Sunday, March 1, 2009

Debian 4.0 Etch and upgrade to Debian 5.0/Lenny Installation Walkthrough!

In this tutorial I will show people who are willing to switch to Linux how they can set up a Linux desktop (Debian Etch in this article) that fully replaces their Windows desktop, i.e. that has all software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that runs also on older hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!

1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Debian Etch desktop to have the following software installed:


  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • F-Spot - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos


  • Iceweasel (Debian's name for Firefox)
  • Opera
  • Flash Player 9
  • gFTP - multithreaded FTP client
  • Icedove (Debian's name for Thunderbird) - email and news client
  • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule - P2P file sharing application
  • Bittorrent client
  • Azureus - Java Bittorrent client
  • Gaim - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client


  • OpenOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • OpenOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok - audio player
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player - media player (video/audio)
  • Real Player
  • Totem - media player (video/audio)
  • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • GnomeBaker - CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia-Codecs


  • Nvu- WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Quanta Plus - web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor


  • VMware Server - lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

Debian automatically installs the GNOME desktop.

Lots of our desired applications are available in the Debian repositories, and some of these applications have been contributed by the Debian community. The rest (except for VMware Server) can be obtained by using Automatix. This makes it very easy to achieve our goal.

  1. Download the latest current build from the Debian website You’ll only need to download and burn the first ISO for CD1, since all the other CDs contain packages that can be downloaded via the ‘apt-get’ command.
  2. Insert the CD and set your BIOS or ‘first boot’ menu to boot from CD. As the CD spins up you will be brought to a prompt with the Debian logo. Debian Etch defaults to install the Linux 2.6 kernel so just hit enter.
  3. Debian Boot Screen
  4. The ‘Choose language’ screen will appear, select ‘English’ or your preferred language.
  5. Choose the language Dialog
  6. The ‘Choose country or region’ screen will appear, select ‘United States’ or your preferred country.
  7. Choose Country or Region Dialog
  8. The ‘Select a keyboard layout’ screen will appear, select ‘American English’ or your preferred layout.
  9. Select the Keyboard Layout Dialog
  10. The pre-installer will start to scan your hardware, scan the packages available on the CDROM, load the components of the Debian installer, then detect and configure the network with DHCP if detected.
  11. Pre-Installer Dialog
  12. You be prompted at the ‘Configure the network’ screen, were you will be asked to select a hostname for your system.
  13. Configure the Hostname Dialog
  14. Then you’ll be prompted with the ‘Domain name’ prompt, were you will select your domain name for your system.
  15. Domain Name Dialog
  16. The installer will detect all disks and start the partition utility. It is preferable to select the ‘Erase entire disk’.
  17. Auto Partition Dialog
  18. The next prompt will ask you for a partitioning scheme, again it is preferable to select the default of ‘All files in one partition’.
  19. Partitioning Scheme Dialog
  20. You will then have a chance to confirm your selection and ‘Finish partitioning and write the changes to disk’.
  21. Confirm Partitioning Scheme
  22. You’ll be prompted again to write the changes, select ‘Yes’ the default is ‘No’.
  23. Final Prompt to Write Changes
  24. The installer will ask for your time zone, enter the desired time zone.
  25. Time Zone Configuration Dialog
  26. The installer will ask for the root’s password (privileged user account).
  27. Root Password Dialog
  28. You will need to type the password again for confirmation.
  29. Root Password Confirmation
  30. You will also be required to create an initial user (non-privileged user account) account.
  31. Non-Root Account Dialog
  32. You will need to supply a login name for the account.
  33. Login Name Dialog
  34. Set the password for this user and confirm it like the previous account.
  35. Non-Root Password Dialog
  36. The system installer will begin installing the entire system now.
  37. System Installation Dialog
  38. The package manager will now require configuration, select ‘Yes’ for a mirror.
  39. Select a Mirror Dialog
  40. Choose ‘United States’ for the mirror’s country or your country.
  41. Mirror Country Dialog
  42. Choose ‘’ or the first mirror that appears for you prior selection.
  43. Select Mirror Dialog
  44. Select ‘Enter’ if you are not using a proxy.
  45. Select Proxy Dialog
  46. The developers ask that you participate in a feedback survey, for this how-to we will answer ‘No’.
  47. Feedback Survey Dialog
  48. Unselect all software using the spacebar and arrow keys and select ‘Continue’.
  49. Select Software to Install Dialog
  50. Answer ‘Yes’ to the Grub loader screen, this will install the boot manager of Grub on the system; this is used for emergency purposes.
  51. Grub Install Dialog
  52. Finish the install by selecting ’Continue’.
  53. Finish the Install Dialog
  54. You will reboot and see the Grub boot loader.
  55. Grub Boot Screen
  56. You can now login as ‘root’ with the password you supplied for ‘root’.
  57. Initial Login
    Now that we have an installed and running system we need to tweak a few settings. The network was installed and DHCP had been automatically configured, however since this will be a server DHCP is not the right choice; we will need to manually configure an IP address.

