Coffee and Backups don’t mix well, or how I broke and rebuilt my Debian Linux install in two hours

Maybe the universe wanted me to slow down.

Maybe I just wanted a second mug of coffee.

Or maybe my fascination with automation went a little too far.

I never used Mac OS for long.  Their walled garden approach of curated software just wasn’t for me.  Too limited.  I don’t care for handcuffs, whether they’re steel or lined with “mink”.

I got away from Windows when the current approach of Microsoft insisting that You Are The Product with Windows 10 and putting in “Telemetry” so they can know how their software is doing.  You agreed to it when you clicked through the user license.

Spyware.  It is offensive.  They watch everything you are doing.

So here I am on Debian Linux.  Happy.

Linux does not hold your hand.  It doesn’t make happy noises at you.  It does the job extremely well if you are a casual user who just wants to surf the web.

It does not advertise at you in exchange for spying on you while you look at news, sports, or weather.  I’m looking at you Windows.

It has its own drawbacks.

Linux isn’t great with cutting edge, absolutely new out of the bleeding edge hardware.  Battery management is a bit lackluster, battery life is reduced on Linux as they work to improve the drivers.

It can run some Windows software if you know what you are doing in WINE, and it can even run Windows in its own box if you want to be fancy.   But to be fair, you can run Linux on a Windows computer using the same sort of software.  It’s called a Virtual Machine, and that’s pretty cool.

Basically “Yo dawg, I heard you like computers, so I put a computer inside your computer, so you can run computers”.

I have done the same with Windows in a Virtual Machine many times but I keep an old machine with Windows 8.1 gathering dust under the furniture for an emergency.  I also have the entire complete environment that I was using on my old Windows XP install back when I started the blog.  I can run it, virtually, on my Linux computer.

But never mind that…

All that software has to be backed up no matter what you run, right?

You are backing things up aren’t you?

You aren’t?  I will let you decide if you are being brave, or just stupid, and leave it at that.

I will put up with the quirks in Debian Linux in exchange for stability, when I don’t break it.  My one computer has been Hibernated 170 times as of last night in a little more than 180 days and is still stable.  I don’t reboot when I don’t have to.

I back things up, about twice a week.  I don’t have to do it so frequently, but I do “Author Content” like this blog, as well as Video and Audio, Graphics, and my laptop does duty as a TV/Radio/Graphics Arts studio on multiple levels.

On Linux, all that software is free.  That also includes my office software, but you go on paying for Microsoft office.

Backing up your computer on Linux is fairly painless.  When I am through, the end result is a complete clone of what I have on the computer.  Remove the hard drive, swap in the external drive, and I am back running with just one file system check “fsck /dev/sda” and a reboot.

Just like on Windows or Mac, you need an external hard drive.  USB 3 for the speed, please, and it has to be at least as large as your internal hard drive.

From that point onwards it is just technique.

Technique was what I was lacking on that Saturday.

You see, I wrote a script for the computer to follow.  The script works if everything is correct and in place.  It backs up my chip where I save my personal writings to the hard drive, then backs up the hard drive.  Then to take it one step further it updates the computer’s software, checks to see if there are any spies lurking on the hard drive by scanning for viruses and root kits.  Finally it plays a chime to tell me that it was finished and you were a good person for running it.

Well maybe not that last bit but it is complete.

I also got a little slick and simply told it to do everything without waiting.  Should not have done that.  It’s a lot to stand on its own with the stack of old hardware that I use on a daily basis.

Oh the hardware works, but the wet-ware doesn’t always.

I set the thing going, stood up and just as it started to run to backup the disk, it barfed.

The clone of the hard disk, the actual backup, failed when I bumped the cable and it fell out of the front of the “Destination” disk.

Then it went ahead and updated the operating system, and did all that other stuff.


When it ended I had a computer that showed me everything that I had done wrong to it over the last couple weeks by not starting up again.

I was presented with a black screen telling me that the boot process had stopped and I should try again.

I did, and it repeated itself.

Linux is one of the last refuges of the computer tinkerer.  If you like to do that sort of thing, you can tweak to your heart’s content.  Mine looks a lot like Windows 7.  I could just as easily make it into something that looks identical to a Mac, but I want speed.  It runs about twice as fast as this same computer runs under Windows, so I have it.

When I went to enable the second video chip inside the computer, I followed an old guide on how to do it and predictably it had failed.  That was what showed when I booted the computer.

