Debian Linux Stretch – Installing the Operating System

This process took me all of 20 minutes.  It will take you longer to read this blog article.

I have made this into a “recipe” format where you can follow things step by step since I wrote this as I was doing it.

It is wordy, but complete – and it worked for me, step by step.

I need a new server.   I had an old netbook that I used for a couple years to move files around.  It’s too slow for me now, I will eventually be updating this new install to include a file server and a web server.

The blog sits on Blogger and WordPress.  Two places.  I need to make the WordPress side look “better”.  I have a client that I had developed a website for and I am not happy with the way it looks.  So I want a playground to see how tough it will be to get it where I think it needs to be.

So why not build a server.   You can skip to the break if you want Just The Steps.

The background is that I use Debian Linux here for almost everything I do.  I have a Windows computer that I almost never use.  Microsoft has turned Windows into an unpleasant operating system where you are sending data back at every turn of what you are doing.  Who ever made the decision to grant themselves that should be fired, mocked, pilloried, set in the stocks, and …

Never mind, there’s Debian.  It’s stable, it is predictable, and because it isn’t spying on you, it runs faster and is much more secure.

Oh and it’s free.

And there is so much information about how to use it that it is insane!

And it’s secure.

And it lets me do everything I want.

And it has a long list of software that has everything I need.

And I can use it for web development, audio and video authoring, file servers, surfing, document processing, …

Get the picture?

Ok.  Surf https://www.debian.org and do a little reading.  Come on back when you’re done.  I’ll be here.

The philosophy is to give you (the user) what you need to get your things done, be stable, and stay out of the way.  It is a bit “spare” or “lightweight”.  The base operating system is familiar but a bit retro or stodgy looking.  It is also intensely configurable.

I mean INTENSELY.  You can change just about anything which is good because I am tailoring this for a moderate speed boost by using a display manager called XFCE.  My choice, you can choose anything else you want.  KDE, Gnome, XFCE, Mate, or Cinnamon.  Others are available and you can end up with something looking like a Mac, Windows 2000, or even just a blank command prompt for slower computers.

Some background info to be aware of:

Debian is a distribution of Linux that does its best to be as open and secure as possible.  The theory is that if you can modify the actual source code, it will be secure because thousands of eyes will be reviewing the program.  That also means that Debian does not include software that is not “open” and is Proprietary and “Non-Free”.  Wifi drivers are the worst offenders, and it is notorious that a Thinkpad will demand a Wifi driver.

The suggestion is that when you move to start the install process, you do so with the computer plugged in, and plugged into an ethernet connection so that it can find whatever drivers it needs.

If the install errors or “fails” it will put up a large notification saying it needs the driver.  That error message will tell you what driver you need, and you can do a search online to find it.  The drivers are always there, I have found, with mainstream hardware.  It means that I have to find the proper package and put it on a second memory stick or chip and let the install program find it.  Since all my computers are Thinkpad laptops, I have the drivers I need on an SDHC chip and an install just grabs it from there.


tl;dr – know your hardware and get the drivers before you start.  Look at Non-Free ISOs first.


Enough blather.  Just the steps.

1) Get the Live DVD Image.  It will allow you to burn the “ISO” to a DVD and boot from it directly or you can use a program to “burn” it to a USB stick and you can boot from that.

Direct Link: https://cdimage.debian.org/images/unofficial/non-free/images-including-firmware/9.1.0-live+nonfree/amd64/iso-hybrid/debian-live-9.1.0-amd64-xfce+nonfree.iso

Link to find “Non Free” versions with many more drivers installed:  https://cdimage.debian.org/images/unofficial/non-free/images-including-firmware/

Link For Other Versions:   https://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/current-live/amd64/iso-hybrid/

Select the file that ends in “ISO” that you want.


2) Put the data onto your DVD or Memory Stick:

DVD – use your favorite burner software to write the DVD.

unetbootin – will write the ISO you just downloaded to a memory stick.  Make sure your stick is 2GB or larger.  Follow the specific instructions for your operating system for the program.

DD – for Linux and Mac, you can dd the ISO to the USB stick.  If that usb is on /dev/sdb and the ISO is renamed to debian.iso :

dd if=debian.iso of=/dev/sdb conv=noerror,sync

Once that is done, safely detatch your stick, or dismount your DVD and begin.

3) Boot from your media:

You will probably have to hit a key, typically F2 or F12 or Esc to get into the bios to tell the computer to boot from the external media.  I typically set my medias to prefer to boot from the stick or DVD drive so this happens automatically.  Since everybody has different computers, I’ll tell you to look for a way to set that up, a way to boot from media, or just say go for it.

4) Optional – Test your computer:

A Live DVD or USB Stick is a cool invention.  You basically are booting from the media and are able to run from it.  You have full control, if you know how to do anything in Linux, so you should be able to connect to the network, test your hardware, and even surf to a music site.   While that all sounds like it’s optional, it also makes sure that Linux understands your hardware.  That is not completely optional, but I’ll leave that to you.

