Chapter 3. Installing and Setting Up Software

Overview of Software Installation

In a work group environment, users typically install the software they need on their own workstations. They obtain software from a central distribution source that is typically set up and maintained by the administrator. The administrator makes software available for the workgroup, and notifies the work group when additional software, updates, and patch releases become available.

Silicon Graphics software is distributed on compact discs (CDs). A CD contains one or more software products and any special tools that the products require for installation. The purpose of the installation utility, inst, is to transfer distribution software, which has an encoded format, to a hard disk in a format that is usable. The installation utility offers two user interfaces: a graphical interface, called Software Manager; and a command-line interface, called Inst.

The media containing installable software that you purchase from Silicon Graphics is referred to as a distribution. Most distributions are not specific to a particular model of Silicon Graphics computer; distributions ordinarily contain all versions of any hardware-specific files that might be required. Sometimes, however, a new server or personal workstation model is introduced, accompanied by a special software distribution. When this occurs, subsequent distributions are fully compatible with the new model.

Software Product

A software product is a collection of files that support either a system function or a specific application. Some products support critical functions and must be installed if the system is to operate; other products are not critical but optimize system operation and are recommended for installation by the manufacturer. A subset of required and recommended products is installed in servers and workstations before they leave the factory.

About Software Product Releases

A software product release contains all software required to support a given version of a product and the tools that are needed to install the release. One or more software product releases are contained in a distribution.

When you install a software product release, files from previous versions of the release are automatically removed before the new files are installed (the exception is configuration files, which are saved if they contain local modifications). If a product release includes hardware-specific files, the installation utility automatically determines the file version that is needed on a particular model and installs that version.

Product releases may have prerequisites that require a particular installation order. They might also have compatibility requirements with other installed products. Inst protects users against potential problems by preventing installation if there are any unresolved incompatibilities or prerequisites (unless you override this safeguard).

Installation instructions, including prerequisites and incompatibility information, are provided in the product release notes, which are always included as an installable subsystem of the product. You can read product release notes from the distribution CD using the CDgrelnotes or CDrelnotes command. Instructions for reading release notes are included in the CD “jewel case” insert.

Product Descriptions

The product description is a file that contains information about product requirements and the installation environment for the product. The name of the product description file is the short name for the product. For example, the name of the product description file for the Fortran 77 Compiler product is ftn_dev.

Installation Database

The installation database is a file that contains installation information for every file in the product. The name of the installation database is the shortname with an .idb extension. For example, the name of the installation database for the Fortran 77 Compiler product is ftn_dev.idb.


An image is a collection of installable files that perform a similar or complementary function. Software products usually contain at least two images. Providing more than one image makes it possible to install only the software you need. For example, it is possible to install the images that contain the executable programs of a product without installing the release notes image.

Patch Releases

A patch is a collection of one or more files that correct flaws in the performance, reliability, or security of a specific software product; a patch release is a distribution containing one or more patches. Each patch remedies a specific set of reported errors in the version of the product to which the patch applies.

Every patch is identified by a unique number, such as patchSG1234567, for example. The number is used in manufacturing to identify the collection of errors that the patch corrects. Typically, the reported errors that result in a patch release occur only under certain operating conditions. For this reason, installing a patch is necessary only if a system or site is experiencing a problem that the patch addresses.

How Software Installation Works

Most software installations can be performed without interrupting system operations. Installations that are performed without shutting down the system are referred to as live installations. Live installations are preferred because they are usually less time-consuming and because other system operations can be sustained during the installation session.

Whenever software installation affects fundamental IRIX functions (such as device management), software must be installed by a miniroot installation, which requires a system shutdown.

Making Installable Software Available to the Work Group

The location of a software distribution is known as the distribution source; the system receiving software during an installation is known as the target. A distribution source may be a CD that is mounted on the target, a CD that is mounted on a remote system, or a centralized directory on the network to which the distribution has been copied. The directory on a distribution CD that contains the software is always called /dist.

You will often want to set up an installation server for your work group. An installation server is a server or workstation that supplies a distribution source to other systems over the network. On your installation server, installable software is generally kept in a distribution directory, which may contain software from several distributions.

It is important to provide your work group with a consistent location for installable software. If you provide software installation services to work group members, having a consistent location makes your job easier. If work group members perform their own software installations, having a consistent location means they can be more self-sufficient.

