Installing SpareMiNT

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This file gives information on getting started with Sparemint. Some of the questions it leaves opens are maybe answered in the file FAQ.MiNT.


Installing rpm

Sparemint is based on the Redhat Package Manager. You will find a gzipped tarball for a bootstrapping archive in the subdirectory misc. Once you have successfully installed it, you will be able to update rpm with itself.

Basic Packages

This should actually be the last section in this file. Before you install packages you should setup your directory structure and your user and group database. But it don't run a big risk if you simply trust that this stuff is right. Anyway, please read the sections below at least, so that you will have an idea of what could go wrong.

On of the major advantages of rpm is that it will keep track of dependencies. For example it will refuse to install a set of documentation in html format if you don't have a browser to view these files. Same when you want to uninstall your browser, rpm will tell you that the html docs you have installed will need it. Very good concept but for bootstrapping it can become a nuisance. So before you install anything you should create a file /etc/rpmrc and add a single line


there. If you later want to install a package and rpm tells you that your new package would require gawk and perl, simply edit /etc/rpmrc like this:

Provides: perl gawk

When rpm reads that line it knows that you have both Perl and gawk installed but it is not yet registered in the rpm database. Of course if you really don't have perl that is a bad idea because then you really can't use that package.

In the beginning you will often add Provides (beware: there mustn't be more than one provides line, put all provides on the same line!) but you should later come back and check the file again. If you have installed gawk via rpm you should remove the automatic provide from there so that rpm's dependency mechanism will work.

The recommended order for installing packages from Sparemint is


All other packages need the GNU Bourne Again Shell Bash because they get installed via this shell. The package info is also commonly needed because it installs the documentation in GNU info format. Many packages may still contain dependencies on the package mintbin. This is actually a bug but to avoid problems you should install mintbin at an early point of time, you will need it anyway.

Directory structure

Sparemint is intended to follow the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS, see Sparemint packages will create directories as needed (if they don't, please report that as a bug).

There is one exception to that rule which is caused by a restriction in MiNT itself. Sparemint packages cannot create toplevel directories like /bin (Unix notation) or u:\bin (GEMDOS notation). However, Sparemint requires the following toplevel directories to exist on your system:


What do you have to do if one of these directories is missing on your system? In MiNT only the kernel can create toplevel directories, and these directories are special like /dev' or /proc. Other toplevel directories are really symbolic links that are usually created in the MiNT configuration file c:\mint\mint.cnf. It is possible that this directory is called c:\multitos\mint.cnf on your system. Anyway, it is on your boot drive, in subdirectory mint or multitos (we prefer mint as the location for the configuration file and drivers).

Assuming that you have a large partition g: on your system you should create all of the above mentioned directories (except for /boot, see below) on this drive g. Then add the following lines to your mint.cnf:

# Set symbolic links to drive u:.
sln g:\usr u:\usr
sln g:\bin u:\bin
sln g:\lib u:\lib
sln g:\etc u:\etc
sln g:\home u:\home
sln g:\tmp u:\tmp
sln g:\var u:\var
sln g:\sbin u:\sbin
sln g:\root u:\root
sln g:\opt u:\opt
sln g:\mnt u:\mnt
sln c:\ u:\boot

You may notice that the we link the directory u:\boot (we simply say /boot from now on) to your boot drive. You may also notice that we can now address your kernel configuration file as /boot/mint/mint.cnf.

Group Database

There should be a minimum set of users and groups known on your system so that installation procedures can rely on it. If you have previously installed a MiNT distribution such as KGMD or KEMD your setup will probably very close to our needs.

This part is a little bit tricky. Please take your time for it and follow all steps carefully. If you are not sure better leave things as they are. You will probably be able to do the necessary steps later.

Let's first fix your group database. Make a backup of the file /etc/group and load it into an editor. Mine looks like this:


A short explanation: All lines consist of group entries separated by colons (:). The first field is the name of the group, e. g. wheel or staff. The second is for a password and not used. The third is a unique numerical group id and the last is a list of members of this group.

Check if any of these groups are missing on your system. If so simply copy the line (you should try to sort it by the numerical group id to avoid duplicate entries). The problems begin if you have a certain group but this group has a different id on your system. You can either omit this group (and leave this step for later) or change it now.

For example, if you have the group mail but it has the group id 17 on your system, you can now change it to 7. But the filesystem does not store the name of the group when recording group ownerships but only the numerical id. To fix this you have to make all files that belonged to the former group 17 belong to group 7 now.

You should start a shell and type the following command:

find / -group 17 -exec chgrp 7 {} \;

Type it exactly like this (except for 17 that has to replaced with the old group id and 7 that has to be replaced by the new group id). If you have already changed /etc/group you may specify mail instead of 7 because the chgrp command will translate that to 7 from /etc/group.

Note that this command will consume a considerable amount of time since it will have to check every single file on your filesystems.

If either the find command or the chgrp command are missing on your system you have lost for now. You should revert your changes to /etc/group and wait until you have installed the packages findutils and fileutils which will provide these commands.

Again, take your time with that, it's not that important for the beginning.

User Database

The procedure for the user database is very similar to that for the group database. The user database is kept in the file /etc/passwd. Make a backup of it and then load it into your editor. Mine looks like this:

ftp:*:8:50:FTP User:/home/ftp:
guido:*:500:100:Guido Flohr:/home/guido:/bin/bash

The meaning of the colon-separated fields are:

  • user name (login), e. g. root or guido
  • password, I've put an asterisk * here. If the user exists on your system you will see the encrypted password instead.
  • numerical user id that positively identifies that user.
  • numerical group id, the primary group of that user. Have a look in the file /etc/group to find out which groups are meant by the numbers.
  • the so-called GECOS-Field, more or less the full name of the user.
  • the user's home directory, the initial directory when that user logs in.
  • the user's login shell, i. e. the program that gets started if that user logs in.

You should try make all of the above users available on your system too. You should also try to assign them the same user ids as shown here.

Of course you don't have to have a user guido on your system. The user guido shown here is just an example of an ordinary user. If your name is Sid Vicious you would probably replace that with the line

sid:*:500:100:Sid Vicious:/home/sid:/bin/bash

But you should make ordinary users assign user ids greater or equal to 500 and their primary group should be users (group id 100).

Again, it's getting difficult if you have to change the user id for an existing user. Let's stick with the mail example. Say, user mail on your system had the user id 11 and you want to change that to 7:

find / -user 11 -exec chown 7 {} \;

You can leave this step to later but you should not forget it.

After you are done with the user and group database you should check it once again. You should make sure that all user and group ids positively identify a particular user/group. The easiest way to achieve this is to always sort the lines by the id. This will show you if you have doubly assigned a certain id.

There are probably a couple of things left to do but you will find them out yourself, learning by doing. If you have any questions you can always ask at the MiNT mailing list The Sparemint maintainers are subscribed to that list.

Original SpareMiNT installation docs

These docs are only kept for historical reasons.

These documents assumes that FreeMiNT has been installed as described in the installation guide.

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