5) Graphical Debian Installer:  

You tested the machine, or not and are committed to install.  Select this from the original Main Menu

6) Steps to Install: Steps A to Z will get you where you want to be!

Hit enter on the Graphical Debian Installer prompt.  It will present you with the following questions:

A) Select a Language – English is the default.  Change it to your preferred language

B) Select your Location – United States is the Default.  Change to your preferred area or “other” wherever that is.

C) Keyboard map to use:  Based on your language, American English is the default.

D) Detect and Mount CD Rom:  I don’t have one

E) Load installer components from CD:  Well, I have a stick but it works just the same

F) Configure the Network:  Choose your preferred connection.  Ethernet or Wireless

G) Configure the Network: Select your router if on Wireless, Select protocol (WPA) and give it your wireless passphrase.  It will connect to the internet and configure the network so it can grab software as needed.

H) Host Name.  Name the computer something meaningful like “server” or “debian”.  I always choose a moose related name like moose or rudolph, it doesn’t have to be anything serious.

I) Domain Name: For a home network, this is not needed, leave it blank.

J) Set Up Users and Passwords: Since they changed the way they use Root on debian with this version, leave the root password blank.  You can add the password later once you are up and running from a command prompt.

K) User account:  This will be your main user name.  Typically your own name, however debian will accept anything.  This will also be the only user that will be able to gain Root access because we purposely skipped the last step.  For this install I will be using bill.

L) User Name:  This will be who this person logs in at the login prompt.  Again, you can use anything.  I always have matched it up with the User Account name, so I will use bill again.

M) User Password:  The password you use here will be your user password plus your Root password.  Choose wisely, grasshopper, and do not forget.

N) Configure the Clock: Time Zone (Eastern for me)

O) Partition Disks: You can select “Guided – Use Entire Disk” and not have to calculate anything.  It is a little lazy, and there are other ways to configure it, however this is a basic tutorial and it saves me having to do some math.

P) Partition Disks – Select disk to partition:  You will be presented with a list of drives that are connected to the computer at this moment.  This will include the existing internal hard drive, your USB stick, and any other chips or disks that are connected.  My main hard drive came up called SCSI1.

Q) Partition Disks – Partitioning Scheme: It used to be that every separate tree had to have its own partition.  Then they realized “Math is hard, Barbie” and allowed you to select “All files in one partition”.  I do that.

R) Finish partitioning and write changes to disk:  Like the man says, this will configure the disk via a program behind the scenes and make the changes needed to install to the hard drive.

S) Write the changes to disks: Select Yes to make the changes live.  It will format your hard drive now to the partition scheme you selected before.

Following all that, it will install the system.  Get yourself a drink, it only takes me no more than 20 minutes, on a bad day.  Your mileage may vary.

T) Configure Package Manager: Use a Network Mirror – Yes.  Makes your life easier.

U) Configure Package Manager: Debian Archive Mirror Country: Select your country, United States was my default.

V) Configure the package manager – Debian archive mirror: Select a mirror that “looks” like it is close to where you are.  You can change it within the operating system later.

W) Configure the package manager – Proxy information: if you do not use one, leave blank.  I don’t so if you do, you’ll have to figure it out at this point.

X) Install the GRUB Boot loader on a hard disk: Select yes.  It will allow you to boot from your hard drive.

Y) Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk: Select the disk that you will be using to boot from, and that you installed to.  Typically this will be called /dev/sda and be the first disk on the list.


Z) Finish the installation:  You are done.  Remove your USB Stick or your DVD and hit enter.  The next thing you see will be the Debian boot sequence

This trip through the alphabet is brought to you by the number 6 and the letters debian.  Happy computing.  You now have a happily installed computer.

Relax!  And watch the boot process.  Or sip your drink.

When you finally get to the operating system, on XFCE Select “Use Default Configuration” for your desktop.  If you don’t then you have to hand configure everything instead of using the Default as a starting place.

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2 thoughts on “Debian Linux Stretch – Installing the Operating System

  1. [ Smiles ] I have used Debian in the past and you are right about it being very stable.

    However, I prefer it on a desktop computer.

    And, a lot of work is involved in regards to installing it on one’s laptop computer; such as adding the non-free WiFi drivers after the long installation process.

    I am accustomed to installing everything in one go.

    Also, I would like to thank you for introducing your viewing audience to Linux.

    1. You are welcome Renard. There are other choices for the audience, of course, but this just works for me.

      On this install, the “non-free” iso did the trick, no error at all waiting for any drivers for the first time. I respect the Debian Foundation’s goal to keep their software as non proprietary as possible, but with a laptop it isn’t practical in my case.

      Desktops on the other hand are easier. It is easy to find a hardware set that conforms to the non proprietary tree.

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