The Vector Linux Frequently Asked Questions

Installation FAQs

Question: What is an MD5SUM check, and how do I perform one?

Answer: Performing an MD5SUM tests the integrity of files you download, copy, etc. While this is a useful test for any downloaded file, it is especially important when dealing with a download that will become your operating system! Prior to burning your downloaded ISO to CD, perform an MD5SUM by:

  1. Opening a terminal in Linux or a Command Prompt in Windows.
  2. Navigating to the directory where you downloaded the ISO to.
  3. Typing "md5sum the_name_of_the.iso" (without the quotes).
  4. Check the output string against the md5sum file on the download site.

If they do not match exactly then something went wrong with the download and all sorts of problems could arise if you try to use this ISO. Try downloading the ISO again, and, if you used a web browser to download the ISO in your previous attempt, consider using an application designed for handling large downloads (e.g., a download manager or FTP client).

Question: How much harddrive space do I need to install VectorLinux?

Answer: This will vary with which edition of VL you choose, the extra programs you may want to install later, and by the amount of data (documents, multimedia files, etc.) you want to keep on your hard drive. The minimum base system requirements for the system alone are as follows:

  • VL5.8 Standard: 2 GB
  • VL5.8 SOHO: 3 GB

Question: What is swap space? How much swap space do I need?

Answer: Swap space is the Linux way of implementing virtual memory. The system uses a small, dedicated partition on your hard drive. How much space to allocate to this swap partition is not clearly defined, but a common rule suggests doubling the amount of physical RAM you have (e.g., 256 MB of RAM = 512 MB Swap), up to a maximium of 512MB for most situations.

Question: How do I resize my NTFS/WinXP partition (without buying Partition Magic)?

Answer: You can download/burn a system rescue CD from here . It includes several useful programs, including QtParted, a free Partition Magic clone capable of creating/resizing NTFS partitions (as well as many other filesystem types). Another suggestion is the GParted Live CD, which has updated NTFS reading and writing capabilities.

Question: How do I install Vector Linux on a machine with no CD drive?

Answer: Vector Linux can be installed via several methods:

  • Direct ISO Install: Vector Linux can be installed directly from the ISO file, without using a CD. For details on direct ISO install from Linux or Windows, please see the Installation Manual.
  • Driveswapping: If you have another machine with a CD drive then you can get around this by plugging the target computer's hard drive into the other machine and using it to install. When the system tries to reboot, power down and replace the hard drive in the target machine.

Question: Why do I get a "file not found" error during the install?

Answer: If you are using your secondary CD drive, try using your primary CD drive instead. VectorLinux will only install from the first CD detected on the IDE/SCSI channels.

Question: Why does my system keep freezing during/after the install?

Answer: This could be a power management problem. Try booting with the "noacpi" or "noapm" options (e.g., at the LILO prompt type "optionname noacpi" where optionname is the name of your Linux installation in the LILO menu). The other possibility is that you have a faulty RAM chip. You can run "memtest" from the System Rescue CD (see above) in order to check your computer's RAM.

Question: Why does the screen start filling up with numbers when I reboot? Where did my LILO menu go?!

Answer: Chances are you just did a fresh install and skipped installing LILO, or you deleted a previously bootable partition and LILO is getting 'stuck' looking for it. The fix:

  1. Boot from the Installation CD (or another rescue CD) and issue the following command to skip LILO:
    linux root=/dev/hda3 ro *Replace 'hda3' with the partition your installation resides on.*
  2. After the system loads, run VASM in Super-User mode, choose the FILESYSTEM option, and reinstall LILO. (Alternatively, you could edit /etc/lilo.conf by hand, as root, to ensure your LILO-config file still applies to your system/partitions. If editing by hand, you'll need to issue the "lilo -v" command after saving the file to commit the config changes.

System Administration

VASM: The Vector Administrative and Services Menu

Question: What is VASM?

Answer: VASM is a utility which allows you to configure your system without the need to manually edit files spread across the system. Full details of VASM's capabilities can be found in the VL VASM Manual.

