Workshop 02 - Operating System Install

This workshop re-enforces hardware skills developed in workshop 01, and introduces two new concepts the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) and OS (Operating System) software.

BIOS

OS

Now your PC is back together we will:

By the end of this workshop you will be able to locate and identify all the hardware you’ve installed in the first workshop without opening the case.

We introduce the next stage of self-reliance; understanding what happens in the few seconds between pressing the power button and seeing your computer is ‘alive’.

The key to understanding this mysterious process is the concept of bootstrapping or ‘booting'. Starting with the power button, your computer follows a series of steps, each more complex than the last, until you have a working Operating System.

  • Make sure your case is closed, and fits tightly.
  • Plug in your USB keyboard and mouse.
  • Set-up your monitor, plug in the VGA cable.
  • Plug the power cables into the monitor and case last.
  • Then try the power button!

If you have assembled your computer correctly you should see:

  • The green power and hard drive LEDs flash
  • Then the power LED stays on and
  • The fans start up (quietly)
  • The BIOS screen flash up

If your computer is working correctly, congratulations! Now it's time to give someone else a hand.

If your computer won't turn on, don't panic. There are a few simple steps to use to troubleshoot:

  • Do you have an 'air gap'? This is a polite way of saying is your computer plugged in?

    Check the power cables are properly connected.

  • Does the front panel power switch click?

    If not, take off the front panel and press the power button directly.

  • The power switch connection to the motherboard is the next thing to check.

    Unplug the power lead then open your case and check the front panel power header is connected.

  • Next check the power cables from the PSU to the motherboard.

    The plugs only fit in one direction, just jamming them in won't work. Trust us. We've tried.

Getting Past the POST

The Power On Self Test (POST) is a check your computer runs through every time it turns on. Most of the time we never notice the POST process. It takes a few seconds and only stops on errors.

If your computer turns on but doesn't pass POST, it will let you know through flashing lights and beeps.

The table below is adapted from the 8100 service manual and should give you an idea of what to try next. Most errors can be fixed using the things you learned in workshop 01.

Two Beeps

  • Have you plugged the fan cable back in? Is the air guide installed correctly? Are the heatsink screws tight?

Three Beeps

  • This usually means your processor is not sitting in the socket firmly, or the heatsink screws are not firmly tightened.

Four Beeps

  • Have you plugged in the CPU power connector?

Five Beeps

  • This is an easy one, make sure your RAM is in the black slots and firmly clicked into place.
  • Try testing the RAM one slot at a time.

Six, Seven or Eight Beeps

  • All these errors are difficult to fix. Ask your facilitator for a hand.

Nine Beeps

Check your PSU cable headers on the motherboard.

Ten Beeps

  • This won't usually apply unless you have installed a PCI expansion card. If you have installed a PCI card, take it out and reboot.

Powered on and got through POST? Great - your computer will now continue the booting process by activating the BIOS. So what is the BIOS?

  • The BIOS is firmware, and works between the hardware and software of your computer.
  • It is an embedded program, meaning it is permanently attached to your computer's hardware.
  • A battery is used to keep BIOS settings for up to 10 years.
  • The BIOS settings are accessed in the System Configuration.

The BIOS will now attempt to boot your computer, running a few further checks. As you have taken your computer apart it may ask for some information.

It may ask you to confirm hardware changes.

or warn you to set the date and time

before trying the operating system from the internal hard drive.

But remember, the hard drive in your computer has been wiped.

There is no way for the system to continue to boot and so the boot process ends as soon as the BIOS discovers the hard drive is empty.

Now we need to access the System Configuration to make your computer boot off a USB stick, where we will install our operating system. To do this we have to 'catch' your computer just at the right moment with a well-timed key press.

The exact keys to press are shown in a 'splash' screen, which displays the manufacturer's logo and a list of keys to press to interrupt the booting process. This splash usually goes by very quickly, so we'll show the screen here.

This may take a couple of attempts to catch, so it's time to learn the three-fingered salute to force your computer to reboot. Press and hold the Control and ALT keys, then press the Delete key. You can keep doing this as many times as you like, there is no way to harm your computer by rebooting at this early stage of the boot process.

