GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams
Installation of GNU/Linux is generally straight forward except when you hit some new or obscure hardware. In comparison, MS/Windows generally comes pre-installed when a PC is purchased, hiding the effort that went into fine tuning the installation of the operating system for that particular hardware. Until GNU/Linux is commonly available pre-installed we will continue to be faced with issues relating to installation by novices (and experts!). Nonetheless, the situation has improved significantly with the release of Debian 3.1 with simplified install and auto-detection of hardware. The introduction of LiveCDs running Debian GNU/Linux (see Section 4.1.2) has also improved the ease of access to GNU/Linux. The LiveCDs, in particular, allow a user to boot GNU/Linux from CD and to actually run GNU/Linux without installing anything! The user can then have the option to install if they like what they see. See Section 3.1 for a list of LiveCDs.
For Debian GNU/Linux, installation instructions are provided by the Debian Installation Guide available from http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/install. An alternative guide is available from http://www.polaris.net/~dwarf/. A collection of screenshots that dramatically illustrate the simplified installation process is available from http://www.brunotorres.net/en/sargeslide. Be familiar with the installation process--try it out once or twice--it doesn't hurt to practise!
In this chapter we review the installation process, first with a quick start, which may be all you need, and then with a more detailed guide. Examples of actual installations using a number of platforms are provided in Chapter 104. These include common desktops, laptops, and even a different type of CPU (Sun SPARC). The aim here is to install a minimal stable5.1 release from CD-ROM and then to upgrade to the unstable5.2 release. If you are not connected to the Internet then you will be installing a full system from CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. This will leave you with a complete system ready for most tasks.