Selecting a Distribution Source

When selecting a distribution source, consider the speed and reliability of your network, the frequency with which installations are performed, and the amount of software that will be installed. If disk space is available and the network is fast and reliable, consider creating a centralized distribution directory on an installation server. A centralized directory is particularly useful if users perform their own installations, or if the availability of the server's CD-ROM drive is subject to interruption.

When you are installing software on one or two target systems and the targets contain local CD-ROM drives, using a locally mounted distribution CD is often the most efficient distribution source, particularly if your network is slow and you plan to install a considerable amount of software. For any target that is not equipped with a CD-ROM drive, the distribution source must be a remote CD-ROM drive or distribution directory.

Setting Up an Installation Server

You can create an installation server on almost any system in your network that is reliable and has adequate disk resources. The distribution source may be a local CD-ROM drive or a distribution directory.

Any system that you plan to use as an installation server must be accessible from the remote targets. This means that communications between the server and targets must support forwarding of boot files and Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) file transfers. In addition, the installation server must contain a user account that is available to target systems.

Creating a Distribution Directory

After you have chosen an installation server, the next step is to create a distribution directory on it. The CD-ROM drive from which you copy the distribution software may be either a local or remote drive. You can copy several CDs to the distribution directory if you wish; however, do not include more than one release of a given product in the directory—different distribution directories must be created for different releases of a product.

You can create a software distribution directory that contains fewer products than are in the CD-ROM distribution by copying the files for just the products that you want. Remember that distribution directories and CD-ROM distributions have an identical structure.

For more information about creating a distribution directory, see IRIX Admin: Software Installation and Licensing.

Configuring an Installation Account

Installations generally use the guest account on the server. This means that the installation server's guest account must not be password protected. If the guest account on the server is either unavailable or password protected, you must provide an alternate means for accessing the server. You can allow access to the server in any of these ways:

  • Remove the password from guest while installations are taking place.

  • Use an account other than guest on the server (the alternate account must not be password protected) and specify the alternate account when starting the installation.

  • Use a password-protected account on the server for installations and create a .rhosts file for the installation account. The installation account must have read permissions on the distribution source.

Backing Up the Target Systems

Although backing up the target is not a requirement for installation, it is strongly recommended. The Personal System Administration Guide describes general backup procedures and using System Manager to perform backups.

Consider backing up these files:

  • User files that are created or copied to the target. Any file on the target that was not put there during the software installation process is considered a user file.

  • Configuration files that contain information unique to the target system or the site. These files are created during installation but are likely to be modified after they are installed. The unique information in these files is not destroyed during an installation. However, the pre-installation copy of these configuration files is helpful if you decide to go back to the earlier software release after installation.

Planning the Order of Installation

If you expect to install software from more than one CD or distribution directory, you must plan the installation order, since some products require that other products be installed first.

If you are installing from multiple CDs, use the sequence numbers on their labels to put the CDs in order. Install the CDs starting with the lowest sequence number first. Use these guidelines to plan the order of your installation:

  • If any CD or distribution directory that you install contains installation tools, be sure to install that CD first. CDs containing installation tools are clearly marked.

  • If any CD has two sequence numbers, that CD is used twice during the installation. If you find no intervening sequence numbers, you need to insert the CD only once during the installation.

  • If you have two or more CDs with the same sequence number, the order of those CDs relative to each other does not matter. For example, assume that you have four CDs with sequence numbers 400, 500, 600, and 600. The CD labeled 400 is installed first, followed by the CD labeled 500. The order of the two CDs labeled 600 is irrelevant, as long as they are installed last.

If you are installing from several distribution directories, check to see what products are in each directory. Plan to install the products in this order:

  • installation tools

  • operating system software

  • communications software

  • compilers

  • optional software

About Miniroot Installations

For installations where fundamental IRIX services, such as filesystem management, are either unavailable or unreliable, a special installation method is required. This method, known as a miniroot installation, relies on services in the target's programmable read-only memory (PROM) to transfer special installation tools, including Inst, from the distribution source. This transfer is referred to as loading the miniroot.

For more information about miniroot installations, see IRIX Admin: Software Installation and Licensing.

Installing Reference Pages

The reference pages (manual pages) that apply to a product are shipped as a software component of the product.

The software subsystems in a product usually have a corresponding reference page subsystem. The names of the software and reference page subsystems differ only in the image segment of the name. The name for a reference page subsystem always contains the letters .man in the image segment. For example, dmedia_dev contains the software subsystem and a reference page subsystem called

Installing Software Using the Software Manager

The Software Manager lets you install and remove both operating system software and optional product software. Any user or privileged user can use the Software Manager to view a list of installed software, but only the administrator (or anyone who knows the password for the root account) can use it to install or remove software.

