Installing SuSE 11.4

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Installing SUSE 11.4 on AO linux computers.

First and most important step:

Be prepared to trash your computer and lose everything stored on it.

So make sure you know what software you installed on it before you decided to update the system, also make sure you know what every other user installed on it. Look in /etc and /usr/local/bin for evidence of non standard software (eg locally produced software such as c_scan, BNS, etc) and check in /etc for evidence of configuration files eg /etc/stages /etc/andor etc).

Back up anything you might need - files, programs, data, configurations etc. However, if you are on the AO linux network your personal files and data are most likely stored on the server (anything in /home is on the server).

  • If in doubt ASK someone in the know *

Second step: Your computer

  • What kind of processor? (arch)
  • What disks / partitions does it have? (df, mount, cat /etc/fstab)
  • what is the hostname? (hostname)
  • What are your network settings? (/sbin/ifconfig - you are looking for the numbers after "inet addr:" in the "eth0" section)
  • What is the root password? (you should know)
  • What cards / screens / gadgets does it have?

Third step:

Get hold of the SUSE 11.4 install DVD for your computer. If the arch is i386/i586/i686 (32 bit machines) you will need the i586 disk (labelled "32-bit"). Nowadays, unless it's a very old computer, it's likely to be 64 bit (arch is x86_64) in which case you need the x86_64 disk (labelled "64-bit").

Fourth step: The install

Stick the DVD in the drive, reboot the computer, select "Installation" (rather than "Boot from hard disk") on the boot menu, then follow the instructions:

  • Language: English (UK) (keyboard should automatically change to UK too)
  • License agreement appears here, but it just assumes you agree when you click next.
  • New installation (not upgrade)
  • DESELECT "Use Automatic Configuration" - otherwise the installer will assume you want to use DHCP for the network settings, which we don't want to do as the PC probably isn't in the DHCP tables (or if it is, it'll have the wrong IP address)
  • UK timezone (this should come up automatically. If US timezone came up, then you forgot to select UK keyboard. You can go back to put this right.)
  • KDE desktop (unless you specifically want Gnome and are prepared to fix things yourself) - KDE3.5 is no longer available, so KDE4 is what you will get.


This is probably the most complicated bit, the bit you're most likely to need help with, and the bit that it's important to get correct. If you heeded the warning at the beginning about being prepared to trash your PC (as in wipe all the information stored on the hard drive), then this is the moment that you (probably) will do that.

  • Click "Edit Partition Setup..."

What you want to end up with is something like:

  • Windows partition (if your computer's already got one) - this can be shrunk by the Suse installer, and usually the installer has already decided to what size it will shrink it.
  • Swap partition (roughly twice the size of your RAM, could be a lot more if a modelling PC): format "Linux swap"
  • 20GB root ("/") partition: format "Linux Ext4"
  • 20GB "/spare_for_future_upgrade" partition: format "Linux Ext4"
  • Rest of the disk (at least 100GB) for "/eee": format "Linux Ext4"

Partitions can be either "Primary" or "extended". For historical reasons, you can have a maximum of 4 "primary" partitions on a hard drive. In practice, what this means is that you should make sda1, sda2, sda3 all primary partitions of the size that you want them; make sda4 the extended partition, taking up the rest of the disk. This isn't really a proper partition itself (you'll not be able to mount it), just think of it as a placeholder for all the other partitions you want to add.

Assuming you have a Windows partition already, taking up the whole of the disk, this will be partition sda1. This needs shrinking to something sensible (20-50GB? depends how much data you want to be able to store on it).

If you don't have Windows on the hard drive and don't intend to put it on, then make sda1 your swap partition. If Windows is already on there (as sda1) leave it there and make sda2 your swap partition.

The information about your existing set up is shown in the 'Hard Disks' section of the system view on the left. This is then divided up into a section for each separate hard disk if you have more than one. Selecting your main disk (eg /dev/sda) gives the most useful view. The partitions tab here should show all the partitions and current mount point etc. There are buttons on this screen to edit existing partitions or to create new partitions if those listed above are not present and there is space on the disk. Also check which disks are being formatted - if this is an upgrade of a linux PC, you should only have to format the root partition.

You should be able to relate the info here to the information about your disks you found during your preparation. Assuming all is well all you need to do is follow the custom partition settings to reformat the 20Gb "spare" partition and mount it as "/". You can leave the rest untouched and anything on the other disks will be preserved. You should set the mount points of the other partitions/disks here. If you do not have a spare partition, the existing root partition will have to be re-formatted and mounted as "/" (ie root for the new installation).

ASSUMING YOUR COMPUTER DOESN'T MATCH THIS: Stop and ask for advice before proceeding. There are very good reasons for switching to a root + other partition scheme.