History of VASM: Robert Lange, aka Vector, created the original incarnation of the tool, and others have helped to refine existing and add new features over time. Development of the next generation of VASM is underway, with exciting changes in the works!

Question: How do I launch VASM?

Answer: VASM is the same in both CLI and GUI mode (the script checks whether you are running in GUI mode and uses the appropriate dialog or Xdialog to display the boxes). If you are in CLI mode, type "vasm" to start it. In GUI mode you can look for an icon on your desktop or open a terminal and type "vasm". You will be prompted for the root password when accessing those VASM features found within the 'SUPER' menu.

Root vs. SU

Question: What is the difference between logging in as Root vs. logging in as a regular user and using the 'su' command to attain root privileges?

Answer: The difference is security and stability - two things worth achieving. Details:
  • Logging in as Root: The entire system - XWindows, all applications, etc. - is running with root or 'super user' privileges. This means any compromise in security or operator carelessness can impact everything. As a result, the preferred method of attaining root privileges is...
  • Using "su" as a Regular User: Using "su" gives you the same rights as when logging in as root but avoids having the super user take over the entire system and all running programs. Think of it this way: everything you do from within the terminal or console in which you SU'ed to root will be done with super-user privileges, but everything else (originating outside the terminal) remains under regular user restrictions.

SUDO Command & Security

Question: I just used the 'sudo' command as a regular user and, without entering the root password, I was able to attain root privileges. Doesn't this open up a security hole for hackers and/or virii to exploit?

Answer: The 'sudo' command is a user-feature which the system-admin controls by editing /etc/sudoers. Regular users can be given escalated privileges with regards to certain commands using the 'sudo' command in collaboration with the /etc/sudoers configuration file. The recommended editor for editing /etc/sudoers is the 'visudo' command. If you have problems editing with "vi", look for a vi tutorial online. To disable the sudo rights for your username, comment the line containing your username out with a #. Linux users who come from the "Ubuntu" world will find VectorLinux's use of the root account and limited use of sudo disconcerting at first but the VL method is the same method used by all Unixes and all Linuxes except Ubuntu!

Software: Installation & Management of Packages

Question: Where can I learn about installing and managing software packages in VL?

Answer: There is an entire section in the VectorLinux documentation devoted to the VL packaging system. Have a look!

Linux Command Line: The 'CLI'.

Question: Where can I learn more about using the Command line/Terminal ?

Answer: There is a CLI section included in the VL Manuals. You might also consider visiting the Linux Command website.

X-Windows Configuration

X Configuration - Video
: My X-Windows is not configured properly (doesn't start, low resolution, etc.). Why?

Answer: The X setup tries to use the best/safest settings that the monitor reports back through the video card, but sometimes you know better what your system is capable, or need an alternative method of configuring You may reconfigure X by editing the "/etc/X11/xorg.conf" file if you know what you are doing or you can use either one of the utilities "xorgcfg" or "xorgconfig".

X Configuration - Sound
Question: Why does my soundcard not work?

Answer:Often, your sound card is working but the sound mixer is not set properly for your sound card. Run "alsamixer" from a console and try unmuting some of the channels while you are playing a music CD with xmms. This often works.

X Configuration - Mouse
Question: Why does my mouse keep jumping to the bottom-left of the screen in X?

Answer: A 'jumping mouse' is often the result of an incorrect line in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. As the super-user/root, open a text editor and have a look at /etc/X11/xorg.conf. If there is a line saying:

Option "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
Change it to:
Option "Protocol" "PS/2"

X Configuration - Keyboard
: Why does the keymap I selected during the install not work in X?

Answer: The keymap set during installation applies only outside of X. To get your keymap working in X, you will need to edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf as the super-user. Look for the section about the keyboard and add a line saying:
Option "XkbLayout" "uk"
Where "uk" can be replaced with the country code that your keymap uses. When you're done you end up with a section like this:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard0"
Driver "keyboard"
Option "XkbLayout" "uk"

X Configuration - Booting to text mode
Question: How do I boot to the command line when I have set the system up to boot straight to X?