Lets step through the screens one by one before we choose an option.

  • F9 will bring up the boot menu where you choose a device to boot from, instead of going with what is stored in the BIOS.

  • F12 forces the computer to boot from the network card. Network booting is an advanced option, your computer will look at the ethernet port for a connected network device to boot from.

  • Unordered List Item F10 starts the BIOS set-up page where we customise how we want the computer to start and check on the hardware. We need to go into the BIOS set up, so next time you reboot press and hold F10. If you miss the BIOS key set-up then just keep rebooting till you get it.

Press and hold F10 when you see this screen

The first screen you'll get is for language selection. You move around by using the arrow keys, and press enter to select.

Select English

This is the main set-up utility menu. The first screen we want is System Information in the File menu. Select this option.

Main set-up utility menu

System Information displays information about the components in our computer, without having to open the case.

System information screen

You should recognise the Processor Type and Processor speed from Workshop 01. Also the Memory Size will be familiar. Press any key to exit System Information.

System information screen

Now go to Set Time and Date and make sure your system clock is correct. This is important for your computer to function correctly and be able to 'talk' on the internet.

No other computers will trust yours if your system clock is set to 2001…

Set time and date screen

Now select the Storage menu, then Device Configuration.

You should recognise your hard disk and DVD drive. Once again you can identify the type of component without opening your case.

Device configuration screen

Exit device configuration and select Storage Options. Make sure Removable Media Boot is enabled. We need this to boot your computer from the USB stick later in this workshop.

Storage options screen

Exit Storage Options and Select Boot Order. Here you will see a list of devices your computer can use to boot.

Boot order screen

We will be booting from a USB stick, so let's move the USB device to the top by pressing Enter, then the up arrow.

Select USB device

We can also disable network booting if you don't need it.

Disable network controller

Press F10 to confirm and exit Boot Order.

Go back to File menu, then down to Save Changes and Exit.

Press F10 for Save Changes and Exit

Press F10 to confirm, and your computer will restart and begin the boot process again, looking for a USB device. Will it find one?

For this series of workshops we will being using an Operating System (OS) called Xubuntu. Your facilitator has a USB stick for you which contains a Xubuntu Live System and Installer.

We will learn all about your OS later, all you need to know right now is:

  • A Live System means that we can boot and use your computer from just the USB stick with no need to use the internal hard drive.
  • The installer is used to install the Xubuntu onto your hard drive.

In later workshops you will use the live system process to make your own custom version of Xubuntu. Right now we will go straight to installing the OS.

Take a USB stick from your facilitator and plug it into any USB port and restart your computer using ctrl-alt-delete.

Plug in the USB stick

If you see a small logo down the bottom,

small logo at the bottom of the screen

Then it should automatically boot to a desktop environment and you will see a Xubuntu install icon,

desktop install icon

If not, you'll need to double check your BIOS settings. Ask your facilitator for help.

You can use your mouse or keyboard to select options here. Select English, then select Install Xubuntu.

Install Xubuntu screen

The next menu suggests the amount of hard disk space Xubuntu should use and the installer recommends connecting to the internet while installing. We usually don't have internet access for this workshop. Finally, check the box 'install this third-party software' - this will let us use MP3s.

Install this third-party software screen

Installation Type

This menu lets you select how you to treat the hard disk you are installing onto. As you are starting from scratch with a new system you select 'Erase and install', then click 'Install now'.

Erase disc and install Xubuntu screen

Where are You?

Now you need to tell your computer where in the world you are. The installer will recognise all standard timezones and Australian State Capitals.

In this case we are in Queensland, so begin typing Brisbane in the text box, then select Brisbane time. Or use your mouse to click on the map, then continue.

'Where are you?' screen

Keyboard Layout

Please keep the default keyboard layout as English (US). This is the most compatible layout for us. Then click continue.

Who are you?

Fill in your personal details and create a password. Please do not forget your password, you will need it regularly! Select log in automatically, and then click continue. Your system will begin installing.

'Who are you?' screen

Complete the Install

When the install is completed you will be prompted to 'Remove the installation media' - this is your USB stick - and restart your computer. At this point you should go into the BIOS again and change your first boot device to your internal hard disk.