If you create a new partition, you will be asked if you want to create a primary or extended partition. The rules are simple:

  • If this is anything other than your fourth partition, select primary
  • If this is your fourth partition (sda4 or hda4), select extended then just click "Ok" on the next screen. Then click "create" to create the partition you actually want.

Assuming you have a sensible partition scheme you can proceed and format your "/" partition. The data on it will be wiped and the new system installed on top of them. This could take the best part of an hour so go and get a cup of tea or fix this page on the wiki...

After you've decided on a partitioning setup, click "Accept"

More configuration

On the "Create New User" page...

  • Deselect "Use this password for system administrator"
  • Deselect "Automatic Login"
  • Click "Change..."
  • Click "NIS" (under "Authentication Method") then "Accept"
  • Click "Next"
  • Root password: you should know this - use the previous one.

On the "Installation Settings" page...

  • Under 'Firewall and SSH' at the bottom, click 'enable and open' where it says, "SSH service will be disabled...". Make sure the firewall is enabled (zone is external).
  • Click "Install" then confirm.
  • Go for a quick lunch or have a long cup of tea whilst the installer installs the packages from the DVD. This is quicker than previous installations, it only took 15 minutes on a Settee with 4GB of memory. Your mileage may vary.

Once the package installation is complete, the PC will automatically reboot. From this point on, if the computer reboots, allow it to "Boot from hard disk" after a green multi-language welcome screen.

Bits missing

Matt: the next step appears to be NIS configuration but somehow the net config has been skipped so this fails. THIS HAPPENS IF YOU DO NOT READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ABOVE AND DESELECT "Use Automatic Configuration" near the beginning. The essential details for NIS configuration are "applied_optics" and "". Since I got this far without any net settings I've logged in as root (since there are no other users yet) and configured the rest using yast2.

Step five: Configuring your computer for the AO network

There are a number of steps in the SUSE install to follow and then a number of steps to configure your computer for the local environment:

Check install: Just reports errors nothing for you to do.

  • Hostname: This is the name of your computer - use the previous one
  • The domain is
  • Deselect "Change Hostname via DHCP"
  • Click "Next"

Network settings: You usually only have one network card and if you have two either know what you are doing or ask for help.

General network settings: leave alone.


  • In external zone: "Allowed services" (on left): "Add" the following:
  1. Secure shell server
  2. NIS client
  3. NFS client
  • "Logging Level" (on left): select "Do not log any" for:
  1. Accepted Packets
  2. Not Accepted Packets

Network interfaces: click this to edit it:

  1. "Overview" (tab): click "Edit" button, "Address" tab:
    1. Select "Statically assigned IP Address" button
    2. Enter your IP address (from your notes)
    3. Subnet mask
    4. Hostname: (from notes), include the domain as well e.g. ""
    5. Click "Next"
  2. Hostnames/DNS (tab):
    1. Hostname and Domain Name should already be filled in as before
    2. Names servers are,, (note these have changed from previous values, Dec 2008)
  3. Routing (tab):
    1. Default Gateway:
  4. Click "OK"


  1. Click "Enable Proxy"
  2. Set the first box (HTTP Proxy URL) to
  3. "No proxy domains" (comma-separated list): localhost,,,
  4. Click "Finish"

Next the install will try to test the network settings - if there isn't a good reason for this to fail it should work!

  • Update: will check for updates. The updater will appear, everything is selected automatically so click "Accept". The first stage updates the updater itself, so when this is done click 'next' then 'accept' then the other updates are installed in the same way. This is currently fairly rapid.

At the time of writing no reboot was required here, but as more patches are added it's possible that one of these will require a reboot at this stage.

  • User Authentication Method: NIS should already be selected, so "Configuration of NIS client" page should appear.
    1. Leave 'Netconfig NIS Policy' on default.
    2. NIS Domain: applied_optics
    3. NIS servers: (separated by a space)
    4. Select start automounter
  • Have a quick read of the release notes. The most important note (if you haven't used 11.0) is that you need to press Ctrl-Alt-Backspace twice within 2 seconds to get the X-server (your desktop) to restart.
  • Hardware config: Mainly gets it right but sometimes selects a lower screen resolution than you want or gets the monitor wrong (you usually want 24bit colour). Ignore Printers - these will get set up later.
  • Machine restarts some services here and if all is well you can now log in as usual!

