Suse 10.0 install story

Wednesday night, I installed Open SuSE 10.0. What originally was planned as a quick basic install before going to bed, ended up in a 7h install marathon (download time included though ;)). First of all: I’m really impressed with the quality SuSE delivers. What about ubuntu? I’m not a Gnome fan so I tried Kubuntu 5.10. The few hours I tried Suse already gave me a better user experience! Here’s the full story..

A few weeks ago, I started to pick up development again in a Qt environment. The open source edition doesn’t come with Visual Studio integration though. So I started coding using mingw32 to compile and visual studio express as a text editor. It works, but it still remains a bit cumbersome. Especially reading/interpreting compiler output takes time. So why make it difficult when there’s an excellent open source IDE, KDevelop, which has built-in support for Qt? It was some time already I reconsidered reinstalling some linux distro (I ruined my Mandrake install), but now I really got extra motivation. I tried Kubuntu and wasn’t convinced of it in its current state. And Mandrake/Mandriva.., well it seems a bit cumbersome to update and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable with the whole membership thing. My brother recommended me openSuSE. While I initially would wait for the upcoming 10.1 release, now I couldn’t wait anymore. I downloaded the CD iso’s a few months ago since there isn’t any free DVD iso. But that could be solved with the makedvd script which I discovered in the suse wiki.
That required a linux machine which I didn’t have. Luckily a colleague at work could temporarily provide me root access to a linux box (thanks Thomas ;)). It was debian based so I had to improvise a bit. Anyway, dvd creation seemed to have succeeded, I could nicely mount it on the loopback. At home though, Nero complained that the block size didn’t match the iso size. What would I know. Options were to ignore and burn, or correct, but I wouldn’t know how, so I just ignored. Of course, it didn’t boot *grin*. Since I had already trouble to find 1 CD-RW, I decided to do the net install. I still needed 1 cd for the boot image, so I wasted a CD-R on an 80MB image (and I even had the impression the install program fetched the whole boot ISO *again* after booting and selecting net install). From the beginning I found it weird I couldn’t select the proper keyboard layout. The installer insured me I would be able to change it later. But they never asked me again. Why would they do that? Of course later I found where to change it, but it’s not user friendly. Even stranger, from the newbie angle, the keyboard is linked with the xserver configuration, and somehow, those settings get mixed or inconsistently saved. So after having some trouble with the ATI driver I was back at my qwerty setup on an azerty keyboard (which is confusing when you have to type the root password).

The net install scheduled around 1.6GB to be downloaded (and 2 hours to do that, but luckily that was overestimated ;)). Almost finished, I got in error in fetching the OpenOffice package. I’ve had it before that some installers just quit on such occasions. Luckily here the option was provided to retry or ignore. I guess I had a temporary network problem, because after retrying, it just continued. Maybe it would have been better to ignore the rather large package, since it got updated to 2.0 anyway, the moment the update sequence started. 😉 So after installing, the installer suggest to run YOU (Yast Online Update). I did and smoothly my system was made up to date. I was notified that it is not wise to upgrade the kernel on first boot after installing, so this one I skipped. Glad they told me in advance. 😉 YOU runs in the background and checks for updates every day. Very handy. By default it lets you choose the packages you want. After a second boot I upgraded my kernel. It told me I should run the lilo script if I used lilo. Not being familiar with suse, I didn’t know whether it used lilo or not (heck, I only booted twice!), so I checked on the net, indeed, no problem, suse uses grub by default (I wanted to be sure since I guessed it would be possible my system wouldn’t boot anymore which I wanted to avoid after all this effort to download and install everything ;)).

Next thing on the list was enabling 3D acceleration for my Radeon 9800 pro. It seemed I had to download some driver from the ATI site, compile and insert a something into yast (nice explanation). For that I had to install the kernel source. I tried, but it didn’t work. It seemed kernel source wasn’t fully installed because of a dependency which wasn’t known the first time I installed it. After upgrading again, it was installed too and it worked. I followed the instructions here, and although the make commands were noted optional, it didn’t work until I did that. After having some trouble with the init command I finally succeeded and instead of having 300 fps with glgears I had like 4000 now. =)

After that I noticed my screen wasn’t aligned correctly, which I supposed was caused by the strange refresh rates suse tried to use. For example, instead of offering options like 60, 75, 85 Hz; it provided, 67, 77, 87 Hz .. I could turn off DPMS but then I had to enter it manually which I tried for the vertical refresh rate, but didn’t work. I tried my monitor’s windows driver CD, which surprisingly, it could read. But apart from mentioning another model, the settings and problems just remained the same. Instead I decided I could do a bit of water in the wine so I adjusted the screen with the monitor controls. 😉
After twiddling with those settings I kept on having the right keyboard layout and I even lost my 3d acceleration after killing the xserver when it demoed a mode my monitor couldn’t display. They told me to press “ctrl-alt-backspace” if the mode can’t be displayed (otherwise you have to wait 30secs), but don’t do that, it hanged in my case!

