Installing Red Hat Linux 7.3 with Apache, MySQL, and PHP

This tutorial is not intended to replace a full installation guide to these products.  There are excellent sources of documentation available in print and online.  However, this list of steps may assist in organizing your efforts into a plan which will hopefully work the first time.  If you run into particular difficulties, bring your system (including computer, keyboard, mouse, and monitor) to one of the monthly "Linux Installfests" which are offered by the Kernel-Panic Linux User Group (http://www.kernel-panic.org/).   These are held on the Saturday after the group's normal meeting (second Thursday of the month) in National City at the National City Adult Education center.  There is a map and additional information on the K-P site.

Step 1:  Get the software

The first step is to obtain CD-ROMs with the latest versions of the Linux operating system and support software.  These may be purchased from stores like Fry's or CompUSA in boxed sets with instruction books and varying levels of support.  Some packages offer e-mail support and others have telephone support.  The packaged editions will have from five to ten discs.  The operating system software is on the three binary discs.  You can order these from the Red Hat site as well (http://www.redhat.com).

It is also possible to download the disk images from the Red Hat site.  These are free to download and copy.  The Kernel-Panic group sells copies of these discs for $10 for a 3-disc set at the regular meetings and sometimes at the installfests.

Although the most recent version of Red Hat Linux is 8.0, there are several reasons not to use it. The glibc (C compiler) version has changed which breaks several programs and they have begun to use Apache 2.0 which has a number of compatability problems with PHP. My recommendation is to use Red Hat Linux 7.3 (as described in this document) or to install Red Hat 8.0 but to use Apache 1.3.x. from either the 7.3 CDs or from www.rpmfind.net.

Step 2:  Check your system

The next step is to check your hardware.  You should have a minimum of a Pentium I with a clock speed of 100 MHz and at least 48 MB of RAM (the "graphical" install requires 64 MB).  Your hard drive should have at least 2 GB available.  These specifications mean that it is very possible to run Linux effectively on a "legacy" machine which is five or so years old.  These can sometimes be purchased very inexpensively as used computers since they don't run the current versions of Windows very well.

You will need to consider how you will connect to the Internet.  The best way to do this is with a high-speed connection (ie DSL or Cable Modem).  In either of these cases, the modem is connected to the jack supplied by your broadband provider.  The connection to your computer or home network is achieved through an Ethernet 10BaseT RJ45 connector.  This looks like a thick wire with an extra-wide phone cord connector.  If you have several computers and you wish to share the connection but you only have one static or dynamic IP address, you may want to consider getting a router such as the Netgear RT-314, RP-114 or something similar.  Most Ethernet cards will work with Linux but there is a chance that a very cheap one will not.  You can check the Red Hat site for a list of compatable hardware.

If you are connecting via a modem, you will need to determine if the modem you have is a real full modem or what is referred to as a "win modem".  These don't work well with Linux because much of the functionality is emulated with software in Windows.

You can make your system into a "dual boot" which means that when the computer starts up, a program called LILO (Linux Loader) will ask you which system you want to boot for a given session.  Before you install Linux on a system which already has Windows 95 or 98 (Windows NT 4.0, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP require special instructions. This is a great project for the Linux Installfests held by Kernel-Panic.), make sure you defragment the hard drive to move all of the data to the "bottom" of the hard disk.  This will make it easier to partition.

Step 3:  Start the installation process

Rather than detail the entire installation process, this guide will give some suggestions which you may want to consider.

If permitted by your BIOS settings, configure your system to boot from the CD-ROM device first, followed by the floppy and primary hard drive.  Most systems require that you press F2, F10, or the Delete key during the Power-On Self Test (POST).

After this is done, insert the first Red Hat binary disc and boot (or reboot with Ctrl-Alt-Delete) the computer.  A text screen will be displayed with several options.  If you press Enter, the system will start a graphical installation.  Type text and press Enter to begin a text install.

The system will take a few moments to load the Linux operating system and the installer program.  Choose the installation language of your choice and select a "Custom" installation.

