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Littleman's Debian adventure

assembly required



8:30 am on Apr 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member littleman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I have been a Mandrake user for about 2 years now. I think they have a fantastic product that is easy to install and basically gives me everything I need to get my work done in an efficient manner. It's install is as easy as MS, and it can be as easy to use as you want.

I had an extra HD and an old Debian CD hanging around so I decided to give it a shot. Using the old CD was a mistake. I couldn't get it to work with my local network or get dhcp working. It was an old distro (2.1). After hashing with it for a few hours I scrapped it in frustration.

Somewhere in trying to get my net card to work I came across this install tutorial [zorka.com]. It outlines the process of how to do a internet install. Basically you copy 6 images onto floppies which puts enough on your computer to reach out into the internet and grab the rest. To my amazement the process worked. I opted for the simpler program selection process. After grabbing all the programs and libraries off of the net it was pretty smooth. XFree86 took a bit of meddling to get working, but it wasn't too bad.

For those of you who know nothing about Debian, it is basically split into three levels of of stability. Stable (Potato)is frozen and solid (and really old), testing (Woody) the place most of us would want to be, this is about the level of most commercial distro, and unstable, bleeding edge.

What the floppy/net install left me with was a nice safe and boring Stable (Potato) version of Debian. I couldn't stay there very long. I use this go-woody script [qref.sourceforge.net] to update to Woody and did a ' apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade'. That went well for the most part.

But.. It wasn't perfect. I had to mess with X for a a very long time. I ended up hand editing the XF86Config files with vim to get it launchable again. The configure utilities just wouldn't work properly for me. On thing that got me was that I couldn't get X to boot into the right server. It kept booting into SVGA. I edited the XFServer file but it made no difference. In my opinion X is hell without an accelerated server, so I was going to scrap it. Then I did a ls -l in the X11 directory and noticed that X was symbolically linked to the wrong X server. So, I relinked it to the Mach64 server and all was good. That took me at least four hours to figure out.

The phrase that fits best for me in retrospect is "assembly required".

Okay, on to the good stuff:
Apt is amazing. What ever I want I can get and it is just a command away. This is way better than the rpm system. Once Debian is installed it is always as current as you want it. You never have to buy/burn a new CD again.
Want to have the latest and greatest just:
apt-get update && apt-get upgrade

Removing stuff is just as easy.

Debian would take over the world if it just had an easier install.


12:02 pm on Apr 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Your XServer got you into trouble because potato has the ancient version 3.3.6, and woody actually has 4.1. The new one is a lot easier to install: check into dselect and choose to install xfree86-common; it no longer has different servers, and has a nice configuration menu via debconf.

As a sidenote, when you configure xfree86 4.x you don't edit /etc/X11/XF86Config; you edit /etc/X11/XF86Config-4, that has a different syntax.

<added> I just checked out the zorka tutorial. One warning: do not use 'xf86config' to configure the video card. Use 'dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xfree86' instead. </added>


1:33 pm on Apr 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

littleman, looks like there are some good ready-made scripts to go with it, nice for those of us in the default crowd:



2:39 am on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member littleman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Thanks Duckula, I wish the documentation was a little better. Armed with a little more knowledge I purged all the xserver files and used apt to reinstall everything. Apparently I was working with some components from 3.3.6 and some from 4.1.

After the purge and reinstall getting X going was a snap.


7:54 am on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I used to run the bleeding edge version of Debian a few years back - when Potato was the bleeding edge :)

I'd update in the morning - something would stop working - update in the afternoon and someone would have fixed it again by then ;) Really added interest to the day.

With a fast internet connection Debian is a joy (after the install) - apt is fantastic.

Good luck littleman - you've inspired me to get my hands on the latest CD's - and move on from RedHat. (If only I had broadband *sigh*)


9:19 am on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member littleman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I just did
apt-get install kde
and went to do the dishes, when I came back I had KDE good to go. That is really impressive.


3:35 am on Apr 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

We used to have a potato box at work, but the packages are just getting too old for us to develop software on it, because of dependency issues. Bandwidth is expensive here in Australia so we did not choose to update it to Woody. Moreover, we asked ourselves that even if we have updated to woody, are we willing to wait for 2 years for another stable release? At the end of the day, we just converted it to a Mandrake box...

I used to use Debian before apt-get's existance (1.1-1.3 days), and many Linux "admins" I worked with are Debian fanatics. But the stable version is just so much behind in terms of bleeding edge (which is *important* to developers)... Anyway, now I am a Mandrake person, and I found urpmi is just about as good as apt-get.


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