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Booting your Box with tomsrtbt
What Happens when you first BootUp with tomsrtbt?

Copyright©2002 by Daniel B. Sedory

NOTE: tomsrtbt Boot Disk will normally boot up just fine under its default settings, so the next time you Boot up your Box you can go back to reading a copy of my webpage, "Introduction to Linux Console Commands..." or take a break while you're waiting.


    When the diskette starts to spin, the first thing you'll see is the word LILO being written one character at a time to the screen (it stands for the LInux LOader program). This is almost immediately replaced by Tom's textual splash screen and the phrase, "(15 seconds)" with the word boot: underneath it, like this:

Welcome to tomsrtbt-2.0.103 by Tom Oehser


     ##  VVV  ##
    #          ##
   #            ##
   #            ###          .~.
  QQ#           ##Q          /V\
QQQQQQ#        #QQQQQQ      // \\
QQQQQQQ#     #QQQQQQQ      /(   )\
  QQQQQ#######QQQQQ         ^`~'^

 Other distributions       tomsrtbt

(15 seconds...)


    If you press the ENTER key (or do nothing but wait 15 seconds), then the phrase  Loading bz2bzImage... will appear below "boot:" followed by a number of ........... (dots) indicating that the image is loading into memory. When it's done, you'll see this:

Press <RETURN> to see video modes available, <SPACE> to continue or wait 30 secs

    Pressing the SPACE bar (or waiting 30 seconds), will use the default video mode.
If you press the ENTER key ("
<RETURN>"), the following choices will most likely appear (if you have at least a VGA monitor):

   Video adapter: VESA VGA
   Mode:    COLSxROWS:
   0  0F00  80x25
   1  0F01  80x50
   2  0F02  80x43
   3  0F03  80x28
   4  0F05  80x30
   5  0F06  80x34
   6  0F07  80x60
   7  0214  132x25
   8  030A  132x43

   Enter mode number or `scan':

When I entered the word scan on this line, it blanked the screen for a moment doing some kind of hardware check and then it came back with almost the same lines ( for both an old 1991 VGA monitor and a much better SVGA+); except it added a new item 7 and changed the hex numbers for the previous items 7 and 8 to these (8 and 9):

   7  0100  40x25  <-- only useful if you need large characters! But...*
   8  0114  132x25
   9  0154  132x43

The default mode is almost always 80 x 25, which is what most text-based programs seem to be set up for [ *using 40 x 25 will wrap most lines and/or make it very difficult to use some programs! ]. Using anything better than just VGA, apparently won't add any extra modes to this list.

    tomsrtbt requires at least 8 Megabytes of free memory. If it doesn't have enough, most likely the screen will go blank and the system will reboot (at least that's what happened to me!). You might get "Out of memory" and/or "-- System halted" messages too!

If the system does have enough memory, then the next thing you should see is:

 bzip2 Uncompressing Linux...aaa   ( followed by a single: b and then ending with: bfff as the data is decompressed and loaded into memory; I'll have more to say about these characters below. )
Ok, booting the kernel.
Linux version 2.2.20ext3 (root@conn6m) (gcc version #6 Thu May 2 12:00:25 2002

............... which is followed by dozens and dozens of other lines that might appear faster than you can even see them, yet some of these lines often stay visible just long enough for you to take a quick look.
But don't worry! Most of this information will still be available for you to examine at your leisure later on! It gets stored in a special memory location called the kernel ring buffer ( this will be discussed later on a separate page ).

In the meantime... you'll see the Linux file system being decompressed from the floppy and moved into memory. This process will take long enough for you to read some of the lines on your screen and think about what might be happening:

RAMDISK: bzip2 Compressed image found at block 867

When all of the data has been placed into memory, you'll eventually see the following pattern on your screen:


The letters indicate the status of the bzip2 decompression, and have these meanings:
    a -- space is being allocated in memory for bzip2,
    i -- [input]: compressed data is being read from the diskette,
    o -- [output]: decompressed data is being written,
    b -- a block of data has been decompressed,
    f -- the memory used by bzip2 is being freed up for other uses.

