|WARNING: GEEK TECH NOTES|
|I have heard about Debian for a while, how great it was, and so on. I have Red Hat as my main Linux box, but I have always wanted to try Debian. Here is my adventure.|
Christine's work is a cornucopia of dying computers. Most are Pentium 166 to P2/450 Dell systems. When they die, she brings them to me. I find spare parts to make them work, with mixed success. Sometimes, as you saw from a previous entry, they have blown up on me. This week, she brought how a Dell Optiplex system, out of warrantee, with a bad hard drive, a dead video card, and enough dust to fill a mason jar. I blew it all out, washed it up, and tried to fix the hard drive. It was a Maxtor (blecch), but I downloaded a Maxtor "Power Drive tool" to fix the low-level errors. But before I did that, I browsed the system to see what it had. It had memory errors, so I installed some different RAM, and that cleared it up. The Windows 98 that was on it was in bad shape: the previous owner was really into chubby girl porn (hey, it's a free country, but at work?), and I saw some classic cartoon porn that was... interesting. Once I satisfied my morbid curiosity (was that King Neptune?), I took off the plastic parts, washed them up, put them back on, and the system didn't look so bad.
In case Mr. Chubby Porn was also into underage porn, I wiped it with "Derek's Disk Nuke," re-initialized the drive with the Maxtor power tool, and made sure the drive would be okay, and leave nothing funny in some partition. The Master boot record was reporting "unknown condition, possibly compromised" and so when it asked me to "re-initialize it," I said yes.. Now it really boots a lot faster, and the BIOS reports the correct size with no errors. It might have been the result of a virus, which made me glad I didn't hook it up to my network right away. I couldn't get the video card to work. I suspect it fried a long time ago. Luckily, the default one built into the motherboard was okay, and that's a 4MB ATI chip, so that should be enough.
I debated all of today what to put on it. I debated between OpenBSD (it might be nice to have OpenBSD on a system faster than 166mhz), but instead decided to try Debian. Thus started this blog entry for those who might find my adventure helpful.
Luckily, this system does allow booting from the CD-ROM; previous computers did not have this option, which left me with floppy-friendly OS's. I loaded Debian Disk one, booted, and found a nice blue screen with yellow text and red highlights taking me through the steps. I heard Debian install was really unfriendly, but I have been though so much of that recently, I decided to see first hand what that meant. I researched my hardware, and one of the great things about Dells is that if you have the service tag ID, you can find everything for it that Dell carries. Specs, drivers, whatever. I found out what my video chip was, as well as my NIC. With this info, I went through the steps of Debian 3.0 CD 1. It asked me at some point if I wanted to install odd drivers, and didn't make this clear. I was alarmed it didn't have my NIC in there. It was a common 3c905 series NIC. I later deduced I was on the "install weird drivers" screen for those who have odd and obscure hardware. It set up my network via DHCP, I gave the computer a name ("Sen" from "Spirited Away"), Debian installed base packages, and rapidly (less than 3 minutes) asked me top remove CD 1 and reboot. So I did.
A blue screen came up, telling me the install was successful, and I started this journal. I then found out my KVM doesn't switch well when Debian was in install mode. I had to hit a key to get my video back, which told Debian to continue with the install. It asked me where I was from (US), what time zone I was in (ET), what passwords to set up (MD5/Shadow), and then asked me for the root password. It then asked me to create a new user, and explained why. This let me know the install was at least a little user friendly. In fact, no problems so far! Next, it told me I didn't have PCMCIA, and asked if I wanted to remove those packages. How nice! Then it ejected my CD-ROM without telling me why. Then it said it could not read the media, and I thought, "Of course! You asked me to remove it!" I put in disk one, and told it the packages were in the CD. It read it for a while, and then asked if I had more CDs. I have 7, which I downloaded and burned a few months ago. So I entered them in, one by one. I had actually tried to install Debian once before on a machine at work, but it was a weird proprietary i386-based thing, and even Windows barely works on them (the manufacturer had special drivers). So it crapped out halfway through this process, and I gave up and installed OpenBSD, which didn't complain as long as I didn't try to run X.
Now it asks me if I wanted to select another apt-source (where Debian gets its packages). I said yes, selected their us mirror, and then it asked me if I wanted to update my security patches. I said I did. Then it asked me if I wanted to run "Tasksel." a package selection tool. I said I did, then it wanted to know if I wanted dselect for detailed selections. I said no, because with 7 disks, that's like 500 million selections (not really, but it might as well be). So then it went through some stuff, and then asked me to insert CD 1 again. Then it asked for various CDs, not in order, and I might add, took a while because it asked for CD 1, then 2, then 4, then 1 again, then 5, then 2 again, and so on. It was like being on an Apple II again with 5.25" floppies and a huge game. Ah well.
I notice that while it was installing, it was checking against the security updates. One of them was for KDE wallpapers! How unsafe could a wallpaper file be? Hmm.... Other things during install. I got a notice that something called Xaw3dg was no longer some sort of replacement for libXaw. Then it said my Binutilities might make the kernel unstable if used. Then a whole lot of stuff about Mozilla True Type fonts (uh, sure!), dsp configurations (hold on, what?), non-Less mime handlers (uh... yeah), antisize my zim configuration, reverse the polarity shift... okay, I can see what some people mean by unfriendly. I mean, I knew most of this stuff, but thinks flashed by with words I knew, but never seen them quite in that order. Most flew by, because it only gave you "OK" as default. I chose some defaults I was unsure about, and I am pretty experienced in Linux, so some of these were crap shoots. xdm or gdm? HellifIknow... there was even one part that went "Pondering....."
Lots of stuff went by. Once in a while, it asked me a question. I answered best I could. The it told me that some packages had errors during install and that, "Hey, Debian isn't perfect!" (true quote). I decided to ignore those, because they were in some functions I probably wouldn't use. Then it asked me how I wanted my mail setup, and I chose "4" for local machine mail only. Then it congratulated me, Debian was installed!
I was now at a login prompt.
I logged in as root, and for kicked, did a "startx." I was stunned it set up KDE for me! How nice! It was only 2.2.2, which is old (right now it's 3.1, and was at 3.0 when this disks I burned were new). But now I will use what is considered Debian's great strength: apt-get. I wonder if I can get it to install KDE 3.1?
I tried, and no. I put in the KDE path to my /etc/apt/sources.list, did an apt-get update, and then did an apt-get install kdebase. It said I already had the most current version. I noticed I had no Samba, so I installed that through apt-get, and wow, 2.2.3a? The most current and secure is 2.2.8a. It installed, and even had a little helper smb.conf tool I liked, but obviously, I am doing something wrong with my apt-get.
It's late now, and I'll just make mistakes, so I am shutting down for the night and will resume tomorrow.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000131.html