Debian Linux Basic Installation Guide


Image by debian.org - CC BY-SA 3.0
This is a light-weight guide on acquiring and installing the Debian Linux base operating system: the core components needed to run the distrubution but with no graphical desktop environment. Why install this? Perhaps you'd like to pick and choose yourself what desktop and apps you'd like to have on your computer instead of installing a fully-packaged, bloated, distrubution full of apps you'll never use. Perhaps you also don't want a package manager configured to auto-download every update it can find; and perhaps you're just a power user that gets by with an 80 character display and vi.

Granted, there are many distributions that each have one of the most popular desktops but this is a way to get a lighter-weight install with the ability to add-on only what you need and want after the base components.

If you read about Debian online, you'll learn that it's recognized as a very stable and reliable distribution, which is why it was chosen here. This guide is based on my experience in installing the operating system (OS) on an HP Pavillion laptop already running Windows XP. At the time of this guide's writing, the latest stable version of Debian was 5.0.7 “Lenny” and so the guide is based on this. After completing these procedures you should have a running Linux system with only a command-line interface (CLI) ready at the login prompt.

You will need:
  • A computer with disk space.
  • A working internet connection.
  • A blank writable CD.
  • A CD burner with burning software.
Procedure:
  1. Visit http://www.debian.org/CD/ and download the ISO image of CD-1 that corresponds to your computer architecture. I have an AMD dual Turion 64 chipset so went with amd64. If you have a 32-bit Intel x86 chipset then go with i386. I downloaded by torrent and it took approximately 30 minutes averaging at 350Kb/s-450Kb/s.
  2. Use the ISO image with your favorite software to to burn an image onto a disc.
  3. Leave the disc in your computer then reboot your computer.
  4. As the computer boots off the CD, the Debian installer is displayed. Select the first option: “Install.”
  5. Pick a language.
  6. Pick a country.
  7. Pick a keymap. If you need to change the keyboard layout after the install, you can use the command dpkg-reconfigure console-setup
    Wait ...

  8. Choose your network interface (card) if there are multiple to choose from. I recognized the one I wanted at eth0.
    Wait ... installer auto-configures network settings for DHCP (I still had the internet CAT-5 cable connected).

  9. Pick a host (computer) name.
  10. Pick a domain name. I deleted the default text and left it blank because I'm not running a server.
  11. Select a time-zone.
    Wait ... the disk partioner starts.

  12. Create a hard disk partition if necessary and pick the partition on which to install the Debian operating system. I re-sized my 87Gb C:\ Windows partition to 67Gb, freeing 20Gb for Linux. I selected the freed space then chose the option “Automatically partition the free space” in tandem with “All files in one partition (recommended for new users).” This created a 19.1Gb logical ext3 partition, bootable and mounted to “/”. It also created an 880.1Mb logical swap space partition. I was happy.
  13. Select “Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.”
  14. Read the warning about partitioning and select yes if you want to confirm and proceed.
    After clicking yes, the partition is formated and installation of the base system begins.

  15. Setup the root password and a user account for yourself.
  16. Configure the package manager: select NO to not scan additional installation CDs at this point.
  17. Configure the package manager: select YES to enable use of network mirrors. If you select NO, then if you want to install additonal packages that aren't on your installation CD you'll have to configure the aptitude utility to get these from non-Internet sources. Picking YES is recommended and the rest of this guide assumes you chose that option.
    Wait ... mirror repository is scanned.

  18. The Popcorn data-usage app is installed. Choose whether or not you want to participate in this program.
  19. CRITICAL PART: when prompted to select software components to install, DESELECT “Desktop Environment” else the Gnome desktop will be installed. If you want the Debian command-line interface or ability to install a different desktop, deselect this.
    Install proceeds ...

  20. Install GRUB boot loader? I was presented with this option and picked YES because Windows XP is co-located on my machine.
    Install proceeds ... You are prompted to reboot the computer. Don't forget to eject the installation CD first.

  21. Reboot. The login prompt appears.
  22. Login as root.
  23. At the prompt, issue the command aptitude update to update the repository list for the aptitude packge utility. Now you're ready to use aptitude to install other packages you'd like.

    You're done!

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