Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Finally, after a couple of weeks of reading and false starts, I have managed to get my hands on the GNU OS.
At first I tried using the prepared CD images, which I was lead to believe by the documentation I was reading that this was the easiest route for beginners. I didn't get very far with this method at all. I would get to the first reboot into Grub, and it would give me a file not found error.

Next I tried the cross install method, which is the main route documented on the Debian GNU/Hurd page. I got a bit further with this method. I actually got to the point where GNU was doing its first boot, but I would get a IRQ problem with my network card. I tried a couple of ways to work around this, but I realised that this would probably mean I wouldn't be able to get the network configured on GNU so I looked for a third route.

The method which finally worked was to download a prepared QEMU image and run GNU from QEMU. The image I used can be found here. It was very easy to get going, I just copied the two short shell commands and I was on my way. Once this was done I then simply followed the normal instructions from the Debian page. This mainly consists of running ./native-install until you are presented with GNU's shell.

Now I'm up and running it's time to do some exploring. I will report back soon with my first impressions.

Friday, January 11, 2008

First try

Last night I sat down (with some caffeine and print outs) and had my first proper attempt at installing GNU. I've been reading as much documentation as I could find over the past week or so and I was led to believe that using the prepared CD images might be a better option for a beginner. After trying this though I'm not so sure that is true. The partitioning and installing of the base system seemed to go smoothly, but when I rebooted with the Grub CD nothing would boot from the Grub menu. I'm now going to try the main cross install method as outlined on the debian site.
I've also decided that I will write an absolute beginners guide to installing GNU once I have achieved it myself. A document that assumes a very minimal knowledge of a Unix like operating system.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Understanding Linux

My first step on this journey is to really get to know GNU/Linux. I want to know exactly how all the low level programs interact with each other and fit together. How the kernel fits in and how it could be replaced with the GNU Hurd.

I have used various distributions of GNU/Linux over the last three or four years but I believe the best way to learn how the GNU/Linux system works is with the Linux From Scratch project. This way I can basically build my own distro from source, with only the tools I need. I am hoping this will give me a better understanding of GNU/Linux and help me with my installation of the Hurd.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My journey begins

Hello World!
My name is Adam Cheasley and welcome to a blog about my journey to find the GNU Operating System.
I suppose the first thing I should do is explain a little bit about the background of GNU and also why I am interested in the idea of free software.

GNU stands for Gnu's not Unix (it's a recursive acronym) and the project was started by Richard Stallman. In the mid 1970's Stallman worked as a staff hacker in the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. Here he helped maintain and add new features to an operating system called the Incompatible Timesharing System. At this point in time all software was passed around freely between programmers. Yet this way of freely sharing source code soon began to dwindle as the money that could be made in software soon became obvious. More and more of the MIT hackers left the Lab to work on proprietary software eventually leading to an incident when Stallman was denied some source code on which he wanted to work and fix. In 1884 Stallman left MIT to start the GNU project, which he envisioned was going to be a completely free alternative to the UNIX operating system (OS). Free in this context refers to freedom as opposed to price so anyone could get the source code and change or modify it as they wished.

When I first heard this story it made sense to me on so many levels. I had been interested in computers from a very early age so the idea of a computer I could completely control and change as I wished made perfect sense.

In about 2001 I started playing about with Linux a little bit. I didn't really use it as my main OS but I liked the idea of it. It was about 2004 when I realised that the Linux system I was using was really GNU/Linux. It was GNU as Richard Stallman had imagined it but with a different kernal running it, the Linux kernal, which was originally built by Linus Torvalds in 1991.

Gnu does have its own kernel, GNU Mach, and a whole series of low level programs around this called the GNU Hurd, but this system is quite unstable at this point in time and not recommended as a production OS.

I thought I'd start this blog to document my journey from a Linux newbie all the way through to, hopefully, someone who is using GNU on a regular basis. Welcome.