A Linux Newbie Meets Debian

By Dave Whitely

Two Abject Apologies

  • These OHPs were produced using software sold by THAT company.
  • I did not throw the custard pies at Bill Gates in Belgium.

Me and Computers

  • 1979 Engineer in a “Computer Shop” 6800, 6502, SWTPC, Z80, S100, Cromemco, North Star Horizon CP/M
  • 1980 I Join the University. The MSU.(Micro Systems Unit not Mid-Stream Urine DEC PDP11/44, UNIX (System 3?)

Command Line Unix

  • General System Support
  • Know and use a mix of UNIX commands home built “helper” commands.
  • Use Cross Compilers to the Z80
  • Document preparation with NROFF (much customised)
  • I was not a developer, just a gopher.

PCs and DOS

  • The department started using PCs.
  • My work now was support for DOS and IBM PC-NET
  • Word Processing with DOS Word Perfect.
  • Programming in Pascal, C, dBaseIII, Clipper,
  • Then the dreaded windoze
  • Programming for windows (yech).

Encounters with Suns

  • I did (and do) have access to Suns, but with no direct need to use them, I never put any effort in learning about them.
  • The X-Windows interface was a total mystery to me.


  • Nick Bailey talks about Linux
  • Sounds Interesting – I decide to play with it
  • No perceived use for it……………
  • Make space on my Disk
  • Mark Spink installs Slackware on it.
  • Pressure of work etc. I Make little use of it
  • Installation done for me, without my full understanding of the process

Linux Server & Home PC

  • The Department decides to get a Linux Server
  • I volunteer to look after it (Ho Ho Ho)
  • My Wife and Iget a new PC for home use.
  • I decide to play with Linux on it.
  • I talk to Nick
  • The philosophy of Co-operative Development and updating on the fly makes me choose Debian

Deb Ian

  • DEB

Getting Started

  • I buy “Running Linux” by Matt Welsh and Lar Kaufman
  • Light reading for the commuter train
  • I get a new PC at work, and lose my Slackware installation.
  • I order and wait for CD to arrive
  • I get the Debian Installation Disk downloads from the WWW.

First Steps – New Home PC

  • I need to leave space for Linux
  • I need to re-partition the disk, so
  • I need to install Win 95 on my home PC
  • 3 trips to the supplier for driver disks for the CD needed
  • At least 4 tries at installation before a “satisfactory” system.

I use the downloaded Linux disks.

  • Up and running first time by following the book and instructions.
  • CD arrives
  • Ignorance strikes
  • I attempt to load the system from the CD using the download version.
  • I get very confused

I discover the BOOT directory on the CD

  • I start up DOS , Access the CD, Run BOOT.BAT
  • (Almost) Everything works.


  • A Default Debian Kernel was installed
  • dselect was started
  • Debian package manager
  • You need to know the device name for your CD
    • /dev/hdc
  • You need to know how the CD is organised
    • Not really
    • root is /.
    • Non Free and local stuff is “none”
  • Nice tool, shame about the user interface


  • Get hang of it (with the on line help)
    • List of packages
    • Scroll up and down them (about 1000)
    • * indicates already selected. (default setup)
    • Type + to add a module
    • Type – to remove a module
    • Do not hit return until you have finished

dselect clever bits?

  • If one package relies on another
  • or One package conflicts with another
    • New list pops up with needs/conflicts explained
    • Allows you to select/remove components.
  • When selection complete
    • Press return
    • Select Install
    • It will do the necessary
    • Where information is needed it will ask for it.

Warnings :-

  • Some packages cannot be installed straight off the CD
  • eg Netscape
    • It is “not free”
    • Installation relies on you already having stuff from elsewhere on your system.
  • X Windows
    • Need to install base server AND server for your card.
    • “Odd” way of specifying server (in a file, not a link)

Debian has a “singular” approach to directory use.

  • Beware of assuming that it will be the same as ÃÃ…
  • Some “standard” may expect things somewhere else.
  • BUT
  • It does seem to work
  • It seems likely to continue working.

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