A Dummy's Guide To Starting With BioSLAX


BioSLAX is a bioinformatics variant of SLAX which is a live DVD/USB thumbdrive. A Live DVD/ USB thumbdrive is a complete operating system (OS) running off the DVD/USB thumbdrive, making use of your computer.s memory to load itself. The BioSLAX CD/USB thumbdrive runs the Linux Slackware OS. The system can be totally isolated from and independent of whatever OS already installed in your hard drive (eg. Windows XP, Windows Vista, etc). However, the OS will be able to access the files on those hard drives.

In this way, you need not have to reformat your hard drive to install BioSLAX and all your existing data stays intact. From the BioSLAX operating system booted up on your PC, you can access all key bioinformatics software.

BioSLAX will boot on Intel MACs, but it has not been fully tested.

Getting a copy of BioSLAX

There are several ways of booting BioSLAX, but all of them will involve the initial step of obtaining the BioSLAX iso image and burning it into a bootable DVD. You can download the latest BioSLAX iso from the downloads section.

Creating a Bootable DVD

Once you get the iso copy of the BioSLAX, you should make a backup copy of it.

Using any software that allows burning of DVDs from iso files (eg, Nero, EZ media creator, or Magic ISO) you can burn the iso file you have downloaded into a bootable DVD. This is NOT the same as copying the iso file into the DVD. Burning the image means transferring the entire image of the iso file including the file system and all its constituent files into the DVD, instead of copying the iso file into the DVD's file system.

Creating a Bootable USB thumbdrive

Alternatively, you may create a bootable USB thumbdrive from the ISO image.

First, format your USB thumbdrive (must be of capacity 2GB and above) as a FAT or FAT32 filesystem using your Windows format utility.

Then, using any software that can extract files from an ISO (eg. Magic ISO, WinISO or WinRAR), extract the contents of the ISO into your USB thumbdrive. You will find 2 directories in your thumbdrive after this, boot and bioslax.

Using a DOS command prompt (Windows Start button, click Run, then type in .cmd. without the quotes into the textbox and hit enter), CD to the boot directory. Now run the file called bootinst.bat. It will show you the following text :

                                    Welcome to Slax boot installer

This installer will setup disk %DISK%: to boot only Slax.

Warning! Master Boot Record (MBR) of the device %DISK%: will be overwritten.
If %DISK%: is a partition on the same disk drive like your Windows installation,
then your Windows will not boot anymore. Be careful!

Press any key to continue, or kill this window [x] to abort...

Where %DISK% is the drive letter of your USB thumbdrive. Hit any key make your USB thumbdrive bootable.

IMPORTANT! Using a bootable USB thumbdrive will only work if the machine you are booting from supports booting from external USB devices. If it does not, the machine will not recognize the thumbdrive as bootable and will not boot BioSLAX from it.

Starting BioSLAX by booting from the Live DVD/USB thumbdrive

Method 1: Booting directly from the DVD/USB thumbdrive

If booting from the DVD, switch on the PC, and quickly press the DVD Drive hatch to get it to open. You only have a few seconds to do this. Pop the DVD into your CD drive, and REBOOT the computer into BioSLAX.

If booting from the USB thumbdrive, plug your USB thumbdrive into any available USB slot and reboot the computer.

Ensure your BIOS options are set to boot from the DVD drive or USB thumbdrive before booting from the hard drive. This is called the Boot Device Priority of the BIOS.

There are two ways of doing this:

Method 2: Booting from the BioSLAX files on a hard disk

Generally, a Pentium 4 machine with 512 Mbyte RAM is the minimum configuration that should just work. However, you might find that the overall experience of booting from the CD is too slow.

If so, you can make it boot faster, by having the system access the BioSLAX files from your hard disk. Reading data from the harddisk is generally faster than reading data from a LiveDVD in the DVDRom Drive.

There are 2 ways to boot from the harddisk,

Copying the contents of the DVD/USB thumbdrive onto your hard drive

Boot up as usual into your Microsoft Windows environment. Create a subdirectory on your Windows hard drive (eg; C:\SLAX) then copy the contents of the BioSLAX DVD or the USB thumbdrive to that directory. Just drag and drop the contents into the C:\SLAX directory in your file Explorer.

Once you have copied the contents of the DVD onto your hard drive or have copied the BioSLAX ISO to your hard drive (eg C:\bslax.iso), you have to use the BioSLAX DVD or USB thumbdrive to boot up, and at the initial BioSLAX menu selection screen, press the TAB KEY while over any of the boot up selections of your choice.

In the following example, we will assume you are on option 2 (Safe option).

i. Press the TAB KEY while the selection bar is over option 2.
ii. You will see a line of text at the bottom.

Figure 2. Select your option and press the TAB KEY

Figure 3. Command text appears at the bottom after pressing the TAB KEY

iii. Press the space bar and then : The system will start to boot up and will read the BioSLAX data from either the directory where the extracted BioSLAX files are or from the BioSLAX ISO file directly.

When the system boots up, you will see the device initialization screen and finally the X-Windows desktop.

Figure 6. BioSLAX device initialization screen and X-Windows desktop

TIP: Name your iso to something easier to type, like b.iso. All you have to type now is from=b.iso

How to connect to the Internet

Wired Connection

Plug your network cable to your PC and BioSLAX will auto detect it immediately and set up your network connections.

Wireless Connections BioSLAX has support for a variety of wireless cards and onboard wireless devices running the following chipsets:

And many more. Most laptops today run on the Intel wireless 3945 or 4956 which is fully supported by BioSLAX.

WPA/WPA2 secured access points cannot be accessed using the wireless manager. This requires more command line configuration which will not be covered in this document.

Saving Changes

After doing your work on BioSLAX you may have made changes to the configuration. Every time you reboot your machine, ANY CHANGES YOU HAVE MADE WILL BE LOST. To prevent this, you need to Save Changes regularly.

For portable data (eg, documents, results files, etc) you can plug in your USB thumbdrive and save the data to the USB thumbdrive and then access it later even after rebooting, but how do you save system changes?

Firstly, determine what device your thumbdrive is identified as in linux. It may be identified as /dev/sdb1. It could also be sdc or sdd instead of sdb, depending on how many other sata/scsi devices you have on the computer. For this example, we will assume that it is /dev/sdb1.

Make a directory on the thumb drive called mychanges.

When booting up, again hit the TAB KEY when you are at the BioSLAX menu selection. The command text will appear at the bottom. Press the space key and enter the following:


Figure 7. Setting up persistent changes

If you are booting from the extracted BioSLAX files or the BioSLAX iso, proceed as instructed in section 5, method 2, and type the changes= command after the from= command.

With this command, any changes or modifications you make will be saved AND restored from the mychanges directory on your thumbdrive.

For the more intuitive students, you will realize that you can create different directories on your thumbdrive to save different sessions of your BioSLAX runs. You may set up BioSLAX in different ways or run a sequence search using different programs and store the results individually, so that you may later do a comparison.

We trust that you have found this guide useful.