Now came the real challenge. First some context. I have 4 hard drives. 2 on an PATA controller and 2 on a SATA RAID controller. I installed my Windows XP on the raid drives and since I preferred to have my system drive be the C-drive, I made the raid array bootable. The suse installer seemed to have failed to install the bootloader on the raid array and put it on the first ata master instead. To be able to boot suse I had to change the boot device order and put the PATA drive first, so I expected the system drive under XP would have changed or grub to be unable to boot my win XP properly. I searched the net on how to install the grub loader on the raid partition. Seems VIA still doesn’t provide a 2.6 kernel driver [link](after trying to compile a 2.4 driver against my 2.6 kernel without success ;)). However dmraid seems to be able to handle it since the VIA VT8237 chip is actually a software raid solution (in previous link, read especially the posts by The_smurph, john.robinson, psa ; they provide very useful information but instead of being thanked they are shouted at by some morons who don’t get the info ;)). But I didn’t want to risk losing all my data (250GB in mirror), so I looked for other ways. There seemed to be all sort of problems and eventually I ended up copying my boot sector into a .bin file and moving it to a FAT partition (detailed explanation). Back in windows I copied it on my NTFS boot partition, changed the boot.ini file to use the .bin file and rebooted.
Selecting my fresh “Linux” option yielded “GRUB” on the screen but nothing else happened. Returning to windows, it detected some errors on one of my partitions, but it seemed to be able to fix that. After that I discovered/understood that the linux partition should actually be on the same drive as the windows partition. I was really tired of fumbling around so I changed my boot sequence again to boot linux. Pressed escape to enter the ascii version of grub in which you can edit the entries (press e). There I could see which item to select to run my win xp (there were like 4 windows entries), and guess what, it worked, and kept even my system drive with the correct letter! I was surprised, but afterwards, it doesn’t seem so weird at all. Either windows
handles the raid controller and ata controller separately which keeps the drives letters intact. Or, changes to the bootsequence doesn’t change the drive letters (which actually makes some sense ;))

I was also pleased to see that SuSE provides a firewall which is enabled by default. I configured it to let through connections to the sshd daemon. It seems very easy to configure the firewall to open up some ports to the registered services.

For the rest I must admit I find the official OpenSuSE wiki terribly confusing! I can’t find anything unless I use the search function. 😉 I found some useful unofficial fora though.. So again, you have to go look at two places 😉

Okay, that’s it for now! 😉

YOUsuse10.0_default_desktop

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4 thoughts on “Suse 10.0 install story”

  1. Nice to see that my ATI installation howto helped you.

    Regarding the openSUSE wiki – I agree that is difficult to navigate, unless you do a search.

  2. yes, that’s an excellent walkthrough you got there!! thanks a lot! it was really a painless operation which I can’t say about the time I was trying the same thing under Mandrake 😉

    Funny you went for the ATI card again 🙂 (okay, I know how it can be tempting ;))

    Actually I didn’t know there was such an interesting linux blog hosted on wordpress.com , really interesting in all kinds of linux topics. you’ve got yourself a new subscriber 😉

  3. well well,

    I already donwnloaded the boot-iso… but now you say it probably downloads the whole image… I’ll download it at work and take it home…

    I really need to do what I’m thinking of for a few weeks… start Installing it…
    But I don’t completely understand what you did with the Raid, but I’ll ask you tomorrow 😉

    BTW, do you know if these ATI-drivers are also usable for the ATI Rage XL (which comes with a Poweredge750?), I still couldn’t enable 3D acc. here…

  4. ok, I meant “downloads the whole _boot_ ISO again” 🙂 it’s not _that_ large, but I’m an impatient guy when installing stuff 😉

    if you can wait a lot of weeks, just wait a few more for the 10.1 release 😉 but 10.0 is already really worth it

    about the rage xl, I’m pretty sure this is a totally different chipset from the radeon series, but maybe it’s possible to use some other driver, dunno..

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