Post installation configuration and setting up package management

  • Log in as root, open a konsole (terminal) window
  • Cut and paste or type carefully the following and press enter:
echo "     optics  armchair" >> /etc/hosts
  • cd /home/share/suse_hacks/11.4
  • Run ONE of the following scripts, most appropriate script for your location, either:
    1. ./std_suse_hacks_ao
    2. ./std_suse_hacks_ibios
    3. ./std_suse_hacks_sios
    4. ./std_suse_hacks_vlsi
  • There isn't a huge lot of difference except for local stuff like default printers. The script disables the DVD respository, deletes some SUSE irritations (eg beagle), sets up some useful stuff (eg locate) and installs dead useful software such as compilers, latex and xfig. In addition, it also sets up some network stuff, like telling the PC to use the hostname list (/etc/hosts) on armchair. Without this, it won't know the IP addresses of AOG PCs like bed, which means (if you're in SiOS) you won't be able to log in. That's why we do this first (as root), before attempting to log in as yourself.
  • When you are asked about whether to import/trust keys, press "a" for "always allow".
  • When you are asked whether you want to install something, press "y" for "yes".
  • When you are asked (near the end) by ssh whether you want to continue with the ssh connection, type "yes".
  • The last part of the script is interactive - this is where you get to choose which of the common "EEE packages" you want (so called because they are managed by Roger Light in EEE and many involve local licenses, and also because they end up in the /eee directory). Follow the instructions on the screen carefully.
  • If you come back from lunch and find the installer appears to have crashed, i.e. it doesn't do anything for several minutes and it's not asking you to do something, press Ctrl-C and run the same script again (i.e. press the up arrow then Enter).
  • If you use any of the eee packages (matlab, comsol, cadence, etc), run install_eee_packages. This makes sure the updating script that works with vpm works correctly.
  • Log out, and reboot the PC.
  • Log in as yourself - if this doesn't work, then seek advice.
  • There are still some configuration things to do, this involves using the YaST configuration suite, you'll find it somewhere in the SuSE menu (or, as root, type "yast2" from a console window). If you run it from the SuSE menu, you will need to provide the root password.


Linux PCs, like all PCs, need patching and updating to patch security holes, fix bugs, or offer improvements. Most of these are benign, some (like updating the kernel) can be more disruptive, especially if it's an experimental PC and controls external hardware: it is likely instrument drivers will need recompiling. Other times, "improvements" introduce more bugs than they fix, or change the user interface (or appearence) of an application that you may find annoying.

Additionally, the act of looking for and installing updates takes CPU, disk and network bandwidth, which you may find annoying (especially if you are on an older PC, or want to run experiments unhindered).

Saying all that, the process of applying updates is relatively painless these days, and in general, the benefits of keeping your system patched and updatated outweigh the inconveniences.

Furthermore, it is YOUR responsibility, as the person who "owns" the PC, to ensure that it is sufficiently patched that there are no exploitable security vulnerabilities which might compromise your PC or the local network. There is not some invisible benign force (i.e. Steve or Roger) that is logging in to make sure this happens. YOU are responsible. You have various options:

1. Automatic online update

This checks for updates daily (or weekly) and installs them for you. If any of the updates requires you to answer any questions (i.e. "interactive" patches) then they will be skipped. This includes kernel updates (so they will be skipped) and anything that needs a license agreeing to.

The std_suse_hacks script now configures this to run automatically.

2. openSUSE Updater ("annoying green pea")

This sits in your system tray in your panel, and is installed on a per-user basis. If you don't have it (perhaps you disabled it in the past) then you can enable it again by going to (on the Suse menu) Applications -> System -> Desktop Applet -> openSUSE Updater Applet. This will appear as either a small green pea, or a blue "?" circle, or perhaps a red warning triangle. If you right-click, you can configure it. Options include:

  • Checking for updates daily
  • Automatically check for updates when you log in
  • Only check for updates when the system is under low load

You can use the updater to complement the Automatic Online Update... for example you could log in one day to find that there's a kernel update (which the automatic online update hasn't installed), and you can decide whether to install it or not.

If you don't want the green pea, then:

  • Right-click it, configure it, and deselect "Automatically start updater at login", click "Ok"
  • Right-click it, click "Quit"

3a. Manually using YaST2

This relies on you remembering to do this, every now and then.

  • Run YaST as root
  • In the "Software" section, click "Online Update"

3b. Manually using zypper

As root, type "zypper update"

Package management

zypper is the command-line tool you use to install and remove packages. You can use it to:

  • Check for updates: zypper update
  • Install an rpm in the current directory (and fetch any dependencies) e.g.: zypper install file.rpm
  • Install a package e.g.: zypper install qcad
  • Search for packages - lists those that are installed, and those available e.g.: zypper search nvid
  • Get information about packages (whether installed or not) e.g.: zypper info qcad
  • Find out which package is responsible for a file you've found e.g.: zypper what-provides (or wp) /bin/ls

There are alternative package managers, such as "smart", which may be better than older versions of zypper. Since 11.0 zypper has been improved enough to be suitable for most users. If you want to use smart, you presumably know enough to be able to manage without help.

YaST Software Management

Think of this as a user-friendly front-end to zypper.

Graphics card

There is a good chance you have an nVIDIA graphics card in your computer. If so you will probably want to install the nVIDIA graphics driver. This is not included in the default installation because of licensing issues but YAST can manage it for most cards.

