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The $50 RedHat Mac-based Linux Server or Workstation:
How to install RedHat 6.1 Server or Workstation on a G4/450 running Virtual PC 3
By Matt Snider
(mrmacman@home.com or mattsnider@aol.com)
Published: 3/8/2000 (updated w/another reader's install guide)

[Note: For readers that don't yet own Virtual PC, Connectix announced on Feb 14th, 2000 they would be offering a new version of Virtual PC with Red Hat Linux pre-installed, due to ship this month.-Mike]

And they said it couldn't be done! Perish the thought. All I needed was: (a) Virtual PC 3; (b) my trusty old G4/450; (c) version 4 (although I think 3 will work) of Partition Magic from PowerQuest (actually, you need the DOS version of this wonderful utility that comes with the Windows version); and (d) RedHat 6.1 on CD and a RedHat boot floppy diskette (you'll need to borrow or buy a USB-based floppy drive such as Imation's SuperDisk or Newer Technology's USBdrive for this process), and (e) a lot of patience, as my first two attempts to install it failed miserably. However, you'll get the benefit of my tenaciousness, because what follows is a carefully sequenced series of steps designed to save you the about 6 of the 7 or so hours I burned figuring this out. Enjoy with my compliments.

The trick to this whole process is twofold. First, RedHat Linux 6.1 absolutely needs at a minimum 1 GB of hard drive space, 1.5 GB is better. Secondly, and this is more critical, since Disk Druid won't (for some unknown reason) format your Virtual PC 3 C:\ drive file into necessary Linux partitions (perhaps RedHat will fix this in the version they are supplying to Connectix for Virtual PC 3 with Linux) on the fly, you MUST have something like Power Quest's absolutely essential Partition Magic 3, 4 or 5 (5 is the latest) Windows and DOS-based drive partitioning and management software. One of Partition Magic's many wonderful features is the ability to create a DOS bootable recovery disk with a DOS version (albeit somewhat limited but perfectly suited to our present needs) of Partition Magic on it. And, wonder of wonders, it works flawlessly under Virtual PC 3.

So, with our VPC3, PM4 (in my case), RedHat 6.1 CD and boot floppy in hand, let's go to work.

BEFORE you do anything else, find yourself a Wintel box and using your RedHat 6.1 CD, follow RedHat's instructions to create a Linux install boot floppy disk. If you don't know how to do that, ask someone. It's not hard to do but it's a must for this install procedure. Sure, there are other ways to install RH6.1, and you can actually do them from Virtual PC 3, however, this procedure doesn't discuss them. It is far simpler to do the floppy install procedure, so make the effort to gen the install floppy. ALSO, this procedure assumes you have a DOS version of Partition Magic 3, 4 or 5. If you don't, get it now. You'll need it later in this process.

First, install Virtual PC 3 with DOS. This is the $50 (outpost.com and elsewhere) Connectix software with only DOS installed. The whole installation of this product, including using the configuration wizard/assistant, should take no more than……five whole minutes, even for the most flaming DOS neophyte. After installation, restart, just for good measure.

Next, adjust VPC3's memory allocation and make sure it has at least 64MB of RAM. It appreciates this a lot.

Next, fire up VPC3 and check its preferences and configuration. Make sure that VPC3 can see the floppy drive (remember, you need a SuperDisk or USBdrive for this process) through the USB bus. Pop in a DOS formatted 1.44MB floppy (format it on the Mac OS as a DOS disk) and in VPC3 type: dir a: at the C:\ prompt and you should get a directory listing of what is on the floppy, which should be a Finder DB file and that's about it). If you see this, you've verified that VPC3 can access the floppy via the USB bus. Good enough.

Next, comes some of the tricky stuff.

Since RH6.1 Linux really needs 1.5GB of hard drive space to run comfortably, you have to adjust the C:\ hard drive file of VPC3 to that size. Actually, to do this, you need to create a new hard drive file for VPC3 to reference AND (this is very important), copy the necessary boot files to the new hard drive file (or VPC3 will give you a NON-SYSTEM DISK boot error when firing up VPC3). To create a new hard drive file, follow the instructions in the manual. It's very easy.

Go to PC Preferences… click on C Drive, then, click on the New Hard Drive Image button:

VPC PC Prefs

The following window will appear:

New HD

In the Drive Size: box enter 1536 (MB), for a 1.5GB drive. Call the new C drive Linux. Click the Create button. Then, you have to follow Connectix's instructions for copying over the boot files to the new OS partition exactly.

Connectix provides a wonderful little document called "Virtual PC Using other Oses" which is in the folder called Installing Other Oses in the Virtual PC folder. I've reproduced the instructions from that document here because this is what you are going to do next. You'll follow part of the instructions for installing Windows 95/98 (basically item numbers 4, 5 and 6):

  1. Drag the "OS_Install.img" (located in the Installing Other OSes folder on the Virtual PC 3.0 CD) to the "Eject Floppy" button at the bottom of the Virtual PC window.

  2. Press any key. The following message will appear:

    This will prepare your current C drive for installation of a new operating system. This will overwrite your current configuration files on the C drive. Are you sure you want to continue? [Y,N]?

    Type "Y" to continue, type "N" to cancel.

    Drive C is now bootable and ready for installation.

  3. Eject the floppy disk and restart the PC environment from the Control menu (or by holding down the control-option-del keys).