So Linux kiddies like myself, don’t go and over-automate.   Step by step.  Sure, your machine CAN do it, but if you’re sitting at a desk, wanting another mug of coffee, be certain not to knock the cable out of your backup drive because if the next step is a full upgrade of your computer, you may just be stuffed.

However annoying as all that is… it’s a fast fix.

I reinstalled the operating system, Debian Linux 9, in about 15 minutes.

Brought it up to date in another 30 minutes.

Copied over my “home directories” in another 90 minutes.  It was massive.

Computer back to normal from a bare bones install in about 2 hours.

A few more tweaks to get file sharing working, and making it able to play DVDs.

Lesson learned, slow down.

Oh and if you’re following along and wondering, the specifics are here since I use this as a scratch pad for my memory.

My computer’s C Drive shows up on /dev/sda with operating system on /dev/sda1, swap on /dev/sda5

The backup D Drive shows up on /dev/sdb and will be a perfect clone of the computer.

The syntax of the clone is one line run as root (administrator for windows people)

dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb conv=noerror,sync status=progress

Just copy the chip to a place on the hard drive manually first.

*sigh*  And don’t get a mug of coffee by putting your hand on your back up drive when you get out of the chair!

If you will excuse me, now, I have a mug of coffee to make.  Some home roasted Guatemala Huehuetenango that I roasted last week.  Should be just perfect this morning.



Debian Linux Stretch – Backup or Restore Your Blog or Website Into Your New Server Using Blogger or WordPress

Writers will understand this.

Have you ever meant to write something but had no idea what to call it?  This is where I am at.

Basically these instructions will work with Blogger or WordPress.

It will work with any operating system because both of those are Cloud based.

WordPress may be “local” or on the cloud.

I tagged this with Debian because it’s a logical endpoint for a series of articles that I wrote here about how to create a Debian Web Server with WordPress so that you can muck about with your systems.

Blogger is only blogs, but these instructions for WordPress may be used for entire websites if you are working with WordPress only.

First: Export your Blog or Website


  1. Log in,
  2. Go to the Settings page
  3. Select Other
  4. Click on the button to “Back up content”
  5. Click on “Save to Computer”
  6. Tell the browser where to save the file.
  7. Success!


  1. Log in to your wp-admin page
  2. Click on “Tools”
  3. Click on “Export”
  4. Click on “Start Export” button
  5. Choose What To Export.  “All Content” is most likely.
  6. Click on “Download Export”
  7. Go to your email account that is specified in the message and follow the link to download your blog’s content.

Second: Import your Blog or Website


  1. Log in,
  2. Go to the Settings page
  3. Select Other
  4. Click on the button to “Import content”
  5. Check the box saying “I am not a Robot”
  6. Check the box saying “Automatically Publish”
  7. Answer the annoying Capcha and click the appropriate pictures
  8. Click on “Import from Computer”
  9. Tell the browser where to find the file.
  10. Success!


  1. Log in to your wp-admin page
  2. Click on “Tools”
  3. Click on “Import”
  4. Click on the link for the kind of blog you want to “Run Importer
  5. Click on “Browse” to Choose File to import.
  6. Find your file on your computer.
  7. Assign Author, Click the box saying to “Download and Import File Attachments”
  8. Click on “Submit”
  9. Success!  But note that the information will be in which ever template that you had chosen for the install of the WordPress software.  You will probably want to adjust that as needed since it probably does not match the original blog.

All this will take a while, go pet your dog, or make coffee.


At this point your server will have your blog or website.

In my case, it’s local so I can make changes to my look and feel without harming my “production” website.

That new site can be anywhere, it could be on WordPress on the cloud.

Debian Linux Stretch – Installing WordPress

Ok, earlier I installed Debian Linux Stretch using this guide.

It was wordy because I wrote it, and it had 26 steps because I wanted to make it absolutely as easy as making breakfast.

It worked because this is being written on that machine.

Next I installed the LAMP stack using this guide.

Not so wordy, and again, that’s this machine.  LAMP is a web server, and if you’re coming here to find out how to install WordPress, you already knew that.

Now I am getting ready to install WordPress.  I’m doing it as I am writing, so assuming I have the right information to guide me, I’ll have success.  I am using this guide to help me.  Also if I haven’t made a thorough hash of installing LAMP, it should “Just Work”.

WordPress is a pretty easy install, I’ve done it before on a Cloud Server, and I’ve done it before on a machine here, and a couple of random places in the past.

My install here expects a few basic things.

