disk > /sys/power/state

# standby
#echo -n standby > /sys/power/state

# force on for now...
xset dpms force on

/sbin/hwclock --hctosys

# restore the webcam module
modprobe uvcvideo

# restore video card data from the temporary file
# on resume
cat $TMP_FILE > /proc/bus/pci/$ID

# switch back to virtual terminal 2 (running X)
chvt 6; sleep 2
chvt 2

# remove temporary file
rm -f $TMP_FILE

And we need to make sure the script is executable:

chmod +x /etc/acpi/actions/

These scripts should enable us to use the mute key, the increase/decrease volume keys, and the sleep key. They should also allow us to close the lid of the EeePC to put it to sleep. Occasionally, when you wake up the computer, you will just see a blank black screen. To get around this, switch back to VT2 by using the keystroke Ctrl+Alt+F2.

Install Special Packages

Slackware comes with a lot of awesome stuff right out of the box, but it is missing some very important utilities at the same time. Included in this list, for me, is a program called wicd, or a network connectivity manager. This is similar to the "Network Manager" utility found in other mainstream distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSuSE. Slackware has yet to include such a utility by default.

Anyway, wicd can be found in the extra directory on the Slackware DVD or the 3rd (?) CD. To install it, find the package on the disc (or download it from the Internet) and execute the following command:

installpkg wicd-1.5.6-noarch-2.tgz

Be sure to check out the extra directory on the Slackware install disc. There are some neat tools in there. Some excellent resources for Slackware packages include:

There are some utilities out there to help you in your quest to resolve package dependencies. Two of the major ones that I've used in the past are swaret and slapt-get.

Using Slackware 12.2

My Slackware 12.2-powered EeePC 701 4G

I have to give the Linux kernel hackers props--the kernel is amazingly fast! I'm sure the fact that I'm running a fairly stock Slackware installation (as opposed to something like Ubuntu) helps the speed quite a bit too. This past semester I had Linux Mint 5 (XFCE edition) installed on my EeePC, and that seemed fairly responsive. Slackware blew me away though, and I can still do everything I want to do!

The webcam and sound card work out of the box, just like the wireless. I rarely use the webcam, but it's fun to play with, and my mom appreciates seeing me on Skype occasionally. The wireless connection quality exceeds what it was with the madwifi driver I was using with Slackware 12.1 and other distros like Linux Mint. Programs are ultra speedy and responsive, even with the processor clocked at 450Mhz. I love it!!!

Boot times could be better, but I'm not too concerned with it. My setup takes approximately 50 seconds from boot to a useable desktop interface. Not horrible by any means, but perhaps not the best for a netbook when all you want to do is check your e-mail.

I would like to see the Network Manager that so many other distributions offer in Slackware some day. The wicd application is nice, but it's not nearly as intuitive as Network Manager, and it seems to be relatively limited in its capabilities in comparison. I know I'm not alone in my desire to see Network Manager included, or at least available, for Slackware. It would be tremendously beneficial in a world where wireless networking and laptops are more and more pervasive. Using the command line to adjust your wireless connection settings each time you have to hop to a new access point is just annoying.

In the end, I'm excited to have Slackware on my EeePC once again. I think it will be around for quite a while this time.

Please comment with any advice or problems that you have in regards to installing Slackware 12.2 on an EeePC.

Slackware 12.1 on an Asus EeePC 701


This article has a follow-up for Slackware 12.2.

The following are the steps I took to install Slackware 12.1 on my EeePC this past weekend. I hope you find them complete and helpful!

