This section contains information about what hardware you need to get started with BlackWeb Linux. You will also find links to further information about hardware supported by GNU and Linux.
BlackWeb Linux does not impose hardware requirements beyond the requirements of the Linux kernel and the GNU tool-sets. Therefore, any architecture or platform to which the Linux kernel, libc, gcc, etc. have been ported, and for which a BlackWeb Linux port exists, can run BlackWeb Linux. Rather than attempting to describe all the different hardware configurations which are supported for 64-bit PC, this section contains general information and pointers to where additional information can be found.
BlackWeb Linux’s support for graphical interfaces is determined by the underlying support found in X.Org’s X11 system, and the kernel. Basic framebuffer graphics is provided by the kernel, whilst desktop environments use X11. Whether advanced graphics card features such as 3D-hardware acceleration or hardware-accelerated video are available, depends on the actual graphics hardware used in the system and in some cases on the installation of additional “firmware” images (see Section 2.2).
On modern PCs, having a graphical display usually works out of the box. In very few cases there have been reports about hardware on which installation of additional graphics card firmware was required even for basic graphics support, but these have been rare exceptions. For quite a lot of hardware, 3D acceleration also works well out of the box, but there is still some hardware that needs binary blobs to work well.
Details on supported graphics hardware and pointing devices can be found at http://xorg.freedesktop.org/. BlackWeb Linux 8 ships with X.Org version 7.7.
Almost any network interface card (NIC) supported by the Linux kernel should also be supported by the installation system; drivers should normally be loaded automatically. This includes most PCI/PCI-Express cards as well as PCMCIA/Express Cards on laptops. Many older ISA cards are supported as well.
ISDN is supported, but not during the installation.
Wireless networking is in general supported as well and a growing number of wireless adapters are supported by the official Linux kernel, although many of them do require firmware to be loaded.
If firmware is needed, the installer will prompt you to load firmware. See Section 6.4 for detailed information on how to load firmware during the installation.
Wireless NICs that are not supported by the official Linux kernel can generally be made to work under BlackWeb Linux GNU/Linux, but are not supported during the installation.
If there is a problem with wireless and there is no other NIC you can use during the installation, it is still possible to install BlackWeb Linux GNU/Linux using a full CD-ROM or DVD image. Select the option to not configure a network and install using only the packages available from the CD/DVD. You can then install the driver and firmware you need after the installation is completed (after the reboot) and configure your network manually.
In some cases the driver you need may not be available as a BlackWeb Linux package. You will then have to look if there is source code available in the internet and compile the driver yourself. How to do this is outside the scope of this manual. If no Linux driver is available, your last resort is to use the ndiswrapper package, which allows you to use a Windows driver.
Besides the availability of a device driver, some hardware also requires so-called firmware or mi-crocode to be loaded into the device before it can become operational. This is most common for net-work interface cards (especially wireless NICs), but for example some USB devices and even some hard disk controllers also require firmware. With many graphics cards, basic functionality is available without additional firmware, but the use of advanced features requires an appropriate firmware file to be installed in the system. On many older devices which require firmware to work, the firmware file was permanently placed in an EEPROM/Flash chip on the device itself by the manufacturer. Nowadays most new devices do not have the firmware embedded this way anymore, so the firmware file must be uploaded into the device by the host operating system every time the system boots.
In most cases firmware is non-free according to the criteria used by the BlackWeb Linux GNU/Linux project and thus cannot be included in the main distribution or in the installation system. If the device driver itself is included in the distribution and if BlackWeb Linux GNU/Linux legally can distribute the firmware, it will often be available as a separate package from the non-free section of the archive.
However, this does not mean that such hardware cannot be used during an installation. Starting with BlackWeb Linux GNU/Linux 5.0, BlackWeb Linux-installer supports loading firmware files or packages containing firmware from a removable medium, such as a USB stick. See Section 6.4 for detailed information on how to load firmware files or packages during the installation.
If the BlackWeb Linux-installer prompts for a firmware file and you do not have this firmware file available or do not want to install a non-free firmware file on your system, you can try to proceed without loading the firmware. There are several cases where a driver prompts for additional firmware because it may be needed under certain circumstances, but the device does work without it on most systems (this e.g. happens with certain network cards using the tg3 driver).
