How to Install and Configure Linux: Part One

We at the Coconut Daily are tech enthusiasts – and to celebrate our geekiness, we’ll be writing a series of articles on how to install and configure one of the better free Linux distributions out there, CentOS (The Community Enterprise Operating System).

CentOS is an open source distribution based on the Linux kernel and derived from the Red Hat distribution, and it’s a great choice for those new to Linux and also for those who are looking for a powerful, easily customizable setup.

You’ll need two key pieces of software before you begin. First, you’ll need to download the CentOS distribution DVDs themselves. You can normally find the latest version and your closest download mirror at the official CentOS web page.

Next, as for the purposes of this tutorial we’ll be running CentOS from a virtual PC, we’ll need to download Oracle VirtualBox at the official download page, and follow the relevant instructions on how to install and configure it.

Once you’ve downloaded the CentOS installation DVDs, load VirtualBox and press the ‘New’ button to set up a new virtual system. You’ll be asked to enter your system name, type (select Linux), and Version (select the Linux version most appropriate to your system). If you are running a 64-bit machine, make sure you select a 64-bit option from the Version select box.

Next, select your memory size – we recommend at least 1 GB for decent performance, however it’s up to you and how much RAM you can spare for your virtual machine.

You’ll then be asked if you want to add a virtual hard drive – select ‘Create a virtual hard drive now’, of type VDI (Virtualbox Disk Image). Choose at least 2 GB size for your virtual hard drive – just so you can at least leave room to play around with your Linux box and install a bunch of fun new applications. It’s up to you whether you select Dynamically Allocated or a Fixed Size virtual hard drive.

Once these system settings are completed, you’ll be asked to add a virtual DVD/CD drive for the source files for your OS installation. Use the CentOS files you just downloaded as the operating system installation source.

Once the configuration is complete for your new virtual system, and the installation program has booted in the virtual PC, you should will be presented with several options relating to the type of install and hard drive partitions you wish to set up.

When the installer asks what type of installation you would like, select the ‘Use All Space’ option.

Next, the installer will ask what default CentOS configuration you would like to install. This option determines what packages are installed with the system. It’s up to you what kind of installation you’d like. If you want the system to come pre-loaded with a graphical desktop interface similar to Windows, called GNOME, select the ‘Desktop’ option. If you would like to do things the hard way – and I don’t discourage this for learning the ins and outs of Linux – select the ‘Web Server’ or even the ‘Minimal’ option. Remember that we’re installing on a virtual PC so it’s okay to make mistakes and totally stuff up the installation – we can always just reinstall on a fresh virtual image.

Okay, once this is done, pat yourself on the back! Congratulations, you’ve got a fresh copy of the Linux-based CentOS on a virtual machine to play around with, learn the ins and outs of Linux, and generally practice on until you become a Linux pro.

In the next edition of this series, we’ll explore how to set up new users in your new Linux system, how to give yourself root access (which you’ll need), and explore a little about how Linux file systems work. Stay tuned for more soon!

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