To install software, you specify where the new software is located. Then you can install either a default set of software by clicking Install Automatically, or a customized set of software by clicking Customize Installation.

When you click the Customize Installation button, you're requesting a more informative view of the software that's available. If a checkmark appeared in the “Upgrade Products” and/or “New Products” check boxes in the Install Automatically view, these products and their default subsystems remain selected for installation.

Note: If the root account on a system has a password, that password must be entered in order to install software.

System Software Maintenance

This section contains procedures that may be necessary to keep the software installation at your site up to date.

Installing a Software Update

When you receive a software update, it might be delivered on multiple CDs. Use the sequence numbers on the CD labels or the directions in “Planning the Order of Installation” to determine the order in which you should install the updates. Updates are not necessarily included for all products, since not all products are updated at the same time.

When you install a software update, replace or remove all of the older subsystems in each product that you install. Do not remove just some of the older subsystems. When a server or workstation contains software subsystems from different releases of a product, compatibility problems result that can be very difficult to diagnose.

Installing Optional Software Products

Software options are products that you may or may not choose to run on a system. They are usually purchased separately from a computer system, but may also be shipped as a complimentary offering with a new system or when a new version of a purchased option is released. When you install a software option, keep these points in mind:

  • The release notes for a software option explain whether a miniroot installation is required.

  • If the software option requires miniroot installation, use the installation tools that accompanied the version of eoe that is already installed on your system.

  • If you have several software options to install and they are on more than one CD or distribution directory, use the CD sequence numbers, release notes information, or information in “Planning the Order of Installation” to determine the installation order. If the installation order is wrong, you will see a message to that effect when you launch the installation.

Installing Patch Releases

A patch release contains replacement files that can be installed to modify a particular software product. Installing patches is optional; review the online release notes that accompanied the patch to determine whether to install it or not.

Installing Software for Hardware Upgrades

In some cases, changes to software are required when you install a hardware upgrade on a system that is already in service. As a general rule, adding memory, bitplanes, and disks requires no change to the software, but other hardware upgrades require changes to the installed software. The documentation that accompanies the upgrade explains whether a software installation is necessary for the upgrade.

Installing Accompanying Product Releases

Some hardware upgrades are shipped with a software distribution in the form of a software product release. Use the directions in “Installing Optional Software Products” to install this type of software distribution. If the software distribution contains installation tools, you must use them.

Reinstalling the Same Software

Some hardware upgrades are not shipped with a software distribution, but they require that you reinstall some software after the hardware upgrade is completed. For example, upgrades to a CPU board or the graphics subsystem require a software reinstallation. In such cases, the reinstallation is necessary because the hardware-specific files that were installed for the original hardware are not appropriate for the new hardware.

When reinstalling software after a hardware upgrade, be sure to follow the directions in “Planning the Order of Installation” to determine installation order. Reinstallations require a miniroot installation.

When release notes accompany a product, the product contains an additional .man image that contains the release notes. Some reference page subsystems contain reference pages for more than one software subsystem. When you receive your workstation and install a software option for the first time, be sure to check the status of reference page subsystems to verify that the reference pages that you want are installed.

Removing All Software

To remove all installed software from the target system, you must perform a miniroot installation; you cannot remove all software during a live install, since the miniroot is needed to supply the functions that sustain the system until critical software is replaced. For specific instructions on removing software, see IRIX Admin: Software Installation and Licensing.

Troubleshooting Software Installations

If you encounter problems while installing software, use the following checklist to identify the cause. More information about troubleshooting software installations can be found in IRIX Admin: Software Installation and Licensing.

  • If you received an error message, what type of error was it?

    There are generally three types of errors in installations: fatal (caused by hardware failures or lack of operating system resources), error (caused by a command that was unable to execute), and warning (caused by a condition that might cause problems later). Each error message should be accompanied by additional descriptive information.

  • Did the error message refer to an installation conflict?

    Installation conflicts occur when there are unsatisfied product dependencies or when incompatible product are selected for installation. Conflicts can arise because an installed product depends on another product that is not installed, a required subsystem is not marked for installation, or two products are incompatible.

    In resolving conflicts, you will often need to make changes in the software you choose to install. In some cases you may need to obtain additional required software.