Installing Slackware 12.1 on an Asus EeePC 701

  1. Burn DVD .iso to disc
  2. Turn on EeePC
  3. Hit F2 to run setup
  4. Go to the Advanced tab, and set "OS Installation" to "Start"
  5. Go to the Boot tab, and ensure that the external DVD drive will be used for booting before the internal SSD
  6. Exit and save changes
  7. Just hit enter after rebooting from BIOS configuration when the Slackware boot screen shows up
  8. Unless you want to use a different keymap for whatever reason, hit enter when asked to select a keyboard map
  9. Login as root
  10. Run fdisk or cfdisk on /dev/hdc
  11. Remove all partitions (unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: d to delete (you may have to select multiple partitions to delete if you have more than one for some reason)
    2. cfdisk: Select all partitions individually with up/down arrow keys and use the left/right arrow keys to select delete from the menu at the bottom. Hit enter to run the delete command when it's highlighted.
  12. Create one partition that takes the whole SSD (again, unless you know what you're doing)
    1. fdisk: n (for new); enter; p (for primary); enter; 1 (for the first primary partition); enter; enter (to start at the beginning of the drive); enter (to select the end of the drive)
    2. cfdisk: Select the new command with the left/right arrow keys and hit enter when it's selected. Make it a primary parition, and have it take the whole SSD (3997.49MB in my case).
  13. Set the type of the new partition to be Linux
    1. fdisk: t (for type); enter; 83 (for Linux); enter
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the type command at the bottom and hit enter when it's selected. Choose 83.
  14. Set the new partition (or the first, if you decided to make more than one) to be bootable
    1. fdisk: a (for bootable); enter; 1 (for primary partition 1); enter
    2. cfdisk: Select the bootable command from the bottom using the left/right arrow keys. Hit enter when it's selected.
  15. Write the changes to the partition table and quit
    1. fdisk: w
    2. cfdisk: Use the left/right arrow keys to select the write command from the bottom. Hit enter when it's selected. Type 'yes' to verify your intent, acknowledging that your previous data will be "gone". Then select the quit command.
  16. Run setup
  17. Select TARGET to specify where you will be installing
  18. Select /dev/hdc1
  19. Format the partition
  20. To reduce write cycles, many people suggest formatting with ext2, which is a non-journaling filesystem. However, many people claim that the limited number write cycles of SSD is not something to worry about. Use your best judgement on this one. Hit OK after the format is complete.
  21. Select where you plan to install Slackware from. In my case, it's the DVD. I usually tell it to find the media automatically. Select manual if you know which device your DVD drive is. Mine was /dev/sr0.
  22. Select the packages you wish to install. This is where your installation will likely differ greatly from mine because of personal preferences. I do a lot of development, so I will keep a lot of things for that. Here's what I selected to install:
    1. Base Linux System
    2. Various Applications that do not need X
    3. Program Development (C, C++, Lisp, Perl, etc.)
    4. Linux kernel source
    5. Qt and the K Desktop Environment for X
    6. System Libraries (needed by KDE, GNOME, X, and more)
    7. Networking (TCP/IP, UUCP, Mail, News)
    8. Tcl/Tk script languages
    9. X Window System
    10. X Applications
    11. Games
  23. Choose whether or not you want to be picky about your software. To save a little extra disk space, I'm going to manually choose what I don't want. This includes:
    1. A: cpio, cryptsetup, cups, floppy, genpower, jfsutils, mdadm, mt-st, mtx, quota, reiserfsprogs, rpm2tgz, tcsh, xfsprogs
    2. AP: amp, cdparanoia, hplip, gutenprint, jed, joe, jove, ksh93, mysql, rpm, xfsdump, zsh
    3. D: gcc-gfortran, gcc-gnat, gcc-java, mercurial, p2c
    4. N: elm, epic4, httpd, mailx, mutt, netatalk, pine, popa3d, proftpd, rp-pppoe, samba, slrn, tin, trn, vsftpd
    5. TCL: hfsutils
    6. X: anthy, bdftopcf, beforelight, libhangul, sazanami-fonts-ttf, sinhala_lklug-font-ttf, tibmachuni-font-ttf, wqy-zenhei-font-ttf
    7. XAP: audacious, audacious-plugins, gftp, mozilla-thunderbird, pan, seamonkey
  24. Wait for the installation to complete. It took almost a full hour with my package selection, leaving me with 485.4MB free on my 4GB SSD.
  25. Choose whether or not you want to make a bootable USB... I skipped it.
  26. Choose how you wish to install LILO. I chose simple.
  27. Choose your frame buffer mode for the console. I chose 640x480x256.
  28. Specify any optional kernal parameters. I left this blank, originally, but later learned that having 'hdc=noprobe' increased my disk access speed by about 13 times.
  29. Specify whether you wish to use UTF-8 on the console. I chose no.
  30. Specify where to install LILO. I chose MBR.
  31. Specify your mouse type. I chose imps2.
  32. Specify whether or not you wish to have gpm run at boot, which allows you to use your mouse in the console. I chose yes.
  33. Configure your network.
  34. Give your eeepc a hostname. This can be whatever you'd like.
  35. Specify the domain for your network. This can be whatever you'd like as well.
  36. Configure your IP address information. I just chose DHCP.
  37. Set the DHCP hostname. I left this blank.
  38. Review and confirm your network settings.
  39. Choose which services you wish to have running immediately after booting.
  40. See if you want to try custom screen fonts. I usually don't bother.
  41. Specify whether your hardware clock is set to local time or UTC.
  42. Choose your timezone.
  43. Select your preferred window manager. I chose KDE.
  44. Set the root password.
  45. Slackware has been installed! Exit the setup program and reboot.
  46. Hit F2 to enter the BIOS again.
  47. Set OS Installation to "Finished" and exit the BIOS, saving changes.
  48. Reboot into Slackware! The first boot takes a while because of all the initial setup. It is faster on subsequent reboots, assuming you don't add new services (like apache and mysql) at boot.

Change a few settings around.

  1. vi /etc/inittab
  2. (set default runlevel to 4)
  3. vi /etc/lilo.conf
  4. add 'compact' somewhere to make it boot faster
  5. change the boot delay so it's not 120 seconds

Now for installing various drivers.