  • You followed my guides to build the server and it is running.
  • You have physical access to the server to simplify the process.
  • Commands will be run from the terminal as root.

Creating the database for WordPress:

A) Log In as Root to Mysql or MariaDB

  • mysql -u root -p

B) Create a regular user for WordPress – replace userpassword with a much better password!

  • CREATE USER ‘wpuser’@’localhost’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘userpassword’;

C)  Create wp_database

  • CREATE DATABASE wp_database;

D) Grant the WordPress User full access to the wp_database

  • GRANT ALL ON `wp_database`.* TO `wpuser`@`localhost`;

E) Flush your privileges and exit MySQL/MariaDB

  • exit;

Get WordPress and Unpack it

A) Download the package into your ~/Downloads directory

B) Unpack the package into the WordPress directory

  • tar xpf latest.tar.gz

C)  Remove everything in your web server’s html directory and copy the WordPress package to it.

  • REMEMBER:  If you have anything important in that /var/www/html directory it will be gone so back it up if you need it
  • rm -rf /var/www/html
  • cp -r wordpress /var/www/html

D) Set permissions and ownership for the WordPress install to function as designed.

  • chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html
  • find /var/www/html -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \;
  • find /var/www/html -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;

Set Up WordPress

A) Access the process.  The WordPress setup is Browser Driven.  Surf to your localhost, or the correct web address URL to get to it.  In my case it is in Firefox:

B) Supply wp-admin the correct information.  In my case:

  • Language: English
  • (OK)
  • (Let’s Go)
  • Database: wp_database
  • Username: wpuser
  • Password: userpassword (Yes, Literally ‘userpassword’)
  • Database Host: localhost
  • Table Prefix: wp_
  • Click Submit


C) Run The Install by clicking the button.

The Five Minute WordPress Install Process

At this point, you launch into an install to create the basics for your WordPress website.

A) Information Needed:

  • Site Title – This is the name of the site you wish to create.
  • Username
  • Password
  • Confirm use of weak password if this box appears.
  • Your Email
  • Search Engine Visibility (Click the check box if you do not want to show in searches)
  • Click (Install WordPress) button

B) The Success page will show you your WordPress username and indicate your chosen password for you to proceed.

  • Click Log In

Now you can do a happy dance.  You’re done.  Go create a site.

WordPress will put a red button up for each thing that it needs to have updated.

At this point you may be creative and make a site.  You may want to explore templates, but a basic site can be slapped together quickly.

The results are that if you are on that machine, and surf http://localhost you will get a basic page with the information that you put in.

On the other hand, this is not perfect.  I surfed it from my phone and another computer here, and I got all the text but not the template.  So you will probably have some configuration to do.

But… This is good enough to get started.


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 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:

Link to find “Non Free” versions with many more drivers installed:

Link For Other Versions:

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.


Securely Erasing Your Old Hard Drive Easily with Linux or a Mac

I have been thinking of the easiest way to completely and securely erase a hard drive lately.  I was given two old laptops and was asked by a dear family member to help get some personal effects off of an old laptop.

To keep this short, I was able to do that using an external hard drive case and my own machine.

Since I use Linux, I am immune to windows viruses, I can simply copy the desired data to my computer.  I now have a directory of 1.1 GB of pictures, writings and other information on my desktop which I will burn to a DVD and say “Here you go, enjoy”.

Mac people and other BSD people can rejoice in that as well.

She’ll need to scan that for viruses before she looks at it in detail since she’s on windows.

Ok, that’s all done right, just toss the drive in the nearest secure shredder or sneak it into the trash or….

Not so fast.

You see, data can be forever.

A CD typically lasts 10 years.

A CD that “you” wrote may not last that long, say 5 years.

A DVD will last longer, I haven’t had one that I wrote fail yet, and some are well more than 10 years.

I still don’t trust that removable and optical stuff.

But, if I can get the computer I am looking at now to recognize the drive, the data will still be there.  Useful or not.

Even those old 500 MB drives from the first days of the IDE era can be read if I have a way to convince my laptop to read it.  How?

Get an external hard drive case.   You need to know what kind of hard drive you have in your hands.

IDE External Cases are still available.

Serial ATA or SATA cases are available in USB 3.0 and 2.0 if you want cheap.

I paid under $5 for mine when they were on sale.

Put the drive in question in the case.

Plug the drive case into the computer.

Assuming that your computer can see the drive and the data on it, now what.  You’ve got your data off and you want to securely erase the drive.

Here’s where Linux comes in to play, although a Mac will work as well.

