Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Installing Fedora

Installing Fedora on VMWare is a breeze. For anyone who doesn't know, VMWare Workstation is desktop virtualization software that allows you to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single PC. It must be one of the most innovative software products to emerge in recent years.

To install Fedora I downloaded the 64-bit Fedora Core 6 CD .iso files from one of the Fedora mirror sites. Whether choosing the 64-bit version was a mistake, time will tell. There are 6 .iso files, but you only need the first three if you do a default installation. Then I created a new VMWare Virtual Machine, pointed the CD-ROM to the .iso file, and clicked "Start."

The Fedora install program is very straight-forward and will seem quite familiar to anyone who has installed Windows. You are prompted about disk partitioning, but if you are installing to a clean disk you just need to accept the defaults.

One thing that is worth pointing out is the Network Devices screen. This asks you how you want to set the machine's Hostname. The default is to set the hostname "automatically via DHCP." Coming from a Windows background, this was alien to me. As far as I know, Windows DHCP servers do not set workstation hostnames (although I may have missed something.) On Windows the workstation hostname is set on the workstation. Because I'm running Linux in a Windows envirionment, I decided to set the hostname manually.

Fedora Network Devices screen

The final screen asks you about about what additional software you want installed. By default, "Office and Productivity" software is ticked: in other words, you get OpenOffice. Optionally you can check "Software Development" and "Web Server." Even if you are not planning to do any software development, I would say that you should tick the option. I'll come on to the reason later. Click "Next" and the installation is ready to begin.

It takes well over an hour, which is about twice as long as XP or Vista. Having said that, the installation is completely automatic, so you are not tied to the machine. Once the machine reboots, you need to answer a few more questions. You need to accept the license agreement. You can then set the Firewall settings: in addition to trusting SSH, I ticked Samba because I want to run in a Windows Environment. I accepted the default setting for SELinux - which is enabled. You then need to create your user account. This is just like creating an account when you install Windows, accept that the username is case sensitive as well as the password.

Fedora Create User screen
The "Create User" screen has an interesting option. There is a button which says "Use Network Logon..." If you click the button - and you know what you're doing - you can configure the machine to authenticate users via Active Directory using Winbind. However, you can also configure Winbind once Fedora is installed, so for now I've postponed this.

Click "Forward" and you are just about finished. You can now logon to Fedora for the first time. Fedora will try and connect over the Internet to see if there are any security updates available. There were 259 updates available after I installed Fedora: maybe Linux isn't so different to Windows after all...

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