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hardware - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Thomas Krichel hardware. introduction. This is a basic introduction to computer hardware. I wrote it from memory. It contains the things I know about without having to look them up. That’s about how much you need to know. basic components.

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thomas krichel http openlib org home krichel
Thomas Krichel



  • This is a basic introduction to computer hardware.
  • I wrote it from memory.
  • It contains the things I know about without having to look them up.
  • That’s about how much you need to know.
basic components
basic components
  • basic components are
    • processor
    • memory
    • motherboard
    • input/output devices
      • disks
      • network interfaces
  • The first three, plus the bus speed, are essential to the understanding of the performance of the computer.
  • The processor does all the calculations on a computer.
  • The performance indicator of the processor is the frequency of operations.
  • There are various types of processors, by different manufactures.
    • Intel
    • AMD
  • The Debian operating system offers a complete range of software that can be run with a range of processors by a certain manufactures. Such a range of software packages is called an architecture.
  • We use the i386 architecture for Intel processors.
  • AMD processors may be more open source friendly.
  • The memory is where all data that the computer works with is stored.
  • If the memory is small the computer has to perform more operations to read and write data to the disk.
  • As a consequence, it will appear to be slower.
  • This is a green sheet of plastic that all components inside the computer attach to.
  • We don’t need to know more about it, just the plane concept will do.
  • These are things that the computer uses for input and output of data.
  • Examples include
    • keyboard
    • screen
    • network card
    • disks
  • We only need to study disks and network cards.
  • There are three architectures of disks
    • IDE, aka PATA, an old system
    • SCSI, a bit more modern
    • SATA, used in most modern systems
  • We need to be aware of them because the way that Linux refers to them.
  • When a computer can use IDE, you see two forty-pin connectors on the motherboard.
  • These are the primary and the secondary IDE channnels. They are usually labelled.
  • To each channel, you can attach two disks.
    • One is called the master.
    • The other is called the slave.
master and slave
master and slave
  • One method to select master and slave is to set jumpers on the disk. The position of the jumpers is often written on the disk. Otherwise
  • The other method is called “cable select”. There you place the master at the end of the 40 pin IDE cable.
device names
device names
  • Linux needs to give the devices names in other to talk to them.
  • The device names for IDE are
    • /dev/hda for the primary master
    • /dev/hdb for the primary slave
    • /dev/hdc for the secondary master
    • /dev/hdd for the secondary slave
scsi and sata
  • SCSI and SATA drives are named
    • /dev/sda
    • /dev/sdb
  • etc.
  • Usually it is a bit of guesswork to know which drive is give what name. There may be a better way than guesswork, but I don't know about it.
file systems
file systems
  • A file system is a way to set up files on a disk.
  • Common file systems are
    • Microsoft FAT
    • ext2 or ext3, used in Linux
    • Reiserfs, used on Linux
  • Linux kernels support various file systems natively, including Microsoft file systems.
several file systems
several file systems
  • If you have several file systems on a disk, each system needs to occupy a separate physical area on the disk.
  • Such an area is called a partition.
  • An empty disk will have no partitions.
  • You will have to set up partitions before working with a disk.
  • Changing the partitions at a later stage will, generally, make the data on the disk inaccessible.
partition table
partition table
  • Any disk has a special place for the partition table.
  • The partition tables says
    • what partitions are on the disk,
    • where each partition starts and end
  • Changing the partition table makes all data on the disk unusable.
default partitions
default partitions
  • On a Linux system, if you only have one disk on a computer, it is customary to have two partitions on it.
    • the main data partition
    • the swap partition
  • Deciding on the size of both is a bit of black magic. There is no hard rule.
  • We let the Debian installer do it for us.
device names with partitions
device names with partitions
  • If you have a device that linux calls foo, the first partion will be foo1, the second partition will be foo2 etc.
  • Thus you can have /dev/hda1, /dev/sdb3 etc.
  • The command “df” will list all devies and all partition.
the main data partition
the main data partition
  • This is where you have all the data on the hard disk.
  • This is usually formatted with the ext3 file system.
  • There other file systems one could use, but this is the default, one and we will use that one.
the swap partition
the swap partition
  • The swap partition is used to reserve space for swapping.
  • Swapping is a way for a computer to work with large memory requirements by writing parts of the memory on the disk.
  • When this happens the computer appears to be very slow.
initial setup
initial setup
  • When the debian installer sets up your machine, by default it will take the first disk.
  • Then it will calculate a partition table
    • swap partition
    • data partition
  • it will present you with the suggestions.
  • When you accept them, it will write the partition table. All data on the disk will be lost.
  • This is the only time you should not accept the default option.
  • When you switch on a computer, you see some messages.
  • They usually refer to particular pieces of hardware that just tell you “hi, I am here in this computer”.
  • Then the operating system starts.
  • But before it starts, there is one interesting stage.
more on initial setup
more on initial setup
  • When we start the computer, it reads an internal, essentially read only piece of data known as the BIOS.
  • The BIOS has a number of settings. You can make changes to them.
  • How to do that depends on the BIOS manufacturer but there are some generic features.
getting into the bios
getting into the BIOS
  • When the machine starts, you see, maybe for a second a message “press foo to enter setup”.
  • foo is usually the name of a key.