  1. Install the ethernet driver:
    1. wget
    2. tar jxf atl2-2.0.4.tar.bz2
    3. cd atl2-2.0.4
    4. make
    5. cp atl2.ko /lib/modules/
    6. depmod -a
    7. modprobe atl2
    8. ifconfig
  2. Install the drivers for the wireless:
    1. wget
    2. tar zxvf madwifi-nr-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
    3. cd madwifi-nr-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
    4. scripts/madwifi-unload
    5. scripts/ uname -r
    6. make && make install
    7. modprobe ath_pci

I kind of stopped taking notes after I realized how much fun it was to have Slackware on my EeePC. If you have questions, just add a comment below.

How To Compile and Install a 2.6.x Series Linux Kernel

The Linux kernel is the core component in any Linux distribution. Without a kernel, your computer would be essentially useless. It is the piece of software which allows interaction between you, your computer's applications, and your computer's hardware. With such a powerful role in your computing experience, it is important to keep your kernel up-to-date. Each new release provides more hardware support and many performance enhancements. It is also important to keep your kernel up-to-date for security purposes.

Let's upgrade our Linux kernels together. I will walk you through each of the steps I take, from beginning to end, to upgrade my kernel. Just as a warning, I prefer to do the whole process on the command line, so you might want to pull up a terminal, konsole, xterm or whatever you prefer to use for your command line operations.

First you need to download the kernel source code. Many Linux distributions provide specialized editions of the Linux kernel. Typically, you don't want to manually compile and install a custom kernel for these distributions. This does not mean that you can't, it simply means that you might be better off using the "official" kernels for your distribution, which can usually be obtained through your distribution's package manager. You can get the official, 100% free, and complete Linux kernel source code from Look for "The latest stable version of the Linux kernel is:" and click the link on the F on the same line. Currently, the latest stable version is 2.6.20, and that's what I'll be using for this tutorial. Please note that commands which begin with a dollar sign ($) are executed as a regular user and commands beginning with a pound sign (#) are executed as a superuser.

$ cd /home/user/download
$ wget

Now login as the superuser, and navigate to the /usr/src directory. Then extract the kernel source into that directory.

$ su -
# cd /usr/src
# tar jxf /home/user/download/linux-2.6.20.tar.bz2

You probably already have a symlink or shortcut called linux which points to your most recent kernel. If you do, delete the link and create another link to the new source tree. Then go into your kernel source tree.

# rm /usr/src/linux
# ln -s /usr/src/linux-2.6.20 /usr/src/linux
# cd /usr/src/linux

I like to identify each compile of my kernel uniquely, to make sure that I'm using the right one. To do that, you have to modify your Makefile

# vi Makefile

You will see the following lines, or something similar, at the very top of the file:

NAME = Homicidal Dwarf Hamster

Change the EXTRAVERSION property to something you want to use to identify this kernel. I will use -jcv1


The rest of the Makefile should be fine. In fact, I discourage editing Makefiles unless you know what you're doing. This next step is totally optional, but I like to do it to save some time. You can copy your existing kernel's configuration file in order to have a very similar kernel configuration. My previous kernel version was, so this is the command I use:

# cp /usr/src/linux- /usr/src/linux/

Then I run make oldconfig or make silentoldconfig to update my older kernel configuration file to be able to handle newer features. If you use oldconfig you are required to specify whether or not you want the new features included in your kernel, whereas silentoldconfig will use the defaults determined by kernel developers (they usually know best), asking for minimal input. Let's update our configuration file and then customize it by running make menuconfig (there are several options here, such as make xconfig and make gconfig, but I prefer the text-based menuconfig; there is another you can run by using make config, which runs through each and every option available--it's scary).

# make silentoldconfig
# make menuconfig

menuconfig is a graphical command line application which lets you navigate the features offered by the kernel. Each computer is considerably different from the next, so it really does no good to provide a list of things that I tweak. However, it is important to note what some of the symbols are in the menuconfig utility:

  • M = Module. Modules are loaded when they are required and can contribute to the speed of your system
  • * = built into the kernel. These are typically things which are necessary for your machine to function properly, such as support for your root file system.
  • X = exclusively selected. You'll see this when you select what type of processor you have, for example.

One thing to note before we go further is MAKE SURE YOU KERNEL HAS BUILT-IN SUPPORT FOR YOUR ROOT FILE SYSTEM!!!! My root file system is reiserfs. In my configuration, I made sure that reiserfs was marked with a star. If you don't do this, your kernel won't boot and you will be very frustrated. Trust me.

