Newbie - Some questions before installing 11.1

I’ve decided to migrate to suse 11.1 from XP on my Thinkpad X60s. I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the last week and also installed 11.1 on VMware to get a feel for it and experiment. I’m confident that I should be able to get 90% of the hardware working fairly easily. There are a few minor things that I can sort out with time and research I’m sure.

I intend to dual boot XP with Suse and will set it up so I use the XP bootloader so that I won’t mess up the Thinkpad MBR and it’s restore button.

I have a few questions that I would like clearing up before I start.

  1. How reliable is Suse at reading and writing to ntfs? I’m in two minds whether to put my data (e-mail, docs, etc.) into an ntfs partition so both XP and Suse can access it. It’s not critical as I intend Suse to be my primary OS but in the interim it may be useful if XP can also use the data.
  2. I have a 250GB HDD, with XP to be shrunk to around 30GB and about 120Gb for data which will be a separate partition. That leaves ~80GB for Suse. How large should I create each partition for Suse? I’m not really familiar with how large I can expect them to get with time, i.e. the swap, home, etc.
  3. My laptop currently has 1.5Gb of ram and I’m thinking of upgrading it to 4GB. Will this be a benefit using Suse or is it overkill?

Looking forward to getting started.

  1. Suse can read write to ntfs no problem. It sounds like you are on the road to freedom, but not quite there yet and it is a bit of a dilemma what to do. The document side should be fairly easy copy and paste. The email side can be doen that way too but it’s a little more complicated. Some years ago when I had XP I had my email client set to leave messages on server when in XP.

  2. Partiton this way:
    swap 2 or 4 GB depending if you upgrade
    / (root) 15GB
    /home -all the rest

Have a look at this, written for 11.0 but the principles are the same
Partitioning/Install Guide - openSUSE Forums

And look at this may help you:
Watch a SUSE 11.1 install Slideshow - openSUSE Forums

  1. More RAM the better. If your machine is 64 bit even better. If 32 bit you need to use the PAE kernel (But the installer will usually install that when it see’s your RAM). The PAE kernel will address the 4GB properly. XP cannot use it all only 3GB.

Thanks for the quick reply.

  1. I use Thunderbird for e-mail and apparently it’s not that difficult to migrate it to Linux. I’ve decided that for the moment I’ll continue using TB in Linux until i’ve had time to evaluate the other options.

  2. With regards to the swap size do you mean that I should create a 4GB swap if I upgrade to 4GB ram?

  3. It’s a 32bit system. If I install Suse now with 1.5GB RAM will that mean it won’t install the PAE Kernel? What happens when I upgrade my RAM to 4GB later? Will i have to reinstall Suse or can I just update the relvent part?

  1. it is considered best to have as much swap as ram if you intend to use suspend to ram. So yes I mean that.

  2. Is probable that the DVD installer will pick up the PAE kernel anyway but if not you can change it during the install or later. No re-install needed!

Just a further note on one of your earlier questions:

Superb read/write capabilties to NTFS were provided to openSUSE by the introduction of the ntfs-3g (3g stands for 3rd generation) driver. That driver took a while to be accepted by the Linux community, but I believe you see it most every where now.

There are some “quirks” wrt its use.

If you are using Windows, you must shutdown your PC properly. If you suspend/hibernate, and then restart to openSUSE via some method, you may find you can not access (and may not even see) your Windows NTFS partitions on openSUSE Linux. But if MS-Windows is shutdown properly each time, it should not be a problem.

Note here, you should defrag immediately before you try to install openSUSE. That is very important.

I think almost all Linux distributions will benefit from more RAM. Typically it means you can have more applications running at one time, without a slow down. If you are unfortunate to run an application with a memory leak, it means you have a bit more time until the malbehaved memory leak application causes problems.

Reference your question about changing kernels, as long as you are sticking with a 32-bit to 32-bit kernel change, it can be done without a re-install.

Some care is needed, to ensure the file that controls the boot manager ( /boot/grub/menu.lst ) is properly setup after a kernel change.

For some installation basics (not specific to your question) you could also take a look here: NEWBIES - Suse-11.1 Pre-installation – PLEASE READ - openSUSE Forums

Reference a swap of 4GB. You will find conflicting views on this. I myself consider it massive overkill and a waste of disk space. I never use a swap larger than 2 GB.

Just a further comment on this, … I believe this was true for older PCs, where the PC had only 512MB or so of RAM.

In fact for PCs with minimal RAM, (with say 128MB or 256MB) there were recommendations that the swap be twice the size of the available RAM.

But once amount of RAM available for a PC started becoming larger, the benefit of having double, and then even an equal amount of swap became less and less. I recall someone pointing this out to me sometime back (in the old forums before the merge) but I could not find their post.

