-- SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Linux at SLAC

SLAC Computing
Linux at SLAC
Updated: December 06, 2000


Before Installation (and even purchase)

Hardware Issues

If you want SCS support for your Linux system you need to have a supported hardware configuration. This saves us and you a lot of maintenance time!

Linux supports a lot of the available PC hardware, but not all. If it's new (less than 6 months), rare, or proprietary, you may have problems. Your first visit should be to the Red Hat Hardware Compatibility Lists for help in determining what to buy or if your current system can handle Linux.

Usually, it is the video adapter that is the most problematic. Also, several sound cards are not supported, but this is usually a minor issue for most intended uses.

A good resource for hardware issues is LinuxHardware.net.

DELL LAPTOPS: Paul Raines: "On my Inspiron, I found I had to go into the BIOS setup and set "Plug and Play OS?" to "No" in order to get Linux to see my PCMCIA controller."

System purpose

Before installation, you need to know exactly what the purpose of the system is. These may also affect your purchase decision.

Dual Boot
There is also really no reason to have NT installed on your work station as SCS now has a Windows Terminal Server setup. This will let you connect to an NT server and run a full NT desktop in a window on your X server. You must register to get your NT account authorized for this. Information is available here.

Windows and Linux can coexist peacefully on the same system, but each will need separate hard disk partitions. To be comfortable, you should have at least 1GB for each. Linux can still run okay in only 500MB, less if you don't need compilers and TeX. WARNING: SCS requests that you do not make a dual boot system with SCS maintained Windows NT. This is because their system update procedures use a push paradigm and therefore expect your machine to always be booted in NT. If you will have Windows 95 or 98, please read the SCS Desktop Group Policies.

If you are ordering a system with Windows preinstalled, make sure to ask if they can install it in a partition taking on the first half of the disk. Otherwise, you may have to repartition the disk and reinstall Windows. There are some tools such as fips (freeware) and PartitionMagic (commercial) that can shrink your Windows partition to make room for Linux. The fips program can be found in /afs/slac/package/RedHat/RedHat6.2/i386/dosutils on any central SLAC Unix machine.

Server or Client
If you're setting up a Linux box to be just a web server (be sure to read, understand and follow the SLAC guidelines about WEB servers!), then you can save a lot of disk space by not installing X windows. If you are creating an X terminal that you don't intend users to log directly into, you can save space by not installing compilers and TeX.

Get an IP Address

As soon you know where your machine will sit, apply to get an IP address for it from SCS. The forms are at the Help Desk or can be printed from this PDF file.

If you have a laptop, consider using DHCP instead. You will just need to get your Ethernet adapter's hardware address registered. See the DHCP at SLAC page for more details.

Know your system

Although the Red Hat Linux installation program can automatically determine a lot about your hardware, there are still many cases for which it will need you to provide the info. You should find out:

  • What kind of SCSI adapter you have if any.
  • What kind of network adapter you have and its IRQ, IO, and DMA settings.
  • What kind of CDROM. If not IDE or SCSI, you may need to know its IRQ, IO, and DMA settings.
  • What kind of mouse you have and which COM port it uses if not a PS2 mouse.
  • What kind of video adapter you have and how much memory it has. Also try to find out what exact chipset it uses if possible.
  • What kind of sound card and its IRQ, IO, and DMA settings.
  • Your monitor's horizontal and vertical refresh rates.

If you have Win95 installed already, you can get the answers to most of these from the "System" control panel. Don't panic if you cannot find out all of the information. Odds are you can get by without it. Just make your best guess.

Have a long term plan

Who will be in charge and take care of things like updates, security, backup and user support?

June 30, 2000, Alf Wachsmann. Last modified: December 06, 2000