How To Set Up ADebian Box

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The following notes are meant to provide additional guidance to enable a typical user to successfully complete a default install of Debian

on a PC with the hardware configuration below.

Unless otherwise indicated below, accept the default setup values provided by the Debian installer.

Angi Chau: I just went through a setup using the Debian CD (marked Linux Debian 6/2005) and I wrote down all the steps I took: How To Set Up Debian Step By Step. Some of the steps shown below are not valid with the current set of computers/version of Debian we have in the lab.

Hardware configuration

 Multimedia Mid Tower ATX Case w/350 Watt Power Supply & 2 front USB2.0 ports
  Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz processor
  512MB PC2700 DDR Memory
  Two 80GB 7200rpm IDE Hard Disk Drives (total 160GB)
  52X CD-ROM Drive
  1.44 Floppy Drive
  32 MB AGP Video
  3D Stereo Sound
  No speakers (headphone only)
  10/100 Ethernet
  3-button Optical Scroll Mouse
  4 USB/1 Serial/1 Parallel ports
  Red Hat Linux 9.0 fully installed w/cds
  1-year parts & labor warranty
  17" NEC LCD Monitor w/3-yr manufacturer's warranty

Known problems

The PCs below were bought from IbexPC, a Yahoo reseller. In our experience, only 50% of these were able to be rebooted remotely on delivery

(using /sbin/shutdown -r or equivalent).

Other than that, we have had an extremely reproducible install so far... Ian Holmes, March 5, 2005


You will need the following information to do a install. If you are missing these, ask your system administrator to provide them.

  • IP: x.x.x.x
  • Subnet mask: 255.255.255.x
  • Default Gateway: x.x.x.x
  • Primary, Secondary, Tertiary DNS: x.x.x.x, x.x.x.x, x.x.x.x
  • Full computer name: hostname.domainname
  • Root password (you can define one at install time if needed)

Ian Holmes says an alternative is to get DHCP working properly. So far this has been patchy with our Airport Extreme (& Airport Express) wireless routers.

Partitioning the hard drive

By default, the Debian installer will not partition the hard drive in the recommended manner. It will only create two partitions, named hda1 (Boot) and hda2 (Swap). You will need to create a third partition hda3 to contain the root filesystem. The following is the desired configuration:

hda1 Boot
hda2 Swap
hda3 Root

To enable this, do the following:

  • When the installer asks, do not mount /dev/hda1 as the root filesystem.
  • Select "Partition Hard Disk".
  • Select "Free space" entry below hda2.
  • Select "N" for New.
  • Select "T" for Type. Enter Type=83 for a Linux partition.
  • Select "Write" to write partition table to disk.
  • Exit the Partition menu and resume the install to initialize all partitions.

Additional install notes:

Proceed with the install, accepting the default values, except for the following:

  • Be sure to install the net device driver Sis900.
  • Under Apt configuration, select Yes to add another apt source. Choose ftp and then Note: The machine must have an active internet connection.
    • IF THE INSTALL FAILS AT THIS STEP THEN A LIKELY DIAGNOSIS IS THAT YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION IS NOT WORKING. Possible reasons are that you got the wrong network device driver (Sis900 in the above configuration) or that something went wrong with your static IP address (or DHCP setup).
  • Install at a minimum the following packages: X, Desktop, Sci Prog, C/C++, Python, Tex
    • DO NOT, in general, install packages you don't need. If you do, there's a good chance they'll later show up as backdoors that hackers can use. See hacker-oriented Harden Debian Install guide.
  • Set the locale to en_US
Xserver configuration

When configuring the Xserver to display on the ViewSonic monitor, enter the following values:

  • Xserver driver: ati
  • Select "Advanced" configuration.
  • Horiz Sync: 30-82
  • Vert Refresh: 50-85
  • Include resolutions up to 1280x1024.

Post-install configuration

After the install is complete, you will need to edit the Xserver configuraton file located at /etc/X11/XF86Config-4.

  • Under the "Device" section, add
		 Driver: "radeon"
		 [[Video Ram]]: 32768 # Optional?
		 Boardname: "ATI Radeon 7000" # Optional?
  • Under the same section, comment out this line by adding the "#".
		 # Option [[Use FBDev]] "true"
  • A sample XF86Config-4 is attached below.

-- Yuri Bendana

  • To use a wheel mouse, include this line in both the "Configured Mouse" and "Generic Mouse" "InputDevice" sections of /etc/X11/XF86Config-4.
		 Option "Protocol" "ImPS/2"

-- Pete Klosterman

See also Installing The Gnu Compiler and Ians Debian Setup.

Testing the status of your install

Configuring a printer

Installing stuff