Step 4:  Set your hard disk partitions

When you are asked to partition your disk, use Disk Druid since it is easier to understand than fdisk for Linux.  It's a good idea to place the following Linux directories in their own partition.  For sizes, I will assume that you have an 8GB hard disk.  You can refer to the documentation to determine the minimum sizes.

Typically, you will want to delete any existing partitions.  However, exceptions to this can arise.  For example, in a dual boot system, you would not want to delete the partition(s) holding your Windows data.  These are usually identified as vfat or fat (ie FAT32 or FAT16 for Windows 3.x, 95, 98, ME) or ntfs (for Windows NT, 2000, XP).  In some systems (ie Compaq), a small hard drive partition may contain programs which are used to edit the BIOS settings.

Red Hat 7.3 includes options to use the ext3 filesystem.  The ext2 filesystem has been the default for Linux for many years.  As you would imagine, ext3 includes new features, the most important of which is that it is a "journaling" filesystem.  Essentially, what this means is that a logfile of disk writes is made (similar to what databases do during transactions).  The advantage of this is that if the system loses power, it can recover without the extensive filesystem checks usually required for ext2.  It is possible to convert an ext3 filesystem to a non-journaling version which is compatable with ext2.  In this installation, use ext3.

This partition holds the essential files needed to boot the system such as the Linux kernel (vmlinuz).  It must be a primary partition.  This is usually about 10-30 MB.  The small size makes it faster to check when the system goes down because of a power outage, especially with the ext2 filesystem.
This is not really a directory but a place on the hard disk to be used when the system's RAM becomes tight.  It is comparable to "Virtual Memory" in the MacOS or Windows.  There is much debate about the size which should be used but a decent rule of thumb is twice the amount of your physical RAM.  It is usually a good idea to make this a primary partition.
This is a very active directory because it contains logfiles, mail spools, MySQL databases, web pages (by default), and print spools.  since a Linux filesystem can be brought to a halt if it runs out of disk space, it's a good idea to give this region a set amount of space and a partition accomplishes this nicely.  You can also use some extended attributes in the Linux ext2 filesystem to help safeguard these files (see man lsattr for details).  A good size for this partition is 1 GB for most systems.
This is the place where each user's files are located.  For the same reason as /var it is a good idea to have this on a separate partition.  An added benefit is that if you are installing a new operating system and you know which device identification (ie /dev/hda5) is used for the /home directory, you can elect to not format and erase it during the install process.  This can be 1 GB.
This directory is not used on all systems but it is convenient to place the main web files in a specific location and to make sure that no file uploaded or created becomes so large that it fills the file space.  Depending on your needs, this can be 1-2 GB.
In the interest of security, this directory shall be on its own partition. It can be mounted with the option noexec which will guard against recent attacks such as slapper, a variation of the BSD Unix scraper worm. The minimum size for this partition is 50 MB.
This section will include all of the remaining directories used by the system.  For this partition, select "grow to fill" on the dialog box.  The data in this section will take about 1GB depending on the packages you elect to install.

Step 5:  Choose a boot loader

In past versions of Linux, the main choice for a boot loader was LILO (Linux Loader) .  This program had certain limitations in early versions which made it difficult to use large hard drives.  Starting with Red Hat 7.2, a new option is available for a boot loader, GRUB (Grand Unified Bootloader).  It is said to be easier to configure than LILO so its use is recommended.

In most configurations, it is appropriate to place the boot loader in the Master Boot Record (MBR), a special place at the beginning of the hard drive which is checked by the hardware when the computer is turned on.  An exception to this is when you are trying to make a dual boot system with WindowsNT, 2000, or XP since these operating systems also want to have control of the MBR.  If you want to create such a system, bring your hardware (with the hard drive defragmented and Windows installed ahead of time) to one of the Kernel-Panic installfests.

Step 6:  Set up your network interface(s)

If you have one or more Ethernet cards which are recognized by the installer, you will be presented with a page to configure them.  If you know you will be using DHCP, you can use the defaults.  Otherwise, you will have to supply the IP address, netmask, and name servers for your location.

