Installing Fedora Core 1 on a Sony Vaio SR-33

Though the SR-33 is an outdated unit now, there were quite a few sold. Plus, many of the issues solved here will apply to other units with only a pcmcia cdrom. You might also be interested in some install quirks.

Problem one is immediate: at the install prompt, you'll have to type:
linux ide2=0x180,0x386 reiserfs pci=off

The first parameter allows the kernel to see the cdrom -- right now it has been loaded by the bios, but once the install kernel takes over it will be lost without this. I don't know what the technical issues are or whether this might apply to other pcmcia-only CDROMs.

The third parameter is also necessary to see the cdrom, or rather to avoid some weird kernel lockup that has happened since 2.4.21 (the install kernel is a 2.4.22 variant, I think). I list explanations for the first and third parameters now because both are unnecessary with kernel 2.4.23 -- so if you're doing a later Fedora Core, perhaps you can skip this. Try skipping it; no harm in the failure mode.

Bear in mind if you do have to use pci=off, not all devices will be configured (your modem, for example). This will have to be done later. Also, you will not be able to configure your network. And it will not be easy to run your CDROM after the install -- so put in just about everything you can think of during the install.

The second parameter allows installation using reiserfs. You should do this if only as a matter of principle: Redhat (let's call a spade a spade; fedora is firmly smothered under the Red Hat) has some bone to pick with reiser, and hides this option while leaving it available to those 'in the know.' Not exactly my idea of an open system. So install reiser if only to make a little nudge toward freedom of choice.

The Install Menus

The first glitch you'll get is a request for a driver disk. Of course you don't have one, so just dismiss those screens. After that you'll get a normal redhat install screen with the language/keyboard questions. When it asks about the mouse it's best to confirm what it picked even if it looks wrong. It actually will be wrong, but it will work. Check 'emulate 3 buttons' at the bottom which will be unchecked.

It will not correctly probe the display, so choose Generic LCD Display and the correct resolution in the drop-down menu (800x600 for the SR33). It's important to get this right, so be careful.

Next it will insist on looking for earlier redhat installs and trying to upgrade if you have one. I never let redhat upgrade, since it has never managed that properly (use debian if you like to upgrade). So choose new install. If you wanted to upgrade, you should already have backed up your homedir etc, and you can simply stop now and do so if need be.

I like to choose "Workstation" but it's not important. "Custom" is fine, but the defaults for "Desktop" mean a lot of clicking. I would presume you already have partitions set up -- but you should almost certainly choose "Manually Partition with Disk Druid," a silly marketing name I've never managed to tolerate. For that part, you're on your own.

Boot loader? I always have my own grub installed anyway, so I skip this. Your only other option is GRUB, which is the best choice anyway. I have not tested it, but the old RH bootloader install worked fine. However if (like me) you don't install a bootloader, the easy way to boot it from your existing grub is to start from your other installed linux and add a symlink from the actual initrd-blah-blah-blah to just plain old initrd -- then you can put "vmlinuz" and "initrd" in your menu.list. Much easier than typing the whole thing out.

I do not use the RH firewall, so no comment.

Of course you'll want to remember to say the system clock is set to UTC unless you're a windowhead deep down. Choose your packages. Good luck, this is always a weird mess with redhat.

Click install and hope for the best.

After Things Fall Apart

On restart, a number of things seem to fail. For one thing, it will be very unhappy that it can't load a floppy driver (you don't have a floppy!) and it will seem as if kudzu doesn't work.

My advice is: don't bother with the parameters for the CDROM, and don't bother trying to use it. If you must do things with a cd, you'll probably have more luck nfs mounting something else from the network. But to heck with it. We'll do everything with the network from now on.

So configure your network using the gui tools from System Tools. If you decide to add a hostname, you'll have to make sure that hostname is in your /etc/hosts or just about everything under the sun will break. Consider this a necessity. If nothing else, your ssh might break and in extreme cases, gnome will not run.

Otherwise it's just "adjust to taste."

If you're not used to redhat's aggressive cron policies, you'll probably want to get rid of some of the update scripts there. Something to think about. It will run updatedb and prelink at the weirdest times.

You should be able to use "up2date" as soon as your network is running. As root, type "up2date install " where foo is a package name you know they have. In general, if it's on the CDs it will exist in the up2date repository. However, if you haven't ponied up for RH, it won't actually update your system automatically. To do that, you'll need to get apt-get (debian) functionality, which is the Next Big Thing ... or:


Yum is Yellowdog Updater Modified, which is Yet Another Apt-get Clone. It's not as complete as apt-rpm, but it's already on your system (or at least it was already on mine). You can use it to update your system for security issues, add packages, delete packages, and inspect what is available, etc.

You do this by issuing the simple command: yum update (assuming you have networking set up and etc).

If you're on a modem connection, expect a long evening, since glibc, the kernel (including sources if you installed them) and mozilla are already on the update list. If you don't want to wait through all this, you can say "no" (or do other things) when presented with the list of updates, then do "yum install foo" where foo is the package you want to do now. It may cause a 'dependency cascade' though, so be warned.

I don't actually know for sure how to install the apt-rpm stuff. The first time I did it (on a desktop box) I had tons of mysterious help from J.L. Bartos of Brasil, an apt-rpm wizard. Unfortunately, my logging failed and I don't have the instructions he gave me. I will doubtless get hold of him again and repeat the process on my Vaio and relate that experience. But for now, maybe yum is best since it's already on the system, seems to work cleanly, and will get you at least updated without falling prey to the up2date pressures to get RedHat Enterprise Edition.