Since then, I have even read web pages stating there are a 2GB swap size limitation (not sure how true that is) of x86 PCs. … For example:

Again, I am not 100% up to speed on this, and I do not know how accurate those pages are with the modern kernels. But I do believe that for the average user there is no benefit of having a 4GB swap with 4GB of RAM. On my new P6T Core i7 motherboard, with 6GB of RAM, I created a 2GB swap partition, and that PC is running fine as near as I can determine.

I think it is a personal thing depends how much and what you use. If you have some huge ram intensive program and you suspend then it may have an impact…

Now reading docs it shouldn’t really need to be twice the size or even as much ram as used averagely…

Linux Kernel Documentation :: power : interface.txt

The suspend-to-disk mechanism will do its best to ensure the image size will not exceed that number. However, if this turns out to be impossible, it will try to suspend anyway using the smallest image possible.

To find out cat /sys/power/image_size

I recently had no swap at all with 2gb and was rendering. Wasn’t till I tried to solve suspend I noticed. To monitor what you use then you would need to take a few looks at
vmstat -s

Then determine it…

I would have to confess to not being totally sure on this myself. Though I do recall some mention of suspend to disc and a relationship to the RAM. Being that, as you will likely know, Linux will SEEM to have nearly all the RAM in use, it’s not of course - but actually cached. When you want to suspend all that to disc, as I understood matters, you should have swap equivalent to RAM.

I am inclined to agree however with @oldcpu. It does seem overkill. And it would be interesting to hear from a real guru on this matter.

Thanks guys. Some good info there.

As I’m installing on a laptop, I will be suspending to disk quite frequently, often with a lot of apps open. I think I may start with 2GB of swap and see how it goes. I can always increase it later if necessary.

FeatherMonkey, thanks for that command to see what the suspend image size is. can see that being useful when I come to fine tune everything.

I’m about to start the process of backing up my XP system and copying my data files and config files off onto an external drive. I will then defrag and then start the install taking into account all the advice.

On my laptop I only ever suspend to RAM. It’s so quick, like 2 secs.

Well just an update. I repartitioned my HDD and shrunk XP down. I installed Suse 11.1 setting it up to dual boot XP and Suse and everything generally went very well.

I was surprised at how much just worked out of the box on my Thinkpad. There are a few minor things I need to sort out (a small dual boot quirk and WiFi doesn’t connect) and configure to get it all working as I want them but otherwise I am very happy. I had a feeling of “I’m Free!” when Suse first booted and virtually everything worked. Hopefully I can now migrate everything over from XP and then basically shelve it as far as my day to day work goes.

A couple of questions:
When doing the online update, I get a huge list of updates. Do I need to update all those or just be selective? I don’t really understand what 90% of the files are. Are these all already installed on my system?

When I ran a couple of the updates I got messages saying that the keyfile??? or something like that wasn’t present and I must be sure I can trust the source of the update. Can I trust it or do I need to get the keys? This was off the suse repositories.

Congratulations! Well done.

Wireless can be tricky. BUT a BIG PLUS in your favour is your laptop selection. Typically Thinkpads have excellent Linux support. A good web site to come up to speed technically on Thinkpads and Linux is ThinkWiki. Just type X60 in the search at the left, and you get something like: Category : X60 - ThinkWiki . That suggests to me you have one of those 3 wireless devices:

  • Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Mini-PCI Express Adapter
  • Thinkpad 11a/b/g Mini-PCI Express Adapter
  • Thinkpad 11/a/b/g/n Mini-PCI Express Adapter

You need to detemine which one, and then get help on our forum for that (probably best if you start a new thread in our forum wireless section (link below)). Reference your wireless, note that if you go here: Wireless - openSUSE Forums You will see three stickies at the top of the page. Skim through each of them. They will give you an idea how to set it up, and also one of those stickies will tell you want information to post in your support request thread, when you are looking for help. If you post the information requested, you probably will get help much sooner.

Thats an excellent question !! In truth, if your repositories (where repositories are file servers on the internet with applications packaged for openSUSE) are only OSS, Non-OSS, and Update, then you probably should install ONLY the updates. But be careful when installing the “kernel” (and associated packages). I prefer to install that separate. The kernel is the “heart” of your system, and unfortunate for all Linux distributions (and not just openSUSE) a kernel update can break your graphics, your wireless, your webcam, your virtualbox software, your audio, …etc … ie basically any software whose driver or kernel module is tied into a specific kernel version, and whose driver does not come with the updated kernel.