Your computer is probably quite different than mine, so you might want to just poke around and see if you recognize things that deal with your computer's hardware. Once you are done tweaking your kernel configuration, exit the configuration utility and make sure the configuration is stored in /usr/src/linux/.config

Next we get to build and install the kernel. After that, we have to add an entry to our boot manager so that we can try out our new kernel. The compilation part usually takes just about a half hour on my 2.2Ghz Turion64 processor with 1.25GB of RAM. It takes about 6 hours on my 300Mhz Pentium 2 with 32MB of RAM. Let's find out how long it takes for you to compile your kernel!

# time make
real    27m29.663s
user    23m34.476s
sys     2m56.575s

Now let's install the modules and install the appropriate files in the boot area:

# make modules_install
# make install

This is the part that always used to mess me up. I use Slackware Linux, which is more UNIX-ish than most distributions. It's actually the oldest surviving Linux distribution to date, but that's another story. For some reason, the make install command doesn't always work with Slackware. There is a process I use to setup my boot directory when I compile a new kernel. I wrote a simple shell script called fixkernelinstall to take care of it for me:

# Configure my computer for a new kernel
# Author: Josh VanderLinden
# Assisted By: Dan Purcell

# if the user didn't supply a kernel number, ask for it
if [ $# -eq 0 ]; then
    echo -n "Kernel: "
    read kernel

# determine root partition
echo "Determining root partition..."
rootpart=`mount -l | grep ' / ' | cut -f 1 -d\ `
echo "Root partition is $rootpart"

# copy kernel configuration file
cp /usr/src/linux/.config ./config-$kernel

# now rename everything
echo "Renaming files..."
mv vmlinuz vmlinuz-$kernel

# if the config file exists and it's a symlink, remove it
if [ -f 'config' -a `stat config | grep -c 'symbolic link'` = '1' ]; then
    echo "Removing link to configuration file"
    rm config
    # otherwise it might be important
    echo "Renaming configuration file"
    mv config config.bak

# Link files
echo "Creating symlinks..."
ln -s$kernel
ln -s config-$kernel config
ln -s vmlinuz-$kernel vmlinuz

# Update lilo
echo "Adding entry to /etc/lilo.conf for $kernel"
echo "image = /boot/vmlinuz-$kernel" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "  root = $rootpart" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "  label = $kernel" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "  read-only" >> /etc/lilo.conf
echo "Linux kernel $kernel has been configured."
echo "Please check your lilo configuration and run lilo before rebooting"

I'm not an expert on shell scripts, so please feel free to offer suggestions for doing things better if you know how. This script uses the kernel version (given by the user) to setup by /boot directory properly. In my case, I run the script as such

# cd /boot
# fixkernelinstall 2.6.20-jcv1

And the output is something like:

Determining root partition...
Root partition is /dev/hda5
Renaming files...
Renaming configuration file
Creating symlinks...
Adding entry to /etc/lilo.conf for 2.6.20-jcv1
Linux kernel 2.6.20-jcv1 has been configured.
Please check your lilo configuration and run lilo before rebooting

As you can see from the script, I use LILO instead of the arguably more popular GRUB. Either one works for me, but LILO is sufficient for my needs. If you want to use the same kind of script for a GRUB installation, just change the LILO part at the end to something like:

echo 'Adding entry to /boot/grub/menu.lst for $kernel'
echo '  title Linux on ($rootpart)' >> /boot/grub/menu.lst
echo '  root (hd0,4)' >> /boot/grub/menu.lst
echo '  kernel /boot/vmlinuz-$kernel root=$rootpart ro vga=normal' >> /boot/grub/menu.lst

Make sure you change the line with root (hd0,4) to fit your setup. With GRUB, you don't have to worry about applying changes to see the menu entry at boot. It's automatically there. With LILO, however, you have to actually apply changes each time you make them. You do this by running the lilo command as the superuser:

# lilo
Added Windows
Added Linux
Added 2.6.20-jcv1 *

The star (*) signifies the default kernel to boot. Make sure that your root partition is correctly specified in your boot loader configuration. My root partition is on /dev/hda5, but yours may be (and probably is) on a different partition. If you fail to specify the correct root partition, your system will not boot that kernel until the configuration is fixed. GRUB makes this a lot easier than LILO.

And this is the point when you start to cross your figures and hope that your computer doesn't blow up... We get to reboot our computer and hope that our configuration file plays well with our computer. So, let's do that! See you in a few minutes (hopefully).

# shutdown -r now

So here I am, back on Linux on my freshly-rolled kernel. I hope you are as successful as I have been this time around. Keep in mind that you have to reinstall custom kernel modules if you installed others while you were on your other kernel. For example, I use ndiswrapper to access wireless Internet. I have to recompile and reinstall the ndiswrapper module and device drivers before I can use wireless. Likewise, I have VMWare Server on my laptop, which installed special modules. I have to run to reconfigure VMWare Server for my new kernel before I can run any virtual machines.

To summarize, here are the commands that I used in this tutorial. Remember that lines beginning with a dollar sign ($) are executed as a non-privileged user, while lines beginning with the pound sign (#) are executed as the superuser (root).

