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C.6. Installing Linux

Okay, you have collected your hardware manuals and selected the Linux distribution to install (one that meets your requirements based on the hardware you have). You should probably have at least a hardware manual for your system, which will describe hardware configuration and the use of the firmware consoles for your system, as well as provide useful error codes and diagnostics if there are difficulties. There will be an appendix near the end of each of Digital's system or evaluation board manuals that lists related documents, some of which are also useful. The document numbers will identify the files that you want from the Alpha library archive.

There are web sites providing FAQ files and other useful information for some specific Alpha systems as well.

You should also have the installation documents and addenda for your CD-ROM installation and information regarding any bugs and fixes for the distribution you are installing. Where your documentation is incomplete or describes a generic Linux installation, rather than the specific Linux Alpha installation, you may want to use the following sequence as a guide for installation.

C.6.1. Preparing Software for Installation

Check the web site of the company that provided your CD-ROM distribution for bug reports, patches, and later versions of the software version you are installing. Also check the AlphaLinux web site for independent verification of bug fixes and patches. Check Compaq's "System and Software and Driver Updates" web page for updated (Windows NT) software and drivers for your system at In particular, if your system uses AlphaBIOS, make sure you have the latest version, which you can get from the previously listed web page.

Check the AlphaLinux FTP site for updates in firmware that you need.

Create the failsafe recovery diskette, which is a linear-format block-data disk from an image file using an MS-DOS system and RAWRITE.EXE. This is a reserve parachute on your installation journey. If your ARC or SRM firmware needs updating, you can retrieve the files from the same location.

Next, make the three boot diskettes that you need for the Linux installation. To determine what diskette you may need for booting, visit the chart located on the Compaq FTP site at:

You can make the diskettes on an IBM PC/MS-DOS system by invoking RAWRITE.EXE to create image file disks or using dd under Unix.

C.6.2. Preparing Hardware for Installation

The key issues here are disk-drive partitions and filesystems and supported video adapters. During disk configuration, we recommend that you use basic fdisk tools for reliability rather than use a GUI-based utility.

Your hardware manual will assist you in any required troubleshooting, such as providing beep code definitions. The UDB, for example, has a diagnostic LED character array that flashes a number or letter if a necessary firmware program in nonvolatile RAM (NV-RAM) or system ROM (SROM) error is detected on system boot.

  If your system has been idle for some time, make sure that the cooling fans are working, too. Overheating your system in the middle of firmware reconfiguration would be particularly annoying.

C.6.3. Booting the Alpha System and Preparing to Load Milo

Because we cannot possibly cover all BIOS configurations in this book, we will give pointers on where to find detailed installation and configuration information for each type of firmware used with Milo.


Location of Information

ARC Console



C.6.4. Loading Milo and the Linux Boot Kernel

After you have successfully configured your BIOS to load Milo, you will see the Milo prompt. Because Milo is a microkernel, it has many options you may want to explore before bootstrapping the Linux kernel.

You should see the following Milo prompt:


To see Milo options, enter Milo's help command:

MILO> help

To see how Milo has set up, what devices it knows, and the filesystems that it recognizes, enter the show command:

MILO> show

If everything looks fine, you can continue with the installation and load Linux from the prepared Linux kernel image.

Bootstrapping the kernel is very straightforward--you can do it in one command:

  1. To load the Linux kernel from the first disk drive, type the following:

    MILO> boot fd0:vmlinux.gz root=/dev/fd0 load_ramdisk=1
    Note that this assumes you use the floppy image file that you prepared from a disk image file; Milo assumes an ext2 partition by default and that fd0 is the correct floppy drive. If you wanted to boot from an MS-DOS-formatted disk, such as the alternate disk previously prepared, you could enter:
    MILO> boot fd0 -t msdos -fi vmlinux.gz load_ramdisk=1

  2. Insert the ramdisk floppy when prompted.

  3. Run your CD-ROM distribution's installation and configuration program.

  4. After you finish installation, install Milo on a small disk partition on your machine to use for reconfiguring. If you want Milo to be able to load on booting, this partition must be a primary MS-DOS partition. You can create it using MS-DOS's or Window NT's fdisk.

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