If you will only occasionally have your computer connected to a network (ie: you don't have a network at home or the computer is a laptop with an Ethernet network adapter), you can "disable" the network connection on boot and then activate it when it is needed.  Generally, Red Hat 7.2 is better about quickly failing if DHCP is chosen and no network is connected.  Red Hat 7.l could take a minute or longer to fail to find the network.

Step 7:  Set your firewall rules

When you are asked to set firewall rules, select "Medium" and then "Customize".  The list below will help you to select appropriate servers as ports which may receive outside input.

Y/N Server Port Description
Yes wu-ftp 21 This is the File Transfer Protocol server.  it is needed if you will allow outside FTP connections to your computer.  It is better to use a more secure replacement for the FTP server, like ProFTPD.  Better still, use the scp feature of the sshd server.
Yes ssh 22 This is the secure replacement for telnet (port 23 below).  Traffic in both directions is encrypted.  If you need shell access from outside your box, this is a good way to do it.  A client will need a telnet program with secure shell capabilities such as ssh or ssh2 on Linux or Unix, Nifty Telnet ssh on the Macintosh, or Putty for Windows.

Ensure that you are using a recent version of sshd (the version in Red Hat 7.2 is ok).  SSH protocol 1 had security flaws.
No telnet 23 This is the old way to establish shell access to a system.  It is highly insecure and not recommended.
No smtp 25 This is the server used to receive Simple Mail Transport Protocol mail.  In most cases, you will use POP-3 (110) or IMAP (143) to get your mail.
No dhcp 67 This is needed if your computer will be acting as a DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol) server.  It is not needed if you are using another machine or device (like a router) as a DHCP server.
Yes http 80 This is the Apache web server and you must allow outside traffic to display web pages.
Yes https:tcp 443 This is the way to add SSL (Secure Socket Layers) transaction capability to your web sites.  You will need to add this in the text field below the checkboxes.

Step 8:  Select your packages

Since we will be adding Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl separately, do not select them when selecting the packages to be installed.  The following packages may be desirable on your system if you want to have both a server and some of the X-Window Graphic User Interface programs.

Y/N Group Name Description
No Printing Support Use this only if you plan to run a printer from Linux.  It has had security problems in the past.
Yes X Window System This is needed for the Graphic User Interface programs.
Yes Gnome This is a popular desktop manager (you can also install KDE).
Yes KDE This is another popular desktop manager.
Yes Network Support Needed to use your Ethernet card to connect to a LAN, DSL, or CableModem.
Yes Dialup Support Needed if you use a phone modem (not a WinModem).
Yes Graphics & Image Manipulation Very helpful with PHP.  Includes the GD library where PHP can dynamically generage graphics if desired.  Also includes The GIMP, a Photoshop-like image manipulation tool.
No News Server This is the NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) server.  It is used to let your machine act as a Usenet server.  Use it only if you really intend to.
No NFS File Server This is Network File System which lets other Linux or Unix computers on your network access portions of your file system as if it were part of their own.  It has had security problems in the past; use it only if you really need it.
No Windows  File Server  (Samba) This is a server which will let Windows computers on your network share files and printers which are part of your Linux system.
Yes Anonymous FTP Server This package includes the default WU-FTPD server for File Transfer Protocol.  Because of past security problems, it is better to use a replacement such as ProFTPD.
No SQL Database Server This group has both MySQL and PostgreSQL database servers and clients.  We will install the MySQL client and server manually.
No Web Server This is the Apache web server.  We will install it manually.
No Router / Firewall This is used if your Linux computer will act as a firewall (with two network cards).  There is a kernel-level firewall that we will use.
No DNS Name Server This is the Domain Name Server, BIND 9.1, which should only be used if you plan to host domains on this computer.  Most security specialists recommend having DNS run on a separate computer.
No Network Managed Workstation Not needed for our purposes.
Yes Authoring and Publishing Includes the TeX desktop publishing system and various utilities.
No Emacs This is a very complex text editor and programming environment.  It even includes several games and a Mayan calendar.  Use it if you know it.  Many users prefer the simpler vi editor.
Yes Utilities Contains many useful programs, including ones which make it easier to read and write MS-DOS floppy disks.
No Legacy Application Support Not needed for our purposes.
Yes Software Development This has all of the C, C++, and Fortran compilers and utilities needed to compile programs from source code (ie *.tar.gz files).
Yes Kernel Development This mainly includes source code for the Linux Kernel and is needed if you will recompile the Kernel.
No Windows Compatability / Interoperability Windows Emulator (WINE).
No Games and Entertainment Games? Who needs them?
Other packages not in this list may be installed or not based on your discretion.