    Soon after the last bit of data is read from the floppy disk, you'll see seven columns of numbers and letters (abbreviations for various keyboard types and languages) and a line below that where you can enter your choice:

 1 azerty   7 cf       13 es   19 il   25 mk   31 ru       37 trf
 2 be       8 croat    14 et   20 is   26 nl   32 se       38 trq
 3 bg       9 cz       15 fi   21 it   27 no   33 sg       39 ua
 4 br-a    10 de       16 fr   22 jp   28 pl   34 sk-y     40 uk
 5 br-l    11 dk       17 gr   23 la   29 pt   35 sk-z     41 us
 6 by      12 dvorak   18 hu   24 lt   30 ro   36 slovene  42 wangbe

 Select keyboard, ENTER for default (15 seconds):

If you do nothing, it will use a default that should be fine (at least it was for my US keyboard; I don't know how to test it for other languages). You might happen to see a phrase similar to "52:Terminated" momentarily appear at completion. ( This just refers to the Process ID of the prompt when it's killed, so the number is arbitrary and could be different if any changes were made to the boot process.)

Here's a valuable tip: Once the flurry of activity has ceased (i.e., when your PC shows a blinking cursor, waiting for you to do something!), you can quickly review a lot of the information that flew off the screen by doing this:

Hold down one of the SHIFT keys, and then press the PAGE UP key, once. What you'll see at the top of the display are about half of the lines from the previous screen! To see more of the past screens, continue holding down a SHIFT key and press the PAGE UP key many times. This 'screen buffer' is usually good enough ( it stores about 5 to 6 previous screens; at 25 lines per screen) to allow you to go all the way back to all or part of Tom's text-drawn Penguins (if no errors were encountered)!
So, try this out right now, before you login!
You can also use the PAGE DOWN key (while continuing to hold down a SHIFT key) to move forwards again; pressing anything else after releasing the SHIFT key will cause the display to jump back to the active screen.

    Did you happen to notice what was missing from your previous screen displays? That's right! None of the text dealing with the keyboard selection was there. The screen buffer does not save everything that appears on your monitor! For example, the data (seen onscreen) that is passed between you and an executable program is almost always missing from this buffer!


Logging in as root

    The last screen begins with the phrase: What you have is... which is followed by almost a whole screenful of filenames, special formats and UNIX and Linux console commands! (note that some of these may no longer exist under tomsrtbt; Tom can't be expected to keep up with everything!) The last two lines displayed are:
    ...Login as root.  Remove the floppy.  AltF1-AltF4 for consoles.
  tty1 tomsrtbt login:_

After you ENTER the word: root, you'll then see:

  The default "root" password is "xxxx",
  edit /etc/passwd to change it, or edit
  settings.s to change it permanently...


Where the "xxxx" quite literally means four x characters! If you don't enter them correctly, you'll briefly see an "ERROR IN LOGIN" message, and then the login screen will be displayed all over again. If the login is successful, you should see a line like this:

   Today is Boomtime, the 18th day of Bureaucracy in the YOLD 3168

But not even its day number is likely to agree with the commonly accepted calendar.

This is finally followed by the shell's command prompt of :


That short sentence: "Remove the floppy" refers to the fact that tomsrtbt no longer needs anything from the floppy diskette. You can just leave it in the drive if you want to!

NOTE: Unlike some Linux rescue disks, after logging in, tomsrtbt places the user right at the root of its file system! If you ENTER the command pwd (print working directory), the shell will reply with just a: / (proving you're in the root directory).

The "AltF1-AltF4 for consoles" refers to the fact that you can have four different command consoles running on your PC at the same time. Each "console" can have different data that's visible by simply holding down the ALT key and pressing a Function key (F1 through F4) to display the screen contents of another console. You will definitely appreciate having a second console, as soon as you forget how to do some critical operation and wish you could read the instructions or a manual (man page) again without having to abort your work. Well, all you need to do is open another console, and read the information there! (Consoles will be covered in detail in one of the lessons.)


Last Updated: 03 SEP 2002.

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