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Sarge - Not an Easy Install

Please accept this post in the spirit in which it is intended, its intent being
to aid the development of Linux as a nearly universal operating system. I
understand there are other efforts underway to simplify the Debian installation,
and I'd like to take advantage of my(currently) novice but eager point of view
to help in this area.

I am an old DOS user who has gotten used to GUI environments as a result of
shear laziness. I don't mind running from command prompts, if I know what the
commands are. If I don't know what the commands are, it would be nice to have
something like a HELP command to tell me about MAN, and what kind of things to
put in MAN. (Without the commands, MAN isn?t of much use.)

I started with a $38 P2 I bought on Ebay. Upon completing the download for SARGE
the machine wouldn't load GRUB, something about an error 18. I posted a request
for an explanation of error 18 and was told to create a small boot partition at
the beginning of my hard drive. I did so.

After doing another complete download of SARGE I had the same problem, but this
time I noticed none of the boot stuff had landed in the boot partition.

This is getting kind of long, I'll skip to the lessons I learned...the hard way.
1. The boot partition must be named  /boot,
2. Don't bother defining it as being bootable yet, the next partition you define
becomes bootable by default,
3. Say you want your /boot partition formatted, the partitioning won't finish
without it,
4. When you're starting just use the EXT3 system unless you have a good reason
not to,
5. Watch out for PARTITION NOT USED, you don?t want it,
6. Your next partition must attach at / (root),
7. Don't forget to go back and make your /boot partition bootable.

I decided to try downloading WOODY in hopes of a more care-free experience. This
time I couldn't start X-WINDOWS, the fonts were missing. Running APT-GET INSTALL
XSERVER-XFREE86 produced no results.

WOODY wasn't doing any better than SARGE so I downloaded SARGE again and got the
same problem with X-WINDOWS. About this time I noticed that on a fairly regular
basis files timed-out rather than download, thus I know I had several missing
files. By this time I was getting fairly used to using APT-GET, with a
half-dozen variants. Sometimes they added a couple hundred extra megabytes to my
hard-drive (oh joy!).

Loading SARGE the third time worked no better than the first two tries. (While I
was doing all this downloading, I noticed any website would download the first
file, but none would download anything else unless the current time was shortly
after the top of the hour. I'd sure like to know why.)I went to
LinuxQuestions.org for help and got it. One recurring theme was, what was in
this or that file? There wasn?t anything obvious like an EDIT command to use so
I loaded Knoppix. Knoppix allowed me to read files but not to change them
because Debian said Knoppix wasn?t the owner. (This is a nice security feature
but underscores the need for an easy-to-use text editor.) Next I was steered to
VI, and as promised, it wasn?t easy to learn. Eventually I learned what I needed
to and made the changes I wanted.

The next thing I tried was re-running the setup utility. There I noticed the
DESKTOP option I had checked was no longer checked, which probably explains why
I couldn?t run X-WINDOWS. In addition, the MAIL SERVER option was checked when I
hadn?t asked for it during the install. I unchecked MAIL SERVER and re-checked
DESKTOP and exited the utility. A bunch of stuff was deleted but X-WINDOWS still
hadn?t made it onto my machine.

Finally, it was suggested I tried APT-GET DIST-UPGRADE, this generated some
activity. Next I ran APT-GET UPDATE and APT-GET UPGRADE for about the tenth
time. This time it used up several hundred meg more disk space. Somehow I was
moved into a setup routine for X-WINDOWS. During the usual, and truly helpful,
dialog boxes, I came across one which explained very nicely about all the
different types of mice there are in the world. The next screen was a listing of
mouse drivers. The problem was: the dialog box never told me which driver to use
for my kind of mouse. I picked one and got lucky. 

I tried STARTX again, and lo-and-behold X-WINDOWS came up!  I was so happy I
quit there until after the holidays.

All this whining assumes the intent of Debian/Linux is to eventually become a
widely used operating system for use by the average computer user. If I?m right,
maybe my experience will help squash some of the bugs. If I?m not, I?m sorry you
bothered to read this far. In any event I plan to continue learning and using
the system.

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