There are of course fixes for all those items with the new kernel, but it does mean one should take precautions before hand. Prior to my installing a new kernel, I always ensure I have a backup PC handy that I can use in case I have internet access problems (such as broken wireless or broken graphic gui) prior to updating the kernel. I always search first to ensure there are drivers for my hardware prior to installing the new new kernel, and for wireless and graphics I download the appropriate rpms to my hard drive BEFORE accepting the kernel update. Also, before I do a kernel update, I make a backup copy of /boot/grub/menu.lst (need root permissions to do that) and then after the kernel update, but before rebooting, I compare the new /boot/grub/menu.lst file against the backed up /boot/grub/menu.lst file to see if the differences make sense. In some cases I even deliberately keep the old kernel when I install the new kernel, but that requires different installation commands and a higher level of knowledge than a new user will have.

There are keyfiles to ensure that some hacker does not give one a hacked application in place of a properly packaged application. Its just additional security. If you are happy you have the correct web site (ie repository) for the application then you can likely accept all.

But what are “suse repositories” ? Do you mean OSS, Update, or Packman? As a new user I recommend you only setup 4 repositories. Just 4. Only 4. No others. None. Those 4 are OSS, Non-OSS, Update, and Packman. The 1st 3 are official Novell/SuSE-GmbH. The 4th (Packman) is a great reliable source of 3rd party packages, in particular its very good for 3rd party multimedia applications as openSUSE is broken in that regard. But ONLY those 4: OSS, Non-OSS, Update, and Packman. There is guidance here for setting up those 4: Repositories/11.1 - openSUSE-Community Again, only those 4 and if you added more, remove them. Only after you learn more about the risks of adding others, and how to identify problems from adding others, and how to fix those problems, should you feel safe in adding others. And most of the time, even as an expert user, when you add others it should be on a temporary basis, and immediately after installing the desired software from the other repository, you should remove that repository.

Once you have the 4 repos setup in your Software Package Manager, you can go to YaST > Software > Software Manager and install software that you need to update. In my case I typically add packman packaged versions (to replace the Novell/SuSE-GmbH packaged versions) of amarok, amarok-xine, amarok-packman, libxine1, xine-ui smplayer, mplayerplug-in, vlc, libffmpeg0 and w32codec-all (the last 2 provide many codecs). You can tell packman packaged versions by the “pm” in the version number.

Many new users end up trashing their openSUSE by having too many repositories, so be careful there.

Thanks for a great reply. Some Rep coming your way.

I am aware of the Thinkwiki and have scanned through it but it’s a little mind boggling at the moment. i need to sit down and try digest it a bit more. I have the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Mini-PCI Express Adapter. Once I’ve had a read about it I’ll post in the wireless forum as you suggest.

But what are “suse repositories” ? Do you mean OSS, Update, or Packman? As a new user I recommend you only setup 4 repositories. Just 4. Only 4. No others. None. Those 4 are OSS, Non-OSS, Update, and Packman.

Fortunately I read about the four repositories in the link you posted so I only set those four as soon as the install completed. Good tip about the kernel updates. I’ll make sure about not updating the kernel. The last thing I need now is more head scratching trying to figure out how to repair a broken install.

The most frustrating thing for me at the moment is trying to figure out the commands to be able to run / list things from the terminal. I think it would make diagnosing problems easier if I was profient with the command line. I have a list of commands but not being familiar with their use makes progress very slow. Definitely the hardest part of the steep learning curve.

Indeed! As you note its likely the hardest and most frustrating part. I recall (vaguely) spending a silly amount of time 11 years ago, when I first installed Linux, reading about commands. And then after many years, it can become a part of Linux that one likes a lot. :slight_smile:

There are various “linux command summary” and “linux cheet sheets” one can get to help. If you type either of those two phrases in google, you can come up with something like:
FOSSwire: Unix/Linux Command Cheat Sheet
or the “one page linux manual”
The One Page Linux Manual - free Linux software commands

In my case, I have taken cheat sheets such as those, and made them permanent by applying a glossy permanent cover to them. And I keep them handy by my computer. If I had a better memory I would not have to consult with such a cheat sheet, but my memory is notorious for being unreliable.

Here is another example:
Linux-Unix Cheat Sheets - The Ultimate Collection

Indeed there are so many to choose from, its enough to confuse any user with the plethora of choices

But be careful when installing the “kernel” (and associated packages). I prefer to install that separate. The kernel is the “heart” of your system, and unfortunate for all Linux distributions (and not just openSUSE) a kernel update can break your graphics, your wireless, your webcam, your virtualbox software, your audio, …etc … ie basically any software whose driver or kernel module is tied into a specific kernel version, and whose driver does not come with the updated kernel.