$ cd /home/user/download
$ wget
$ su -
# cd /usr/src
# tar jxf /home/user/download/linux-2.6.20.tar.bz2
# rm /usr/src/linux
# ln -s /usr/src/linux-2.6.20 /usr/src/linux
# cd /usr/src/linux
# make clean
# vi Makefile (to change EXTRAVERSION to -jcv1)
# cp ../linux- .
# make silentoldconfig
# make menuconfig (just to ensure settings were good)
# time make
# make modules_install
# make install
# cd /boot
# fixkernelinstall 2.6.20-jcv1
# vi /etc/lilo.conf (to make sure things were good)
# lilo
# shutdown -r now

I hope that you are able to use this tutorial to successfully install or upgrade your kernel. Good luck! Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

Installing Slackware 11.0 on An HP Pavilion dv8000

First of all, I have to tell everyone how great of a distribution Slackware is. I have personally sampled (meaning that I downloaded, installed, and ran for a trial period) at least 50 different distributions. It seems that, no matter how fancy a new distribution is, I always find myself returning to Slackware. I have to admit, it doesn't have a lot of the eyecandy and user-friendly features of other mainstream distributions right off the bat, but you could add them if you wanted to. Among my reasons for liking Slackware so much are:

  • It's the fastest (by default) I've used
  • Stability
  • Security
  • Educational value

Now that we have a little background as to why I like Slackware so much, let's move on to the installation, shall we? To make it a little more simple, I'm just including the notes that I took while installing.

  • Insert disc 1

  • Boot Menu: Hit enter to boot with default options

  • Select keyboard map: Enter for default US

  • Login as root

  • Check partition scheme: # fdisk /dev/hda

    Here are some useful commands to get around in fdisk:

    • p to print partition table
    • d to delete, followed by parition number
    • c to create; primary/extended; start sector; end sector
    • a to toggle bootable flag
    • w to write parition table
    • q to quit
  • # setup

  • ADDSWAP to activate swap partition

    • select your swap partition and hit ok
    • choose whether you wish to check for bad blocks while preparing the swap partition [no]
    • hit ok when your swap partition has been configured
  • Choose your root (/) parition

    • Select the proper partition from the list and hit select
    • Choose your formatting type
      • Format: Quick format with no bad block checking
      • Check: Slow format that checks for bad blocks
      • No: No, do not format this partition
      • [ FORMAT ]
    • Choose filesystem
      • ext2: Standard Linux Ext2 Filesystem
      • ext3: Ext3 Journaling Filesystem
      • reiserfs: ReiserFS Journaling Filesystem
      • [ REISERFS ]
    • Add other paritions and follow the same process as above, specifying the mount point
    • Hit ok when the partitions have been setup successfully
  • Specify whether you'd like any existing FAT or NTFS partitions to be mounted in Linux

    • [ YES ]
    • Select the partition
    • Specify the mount point
  • Hit ok when the FAT and NTFS partitions have been setup

  • Choose your installation source

    • Install from a Slackware CD or DVD
    • Install from a hard drive partition
    • Install from NFS (Network File System)
    • Install from a pre-mounted directory
    • [ CD or DVD ]
  • Choose the CD/DVD device

    • auto: Scan for the CD or DVD drive (recommended)
    • manual: Manually specify CD or DVD by device name
    • [ AUTO ]
  • Select the package sets you'd like to install and hit ok

  • Select prompting mode

    • full Install everything (3+ GB of software, recommended)
    • expert Choose individual packages from interactive menus
    • menu Choose groups of packages from interactive menus
    • newbie Use verbose prompting (and follow tagfiles)
    • custom Use custom tagfiles in the package directories
    • tagpath Use tagfiles in the subdirectories of a custom path
    • [ FULL ]
  • Specify your kernel

    • bootdisk Use the kernel from the installation bootdisk
    • cdrom Use a kernel from the Slackware CD or NFS mount
    • floppy Install a zimage or bzimage from a DOS floppy
    • skip Skip this menu (use the default /boot/vmlinuz)
    • [ CDROM ]
  • Re-insert disc 1

    • Select your kernel
    • [ /cdrom/kernels/sata.i/bzImage ]
  • Make a bootdisk

    • Create Make a Linux bootdisk in /dev/fd0
    • Skip Skip making a bootdisk
    • [ SKIP ]
  • Modem configuration [ NO MODEM ]

  • Specify whether you'd like to start hotplug/udev at boot [ YES ]

  • Install the bootloader, LILO

    • simple Try to install LILO automatically
    • expert Use expert lilo.conf setup menu
    • skip Do not install LILO
    • [ SIMPLE ]
  • Choose your frame buffer mode for LILO [ standard ]