  58. Edit ‘/etc/network/interfaces’ by typing:
    emacs -w /etc/network/interfaces# This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
    # and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).

    # The loopback network interface
    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback

    # The primary network interface
    #auto eth0
    #iface eth0 inet dhcp

    auto eth0
    iface eth0 inet static

  59. Set the resolver for proper DNS servers.
    emacs -w /etc/resolv.confsearch
  60. Next you will need to restart the network component.
    /etc/init.d/networking restart
  61. Add your new static IP to the hosts table.
    emacs -w /etc/hosts localhost.localdomain localhost debian debian

    # The following lines are desirable for IPv6 capable hosts
    ::1 ip6-localhost ip6-loopback
    fe00::0 ip6-localnet
    ff00::0 ip6-mcastprefix
    ff02::1 ip6-allnodes
    ff02::2 ip6-allrouters
    ff02::3 ip6-allhosts

  62. Set the system’s hostname.echo > /etc/hostname
    /bin/hostname -F /etc/hostname
  63. Install some needed software packages and services.apt-get install wget bzip2 rdate unzip zip ncftp nmap lynx fileutils dnsutils
    apt-get install tcpdump less make tftp rdate file gcc g++ ssh
  64. Sync the time with an atomic clock.crontab -e

    # update time with
    0 3,9,15,21 * * * /usr/sbin/rdate | logger -t NTP

  65. Set up the ‘bashrc’ file.nano -w /root/.bashrc

    # ~/.bashrc: executed by bash(1) for non-login shells.

    export PS1=’\h:\w\$ ‘
    umask 022

    # You may uncomment the following lines if you want `ls’ to be colorized:
    export LS_OPTIONS=’–color=auto -h’
    eval “`dircolors`”
    alias ls=’ls $LS_OPTIONS’
    alias ll=’ls $LS_OPTIONS -l’
    alias l=’ls $LS_OPTIONS -lA’

    # Some more alias to avoid making mistakes:
    alias rm=’rm -i’
    alias cp=’cp -i’
    alias mv=’mv -i’

    # Bohack’s stuff
    alias nano=’nano -w -K’
    alias pico=’nano -w -K’
    alias ptree=’ps axf’

    PS1=’\[\033[36;1m\w \[\033[35;1m\h \[\033[0m\$ ‘
    export PS1
    export GREP_OPTIONS=”–color=auto”
    export TERM
    cd /

Done! You now have a minimal install of Debian as a clean install. Don’t forget to do an ‘apt-get update’ and an ‘apt-get upgrade’, to install any major/minor updates.

Howto Upgrade a Debian 4.0 ("Etch") to Debian 5.0 ("Lenny"):

This article shows how you can upgrade a system running Debian Etch to Debian Lenny. It is intended for both server and desktop systems.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!

1 Preliminary Note

You should take a backup of your Debian Etch system (you can find some suitable tutorials for this in the Backup category), just in case something goes wrong (but the upgrade worked fine for me).

2 Install The Latest Etch Updates

Before we upgrade to Lenny, we install the latest updates for Etch.

Make sure that your /etc/apt/sources.list uses etch, not stable (because lenny is the new stable), e.g. as follows:

vi /etc/apt/sources.list

deb etch main
deb-src etch main

deb etch/updates main contrib
deb-src etch/updates main contrib

Then install the updates as follows:

aptitude update

aptitude upgrade

3 Modify /etc/apt/sources.list To Use Lenny

After we have installed the latest Etch updates, we open /etc/apt/sources.list...

vi /etc/apt/sources.list

... and replace all etch references with lenny:

deb lenny main
deb-src lenny main

deb lenny/updates main contrib
deb-src lenny/updates main contrib

Then update the packages database:

aptitude update

4 Doing The Upgrade

Next we install the Lenny versions of dpkg, aptitude, and apt because their Etch versions are often unable to handle the upgrade to Lenny:

aptitude install dpkg aptitude apt

Then we do a minimal system upgrade (because a full upgrade might cause some conflicts at this stage):

aptitude upgrade


If this is a desktop system, you should now check if the package libfam0c102 is installed:

dpkg -l libfam0c102 | grep ^ii

If it is, install its Lenny version now:

aptitude install libfam0


Afterwards, we can start the full distribution upgrade:

aptitude full-upgrade

(This command is the same as aptitude dist-upgrade.)

Afterwards, reboot the system:


After the reboot, check your new kernel:

uname -r

It should display Lenny's 2.6.26 kernel, e.g.:

server1:~# uname -r

And /etc/debian_version should now contain 5.0:

cat /etc/debian_version

server1:~# cat /etc/debian_version


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