  • Start YaST (see above)
  • In the "Software" submenu, click on "Software Repositories"
  1. Click "Add"
  2. Select "Community Repositories" then click "Next"
  3. Add "NVIDIA Repository" then click "Ok"
  4. If it asks you questions about keys, then trust and import them.
  5. Click "Finish"
  • In the "Software" submenu, click on "Software Management"
  1. Just click "Accept". It will tell you it's installing some other nvidia-related stuff to satisfy dependencies. Click "Continue"
  2. When it's done, quit the Software Management utility.
  • Quit YaST
  • In order to get graphics working well with Comsol etc (which really need the accelerated 3D rendering working) you need to do the following:
  1. As root, edit /etc/modprobe.d/50-nvidia.conf (or it might be /etc/modprobe.d/nvidia) (using vi or something)
  2. Change the bit where it says "NVreg_DeviceFileMode=0660" to "NVreg_DeviceFileMode=0666" (i.e. change the last "0" to a "6")
  • (Explanation: by default, SuSE makes all users members of the "video" group, which has GID 33. This would normally give users complete access to the nvidia devices, /dev/nvidia*. However, because we use NIS for user logins, we do not use the "video" group as the GID is <500, generally reserved for system IDs and likely to be different for the different flavours of UNIX/Linux that we use. By changing the "0" to a "6" (which affects /dev/nvidia*) we are letting anyone read and write to the nvidia card. This is potentially a bit insecure, but it's the easiest way to fix this issue).
  • When you log out, X should restart and you should now be running the nVIDIA graphics driver. Note that the issue with permissions etc won't get sorted out until after a reboot, though (or for the technically-minded the next time the nvidia kernel module is inserted). Try an openGL screen saver or start glxgears.

If this fails (and it is known to fail for very old and very new cards) you will have to use the manual method - ask for advice. Manually installed nVIDIA drivers are not automatically updated by YAST and can be screwed up by certain updates (the kernel) and will require reinstalling - you may wish to turn certain updates off (ask).

sax2 (the YaST graphics config tool) doesn't really understand nVIDIA cards if it doesn't do what you want then try this tool instead: which worked for me (Matt) If you have a certain Sony monitor and NVIDIA won't give you the resolution you need then try an older version of the driver... /home/matt/ ** this driver no longer compiles for newer kernels ** -matt

Local Software

  • Most of the local software you need (sometimes called the "EEE packages") - things like Matlab, Eagle, Comsol, ISE (to name just a few - big commercial packages, basically, rather than home-written ones) are installed interactively as part of the std_suse_hacks scripts. Additional information about this - if you decide you want to add or remove an EEE package - is contained in this web page.
  • c_scan: there is another wiki page which mentions installing c_scan, as well as other command line utilities and drivers for controlling hardware from your Linux PC: link is here. Once you have installed c_scan, if you type "man c_scan" you will get the root of the c_scan documentation. Look at the "See also" section at the bottom for hints on specific modules... this this normally the name of the module/action, preceded by "c_" (e.g. "man c_agilent_trace_scope")


You will probably want the multimedia codecs for SUSE. The easiest way to get these is to follow this link and click on "codecs-kde.ymp". This should get you a full set of multimedia codecs that don't come with SUSE by default because of licensing issues.

Since this doesn't always work and a "what to do when one-click fails" isn't easy to find what you need to do is add the packman repo and then install the following if they are already installed:

ffmpeg flash-player gst-fluendo-mp3 java-1_5_0-sun-plugin k3b-codecs libdvdcss libxine1 w32codec-all

and manually install xine-lib (yast doesn't seem to be able to do this on its own).

  • see below *

fix annoying okular bug

By now you'll have okular rather than kpdf or acroread for viewing pdfs. It has an annoying bug in that it displays the meaningless pdf title rather than the filename. There is a fix:

kwriteconfig --file okularpartrc --group General --key DisplayDocumentTitle --type bool false

You'll be glad you did it!


These should get set up when you run the appropriate "suse_hack" script. There is a general page of advice regarding the AOG printers here.


If you are installing elsewhere and want to run as a router or firewall using two ethernet cards then set up your first card to access the internet and select this as the "external zone" in the firewall. Then set up your private network on the other card using 192.168.XX.XX (0.1) as the IP address and as the netmask, use "internal zone" for the firewall setting (this means no firewall between your host and the internal network). Then in yast2 "security and users:firewall:masquerading" X the "Masquerade Networks" box.

Note: I found yast wanting when restarting this network configuration. So if it doesn't just work don't panic, instead run "/etc/init.d/network restart" and then try. For some reason yast doesn't seem to kick the second network card back to life properly. Matt.


You should have a working system now and hopefully you won't suddenly remember that something important was installed on one of the disks you wiped. Please fix errors in this wiki.

Cheers, Matt, Steve, Roger, John and Samuel