Setting Up the SDLW Network

While we are waiting for the install to finish, it's time to setup our local SDLW network. We will use this network for updating and installing software, without having to use an internet connection.

The SDLW facilitator laptop will act as a server, and store all the files you need. You'll also be able to access this wiki and our version of simple wikipedia. Your facilitator will show you where to find the network cables and explain what to do next.

If we have access to the State Library internet network, we will plug directly into that with our ethernet cable and network switch hub.

With our Operating System (OS) installed now it's time to explain what an OS is. We will look at why The Siganto Digital Learning Workshops (SDLW) is based on Free and Open Source software (FOSS), and customise our Xubuntu installation

All computers, from the biggest supercomputers to the smallest smartphone run an Operating System.

The Operating System or OS is the first and most important computer program your computer will run.

Tasks that your operation system will do include:

  • Booting - we explored this in workshop 01
  • Controlling your mouse, keyboard and other peripherals
  • Managing system resources - like the Central Proccess Unit (CPU) and the (GPU).
  • Interacting with and storing files
  • Communicating over networks

Operating Systems can be designed for one user at a time (single user) or be accessed by more than one user (multiuser) at the same time.

Desktop computers, like the ones we use in our workshops, are typically single user.

Supercomputers used by universities, governments and large companies allow multiuser access.

Operating Systems can be multitasking, meaning the computer can perform more than one task at a time.

  • The computers that provide web pages and other services over the internet are multitasking.

    Some of these can serve millions of web pages at the same time.

  • A desktop computer that has multiple programs running is multitasking.

A single-tasking OS restricts the computer to one task at a time.

  • iOS used on Apple phones was originally a single-tasking OS.
  • Single-tasking OSs are less popular due to the increase in power and number of cores in modern CPUs.

There are many different Operating Systems in use, and some have a history dating back to the 1970s.

If you are interested in this history, and what exactly FOSS means you can explore in Train the Trainer, or download A Brief History of Desktop Operating Systems and Why Free and Open Source Software ?.

We've chosen an Linux based OS, called Xubuntu, but one question we are often asked

'If SDLW is giving away free computers, why not include an OS like Windows 7 with it?'

This comes back to the vision for the SDLW program; digital literacy and ICT self-sufficiency.

Any closed source OS we give away will:

  • Have a restrictive license attached
  • Require updates and eventually be out-of-date and unsupported

As much as we would like to, we cannot support our workshops beyond the delivery.

Free and Open Source

With a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) operating system we can expose and freely distribute an OS. In the same way we can take the hardware apart we can also:

  • Choose an operating system
  • Choose a desktop environment
  • Choose creative applications, productivity apps and system tools
  • Make our own unique version of an operating system
  • Copy it
  • Distribute it (give it away)
  • Install it on as many machines as we like, whenever, wherever we like

The repos for Linux OS contain thousands of free applications of every type.

Developers all around the world are constantly adding to the world of open source software.

With the Linux kernel being constantly developed, we can expect a stable, continually supported, freely available kernel for years to come.

Skills learned in Linux can be used to:

  • Create a media server at home with a raspberry pi
  • Set up your own web server
  • Learn to program or develop for the web

As we've discovered, Linux is open source and free. It also comes in many variations. We could find a variation of Linux to suit just about any kind of computer, from the oldest, slowest desktop to the latest smartphone.

For our workshops we are not looking at supercomputers or smartphones, we are looking for a desktop version or distribution (distro) of Linux that fills our needs. Some well-known Linux distributions we looked at include:

  • Fedora
  • Gentoo
  • Knoppix
  • Mandriva
  • PCLinuxOS
  • Slackware
  • Ubuntu

Our research on this narrowed down to two candidates - Fedora and Ubuntu.

Both are well supported by a large user base, with a well established company backing each - Canonical in case of Ubuntu, and Red Hat for Fedora.

Software for both systems is available all over the internet, with Ubuntu having the edge in popularity.

After installing and testing both on a typical SDLW computer in early 2014, we realised that the standard desktop environments for both these distributions are too resource heavy for our older computers.

