Configuring Mandrake 6.1 Linux

Disk Partitioning

Linux Only Machines

If the machine you're installing is dedicated to Linux, then your job is easy. You only need two partitions, one for swap and one for files. Swap size should be twice your RAM size. If you're worried that your log files might grow and fill the disk, then you should put /var on a separate partition. But in general, the more partitions you have, the less efficiently you will use your disk space.

Multiple Operating Systems

If your machine will boot into multiple operating systems, then you have a bit more work to do. The following example is for a machine that boots into Windows 95, Windows NT, and Linux Mandrake 6.1.

Any configuration that includes Windows 95 or 98 requires that you

So stop now, install 95 or 98, then come back and keep reading.

Now that you've installed 95/98, you should boot into the Mandrake Linux installation and create your Linux partitions so that NT won't "borg" the entire disk. So start the Mandrake Linux installation, then create at least one partition for the root (/) filesystem and one for swap space. When you're done (with either fdisk or Disk Druid), just reboot the machine and install NT.

So stop now, install NT, then come back and keep reading.

Here's a diagram of what your disk might look like when you're finished.

Insert diagram here.

Installing Linux Mandrake

Booting into the Installation

Of course you'll want to boot into the installation program. If you have a bootable CD, you can use the Mandrake CD. Otherwise, you'll have to make a boot floppy. See the README on the Mandrake CD for details. If you don't have a CD, then see the Mandrake Linux website. I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow of the installation, because most of it is self-explanatory. But I'll touch on the important parts.

SCSI cards

The installation program will ask you if you have any SCSI adapters. The default kernel contains SCSI support, so you can answer "no" if you'd rather take care of that later.

If you have one of those ubiquitous Adaptec AHA152x cards, then you'll need to select "specify options" if you want the installer to see your card. The syntax is:


where AAA is the I/O address of the card, and BB is the IRQ. You can find these out by looking at jumper settings on the card. I think the cards are shipped with a default of 0x140 and 11. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Special note: if you make a mistake when entering these parameters, you might as well reboot. The installer seems to get into a loop and never recovers, even if you later enter the correct parameters.

By the way, the above parameters are what you'll enter later when asked if you want to pass "special parameters" to the kernel at boot time.

Disk Partitioning

You already did this, remember? Or if you didn't, do it now. Allow close to 1GB for a full-blow installation. For my non-fileserver servers, I manage with about 3-400.

Formatting Partitions

The installer tells you that there is no need to format partitions that have been formatted in a previous install. However, you're (probably) crazy if you don't reformat. Just Do It -- after you've made a backup of any interesting config files.

Mount Points

Choose your Linux (ext2) mount points. I usually mount / (the root directory) on /dev/hda2. If you're upgrading your machine, then hopefully you have an old copy of /etc/fstab. If so, don't bother specifying non-Linux mount points at this stage.

For other mount points, I do the following:
/c  /dev/hda1 (95)
/d  /dev/hda5 (NT)
/s  /dev/sr0 (SCSI CD)
/x  /dev/cdrom (CD)
/z  /dev/sda4 (Zip)
I use the exact same mappings in 95 and NT. For example, the X: drive is my CD-ROM. You may not get to specify all of these at installation, but you can always edit /etc/fstab later.

Selecting Packages to Install

Here's what I picked. Keep in mind that I'm a developer with a graphic arts background, and this is my personal desktop machine. You may not want everything on this list.

Do not choose "Select Individual Packages" unless you have a lot of time on your hands. And you know what you're doing.

Selecting Services to Start

Without comment, here is the list of most of services I start on my desktop machine, deep within my internal network.

NOTE: I think I missed a few, because my tape recorded notes got a little mumbly here. Sorry!


The installation may take a while, so get yourself a cup of coffee.

Boot Disk and Boot Loader

You should always make a boot floppy. Period.

In the case of multiple-OS boxes, install the boot loader (LILO) on the first sector of boot partition. Do not install the boot loader on the master boot record, or you'll be forced to configure LILO to load the other OSes.

If your system is a dedicated Linux box, then go ahead and install the boot loader on the MBR.

Don't forget the kernel parameters, if any. Especially with SCSI.

Tweaking the Installation

Configure NT Boot Menu

If you're also using NT, and you probably should be (even though I hate to say it), you should use the NT loader (ntldr) to load Linux. Get a copy of BootPart from and follow the directions. It's ridiculously easy, thanks to G. Vollant.

Backup/Restore files

If you're upgrading, then you'll want to restore some or all of the following files. If this is your first installation, then you should backup the following files:

There are many others, of course, but these are the ones I need. For this sort of backup, don't backup and restore more than you need.

Important: Do not restore fstab if there are any nfs mounts in it and networking and is not properly configured. Otherwise, your machine will take 20 minutes to boot!!


If you have any handy utilities, you should restore them to /usr/local/bin. Here are mine.

Configuring X

The best way to configure X is to restore a working copy of /etc/X11/XF86Config. If you don't have one, get one.

