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Archive for October, 2010

Step by step explanation of Linux boot sequence

October 19, 2010 25 comments

In this topic we will discuss indepth of Linux Boot Sequence.How a linux system boots?This will help administrators in

troubleshooting some bootup problem.Before discussing about  I will notedown the major component we need to know

who are responsible for the booting process.

        1.BIOS(Basic Input/Output System)

        2.MBR(Master Boot Record)

        3.LILO or GRUB

             LILO:-LInux LOader

             GRUB:-GRand Unified Bootloader

        4.Kernel

        5.init

        6.Run Levels

1.BIOS:

      i.When we power on BIOS performs a Power-On Self-Test (POST) for all of the different hardware components in the system to make sure everything is working properly

     ii.Also it checks for whether the computer is being started from an off position (cold boot) or from a restart (warm boot) is
stored at this location.

     iii.Retrieves information from CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) a battery operated memory chip on the motherboard that stores time, date, and critical system information.

     iv.Once BIOS sees everything is fine it will begin searching for an operating system Boot Sector on a valid master boot sector
on all available drives like hard disks,CD-ROM drive etc.

     v.Once BIOS finds a valid MBR it will give the instructions to boot and executes the first 512-byte boot sector that is the first
sector (“Sector 0”) of a partitioned data storage device such as hard disk or CD-ROM etc .

2.MBR

     i. Normally we use multi-level boot loader.Here MBR means I am referencing to DOS MBR.

     ii.Afer BIOS executes a valid DOS MBR,the DOS MBR will search for a valid primary partition marked as bootable on the hard disk.

     iii.If MBR finds a valid bootable primary partition then it executes the first 512-bytes of that partition which is second level MBR.

     iv. In linux we have two types of the above mentioned second level MBR known as LILO and GRUB

3.LILO

     i.LILO is a linux boot loader which is too big to fit into single sector of 512-bytes.

     ii.So it is divided into two parts :an installer and a runtime module.

     iii.The installer module places the runtime module on MBR.The runtime module has the info about all operating systems installed.

     iv.When the runtime module is executed it selects the operating system to load and transfers the control to kernel.

     v.LILO does not understand filesystems and boot images to be loaded and treats them as raw disk offsets

GRUB

     i.GRUB MBR consists of 446 bytes of primary bootloader code and 64 bytes of the partition table.

     ii.GRUB locates all the operating systems installed and gives a GUI to select the operating system need to be loaded.

     iii.Once user selects the operating system GRUB will pass control to the karnel of that operating system.
see below what is the difference between LILO and GRUB

4.Kernel

     i.Once GRUB or LILO transfers the control to Kernel,the Kernels does the following tasks

  • Intitialises devices and loads initrd module
  • mounts root filesystem

5.Init

     i.The kernel, once it is loaded, finds init in sbin(/sbin/init) and executes it.

     ii.Hence the first process which is started in linux is init process.

     iii.This init process reads /etc/inittab file and sets the path, starts swapping, checks the file systems, and so on.

     iv.It runs all the boot scripts(/etc/rc.d/*,/etc/rc.boot/*)

     v.starts the system on specified run level in the file /etc/inittab

6.Runlevel

     i.There are 7 run levels in which the linux OS runs and different run levels serves for different purpose.The descriptions are
given below.

  • 0  – halt
  • 1  – Single user mode
  • 2  – Multiuser, without NFS (The same as 3, if you don’t have networking)
  • 3  – Full multiuser mode
  • 4  – unused
  • 5  – X11
  • 6  – Reboot

     ii.We can set in which runlevel we want to run our operating system by defining it on /etc/inittab file.

Now as per our setting in /etc/inittab the Operating System the operating system boots up and finishes the bootup process.

Below are given some few  important differences about LILO and GRUB

LILO

GRUB

LILO has no interactive command interface GRUB has interactive command interface
LILO does not support booting from a network GRUB does support booting from a network
If you change your LILO config file, you have to rewrite the LILO stage one boot loader to the MBR GRUB automatically detects any change in config file and auto loads the OS
LILO supports only linux operating system GRUB supports large number of OS

To know more about the booting process you can follow the link below
http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-linuxboot/

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Give access of a super user to a normal user—Sudo user

Normally when you are installing RHEL in one system in post installation stage it asks you to create a normal user and if you are not creating it give a warning massage. Root user is the most powerful user in the system and it can do everything. So in real time environment it is advised that if you have installed Linux in server you shouldn’t give root access to any user even though he may be a giant in Linux. If you are giving root access to someone else that means you don’t have any control on the server. If tomorrow server crashes server reboots because of a wrong usage of command you will be helpless.

But saying that sometimes people may need root access to the server for some particular task like restarting apache service or for running some scripts etc. . . . Here as a system admin you have to provide them some specific access so that it won’t affect the whole server.

To achieve this purpose we use the concept of sudo user.

So what is a sudo user?

A sudo user is a root like user who can be permitted to execute specific commands or all commands executed by superuser.

You may think now if will give all permission to a sudo user then what will be the difference between the sudo user and root?

The only difference I can think of is whenever we are executing a command using sudo the system keeps a log for that command which is not in case of root.

Also one more thing is the system asks for password when we run a command as sudo.That means a user is getting time to verify its command which is helpful when we are running command like rm –rf *.

Mainly sudo concept is used only if there is some situation where a normal user wants to do some administrative operations but not all operations.

Now how can we make a normal user as sudouser?

To make a user sudo user login as root to the server and execute following command.

     #visudo

This command will open a read-only file /etc/sudoers where you can define the access for normal user.

There are two scenarios for a user to be a sudo user.

    1. Give all access as root user
    2. Give specific access to a user to run on specific mach

Give all access as root user:-

To do this in /etc/sudoers file search for a line

     root       ALL=(ALL)            ALL

This lines means that the user root can execute from ALL terminals, acting as ALL  users, and run ALL  command.

And append a line for the user let’s say bob

     bob     ALL=(ALL)     ALL

you can separate by comma for multiple users.

     bob , chalres   ALL=(ALL)    ALL

To give a user specific permission let’s say user bob can only restart apache server append the blow line to /etc/sudoers file.

     bob localhost=/etc/init.d/apache restart

To give user permission to do multiple operations we can append a line like following

     bob ALL= /bin/kill, /etc/init.d/httpd

As we told above for each command run under sudo user  gets looged into the system.To see that run a command as a sudo user and check the log file /var/log/secure.

As bob user execute

     #sudo /etc/init.d/httpd restart

Then check the log file by

     #tail –f /var/log/secure
     Output:- Aug 28 03:21:30 sudo:       bob : TTY=pts/3 ; PWD=/home/bob ; USER=root ; COMMAND=/etc/init.d/httpd restart

For advances users,

Concept of Sudo:-

Try to do this experiment

1) Login as root in tty1, Login as bob in tty2.
2) In tty2 execute a sample command ‘# vi abc’ . Go to tty1 and excute # ps -Alf
3) In tty2 execute a sample command ‘#  sudo vi abc’ . Go to tty1 and excute # ps -Alf

Now examine third field for the output of step 1 & 2

You will see when a user with is running something as sudo user practically it is running that command with root users gid.