Don’t have a Mac or Linux computer?  The easy fix is to download a copy of Ubuntu and burn that to a DVD or to a memory stick and boot from that.   That is all done via a program called unetbootin and it is available for any modern operating system that I can reasonably think of.   Follow the instructions and you end up with a bootable USB stick.  Boot from that stick.  Plug the external drive in.

Now you’re looking at Linux.

(If you’re a Mac guy, you can to follow this on your Mac.)

Commands from this point forward will be in BOLD
Start Terminal.

Get root with “su” or “sudo su” and give it the system’s password.

Verify the address of the external drive.  “dmesg” will give the device name at the end of the display.  You can also find it in gparted (if installed).  The address will be similar to /dev/sdb.

Verify it again.  “Measure twice and cut once”.

In terminal enter the following command – I am assuming that the operating system thinks that the external drive is on “/dev/sdb”.  You need to know which partition and this will tell you where it is:

fdisk -l /dev/sdb

(Man, I hate Helvetica – That is a lower case -l )

On the Windows drive I have in question, it gave me two partitions – sdb1 and sdb2.  Windows being what it is, will almost always use sdb1 as the boot partition, and it will almost always be the largest one and the one in question with your data.

Since I have cleared out all the data that I would be worried about in an earlier step, I do not have to worry about deleting any partitions.  But I do have to create a space to work with.

Within terminal, mkdir work will make an empty directory to play with.

To access the data on the external drive: mount /dev/sdb1 work

To verify you have connected to the drive, cd work 

To list any data files you left in that directory, ls  will show you.

To create a big file to overwrite all that empty space enter the following command.

    dd if=/dev/urandom of=junkfile.txt

That dd Command will write random garbage out to the file called junkfile.txt until it runs out of space. Out of Space is a bit misleading because certain disk formats have maximum file sizes, so just run it again with a different name on the “of” portion of the command – like “junkfile1.txt” until you are satisfied.

That’s about it.   Your empty space on the drive has been filled with garbage.  You can delete that junkfile.txt and use the drive as a floppy if you like.  Since you previously deleted things that you wanted to be securely deleted, this happened with it was overwritten with random data.

The theory goes that with the “new” and “large” disks we have inside of our computers over the last few years, simply writing garbage out would be sufficient.
The Geek version was that the old drives had enough space between tracks that the data would sometimes, but not always, be mirrored and repeated in the empty spaces.  Some of the information could be “recovered” by reading that space.

You don’t have the technology to do that.  Any “normal” person finding your drive would not either.

New drives over the last few years are so densely packed that that space between the tracks is too small to store extra copies of the data.

If you are super worried (paranoid) about your data, give the drive to a destructive person, and some hand tools, and let them disassemble it for the magnets.  Or run over it with a truck.   Or both.

But this is as far as I go with my own personal data.


How to get Tap To Click back on your Debian 9 XFCE Linux install

We are at an early point in Debian 9, and therefore many of the “downstream” distributions in Linux-Land these days.

Debian just made Debian 9, Stretch, the Stable version.  It also came out with an upgrade to 9.1 a couple days ago.

Since my own laptop was a Debian 9.0 install, I had a problem.  The track pad no longer did a “tap to click”.  It was there in the earlier versions, and removed in a Debian 9.0 install.  They migrated to libinst.  It promises to be new and shiny and do many new things but most of these things are in the future – or so my lack of Tap To Click would show.

I don’t use many of the more complex mouse options with my laptop.  It’s a non touch screen, Lenovo Thinkpad T530.  I heavily use Tap to Click so I want it back.  My other laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga S1 had the same problem.  After a lot of research, this was shown to be a design decision.  Debian is my go-to operating system distribution due to the absolute depth of software and documentation out there.

So I set about to “fix it”.

DISCLAIMER:  I was able to do so on two computers but with some thrashing around.  I will give here the information that I have, but that thrash may make it less solid than my usual “cook book recipe” guarantee of any technical articles that I write.

Give it a shot.  If it works, let me know if you did anything different and I’ll mention it here.

Background – the documentation for Debian 9, Stretch, is still incomplete.  The files that I created had to be placed in Xsession.d and the directories that Debian gave were either missing or empty for me.  What they have is correct for the earlier versions and the docs need to be proofread.

Or I went crosseyed and got the wrong damn directory…

Since this blog is a place I put documentation for my own uses (Linux as well as recipes and photography), I’ll put it here.  I’d rather not have the heat of an official inquiry on me since I live in Florida and it is quite hot enough as it is.