Now that you have your new Drive C bootable, it's time to get out your DOS disk of Partition Magic or some similar type of utility. Since I used PM4, that's what I'm going to refer to.

Next, insert the PM4 DOS disk in your floppy. Restart Virtual PC and when you get to the C:\ prompt, type a:\. This will switch you to the floppy drive. Type: pmagic.exe or whatever the .exe file is for your executable disk utility. What you want to do is resize the existing FAT16 partition from the 1.5GB drive file you created awhile earlier into two (2) partitions, one, a FAT16 partition of 100MB or so and a LinuxExt2 partition of the remaining amount of space. I'm going to assume you know how to do this at this point because otherwise I'll end up reproducing the Partition Magic section on adjusting partitions.

Restart Virtual PC 3 and confirm that you have a 100MB FAT16 partition. You shouldn't be able to see the remaining drive file space committed to LinuxExt2. But don't worry, this is good. We're ready to go on.

Once you have finished adjusting and applying the changes you've made get your RedHat 6.1 boot floppy ready because you're now almost to the finish line. Also, this is a good time to put your RedHat Linux 6.1 CD into your CD or DVD drive.

VPC3 defaults to being able to boot off of the floppy drive. If you have changed this in the configuration settings, make sure that you change it back or you won't be able to go on at this point.

Restart VPC3 and insert the RedHat 6.1 boot floppy as soon as you see VPC3's screen go blank from your restart command. If you did everything right and your timing on floppy insertion was good (and your boot floppy is good), you should see the following screen in the VPC3 window:

Linux Boot Screen

If you've come this far, don't faint now, you're almost there.

Press the Enter key to drop into the GUI installer. Unless you are a certified Linux guru, use the GUI. As a Mac user, you'll appreciate how much better the MacOS is than anything that comes after this point. But also as a Mac user, the RedHat 6.1 GUI installer is a quaint novelty that you should enjoy anyway.

The rest of the RedHat install process is pretty darn easy. Follow the install screens to select either server or workstation (I tried this install method with both and it works well either way but server and workstation installs serve different purposes, so, choose wisely or you'll end up burning an hour or so doing an "install-over" install process). Then proceed to name your server or workstation, set up network bindings, screen resolution, etc. HOWEVER, here's a tip on a bland but important point.

You will come to a screen called the DISK DRUID. This is the de facto Linux utility for making LINUX partitions. It is a pain if you don't understand what it is doing. You can manually set up every single partition you need and specify its size (by carving pieces out of the / (root) partition OR you can simply create the one really important partition, the swap partition, which should be equal to the amount of RAM you have allocated to VPC3 and let the install process create the rest of the directories using the balance of the disk file. I opted for the latter method and it worked flawlessly. Either way, you should end up with a nicely usable Linux server or workstation running inside VPC3 on your Mac, and if nothing else, you'll be able to have crowing rights in your Mac neighborhood until your buddies read this and get the bug.

Now, of course, the disclaimers.

I ain't responsible for what happens to your computer if you follow this instructions or procedures. I am simply relating what I did that worked for me. If you do the same thing and it doesn't work, t'ain't my problem. Make sure you back up all you data before doing this and any irreplaceable applications. You ought to be doing this anyway. If you don't, you're very, very silly. Use these directions at your own risk. Caveat emptor baby!

All the legal rights to the products mentioned belong and are reserved to their owners. Namely, RedHat belongs to RedHat, Virtual PC 3 belongs to Connectix and Partition Magic belongs to Power Quest

Best wishes and good luck with your RedHat 6.1 Linux install.
-Matt Snider

Update: Dan Nomura reported he had a smoother install:

" I just did a full RedHat 6.1 install on VPC 3 successfully, and my experience was much nicer than Matt's. I didn't need any special hardware or software, as the standard RedHat installer was able to partition the HD without a hitch, and I used a disk image for the boot floppy. Here's how:

- I downloaded the RedHat files onto a 600MB partition and used that, but the CD should work as well. Download the standard floppy install image, and rawrite3 (these are in the dosutils directory of the RedHat CD) - create a floppy image in MacOS. I used PC format, but I don't think that the format matters.

- create your Linux HD image in VPC. I used 1GB.

- in VPC, mount the floppy image by dragging the disk image file onto the Eject Floppy button on the VPC window, then use rawrite (from a DOS prompt) to write the boot image to the floppy image (turbocharged floppy, baby! ;-)

- restart VPC and reconfigure your hard drive images to make the RedHat image available (preferably as C, replacing the DOS/Win image). With the floppy image still mounted, You should boot into the RedHat installer.

Some notes:
- The only need I had for a bootable partition was to run rawrite. I am running RH61 in a 1GB partition with no problems, although more space would be better. Disk Druid worked perfectly for me, but Matt is correct in that you have to know what you're doing with it.

- it's a good idea to set the VPC prefs up exactly as you want them before running the RedHat installer. This is not critical as RH6.1 has some boot-time autodetection, but the installer does some configuration based on the hardware it detects (notably hard drives, video, networking, RAM and sound).

- X runs slowly, and it won't automatically set the resolution. When the X resolution did not match the window size, X didn't update the screen properly making it unusable, but using ctrl-cmd-+/- will resize the window and eliminate the problem.

I was impressed at how easily it went, as I had tried previously to install RedHat 4.1 on VPC 2 with much frustration. Since I am using a G4, the floppy image capability was a great boon, and using rawrite on a floppy the speed of my HD made my eyes pop.
Dave ;·D


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