Openwall GNU/*/Linux (Owl) - how to install

The instructions below apply to Owl 2.0 and newer (until revised). For older versions of Owl, please refer to Owl/doc/INSTALL as included in the "native" tree for your version (that's /usr/src/world/native/Owl*/doc/INSTALL on the CDs).

Currently, there are two primary ways to install Owl, -- by booting off an Owl CD or by using another Linux installation you may already have.

Installing from a local CD-ROM drive.

If you don't already have an Owl CD, please either order one or see DOWNLOAD for locations where you may obtain the ISO-9660 CD images and burn one onto a CD-R.

The Owl CDs for x86 are bootable, so if your machine supports booting off a CD just do so. The boot loader will prompt you for your CD-ROM device that the kernel will use for the root filesystem. If you're using an IDE CD-ROM drive, select the proper IDE controller and whether the drive is set to master or slave. If you're using a SATA, SCSI, or USB CD-ROM drive, select "non-ide" (or "scsi" in older versions of Owl). Please note that not all SATA and SCSI controllers are supported.

Owl should boot into single user mode. Once in the shell, you can optionally configure the CD-booted system by simply typing:


The configuration will be stored in RAM (parts of /etc and /var are on a ramdisk). You may then exit the shell to let the system boot into multi-user mode. Of course, this step is optional and is only needed if it is more convenient to complete the installation while in multi-user mode (e.g., operating from a remote workstation) or if you intend to actually use the CD-booted Owl without installing on a hard disk.

To actually install Owl, type:


This will invoke the installer that will guide you through the installation process.

Please note that the installer currently does not install kernel sources. If you would like to build a custom kernel (which is recommended), you need to copy the kernel sources off the CD manually.

Using an existing Linux installation.

Note: these requirements and instructions are only relevant to you if you chose to not install from an Owl CD for whatever reason. Most people use a CD and don't need this.

A suitable Linux installation needs to offer some GNU tools and rpm2cpio. It does not have to use RPM as its package manager.

You need to prepare the usual /usr/src/world setup as explained in BUILD. Then proceed to install the new system:

Use fdisk(8) to partition your disks for Owl as desired. Use mkfs(8) and mkswap(8) to create filesystems and initialize swap space. Use mount(8) to mount the new root filesystem at /owl. Similarly, mount any additional filesystems at their appropriate locations under /owl. To actually install Owl, change directory to /usr/src/world and type:

make installworld && make setup

If there are any problems during the "installworld" stage (watch for the "Failed" lines), correct their cause and re-run the command.

Once the Owl userland is installed, you need to also install a kernel and configure a boot loader. Owl currently does not provide a pre-built kernel other than on the CDs, so you will need to either build the kernel from source (recommended) or copy the kernel image (/boot/bzImage and /boot/ off an Owl CD.

Note that the kernel build and the boot loader setup need to be done chrooted to your newly installed userland:

chroot /owl

Currently, Owl supports Linux 2.4.x kernels. We recommend that you use the version provided with your copy of Owl.

You may choose to configure the boot loader available with Owl (LILO or SILO, depending on the architecture), or you may use a boot loader already installed on the system (if any).

Once the installation is complete, make sure to manually unmount the filesystems with umount(8) prior to rebooting the system.

Up to date instructions are available on Openwall's website.