Step 9:  Wait for system to install

Depending on the number of packages you chose to install and your hardware, the process can take 15-45 minutes.  Now's a good time to go get a cup of coffee and read the descriptions of each package being installed so you will have a sense of what is there.  After the packages are installed, you will be asked to make a boot disk.  This is a very good idea. 

If your system crashes and won't start up, you can use this 3.5 inch floppy to get the system started.  If you forget your root password and you are still using LILO, the only way you can change it is to reboot and type linux single at the LILO: prompt.  You will then be logged in as root and can change the password with the passwd root command.  Restart the system with the reboot command.

Step 10:  Restart and Log In

After all of the packages have been installed and you make your boot disk, you will then be told to allow the computer to be restarted.  This will take a couple of minutes.  You will see the various servers shut down and then when the system restarts, you will see them come up again.   After the restart, log in as root.

If you are at the console (ie the actual computer keyboard and monitor), you can login as root with the appropriate password.  However, under most circumstances, you should log in as an ordinary user and then use su - to elevate your permissions to those of the administrative user.  In this example, using the dash after the su command causes you to get root's system environment, otherwise you will inherit the environment of the user which made the main log in.

Step 11:  Gather needed RPM packages

The Red Hat Package Manager is a great way to install binary distributions of programs.  You can use RPM Find (http://www.rpmfind.net/) to look for packages if they are not on your distribution disks or you want a more recent version.  In our case, all of the packages we need may be found on the three discs.

Disc 1

You can insert the first Red Hat CD-ROM in your system.  After the drawer is closed, you will need to mount the CD-ROM's file system to make it available to your Linux system.  This is accomplished with the mount /mnt/cdrom command.  Normally, this command would require many more parameters.  However, there are definitions in the /etc/fstab (File System Table) file which take care of the details and let us use an abbreviated command.  Once the CD-ROM is mounted, a message will usually appear on the command line.  To view the contents of the CD-ROM, we can type the ls -laG /mnt/cdrom command to list the directories and files at the top level of the CD-ROM file system.

The files we want are located in a sub directory so we will change to it with the cd /mnt/cdrom/RedHat/RPMS/ command.  We can search each of the discs, in turn, for the files we want with the following command:

  ls  -laG  apache* lynx* mysql* php* pspell* *odbc* *ODBC* 2>/dev/null

The command says we want a long directory listing (-l) showing hidden files (-a) and not showing the group information (-G). Any errors which are generated to say that a requested file pattern is not found will be thrown away by rerouting standard error to /dev/null (2>/dev/null). The only file we want from Disc 1 is:

  -rw-r--r--  26 root       168738 Apr 16 21:50 pspell-0.12.2-8.i386.rpm

Since we are in this directory, we can copy it to root's home directory (/root) with the following commands:

  cp pspell* /root

Disc 2

We now need to insert the second CD-ROM.  First, we must change directory to the top level (cd /).  Now we can unmount the CD-ROM file system (note the spelling!) with the umount /mnt/cdrom command.  Next we need to change into the RPM directory again with the cd /mnt/cdrom/RedHat/RPMS/ command.  The files we want from here are:

