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First Ever Debian Install: my notes

Hi. I took some personal notes in a message format
during my first Debian install. I'm posting them here
in case they might help someone else. If I've said
anything horribly wrong then sorry. I've only been
using Debian for 3 days now. All these notes are my
experience and opinion only. If I've violated any
sacred Debian laws then feel free to follow-up.


My Debian Install Notes:

To start, I downloaded the following file and burned
it to a CD:

There are tons of boot images, and in blade's
directory (see URL above) the same ISO file exists
under a few different directories. Finding the right
boot image is a bit tricky because there are so many,
and each is a bit different, however I think most of
them are common enough to handle most install needs.
There are "vanilla" flavors, and bf2.4 flavors, and
each mean something a little different and you can
read more about that on the Debian site. I chose the
bf2.4 image because I read something about it
supporting USB well, and I have a USB mouse.

After I had the CD, i went into the BIOS and switched
the boot order to run the CD before the hard drive,
and the Debian installer loaded. This let me partition
things. It was straightforward until I got into the
somewhat intimidating "Configure Device Drivers"
section. The first time i skipped it, and that was a
mistake. It never loaded my network card driver, and
so I couldn't do the network install. Basically,
despite a very long and intimidating (to me) list, All
i had to do was scroll down and find the network or
ethernet section, and find my ethernet driver (which
was tulip) and activate that so it was built or added
to the kernel or whatever that does.  Someone on the
#debian irc channel on irc.freenode.net said that I
probably didn't need to worry about all the other
hundred categories of device drivers, and they were
right. Some people might need some extra ones though.
I just didn't want to spend all day picking out tons
of drivers, which was my initial (incorrect) assuption
when i saw that screen.

Next, it asked me to configure my network. I added my
IP, netmask, DNS, etc, and after a few more options, I
booted into a simple, basic no frills debian. The
first time after it rebooted, i got to set my root
password, and after doing that, it automatically ran
two programs called "tasksel" and "dselect". Tasksel
is basically a program that lets you grab a bunch of
related packages at once, so if you check "X window
system" and "Desktop Environment" it will go out and
grab all the XFree stuff and KDE or something like
that. It's meant to get you started so you don't have
to boot into a command prompt and then fend for
yourself. After trying to use tasksel once, it worked
OK, but eventually I chose to reinstall and skip that
step. After tasksel, it runs "dselect", a program
which is supposed to allow you to pick all sorts of
packages and it calculates dependencies and whatnot.
The instructions tell you to use this and NOT use
apt-get for big upgrades and installations and such,
however I must make it clear:

** dselect was awful, seemed to mess up alot, and
confused the hell out of me. When I told it to grab
one thing, it would try to grab all the dependencies
too, which theorhetically is good, but it was goofy
and i felt like i had no control. Eventually, some
kind of dependency messup happened and that was it, i
was in dselect hell. I'll try to never use it again.

Instead, I quit both tasksel and dselect WITHOUT DOING
ANYTHING, and went into a bare, debian command prompt
with only minimal stuff installed that came with the
netinst CD. It was a clean system that couldn't do
much at this point.

Next, I wanted to get KDE 3.1 running. I decided that
basically I wanted to run the latest and greatest of
everything despite one of Debian's features being the
stability of the present Woody release, so I edited
/etc/apt/sources.list to look like this:

deb http://mirror.csit.fsu.edu/debian/ unstable main
non-free contrib
deb http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US
unstable/non-US main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ stable/updates main
contrib non-free

What this did is told debian WHERE to go to get files.
See where it says "unstable"? well you can also
duplicate the first two lines, and duplicate them
twice (so there are 6 total) and change two of them to
"testing" and the other two to "stable" if you want
more options. You can read about debian's
stable/testing/unstable releases on the Debian main
site. Next, I had to make an /etc/apt/preferences file
that looked like this:

Package: *
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 600

once again, you can have a testing and stable version
of these 3 lines also. And you can read about the PIN
priority also, it's a pretty robust system of being
able to upgrade, downgrade, etc with various stability
levels of the programs. I just want the cutting edge
stuff, and realize it may not all work great, so I
just put in the unstable line. There are some links
that talk about pinning at
http://jaqque.sbih.org/kplug/apt-pinning.html  and 

Next, sometimes when I would run "apt-get update" it
would crash if there were too many package names it
grabs to tell you whats available, so I made a file
called /etc/apt/apt.conf (don't be confused by the
already existing directory apt.conf.d) and in this new
file I put the line:

APT::Cache-Limit 25165824;

and don't forget the semi-colon. Then I ran "apt-get
update" and it fetched all the available packages I
could install. I started with two bases, I wanted to
get X Windows and KDE running, and I did with:

apt-get install x-window-system
apt-get install kde-base

they installed great - but some standard X/KDE
problems happened. First, my USB/Optical Logitech
Wheel Mouse was acting downright weird. Occaisionally
it would experience pointer jumping.  I solved this by
doing an "apt-get install gpm" and changing the device
to /dev/gpmdata in my XF86Config file. Also, sound
seemed to be having a problem, and I went into a
program (i think it was modconf or something?) and
made sure that the following drivers were out there,
kernel supported, etc, etc, and i also added the
following into /etc/modules  : emu10k1, op13, sound,
soundcore, ac97_codec -- and after doing that sound
worked through the artsd program. You may have to
restart artsd or even reboot to get the modules
working unless you want to do a "modprobe
<modulename>" on them all. Great, KDE, Mouse and Sound
working. One final problem, although sound was
working, my favorite player xmms wasn't playing
anything. I needed to get a program "apt-get install
xmmsarts" which is the xmms arts output plugin. After
installing that, I went into xmms, preferences, and
changed the output driver to artsd (before that it was
at the default OSS)

Then I grabbed some other programs too, like mozilla,
xchat, gaim, etc

Someone told me at this point that i might want to do
an "apt-get dist-upgrade" and that was a good idea.
Basically i still had some old packages from the
original netinst CD, because I never bothered to
update them. They were still in the "stable" version
even though everything else I was using was from
"unstable". I had trouble installing "apt-get install
kuickshow" for example, until after i had done the

Those were the problems I had trying to install Debian
for the first time. As always, installing a new OS can
be a bit tricky, but I really like Debian's feature of
being able to start off with a clean, bare-bones OS
and then being able to add things package by package.
I also found the following commands useful:

apt-get remove <package>	for when i messed up and
wanted a package gone
dpkg -i somefile.deb		for when i found a .deb that was
not part of the debian sources that i had
dpkg -l					gave me a list of packages on my system,
similar to "rpm -qa" on redhat
dpkg -L <package>			told me what files, and where,
apt-get put things from recently installed packages

Hope these notes are helpful to someone. Please
remember that if you ask a question on the
internet/mail lists and you find out how to fix
something, it's always nice to post one final message
and say how you got it working. I always find posts
where people say "i figured it out" but don't tell how
extremely annonying.

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