I just received an update notice saying there is a security update for the kernel. It’s updating to and there is an update for kernel module packages.

So is it your advice to not do this update until I have got everything else working properly. I guess we don’t want to be adding further potential problems at the moment.

Hmm… I recommend caution, but it really depends on one’s hardware. Of course experience helps.

You could consider each of your laptops drivers (that are affected by a kernel update) one by one, and base your decision on that. That is what I do. So, for your thinkpad:

  • Your graphics I think are Intel: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 - ThinkWiki You can check to see what driver you have installed by typing: “grep -i driver /etc/X11/xorg.conf” Probably either “intel” or “i810”. I don’t think “i810” gets much support now, so probably “intel”. I believe that is supported ok by the kernel. You could surf to confirm that;
  • your audio. AD1981HD That may be broken by the new kernel, but if so it is easy to fix. I wrote a wiki here how to fix it: Alsa-update - openSUSE
  • your webcam: I don’t think it has one?
  • virtual box: you probably do not have this installed;
  • your wireless: how far have you got on this? You believe you have an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Mini-PCI Express Adapter. Think wiki says Linux has the ipw3945 and the iwl3945 drivers. Typing “ipw” in webpin openSUSE application search engine gives this: Webpin So it appears you need ipw-firmware and maybe some other apps. I note (by the version number) that some users have packaged rpms for the kernel. One could also refine that search with Webpin . Putting “iwl” in the web pin search engine gives this: Webpin … so there are more options there.
    I note from the Intel web site that iwlwifi driver has been merged into mainline kernel since 2.6.24 so that almost suggests you wireless should work “out of the box”. Did you try going to YaST to set it up?

Anyway, my assessment is if you have wired connection to your Thinkpad, then don’t let the wireless stop you

Conclusion. Install the kernel update.

First, though, with root permissions make a backup of your /boot/grub/menu.lst file. You can do that from your /home/username directory by:
**su -c ‘cp /boot/grub/menu.lst .’**and enter root password when prompted. That will put a copy of menu.lst under /home/username.

Then install the kernel update. Then do NOT reboot. Instead open up /boot/grub/menu.lst in an editor and open /home/username/menu.lst in an editor. Compare them. They should be very similar, except for the change in the kernel version (affecting the file with the kernel and the selection titles). Everything should pretty much be the same. To open up /boot/grub/menu.lst you may need to type something like:

  • If in KDE: kdesu ‘kwrite /boot/grub/menu.lst’
  • If in Gnome: gnomesu ‘gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst’

then compare with the menu.lst in /home/username.

Then reboot. New kernel should be in place.

Reference your wireless, did you research this yet ?

Some one who knows more than I has to chime in. I noted previous there is the ipw and the iwl (two different drivers).

From what I have read, the ipw3945 project is depreciated. The development has been switched to the iwlwifi project (no binary daemon required!). And the iwl support is now in the kernel.

So getting your wireless to work should be a breeze.

Some links:

I suspect you can just go to YaST > Network Devices > Network Settings and try to set up there … or possibly set it up under the network control icon in the panel in the lower right corner of your desktop (if using KDE).

Thanks. I’ll research the drivers and see what I find and then decide on the kernel update. My graphic card is a Intel 945GM Express Chipset so I’ll check if it’s supported by the kernel. Audio if it breaks I’ll fix it as per the link, no webcam, I just installed Virtualbox but not done anything with it yet so not too bothered with that at the moment.

With reference to my WiFi, I finally got it working. It seems the Network Manager Applet 0.7.0 (using the one for Gnome) is a bit quirky. Even though you have the wireless network settings all set up you still have to connect as if you are connecting to a new network then choose the existing network in the drop down. It then worked fine until I hibernated which seemed to mess it all up again and I just couldn’t get it to connect after that without rebooting. Very frustrating and I’m dreading when I have to move bewteen sites and spend 20mins messing around with getting the wireless to work each time.

Perhaps I should try find another network manager. Having reliable wifi and being able to access various networks quickly is imperitive for me.

To be honest I think some of the problems I’m having are due to a lack of understanding how things work under Linux and some of the GUI setting windows take a little figuring out as to what some of the settings are for.

Otherwise things are going well. I have the profile manager set up for docked and undocked states which was important to me, got the networked multi-function printer/scanner/fax installed and working. I’m slowly ticking things off the list.

Hello! I would like to chime in here for a second. I’ve done UNIX / LINUX administration for the past twenty years. I would suggest that the “Rule of thumb” for SWAP space be adhered to this instance, SWAP is usually twice the amount of available memory, i.e. 2GB R/W memory should have at least 4GB SWAP, in your case, 4GB R/W memory should have at the least 8GB SWAP for optimal performance.