  -rw-r--r--  26 root       553082 Apr 16 21:11 apache-1.3.23-11.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 124621 Apr 16 21:11 apache-devel-1.3.23-11.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 695780 Apr 16 21:11 apache-manual-1.3.23-11.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 25 root 368845 Apr 16 21:11 apacheconf-0.8.2-2.noarch.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 1555561 Apr 16 21:48 php-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 152847 Apr 16 21:48 php-devel-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 631975 Apr 16 21:48 php-imap-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 33859 Apr 16 21:48 php-ldap-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 34572 Apr 16 21:48 php-pgsql-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 64621 Apr 16 21:50 pspell-devel-0.12.2-8.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 25 root 875028 Apr 17 10:04 unixODBC-2.2.0-5.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 25 root 712443 Apr 17 10:04 unixODBC-devel-2.2.0-5.i386.rpm

Since we have several files, we can copy them to root's home directory (/root) with the following command which makes use of our ls command in a sub shell:

  cp $(ls apache* lynx* mysql* php* pspell* *odbc* *ODBC* 2>/dev/null) /root

Disc 3

We now need to insert the third CD-ROM.  First, we must change directory to the top level (cd /).  Now we can unmount the CD-ROM file system (note the spelling!) with the umount /mnt/cdrom command.  Next we need to change into the RPM directory again with the cd /mnt/cdrom/RedHat/RPMS/ command.  The files we want from here are:

  -rw-r--r--  26 root        61485 Apr 16 21:04 MyODBC-2.50.39-4.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 1539499 Apr 16 21:40 lynx-2.8.4-18.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 4905043 Apr 16 21:43 mysql-3.23.49-3.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 452989 Apr 16 21:43 mysql-devel-3.23.49-3.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 1472703 Apr 16 21:43 mysql-server-3.23.49-3.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 54 root 124580 Sep 7 2001 mysqlclient9-3.23.22-6.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 54637 Apr 16 21:48 php-dbg-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 15755164 Apr 16 21:48 php-manual-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 34125 Apr 16 21:48 php-mysql-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 40769 Apr 16 21:48 php-odbc-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 23543 Apr 16 21:48 php-snmp-4.1.2-7.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 26 root 101777 Apr 16 21:49 postgresql-odbc-7.2.1-5.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 25 root 55985 Apr 17 10:03 qt-ODBC-3.0.3-11.i386.rpm
-rw-r--r-- 25 root 223270 Apr 17 10:04 unixODBC-kde-2.2.0-5.i386.rpm

Since we have several files, we can copy them to root's home directory (/root) with the following command which makes use of our ls command in a sub shell with an extra command to get rid of any duplicates (uniq):

  cp $(ls apache* lynx* mysql* php* pspell* *odbc* *ODBC* 2>/dev/null | uniq) /root

If we have not installed the X Window system, we will want to delete the apacheconf RPM file.  Also, since we are not installing PostgreSQL (another client-server RDBMS) we must delete the php-pgsql RPM file. The php-manual file is quite large and takes a long time to install. You may choose to remove the file before installing the packages. We also don't need the postgresql-odbc file or the -devel packages

  rm /root/apacheconf*
  rm /root/php-pgsql*
  rm /root/php-manual*
  rm /root/postgresql-odbc*
  rm /root/*devel*

Step 12:  Install the RPM files

At this point, we have all of the RPM files which contain the programs we want to install.  We should change to root's home directory with the cd /root command.  We can install them all at once with the rpm -Uvh *.rpm command.  With this command, the capital "U" means update the package.  The lowercase "v" means show a list of all packages installed.  The "h" will cause "hash" marks (#) to show the install progress.  Some packages you may wish to install may require that other packages be installed first.  This concept is known as a dependency.

Step 13:  Start and test the MySQL server

MySQL is installed but it is not started automatically.  We can make sure it is installed by executing a whereis mysql command.  This will tell us where the MySQL client application and the documentation is stored.  If we try to start the MySQL client with the mysql command, we will get a cryptic message which tells us that the server is not running. In Red Hat Linux we can use service mysqld start to start the server.  Now if we try to start the MySQL client (mysql), it works. 