Both OSs are also moving towards the touch screen type GUI that cursed Windows 8 to failure. But this is FOSS software right, so surely some folk out there have come to the same decision and have the skills to do something about it?

We then searched for variations of these OSs, called flavours (on Ubuntu) or spins (on Fedora) that would be a little more gentle on our system and came upon Xubuntu.

Introducing Xubuntu

According to theXubuntu project website:

  • Xubuntu is a community developed operating system
  • Xubuntu is an elegant and easy-to-use operating system
  • Xubuntu comes with Xfce, which is a stable, light and configurable desktop environment
  • Xubuntu is perfect for those who want the most out of their desktops, laptops and netbooks with a modern look and enough features for efficient, daily usage
  • It works well on older hardware too

After installing and trialing Xubuntu we realised it has the right balance of performance, familiarity and stability we need for SDLW. The final choice we needed to make is which version of Xubuntu to choose?

All big software is released as versions. This means that the software that is maintained and updated, and usually follows a release schedule. Each new release is given version number, and is supported for a length of time. To make the most use of our OS we've chosen Xubuntu and we're installing the lastest version.

We started with version Xubuntu 14.04 LTS when we were piloting SDLW and followed a Long Term Release (LTS) schedule of three years.

Xubuntu is based upon the xfce desktop environment.

Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.

In the top left hand corner you can access the whisker menu, similar to the Windows start menu.

Here you can access all the programs Xubuntu has pre-installed, and the settings for our desktop environment.

Our first task is to customise our window manager. We will increase the size of the window borders to make it easier to grab and resize windows.

Go to the whisker menu, and select 'settings'.

Whisker menu, settings

Scroll down and select 'window manager'.

Window Manager

Select the 'kokodi' theme - this theme has larger handles on the corners of the windows.

Kokodi theme

Next, we'll use the file manager, and find our way around the files and folders. If you are used to using Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX then the layout and icons used will be familiar.

Go up to the whisker menu and select the 'File Manager'.

Whisker menu file manager

The File Manager defaults to opening a window in your home folder. On the left-hand side you see your Hardware Devices, your commonly used Places and the local Network.

File Manager

You can change the way you view files and folders in the menu.

Change view

At the top of your File Manager you can see your location in your computer.

It's a concept we'll also cover in our command line exploring.

File Manager location

Now let's add a custom desktop background. If you have a phone and it's lead with you, try plugging it in. It should appear in your file manager.

Phone in devices menu

Navigate to the DCIM directory - this is the usual directory name for digital photos. There may be a couple of other directories there.

DCIM directory

If you double click to open a photo, it will open in your default image viewing program. In this case it opens in Ristretto Image Viewer.

Double click to open a photo

You can grab it and drag and drop onto your desktop or into a folder.

Drag to desktop

Then right click and set it as your desktop.

Right click to set as desktop

Done!

New desktop

If you are used to using an Apple computer you will be familiar with the dock - a small menu on the desktop. You can add a menu to the bottom of the screen, which will act like a dock.

The Xubuntu desktop uses panels to create menus. There is already a panel at the top of your desktop. Right click this panel on the blank section (or the clock) to bring up the panel preferences

panel preference

The preferences let you add another panel with the + sign.

add a new panel with the + sign

The new panel will appeal at the top left, empty and ready to be added too.

empty panel to add to

You can click on the plus sign to add a new item - we'll add a link to the desktop.

add a link to the desktop

Then drag it down to the bottom of the screen.

dock dragged to new position

Finally, you can choose to show and hide the dock.

show the dock

Now close the preferences and we are done.

Our first task with our new network is to update our system and the existing software installed. The easiest way to do this is by using the settings panel in the whisker menu.

software update

Scroll down and select 'Software Updater'.

software updater

Your computer will check for updates, and go to the SDLW laptop to find them.

software update

Don't worry if there are a few updates missing, this is because our SDLW server laptop doesn't have all the software possible to install. Just click 'install now'.

software update install

Enter your password and your system will begin to update. You can open up the little triangle to watch the progress.

software update install

Don't forget to restart your computer before we start the next workshop.

software update restart

Workshop 03 - Productivity and System Tools

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  • Last modified: 2018/12/05 13:17
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