posted by Dave Scott on Mon 17th Mar 2003 17:36 UTC
IconI recently read Dustin Wilson's Newbie Gentoo Review and as a 'n00b' who recently installed Gentoo, I found it to be a good article about Gentoo. It is a very good overview of the installation and configuration process. After reading all the comments about how most people thought or were looking for it to be a newbie walkthrough, I thought that as a 'n00b' who has recently installed Gentoo, I would try to write a little something about installing Gentoo for the newbie.

My command line experience, like Dustin's, amounts to good-ole DOS back in the day.

However, having read the comments on the article, it seemed that a few people were hoping that his article would be more of a newbie walkthrough. Well, with that in mind, I have tried to create a n00b overview of the Gentoo Linux install process. I have tried to cover some of the snags I hit along the way, as well as some other parts of the install that might cause some problems for n00bs. One thing to note, that Dustin also mentioned, is the Gentoo forums. Like he said, these are probably one of the best forums out there. They are full of people, form n00bs like me with similar problems, to Gentoo vets who are always willing to lend some help to the n00bs trying to break into Gentoo. Bookmark the forums. Somewhere along the way, not matter how well prepared you are, you will need to visit them.

For starters, the Gentoo system's default editor is nano (a modified version of pico), so you may want to take a look at nano basics to get an overview of using nano. It's fairly straightforward, and there is a menu on the bottom of the screen with your commonly used commands. The ones we will be most concerned with are ^O (CTRL+O) for write Out and ^X (CTRL+X) for eXit.

I will be starting with Gentoo 1.4_rc2. Gentoo 1.4_rc3 is the newest release candidate at the time of this writing, but it is a very basic system and it does not provide any optimized builds for specific processor architectures. And this is one of the major "selling"-points of Gentoo. First of all, we will of course need to download the ISO images. Since this article is written for 1.4_rc2 on x86 architecture, I would recommend grabbing one of the LiveCDs for your processor architecture. This is one of the great features of Gentoo. The LiveCD images are available for specific processors. What this means is that if you start at Stage 2 or Stage 3, the "bootstrap" process has been pre-compiled on a system that uses the same processor as your system.

Like Dustin suggests, I also highly recommend printing off the installation guide. If you are going to install X or Alsa, I would also print off the Desktop Configuration and Alsa Configuration guides which you can locate from the User Docs page.

First, read the installation guide at least twice through and make sure you have at least a semi-decent idea of what is going to happen and when. I can't stress this enough, as Dustin found out, this is imperative to getting Gentoo working without any hitches.

OK, pop the LiveCD in your CD-ROM drive and reboot. You should see a screen with the Gentoo logo on it and a boot prompt. Hit enter to begin booting the system. A bunch of messages should scroll up the screen.

While these messages are scrolling, watch for any modules (like device drivers in Windows) that failed to load. The most common ones are going to be network cards. This happened in my case. If this happens to you, you will need to manually load the module for your network card. The first thing you want to do is type

ls /lib/modules/*/kernel/drivers/net/*

to get a list of all the network card modules. Look for any of them that have a name resembling what your network card is. Once you have found one that matches, type

modprobe tulip

but replace "tulip" with the module you want to load. You should get a confirmation message that the module was loaded. If you get an error, try another module. Repeat this process for any other hardware whose modules did not load (ie. SCSI hardware, or Hardware RAID). All the modules can be found in

/lib/modules/*/kernel/drivers/

After you have loaded all your modules, you will want to make sure networking is working. Type

ifconfig -a

This should show a list of the currently configured NIC interfaces installed on the system. You should have at the least "lo" and "eth0". The "lo" interface is the local loopback interface. The "eth0" interface is your network card. To check if it is running, look for the words "UP" and "RUNNING" in the fourth line of the eth0 interface section. If you don't see this, try running the command

ifconfig eth0 up

This command will manually bring "up" the interface. Again, type

ifconfig -a

and look for "UP" and "RUNNING" in the output.

Once the interface is up, try pinging a website to make sure that it is actually working

ping www.osnews.com

If you get a host unknown error, you will have to manually set up your networking.

To manually set up networking, if you are running ADSL, run the

adsl-setup

script that comes on the CD, followed by the

adsl-start

script. If you are not running DSL, try running

net-setup eth0

to run the included net-setup script. If this still doesn't work, try to manually set up the interface using ifconfig as shown in Code Listing 5.4 in the install guide. Next we need to make sure your DNS servers are set up in the

/etc/resolv.conf

file. Follow the template in code listing 5.5 in the install guide. If you are behind a proxy, follow Code Listing 5.6 in the install guide to set this up.

Table of contents
  1. "Gentoo vs. the n00b 2, Part I"
  2. "Gentoo vs. the n00b 2, Part II"
  3. "Gentoo vs. the n00b 2, Part III"
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