Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Minix 3 Installation Diary -- Part 2

To begin the installation process I downloaded the iso image for the latest stable version, which is 3.1.7, from the minix 3 download page.
After burning it to a CD (from my ubuntu Linux workstation) I inserted the CD in the laptop and rebooted.  I had one of the installation docs open in front of me, along with tabs for any other pages on the minix site which seemed relevant to troubleshooting.

I powered on  ... and nothing useful happened.  Luckily this one was easy enough to figure out with a quick browse through the docs.  The error message (which I failed to write down) indicated that the CD was not found.   Under my BIOS system configuration I needed to change a parameter from AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface -- Intel's API for addressing Serial ATA) which isn't yet supported by Minix, to ATA (the Minix doc called it "legacy", but it was easy enough to tell what was going on).

So now I had a bootable live CD.  I booted up, ran the setup command, and began working through the steps.  I'd already saved everything I needed off the Fedora Linux installation which was the previous host on the laptop, so I chose  to delete the existing partitions and make the whole disk Minix 3.  I accepted the default filesystem sizes (/, /home, and /usr had separate slices).

When the copying of files finished, I was instructed to shutdown and reboot.  Then I was prompted to  run packman, which is Minix's package manager system, in order to get X windows and a number of other programs, libraries, and utilities.

Using the command xdm  I was treated to a window manager which resembled almost exactly the first X windows interface I was ever exposed to 16 years ago on a Sun workstation.  As it happens, twm ("Tom's Window Manager") is the window manager ported to Minix.  It's one of the original window managers, and is very minimalistic.  I have to say that I don't object to that.  Graphical eye candy can be soothing, mostly because I'm accustomed to it, but most of the time I'm working with text in terminal windows, which twm handles well.

I then attempted a reboot, and Oooops!!!  I was faced with a very strange problem which I'll describe in a separate blog posting (so that this article doesn't run on forever).

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