Make sure to have your card and monitor specifications on hand when configuring X.

Note: When you get around to actually using X, then you might wish to know that

startx -- -bpp 32

causes X to use 32-bit color (True Color). By default, X uses 8-bit color (Not Enough Colors).

Installing TrueType fonts

If you'll be browsing the web at all, then you'll want to install Microsoft's TrueType fonts on your machine. This is easy and legal, if you own a copy of Windows (thus a copy of the fonts). Hopefully, you mounted /dev/hda1 on /c. So you can copy the fonts to the X directory like so:

mkdir /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/TrueType
cp /c/windows/fonts/*.ttf /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/TrueType

Now you need to serve the fonts so X client programs can use them. Here are the steps:

When you reboot, you should be able to see TrueType fonts. Browse to or to to see the MS fonts displayed on your machine. Also, check to see if the new fonts are listed in the KDE Control Center.

Configure Samba

Andrew Tridgell, a tall Australian, originally authored this method of interworking Unix and Windows machines. The file /etc/smb.conf is pretty self-explanatory. After you've modified the file, restart the smbd -D process.

Adjust Initialization Sequence


Nontrivial system-wide initializations should be peformed by *.sh files in /etc/profile.d. Here is a copy of my file for java initialization.


I usually change the prompt to contain my working directory. So instead of PS1="[\u@\h \W]\\$ ", I use PS1="[\u] \w \\$ ".


I usually rewrite everything to miss this file. It's a kluge. For that matter, so is /etc/profile (profile.d is a better idea), but I have less philosophical objection to the latter.


You may want to change the following files to suit your local needs and preferences:

You might want to browse subdirectories of /etc/skel to see what you might want to change or delete.

Fix Broken KDE Menus

The KDE start menus are ludicrous. The names are too long, or to short, or too meaningless. And worse, the menus are not alphabetized. So I suggest you take 15 minutes to fix them. KDE provides a utility to modify the menus -- the Menu Editor -- but it doesn't seem to work for non-root users. It seems to add a Name[C]= field that only works for root.

IMHO, the best fix is to use the KDE menu editor as root. Login as root and Select K -> Panel -> Edit Menus. Within the menu editor, modify the system menus (the ones on the right side) in a sensible fashion. Change the names to something meaningful by right-clicking, then selecting Change. I try to remove "K" from as many things as possible. (Who the hell thought that one up, anyway?) When you're done, alphabetize them.

Then create a tar archive, in case something goes wrong:

cd /usr/share
tar cvzf /tmp/applnk.tgz applnk

Then change dir to /usr/share/applnk, and use my kfix script like so:

find . -name '*.kdelnk' -exec kfix {} \;

Apparently, the menu editor adds a field to the .kdelnk files that has no effect on what the user sees. So I change the field into something that the user does see.

As far as I can tell, to see the changes as a non-root user, you must delete the user's ~/.kde, and possibly also the ~/Desktop directory. (You might want to archive them first, just in case.) The second time the user logs in, he will be presented with a dialogue asking "The template files may have changed. Install the new ones?" Answer yes, and voila, the changes will appear. (Hey, I just document this stuff.)


Install Java

Go to and download a copy of the JDK for Linux. You can also get a version from IBM. Some say it's faster, but the license is more restrictive, and possibly even worrisome for some organizations.

Install FileRunner

Go to and download a copy of FileRunner. It's the best file manager ever written, by Henrik Harmsen. Uh, I still owe you a postcard Henrik. =)

Install StarOffice

Go to and download a (free for personal use) copy of StarOffice. You won't regret it. Uhhh, better use a T1.

Install Other Applications

Your choice.

Configuring Your Desktop

At this point, you should reboot and then make your Desktop environment as comfortable as possible.

Quickstart Buttons

Add application "quickstart" buttons by From the "start" menu, browse to K -> Panel -> Add Application and just add what you need. If you suddenly get a gear icon when you expect something else, use the menu editor to make sure the properties specify a MiniIcon. If they do, then delete the sucker and restart KDE. Sometimes that fixes it. (Sometimes not.)

Colors and Names

I used to try and name my desktops after function, but that was too restrictive. Now I always name my desktops after colors, then I change the colors to match. Because of human physiology and psychology, it is best to use a blend with black at the bottom and a dark color at the top. It's easier on the eyes, trust me. (I use Rust, Teal, Blue, and Black.)

Desktop icons

Modify ~/.kde/share/apps/kfm/desktop to change your desktop icons. Man, did that take forever to find. I found it because after dragging some icons to the QuickStart bar (not its real name) and the rest to the trash, I found that everything mysteriously returned upon my next login. I solved the problem by repeating the drag-and-drop party, then becoming root and using FileRunner to do something like:

mv /etc/skel/Desktop/* /etc/skel/Desktop/Trash If you type the above, you'll probably get a message about copying directories onto themselves. Ignore it.

Broken Links?

There are certainly broken links on this page. I made them up as I went along. It seemed to make more sense to make them as they are needed. So send me mail if there's something you want.

Travis Low