  • Pass the kernel a parameter if you have an IDE CD/DVD-RW drive

    • [ hdc=ide-scsi ]
  • Select LILO destination

    • Root Install to superblock (not for use with XFS)
    • Floppy Install to a formatted floppy in /dev/fd0 (A:)
    • MBR Install to Master Boot Record (possibly unsafe)
    • [ MBR ]
  • Select your mouse type [ IMPS2 ]

  • Specify whether you'd like to start GPM at boot [ NO ]

  • Specify whether you'd like to configure your network

    • [ YES ]
    • Enter your hostname
    • Enter your domain name
    • Specify IP setup
      • static IP Use a static IP address to configure ethernet
      • DHCP Use a DHCP server to configure ethernet
      • loopback Set up a loopback connection (modem or no net)
      • [ DHCP ]
    • Specify DHCP parameters
    • Verify and accept network configuration
  • Specify services to start at boot time

    • rc.cups
    • rc.httpd
    • rc.mysqld
    • rc.pcmcia
    • rc.samba
    • rc.scanluns
    • rc.sendmail
    • rc.syslog
    • rc.sshd
  • Specify whether you'd like to try out some screen fonts [ NO ]

  • Specify whether your machine's clock is set to local time or UTC/GMT [ NO ]

  • Select timezone

  • Select your default desktop [ KDE ]

  • Set a root password

  • Reboot

  • Login as root

  • Add a new (normal) user: # adduser

  • Configure XWindows

    • # xorgcfg
    • save the configuration to /etc/X11/xorg.conf
  • Logout and back in as the new user

  • Bring up the GUI

    • $ startx

Begin using your system!!

Installing SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10

This will be the second time for me putting SLED 10 on my laptop, but I've also put SLES 10, SuSE Linux 10.1, and various others on this laptop several times before. It _has_ been a few months since I last installed Linux on this laptop, so we'll see how well I remember how to do it. I will be installing the 64-bit DVD version, so as to take better advantage of the 64-bit capabilities of my processor. This shouldn't have a drastic effect on the overall procedure, compared to that of installing the 32-bit CD/DVD version.

Here are some specs of my laptop:

  • Make/Model: HP Pavilion dv8000
  • CPU: AMD Turion 64 ML-40 (2.2Ghz)
  • RAM: 1.25GB PC2700 DDR333 SODIMM
  • HDD: 5400RPM 80GB
  • Video: ATI Radeon Xpress 200M (128MB dedicated RAM, up to an additional 128MB shared RAM)

Note: I make a few assumptions in the writing of this article. One is that you are on a machine running Windows XP. If your computer can't handle Windows XP, you probably don't want to be running SLED 10. Another assumption is that you don't yet have your hard drive partitioned into more than one partition. I also assume that you already have the installation media in good working condition. For those of you in the BYU-I Linux Users Group (LUG), I am willing to make copies of the discs if you provide the media or discuss some sort of compensation if you want me to provide the media.


We all hate losing the projects that we've slaved over for weeks and months. Take the proper precautions to backup anything you wouldn't like to lose before installing any flavor of Linux. That's not to say that you will lose everything, but it's not unheard of to wipe out all data from your drive while attempting to install Linux. With that warning out of the way, let's get started!!!

Defragment Your Hard Drive

If you have a secondary drive which you plan to dedicate to Linux, this step is not necessary. However, if you plan to install Linux on the same drive as your Windows installation, I would suggest defragmenting your drive prior to repartitioning your drive. In order to defragment your hard drive in Windows XP, open your Start menu and open the Control Panel. Once here, descend into Administrative Tools and run Computer Management. This utility is quite handy. On the left side of the Computer Management window, you should see a tree of options. Under Storage you will see the Disk Defragmenter. Simply click the Defragment button, and the program will begin optimizing your files. Defragmenting your hard drive basically puts each of your files into one piece instead of scattered across the drive (as they tend to be written). Defragmentation is a good process to run on a regular basis. Once again, this step is not necessary to the installation of Linux, but it is a good practice.

Begin The Installation

Once you're done backing up your files and defragmenting your hard drive, insert the first SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 CD/DVD into your CD/DVD drive and reboot your computer. You should be presented with a fancy blue welcome screen, but if you see the Windows boot screen, you'll have to change the settings in your BIOS to enable you to boot from your CD/DVD drive. That process will vary from machine to machine, so I won't even try to explain how to do it. Once you see the welcome screen, you are presented with several boot options:

  • Boot from Hard Disk
  • Installation
  • Installation--ACPI Disabled
  • Installation--Local APIC Disabled
  • Installation--Safe Settings
  • Rescue System
  • Memory Test

We're going to go with the first Installation option. In my experience, starting with SuSE Linux 10.1, I haven't had any issues at all getting Linux installed. Most people shouldn't have problems booting into the installation program, but if you do, try the other Installation options. Once we begin the installation process, the bootloader will load the Linux kernel into memory and begin booting the SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop installation utility. It will probe several devices to make the installation usable, after which you are presented with a language selection menu. Choose the language of your preference. Next you will be asked to accept the License Agreement, which I would recommend reading (with any product, not just SLED). If you accept, check the "Yes, I Agree to the License Agreement" option box and hit "Next." If you don't accept the agreement, this is the end of the road--your installation process will end.

