Friday 30th September 2005
Debian installs packages using a very useful program called apt. By typing
apt-get install program1 program2 (and so on), apt will automatically work out what other packages are required to install the programs selected. Before we start installing packages, you can take a look at
/etc/apt/sources.list. The easiest way to do this is to become root by typing
su (to configure apt requires root privileges), and then
nano /etc/apt/sources.list. (For those unfamiliar with Linux, everything starts at / - all other files and directories are stored within /, including CD drives and other partitions). If you supplied the CD, there should be a line that starts:
deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 r0a _Sarge_ - Official i386 Binary-1
This means that apt searches for packages from the CD-ROM. Since this does not include all the packages, lets add another line so that we can get packages from the internet. The Debian website has a a long list of mirrors. Since I am in Britain, I would add this line below the CD-ROM:
deb ftp://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ stable main contrib non-free
This line is fairly simple. The address is just that: the address for the packages. The next word refers to the version of Debian - you should make it match the version of Debian you have installed e.g. stable, testing, unstable. You can also refer directly to the codename of the version e.g. sarge, etch and sid respectively. The next three words refer to the various groups of packages - main, contrib and non-free. I would add all three so that you get the full range of packages, although you may wish to omit contrib and non-free if you want to keep your system completely open source.
Now that we have added the line, we can exit by pressing Control and X, choosing to save when asked. Next, we want to update apt by typing
apt-get update. Apt will then fetch the package list from the new source. If it produces an error, make sure you have not made any errors within /etc/apt/sources.list.
So, what do we want to install? Well, the interface is still fairly sparse. Most people would want something beyond a command line, so we should try getting a graphical interface. The package we want is x-window-system, so, as root, type
apt-get install x-window-system. X will prove to be very useful - it is the package that allows you to draw things on the screen besides text. After grabbing the packages, the installation process will ask:
Attempt to autodetect video hardware?
You may as well say Yes - if it succeeds, then it saves you working out which video driver to choose. Otherwise, you will be presented with a list of drivers. If it doesn't find the correct driver, we want to use a driver that is likely to work, rather than providing good, if any, 3D performance. As such, Vesa is probably the best bet for a driver. After this screen, you'll be asked:
Please select the XKB rule set to use.
The default (xfree86) should be fine, as it so often is. The next screen talks about selecting the keyboard model - for most people the default of pc104 should be fine; the previous screen should help you make your choice.
Now we are asked:
Please select your keyboard layout.
Since I'm the UK, the layout for me is gb - change it according to your keyboard.
There will be another two prompts, namely:
Please select your keyboard variant.
Please select your keyboard options.
Unless you want to add anything, leaving the options blank should be fine. Next, you are asked about your mouse. If you have a PS/2 mouse, select
/dev/psaux, followed by
ExplorerPS/2. If you have a USB mouse, go for
/dev/input/mice. You are then asked whether you have an LCD monitor - I should hope you know the answer to that question yourself!
Read the next page about resolutions, and then make a choice - personally, I go for Medium. Choose your best video mode, and then use the space bar to select the resolutions that you want to be able to use. Read another page, then select the colour depth. Unless you have a very old graphics card, 24 bit should be fine.
Next is printer settings - the default should be fine. You can then read a page about fonts, followed by the question:
Do you want to trust font management to defoma?
Unless you have a special reason not to, then just select Yes. From here, the configuration should finish without a problem.
Next, we want something to draw. There are two main selections here: KDE or Gnome. If you're not sure which to choose, then I prefer Gnome, although they're both reasonably similar. If you want to use Gnome, type
apt-get install gnome-core gdm. This installs the basics of Gnome - you can install more of the Gnome components by typing
apt-get install gnome gdm instead. Similarly, you can use apt to install kde or kde-core along with kdm. Next, you'll be asked which window manager you want to use. Just select the one you just installed, whether it is kdm or gdm. You may also be asked some more questions, depending on what you installed - it should be fairly easy to answer the questions since the spiel beforehand is often very useful. If in doubt, use the defaults.
Finally, we want to start up our new graphical interface - type
/etc/init.d/gdm start or
/etc/init.d/kdm start, and you should be presented with a logon screen. Type in your username and password, and you should be flying! You can use the terminal to install more applications - see the next page for a list of just some of the thousands of packages you can install.