Installing Debian, mostly by hand

Failure can be a good thing, if you learn from it.

I tried reinstalling Debian yesterday, to see if I could get Firefox and Open Office working, and wound up with the installing software stage failing.  I finally got a minimal installation of just what was on my netinst CD.  This did not include a desktop manager, or a lot of other stuff.  It also left only my CD recognized as repository, a source of packages.

You can get around this by editting, as root, /etc/apt/sources.list.  This file contains a list of repositories you can use to download packages from.  In my case, I commented out the line listing the CD, by adding ‘# ‘ at the start of the line, and adding the following line.

deb http://debian.yorku.ca/stable main contrib non-free

This indicates the stable distribution, main, contrib (outside of the main distro), and non-free (non open-source).

With this I then entered, still as root:

apt-get update
apt-get install xserver-xorg
apt-get install lxde
apt-get install synaptic

This gave me a desktop which I could login on, and the synaptic package manager, which I could use for installing more.

The netinst installation is really bare bones.  You still need a browser, Open Office, CUPS (Common Unix Printing System), binutils, less, any languages you want, etc.

But in the end, I have a working Linux system, and I’ve learned more about how it works, and how to work it.  I’ve also learned that it pays to print out certain files, so you have a hard copy of certain system settings.

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