In the MySQL client we can perform simple commands such as show databases; and use mysql; and show tables; and describe db; to test our implementation.  The exit command leaves the MySQL client application.

Step 14:  Start and test the Apache web server

Now we want to test the Apache web server.  As with MySQL, it is there but hasn't been started yet.  We can use the whereis httpd command to find the executable programs and documentation.  The web server is now known as Apache but to the system it has the simple name of httpd (Hypertext Transaction Protodol Daemon).  We can test to see if it is running by using a text-based web browser called Lynx using the lynx localhost command.  Since it is not running, as with MySQL, we can use the service httpd start command to get it running.  Now when we use lynx localhost we get the default web page.

Step 15:  Test PHP

PHP is an Apache module (mod_php) and to test it we have to write a program with PHP code and see if it works.  The default location for web pages with this version of the web server is /var/www/html and we can use the cd /var/www/html command to get to that directory (we can change this location later in the Apache configuration file /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf).  We will use our favorite text editor (vi or pico) to create a simple PHP page called test.php with the following content:


Now we can test this with Lynx using the lynx localhost/test.php command.  If the file was stored in the correct location, we should see the PHP information page which was generated with the phpinfo() function.

With that working, we want to test to make sure that we can access the MySQL database.  We can do this fairly simply:

    if (mysql_connect("localhost","root"))
        print "<h1>Database connection successful</h1><hr>";



When we look at this with lynx localhost/test.php the print message in large letters will appear only if a database connection could be established.

Step 16:  Designate servers which will start upon boot

We have manually started the servers but in order to cause them to start automatically during the boot process, we can use a system utility called ntsysv to indicate the servers we want started.  We will also use this opportunity to make sure that we only run the servers which are essential for our system.  This is important for security.  Below is a list of the servers we want to be on and a brief description.  For this setup, all others should be off.

Y/N Server Name Description
Yes anacron This is a scheduler for computers which are not left on all the time.
Yes at This is a one-time scheduler.
Yes autofs unkown
Yes crond This is the main scheduler for a Linux or Unix system.  Many maintenance tasks are performed on a regular basis, such as rotating logfiles on a weekly basis.
Yes httpd This is the Apache web server.
Yes ipchains This is the old way to create an internal firewall.
Yes iptables This is the new way to create an internal firewall.
Yes keytable unknown
Yes kudzu This is the hardware server which checks for new equipment installed at boot.
Yes mysqld The relational database server we will use.
Yes network Needed for ordinary operations and to offer our web pages to the World.
Yes random This is a random number generator used for other system tasks, including generating password hashes.
Yes rawdev unknown
Yes sendmail Needed if we are going to receive mail from outside the system.
Yes sshd This is the Secure Shell server, a replacement for the insecure telnet server.
Yes syslogd This server generates log files for the system.  If your system gets hacked, this is one of the first things the hacker turns off.
Yes wu-ftpd This is the File Transport Protocol server and is needed if we will accept files from the outside.  Note, however, that sshd has a secure file transfer protocol called scp and it should be used if possible.
Yes xfs This is the font server for the X-Window system.  If you are not running X-Window, you will not need it.
Yes xinetd This is a meta server for other servers.  It will start a server if a request comes in and the requests meets the rules set in files in /etc/xinetd.d/ for IP address, time of day, and service.
Other servers should generally be off for a secure system unless you are certain that you need them.

Step 17:  Restart the computer and test again

To make sure that the proper servers will come up after restart, as root we can use the reboot command to reboot the computer.  Once it is up again, we can log in again and as an ordinary user we can use the ps ax | less command to look through the list of running processes to make sure that MySQL and Apache are running.  Another way to achieve this is with the following commands:

ps ax | grep httpd
ps ax | grep mysqld

This will list the processes which contain those phrases (httpd and mysqld) in the description lines.  We could also repeat the tests in steps 11-13 but we should not need to start the servers.  Note that most servers can also be restarted (needed after a change to a configuration file) with the service server_name restart command.

Step 18:  Congratulate yourself

If everything has worked, you have a server with PHP, MySQL, and Apache installed.