First:  Create a 50-synaptic.conf – the file should probably not be there on a “clean install”

1) edit /etc/X11/Xsession.d/50-synaptics.conf

2) at the top merge (Copy and Paste) in the following lines:
Section “InputClass”
        Identifier  “touchpad catchall”
        Driver  “synaptics”
        MatchIsTouchpad “on”
MatchDevicePath “/dev/input/event*”
        Option  “TapButton1”  “1”
        Option  “TapButton2”  “2”
        Option  “TapButton3”  “3”
# This option is recommend on all Linux systems using evdev, but cannot be
# enabled by default. See the following link for details:
#       MatchDevicePath “/dev/input/event*”
Second, copy that file to /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/50-synaptics.conf
Third open terminal and sign into root to install a package:
apt install xserver-xorg-input-synaptics
Fourth: reboot.
On return, you should have tap to click working.  Entering “synclient TapButton1=1” on a command line should give you information for further research.
You may diagnose what the touchpad is doing by running as root “synclient”.
Entering “synclient TapButton1=1” on a command line should give you information for further research.
Further options such as multitouch, double finger tap for scrolling, and coast speeds and so forth are described in detail in the Debian Wiki Synaptics touch pad page at

Using a Manifest to Recreate your Linux System Selectively

Last week, I had finally had enough of not being able to hibernate my computer.  There was enough “chaff’ and weird things happening.

I did realize that I could create a list of everything I had, and then get Linux to import that list and reinstall all my programs.

That would be my Manifest.

I did it knowing that I could be reintroducing the problem that I created with the old system.

I was right.  So I did it over, selectively.

And it worked.  Hibernate and video crashes were problems, and after 17 consecutive hibernate cycles over two days of active use, I’d say I am done.

This was a whole lot simpler.  You see, this scary Manifest thing is nothing more than a text file that is generated within “Synaptic” that contains all the markings of the programs that I installed over the 7 years that I had that Linux install.

I went through that file and deleted everything that I did not expressly know what that particular program was, or anything I knew I did not want.

Easy except the file was in chronological order or … well, lets just pretend it was and leave it at that.  Basically it can be sorted in alphabetical program order simply.

One line in Terminal, just like everything in Linux, would solve it.

Assuming the Manifest is called /home/bill/Desktop/Manifest.txt

In Terminal, issue this command string on one line:

cat /home/bill/Desktop/Manifest.txt | sort > /home/bill/Desktop/SortedManifest.txt

Now you’re in alpha order, and it makes it easier.

I did delete anything that started “lib” as well as KDE, gnome, and mate since I strongly prefer XFCE to all of those.  My choice, no big deal

I simply edited the file in Mousepad, and deleted all things I did not want.

If you want the long form description of all of this, Last Week’s Post is at this link.  However the short form is here:

1) on original install create a Manifest within Synaptic Package Manager.

a) open synaptic

b) Select File, Save Markings As

c) navigate to the place you want to store this file, and give it a name.

d) Tick the box “Save full state, not only changes”

e) Click Save.

2) Verify that your manifest is on removeable media.

3)  Remove any unwanted programs from the Manifest

4) save your important files from the operating system on removable media


the Manifest file

5) Install a fresh copy of your Debian Based operating system on the destination computer.

Debian, *Ubuntu, Linux Mint, whatever…

6) Get the destination computer “up to date” and stable.

7) compare and manually update your /etc/apt/sources.list file from the original computer

copy the installed version to a save file

I copied my own from the original computer in its place and updated

then you will need to update the PGP keys for one or more added such as

8) install the manifest by

a) open synaptic

b) Select File, Read Markings

c) find and open the manifest.txt file

d) click open

e) verify needed markings have been imported into Synaptic, and click Apply.

f) there will be additional libraries incorporated into your install list due to any new dependencies.

8) you’re done.  Verify everything is OK.  Live with it for a while.

You will want to add in programs like libdvdcss to allow DVDs to play, Samba to share files, but these things will need to be done individually.

9) File Sharing.  I used the Debian Wiki entry at

a) apt install samba samba-client

b) edit /etc/samba/smb.conf  – or put the one in from the old computer assuming you had it working.

c) add your samba users:  smbpasswd -a USERNAME

replace USERNAME with the correct name, and it will ask you for the password

d) restart Samba:

    # /etc/init.d/samba restart
    or, if you are using systemd
    # /usr/sbin/service smbd restart