Some hardware manufacturers simply won’t tell us how to write drivers for their hardware. Others won’t allow us access to the documentation without a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent us from releasing the driver’s source code, which is one of the central elements of free software. Since we haven’t been granted access to usable documentation on these devices, they simply won’t work under Linux.
In many cases there are standards (or at least some de-facto standards) describing how an operating system and its device drivers communicate with a certain class of devices. All devices which comply to such a (de-facto-)standard can be used with a single generic device driver and no device-specific drivers are required. With some kinds of hardware (e.g. USB “Human Interface Devices”, i.e. key-boards, mice, etc., and USB mass storage devices like USB flash disks and memory card readers) this works very well and practically every device sold in the market is standards-compliant.
In other fields, among them e.g. printers, this is unfortunately not the case. While there are many printers which can be addressed via a small set of (de-facto-)standard control languages and therefore can be made to work without problems in any operating system, there are quite a few models which only understand proprietary control commands for which no usable documentation is available and therefore either cannot be used at all on free operating systems or can only be used with a vendor-supplied closed-source driver.
Even if there is a vendor-provided closed-source driver for such hardware when purchasing the de-vice, the practical lifespan of the device is limited by driver availability. Nowadays product cycles have become short and it is not uncommon that a short time after a consumer device has ceased pro-duction, no driver updates get made available any more by the manufacturer. If the old closed-source driver does not work anymore after a system update, an otherwise perfectly working device becomes unusable due to lacking driver support and there is nothing that can be done in this case. You should therefore avoid buying closed hardware in the first place, regardless of the operating system you want to use it with.
You can help improve this situation by encouraging manufacturers of closed hardware to release the documentation and other resources necessary for us to provide free drivers for their hardware.
This section will help you determine which different media types you can use to install BlackWeb Linux. There is a whole chapter devoted to media, Chapter 4, which lists the advantages and disadvantages of each media type. You may want to refer back to this page once you reach that section.
Note: Whenever you see “CD-ROM” in this manual, it applies to all of CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs and BD-ROMs, because all these technologies are really the same from the operating system’s point of view.
CD-ROM based installation is supported for most architectures.
On PCs SATA, IDE/ATAPI, USB and SCSI CD-ROMs are supported, as are FireWire devices that are supported by the ohci1394 and sbp2 drivers.
USB flash disks a.k.a. USB memory sticks have become a commonly used and cheap storage device. Most modern computer systems also allow booting the BlackWeb Linux-installer from such a stick. Many modern computer systems, in particular netbooks and thin laptops, do not have a CD/DVD-ROM drive anymore at all and booting from USB media is the standard way of installing a new operating system on them.
The network can be used during the installation to retrieve files needed for the installation. Whether the network is used or not depends on the installation method you choose and your answers to certain questions that will be asked during the installation. The installation system supports most types of network connections (including PPPoE, but not ISDN or PPP), via either HTTP or FTP. After the installation is completed, you can also configure your system to use ISDN and PPP.
You can also boot the installation system over the network without needing any local media like CDs/DVDs or USB sticks. If you already have a netboot-infrastructure available (i.e. you are already running DHCP and TFTP services in your network), this allows an easy and fast deployment of a large number of machines. Setting up the necessary infrastructure requires a certain level of technical experience, so this is not recommended for novice users.
Diskless installation, using network booting from a local area network and NFS-mounting of all local filesystems, is another option.
Booting the installation system directly from a hard disk is another option for many architectures. This will require some other operating system to load the installer onto the hard disk. This method is only recommended for special cases when no other installation method is available.
If you are running another Unix-like system, you could use it to install BlackWeb Linux GNU/Linux without using the BlackWeb Linux-installer described in the rest of this manual. This kind of install may be useful for users with otherwise unsupported hardware or on hosts which can’t afford downtime. If you are interested in this technique, skip to the Section D.3. This installation method is only recommended for advanced users when no other installation method is available.
The BlackWeb Linux installer contains a kernel which is built to maximize the number of systems it runs on.
Generally, the BlackWeb Linux installation system includes support for IDE (also known as PATA) drives, SATA and SCSI controllers and drives, USB, and FireWire. The supported file systems include FAT, Win-32 FAT extensions (VFAT) and NTFS.
You must have at least 80MB of memory and 680MB of hard disk space to perform a normal instal-lation. Note that these are fairly minimal numbers. For more realistic figures, see Section 3.4.
Installation on systems with less memory1 or disk space available may be possible but is only advised for experienced users.