  • When you see this message, press the key very quickly several times.
  • (yes, this presumes you have a working keyboard attached).
  • You arrive in a menu-driven system.
the bios menu system
the BIOS menu system
  • The menu system is usually in English.
  • It usually relies on keyboard strokes.
  • What keys do what depends on the BIOS manufacturer.
  • What entries there are depends on the manufacuturer.
  • We only need to know one BIOS setting, and it is useful to know about another.
bios setting boot sequence
BIOS setting: boot sequence
  • When the machine boots, it looks for an operating system on a sequence of devices.
  • That sequence is called the boot sequence.
  • When we install Debian, we need to make sure that the medium that contains Debian is in the boot sequences.
  • We also need to make sure that this medium appears before any other medium that contains an operating system.
bios setting boot on power
BIOS setting: boot on power
  • When you are running a server machine, you want the machine to be on all the time.
  • After a power cut, you want the machine to boot as soon as power is restored.
  • There usually is a BIOS setting for that.
making a debian medium
making a Debian medium
  • Go to the debian installer /devel/debian-installer/
  • I made a copy of the current CD for you at
  • Get software to burn the CD
  • Use it to burn.
working with the installer
working with the installer
  • The only rule is: don't panic.
  • Any decision you are making when working with the installer can be reversed quite easily later.
  • The only exeption is the disk partitioning, reversing that would be cumbersome.
overall steps
overall steps
  • boot
  • set up user interface of installer
  • setting up network (the crucial part)
  • setting up a disk
  • setting the time
  • setting up users
  • downloading basic software from the network
  • making system bootable
obvious sequence
obvious sequence
  • At the start, select the normal (not the graphical installer) and press enter.
  • Select the language of installation (English)
  • Select your country (United States)
  • Select your keyboard layout (US)
the hostname
the hostname
  • This is a short name for the machine.
  • Here any name can be used. The name can't contains a space. You need to let me know about the name.
  • Don't use the name debian because I want everybody to have a different machine name for ease of administration of the course.
network configuration
network configuration
  • The installer will configure the network with the help of a protocol called dhcp.
  • This should work in the class situation.
  • I will discuss networks later, so I skip over details for now.
  • If the dhcp we have a serious problem.
the domain name
the domain name
  • Here you should enter a domain that you own and control.
  • If you don't have one, or don't know what this is please enter the domain of a friend who will run the domain for you.
  • Since Thomas is your friend, enter his domain here: “”.
disk partitioning
disk partitioning
  • Here chose of guided partitioning, using the built-in partitioner.
  • Select the disk to partition, usually there is only one.
  • Choose the default of all files in one partition.
  • Accept the partition that is proposed.
  • Then you get the screen where you are warned you will loose all data, here don't accept the default to tell the partitioner to go ahead.
setting up time
setting up time
  • The time can be set in the BIOS. They BIOS calls a battery that keeps running. But that is not reliable.
  • Modern linux machines get the time from the network from time servers. The time servers know what time it is.
  • Then all you have to do is to set the time zone you are in. Since you have said you are in the US, you will be shown a list of US time zones.
setting up the root user
setting up the root user
  • There is one superuser who has the right to do anything on the machine.
  • The name of this user is “root”.
  • There is a sequence screen that invites you to set the password for that user.
  • Since it is not echoed, you need to type it twice to try to make sure that it was entered properly.
ordinary user
ordinary user
  • Although this is not strictly necessary, the installer also requires the setup of an ordinary user.
  • Here you first enter your full name, then your user name (login name, no spaces, no uppercase) and then your password.
network download
network download
  • On the network, there are mirrors of Debian that contain newer versions of the Debian packages. It is a good idea to use the closest mirror available. Say yes to use a network mirror.
  • The mirrors are organized by country. Select country and then select a mirror that appears to be close. For class select any because we may have a problem if all select the same.
http proxy
http proxy
  • To download packages from mirrors, the installer uses the http protocol.
  • This is a well-know protocol used to transfer files on the web.
  • In certain, rare settings, a network administrator may require you to use the http proxy. We don't have such a requirement, so we can leave this screen blank.
popularity contents
popularity contents
  • This is a bit of an oddity.
  • There is a contents on which packages are most popular.
  • Machines participating in the contest report what packages are installed on them.
  • You may elect to take part or not.
the bootloader
the bootloader
  • To make the system bootable without the CD, Linux installs a special command sequence on the hard disk you are installing linux to.
  • This special command sequence calls a software known as a boot loader. The boot loader shows you a menu to ask you what operating system you want to load.
removing media
removing media
  • You need to remove the media you booted from, or change the BIOS not to boot from it again.
  • If you use a CD to install from the installer will eject the CD for you.
  • Then the machine reboots.
  • You are done.
linux boot loaders
linux boot loaders
  • In olden days, people use lilo, the linux loader.
  • Nowadays people use the grub, the grand unified bootloader.
  • Here you just have to follow the default to install the bootloader.
collection of software
collection of software
  • This is important. There are collections of software predefined by the installer for certain tasks a machine should do.
  • Here you should ONLY select the “standard system”.
  • Selecting others, you will waste your time downloading a ton of software we don’t need.
  • Do not select “desktop environment”. This is particularly wasteful for what we are trying to do.