Debian Installation Links
Debian.org i386 Installation Guide: http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/install
The Very Verbose Debian 3.0 Installation Walk through: http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=2016
Aboutdebian. Guide on how and why to use Debian.: http://www.aboutdebian.com/
The Debian installer
The Debian (textmode) installer is performing its task decently. It is nice that you can go backward in the installation procedure. I'ld like to see a slicked installer with more auto-detection though. Luckily a new Debian installer is on its way. Knoppix is seen by some as the alternative Debian installer. Progeny is also making the well-known Anaconda installer (from Red Hat) work for Debian. (Still BETA!)
If you have a UK Keyboard, then the £ key (Shift-3) won't work properly, even if you select the UK keyboard option during installation. To fix this, edit the file /etc/inputrc and add the following line:
You'll probably need to cut&paste this, because you can't enter it directly if your £ key isn't working. :)
Installing Debian with the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe Motherboard
One of the most popular motherboards available today is the Asus A7N8X. Those installing Debian will be frustrated to learn that both of the onboard network cards (a 3Com and an Nvidia) are unsupported in even the 2.4.22 kernel provided on Debian 3.0's Disc 5. There is now support for both cards, for the 3Com NIC in later kernels and for the Nvidia NIC with a reverse-engineered and GPL'd driver, forcedeth, available in the recent 2.6 kernels. The simplest thing for a potential Debian user, in one sense, would be to install the minimal Debian system from CDs and then, burning the latest 2.6 kernel on another CD, use that CD to recompile the kernel with the needed network card support, and from there install the rest of the system over the now-working network cards. Unfortunately, upgrading to a 2.6 kernel without a working network card proves amazingly difficult for new users.
The primary difficulty is that the package modutils does not properly compile 2.6 kernels and module-init-tools is required instead. But, to get module-init-tools to work, several other dependencies must be satisfied, including libc6_2.3.2.ds1-12, libdb1-compat_2.1.3-7, libc6-dev_2.3.2.ds1-12, and linux-kernel-headers_2.5.999-test7-bk-15. (Even more may be required, as I still can't get it to work.) This is a total disaster for new users wanting to try Debian on THE most popular AMD-based motherboard available today. I would welcome a Debian expert to use this space to create a clear step-by-step procedure for remedying this problem. If I ever get it to work, I'll update this space with such a guide. (As a temporary work-around I once got this to work by installing another old network card that I knew old kernels would support and upgraded Debian from there. Once one of the onboard NICs was working, I removed the old card. This is not a viable solution for those who don't have piles of old network cards laying around.)
If anyone has another solution to this, I would appreciate it being posted here.
dselect is the interactive tool to select packages for installation. In fact, it's a front end for the Debian package management system dpkg, which is run with commands like apt-get. I have no problems with the the fact that dselect is a curses (text mode gui) tool, in fact that makes remote management of your server easy, but it uses badly thought out keybindings. The screen for resolving conflicts and dependencies is hard to grasp.
Once you learn dselect though, its power pays off. It simply always works and handles dependencies automatically. The key things to know are that the spacebar moves you through help (return to exit help), return moves you out of selecting packages (so don't press it until you are finished) (This is new in Debian testing. In older versions of dselect <space> exited help, which you'll probably be using during installation of Debian stable), and while selecting packages the '/' key enables you to search for a package. If you then simply accept whatever additional packages dselect says are required dependencies, you can learn to harness the power of dselect.
And that's exactly the problem with dselect: You must know the keybindings before you are able to work smoothly with it. --Also note that the above keybindings are always listed on the current screen in dselect. Just look at the screen.
If you don't like dselect for its non-intuitivity, you might try aptitude as an alternative. If you don't have it yet, you can simply get it by typing
apt-get install aptitude
at the prompt (assuming apt-get is working, i.e. you have the Debian CD-ROM in the drive, or a working network connection that can reach APT sources). It's as good as dselect in solving dependencies, and slightly better than dselect in *removing* files However, the best reason to use aptitude is that if you make a certain selection but then suddenly decide you don't like everything you chose, then you can exit aptitude and it will "forget" the offending selection completely. -Unless you have already pressed 'g' once which takes you to the preview of what will be done, should you press 'g' again the selections happen. Then the selections are writen to /var/lib/aptitude/pkgstates. As root remove this file if you need to forget these selections (also make sure no apt process is running first ie. quit aptitude first).
Booting the installation media
I had problems with the booting the Debian Woody CDs, both on an old PC -where it could be solved by trying with the fourth installation CD, featuring another kernel, as properly documented in the installation help- and with a new mac -where I had to get my way with an ad-hoc online HOWTO.
Debian Installer for current Testing/Sarge
As Sarge is on the best way to be released next month. Here some links on usability tests concerning the new Debian Installer:
- Usability test: Installation of a Debian desktop by novice user.
- Usability test: Debian Installation by experienced User.
- Test by d-i developer: longtime linux user install.
- little user testing.
The installer is a huge improvment as many hardware configuration items are done automatically and newer hardware is supported. The installer is using a polished text interface. Aboves tests show that there are still improvements ongoing, but release candidate 2 was already released and will almost be the final Debian installer for sarge. Main difficulties seem to be in the area of partitioning, package selection, properly configuring X, exim config (mail server) and sound.