Once we accept the License Agreement, a few more devices are probed and we're asked what kind of installation we'll be doing. With the assumptions I've made for this tutorial, we will proceed with a New Installation. If you have the "extras" CD, you can check the "Include Add-On Products from Separate Media" checkbox. You'll then be asked to insert the disc so that a catalog of available applications can be made. However, I'll assume that we all just have the required media. Click "Next" to create a catalog of the software available.

Now we're presented with a Clock and Time Zone screen. Choose the appropriate options for your situation and click next.

Installation Settings

Once we have set our clock and time zone, we are shown an overview of the current installation settings. I personally prefer to see all of the details, so I am going to click on the Expert tab. I don't like the predefined partitioning scheme, so I am going to change that.

Partition Your Drive

Partitioning a hard drive basically allows you to split up that brand new 500GB SATA-II drive you bought into smaller "virtual hard drives." I like to partition my hard drive because it allows me to manage my files easier, and I don't have to worry about losing ALL of my data if one of the partitions needs to be reformatted. Each partition can have a different file system on it, which allows us to run a Windows file system (NTFS) and a linux file system (ext2/3 and reiserfs are the two main ones, at least for workstations) on the same physical hard drive.

This is the first time I will entrust all of the data on my hard drive to a Linux installation partitioning utility in a very long time. We're talking about 7 years... However, for the sake of others, I am willing to put it to the test to see if SuSE will not wipe my drive when I try to resize the Windows partition. I usually use a utility such as Partition Magic to resize and create new partitions.

To change my partitioning scheme, I click on the "Partitioning" subtitle on the Expert tab in the Installation Settings section. I want to base my partition setup on the default proposal, so I select the second option "Base Partition Setup on This Proposal" and hit next. This part could be a bit hairy if you've never partitioned a drive before. I want to be able to share files between Windows and Linux, so I am going to create a small ~20GB partition which I will format to be FAT32, a format readable and writable in both Windows and Linux.

First, I must resize my Linux partitions. I don't need my home partition to be 22GB, so I'm going to resize that one to be 5GB. To do that, I select the partition with /home listed as it's Mount point and click the "Resize" button at the bottom of the screen. The window that appears shows a graphical representation of the changes we make. All I need do is enter "5" into the "Space Free (GB)" box or move the slider to the right spot and click "OK". Now I'm left with 17GB to share between Windows and Linux. To create this new partition, I click on the "Create" button at the bottom.

The new partition window asks me what type of format I wish to have on the new partition--I want to select FAT. I want to have this partition listed in a place that makes sense to me, so I'm going to change the "Mount Point" field to /windows/share and click OK. I think I'm now satisfied with the partitioning scheme, so I click "Finish" to return back to the Installation Settings screen.

Partitioning Pointers

Let me share some pointers for partitioning schemes. Traditional Linux installations would ask for a partition twice as big as the amount of RAM you have in your machine. This is for the swap, which is synonymous with virtual memory in Windows lingo. That means that if you have 512MB of RAM, your swap partition should be at least 1024MB (1GB). Likewise, if you have 1GB of RAM, your swap partition should be at least 2048MB (2GB). In my opinion, the average Linux desktop does not require more than 512MB for a swap partition. I may be mistaken, but I think the "double your RAM" rule became somewhat obsolete for desktop workstations with the advent of 2Ghz+ processors with 1GB+ of RAM. It could just be me, but I've never even filled 256MB of swap. Just something to consider while partitioning your drive.

If you plan on experimenting with several distros of Linux without wiping other installations of Linux, I would recommend a partition dedicated to your /home folder. This way, you are able to keep your personal settings across most if not all distros. I've found it useful on countless occasions.

Software Selection

One thing I really like about SLED is the ease of package selection. Their default package selection will suit most people just fine. However, I have developed my own tastes for how I like my Linux, so I am going to customize the package selection a bit. To do that, I click on the "Software" heading in the Expert tab of Installation Settings.

I personally prefer KDE to GNOME as my window manager. So I am going to deselect GNOME from the Desktops category, but not so the "Do Not Enter" symbol shows up where there once was a check. I want to click the checkbox until I see a white box (no checkmark). I'm not sure if this is required, but usually different environments will require libraries from other environments in order for certain programs to run. I suspect that the Do Not Enter sign means that nothing for GNOME will be installed, but this is not fact--it's simply a notion of mine. Now I want to put a check in the checkbox next to KDE. Being a nerd, I want to have my compilers around, so I will also select that option.