Answer: If things go wrong with X you'll be glad you've found this tip! During bootup, at the LILO prompt, type:

optionname 3
Where optionname is the name of your Linux system in the LILO menu. This will boot you into runlevel 3, a console login.

Desktop Configuration

Virtual Screen/Changing Resolution.
Question: I don't like the "virtual screen" setup where the desktop spans an area far bigger than the actual monitor screen. How can I have a desktop exactly the size of the monitor screen ?

Answer: Use the following key combination to cycle through available resolutions (as configured in /etc/X11/xorg.conf) until you find one you're happy with:

The 'Keypad-Plus' button is the addition/plus sign (+) on the far right of the keyboard, not the '+' with the '=' sign on it!

Device Administration

Hard Drive Info.
Question: How can I find out the info on partitions on my hard drive and the space used/available on each partition ?

Answer: The "df" command at terminal displays all mounted partitions. Using the '-h' option (e.g., "df -h") outputs the information in GB/MB, which is often more easily understood. To see unmounted partitions also you can use the "fdisk -l" command, but only as root.

Sharing files between Linux and Windows

Question: How can I share my files between Linux and Windows?

Answer: Windows can't read Linux filesystems, but Linux can read Windows filesystems. You might find it easiest to create a new FAT32 partition for your data which both Windows and Linux can use. To add extra partitions to mount from Linux at boot time, edit your "/etc/fstab". VASM can do this automatically for you using the FILESYSTEM and MOUNT options.


Issues with PPP or Internet.
Question: Connection/Modem Connects, but web pages don't load.

Answer: I would only setup ppp in vasm with pppset, and the important thing when setting it up is to enter the dns settings. Once you set it up through vasm you can open a console and log in as root with the su comand. Then type ppp- go and the ppp script will run and log you in.
Try to set up a bunch of different dial-up programs can cause conflicts.

Question: Is there a firewall included in VectorLinux?

Answer: Yes, you can configure it through VASM, manually via iptables, or by using a 3rd-party application such as Guarddog, Firestarter, etc.


Using XMMS, the X Media Player.
Question: I tried to mount a CD and play it with XMMS. Unfortunately all the files in the CD are not showing up. I tried another CD with the same results.

Answer: To play a cd in XMMS, do not mount it. XMMS reads the CD as a raw audio CD. If you mount it, it can't directly access the device. To point XMMS to your audio CD:

  1. If the playlist box isn't open, click on it on the XMMS player (button marked PL) or press 'Alt+E' when XMMS is in focus.
  2. Bottom left of the playlist is a button marked "Add"; click and hold, a menu will pop up, move mouse above the "Dir" button and release; another menu should appear with a list of directories;
  3. Select /mnt/cdrom and click OK.
  4. The playlist should now have songs in it - press play and listen away!
  5. An easier way is to launch xmms from the command line like this:"xmms /mnt/cdrom".

Windows related

Question: Can I access my Windows files with Linux, how?

Answer: Yes, you can! Please see Sharing files between Linux and Windows.

Question: What is the WINE Project?

Answer: Wine is an open source project that allows you to run windows applications within Linux. Find more information on the WINE website. You can also install WINE from the VL software repositories using slapt-get or gslapt.


Copying and Pasting Text in Linux.
Question: How do you copy and paste text in Linux?

Answer: In Linux you can copy and paste by selecting/highlighting text and then clicking the middle-mouse-button at the destination location. For a 2 button mouse, click both buttons simulatenously to emulate a middle-mouse-button. Within many applications you can also use the 'Ctrl+C' and 'Ctrl+V' method.

Searching for files.
: Is there a find/search tool in Linux?

Answer: If you don't want to use the command line try the search function of Midnight Commander - it's like the one of Windows (you specify where it starts etc). If you use KDE try "kfind". If you use xfce try "gtkfind".

Taking Screen Shots.
Question: How can I take screen shots in Vector Linux?

If you use KDE try "kdesnapshot". If you use xfce VL5.8 Standard also provides the "shutterbug" screenshot application.