According to the disk usage graphs in the bottom right of the screen, I'm only going to be installing about 1.9GB of software. That's interesting because I downloaded a whole DVD... If anyone wants to see what other software is available, you can click the Details button below the software category list. This might scare a few off, but it's all quite simple. If you want to see more categories to choose from, select "Package Groups" from the Filter list in the top left. This is where you can explore all of your software options available on your installation media. I am going to leave that sort of customization until after I'm all installed and running.

Once you're done selecting the packages you wish to have installed, click Accept from the bottom right. You will probably encounter a few more license agreements at this point. These are for non-open-source applications (Adobe Acrobat Reader, Macromedia Flash plug-in, etc) included with SLED. I recommend reading and accepting each license agreement. Now I am presented with the same Expert tab in the Installation Settings stage. Now we're ready to proceed, so click Accept in the bottom right again. We're asked to confirm that we want to install Linux, with a warning that certain parts of your hard drive will be formatted, thus erasing any data that were there before. If you're ready, click Install, sit back, and enjoy.

Installing Everything

At this point your partitions will be resized/formatted and the appropriate files will be installed. This process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours or more, depending on the packages you selected and the speed of your system. You might be interested in seeing what exactly is being installed on your system at this point. If so, you can click the Details tab and see each package being installed. Apparently I chose some other packages along the way or something, because now it says that I'm installing about 2.5GB of software and that this segment should take about 30 minutes.

Once all of the files are copied, the installation settings will be saved to the hard drive and your system will reboot for the first time in your brand new SLED. At this point, you shouldn't remove your installation media, as it is required in the following steps.

The Initial Boot And Final Settings

When we boot up our SLED for the first time after installation, we are asked to provide a hostname to identify our machine on the network. When you have set the hostname and domain name as you want them, click next. Now we're asked to set the root password. Make sure this password is one that you'll not forget, but at the same time make sure that it's not easy to guess. If someone gets root access to your machine, there's no end to what they can do.

Network Configuration

This is another section that is mostly correct, but a few settings are not the way I would like them to be. For example, my ssh port is listed as disabled under the Firewall heading. To enable it, just click the word "blocked"--it will change to "open". The rest of the settings look fine for now. If you have any customizations to be made, go ahead and make them. I'll wait.

When we're ready to move on, click next. At this point, our network configuration is saved. Next we're asked if we wish to try out our Internet connection. Do as you please. I usually skip this step, but for your sake, I will try out my connection. When we test, it tries to download the latest changelogs. If your connection works, you will see "Success" in the Result field. Click next.

User Authentication Method

Most home users won't have their own LDAP server or Windows Domain setup, so I won't go into how these are to be set up. Let's just go with Local authentication for now, the default option. Click next.

New Local User

This is when we create our very own user account. This set is essential. DO NOT EVER RUN EVERYDAY APPLICATIONS AS ROOT. There are serious security implications involved if you choose to login and perform your daily tasks as the root, or all-powerful administrator, user in Linux. It's much easier to just create an "unprivileged" user and do your regular business with that account. Only login as root when you need to perform system maintenance or install something. When you're done with those tasks, logout of the root environment immediately. Trust me.

Anyway, back to our installation. Go ahead and create your user. You may or may not want to check the checkbox to receive system mail. System mail includes certain security breaches on most distributions. If you don't wish to have to enter your password in order to use your computer, click the automatic login checkbox. If you wish to add more than one user at this time, you can click on the User Management button. The process is pretty much the same as it is to add the first unprivileged user. Click next when you're ready to proceed.

Now our system configuration is saved again (this seems to happen all the time in SuSE... it gets rather annoying in my opinion). After our settings are saved, we are presented with the release notes (which may have been more useful had they been displayed during the file copy process, but whatever). Read them if you wish. Click next when you're ready to proceed.

Hardware Configuration

Now this is one of the selling points for me with SuSE. I have a 17" widescreen (1680x1050 max resolution) for my laptop. There weren't many distros for a while that could handle the resolution out of the box. Fedora Core 5 was the first that I tried that handled it without any manual configuration, and SuSE was the second. I'm pretty happy with the configuration listed here, so click next when you are too. Once again, the settings will be saved (seems like saving settings in SuSE is as bad as rebooting in Windows...).

If you have several similar machines, you can save your installation configuration by checking the "Clone This System for Autoyast" checkbox. If you choose this, the system will determine what settings exactly were used for installation and create a file somewhere that you can use in later installations. When this is done, or when you click finish if you don't want to clone, a login screen will appear.

First Login

When you see this login screen, enter the username and password that you created for the unprivileged user. You'll see a fancy loading screen while your profile is being created for the first time.

Now, you may or may not have noticed, but I wrote this article as I installed SLED. I want to watch a movie now, so subsequent configuration (wireless, 3D acceleration, etc) will take place later. I hope this is good enough for the time being.