12 Feb 2011

How NOT to Install Debian 6.0 Squeeze

Debian 6.0 Squeeze is latest version of one of the Linux "mammoths". It was released in the 6th of February 2011 (what other day of month could be chosen for this version?)
I bet there are lots of "how to" installation guides for Debian 6.0.
I am going to tell you here how NOT to install Debian 6.0 Squeeze. Hope this will help you to avoid some mistakes. Of course, like everything in this blog, all the rakes were stepped on by myself.
So, I have:
At the time of the test, Debian had not released Live version of the product yet. So, I had no other choice but to try full installation. "What?" - can you ask. Did you change your approach of Live test only? For this instance, yes. I decided to (probably temporary) replace old friend Puppy with new version of Debian.
So, disk is burnt, loaded into CD-ROM drive of laptop. Reboot, choose to boot from CD.
Let's go!

The first thing you see when CD is booted is choice of installation modes. You can have command line way of installation (for geeks?), graphic installation (yes, that's for me), installation with encryption and even more under corresponding menu: combination of graphic/non-graphic and encription modes.
Surely, I am not experienced enough to risk command line interface installation, so more "user-friendly" mode was chosen.
This choice was followed by sequence of usual installation questions which you can meet in most operating systems: your language, keyboard layout etc. That is peanuts.
The stuck point appeared to myself when installation program told me that I have Broadcom 4311 WiFi card (oh, I well know that!) and asked me to provide driver files for it. Nicely, Debian even wrote filenames. But... I don't have this files. Can I live without them and install driver later, as I had already done this for Ubuntu? Ok, I skipped that step.
Next stage was a question of my Internet connection. Sure enough, I have LAN available in my house. And I (theoretically) can even connect my laptop to it. But I don't want. I simply want to install Debian on my computer. So, I decided not to activate my LAN at that point of time.
And that was a failure point.
All further installation steps were quite simple and obvious.
Installer took some time to process all the files it wanted to copy to my HDD. There were ~550 packages to be installed. Eventually all was done, I was asked to remove CD from the tray and reboot.
And here is what I got.
Yes, I got my own Debian! Yes, that is first time I saw pure Debian system on my laptop, not overruled by any changes by Mint, Ubuntu or Saline teams. I was excited.
But very soon my excitement turned into disappointment. Debian I had was soooooooooo bare-bone that I cannot describe it colourful enough. Yes, there was X. I had all the features windows manager. But underneath there was... almost nothing!
  • No sudo. Although, su worked. I don't understand why sudo did not. System's response to sudo was something like "command unknown".
  • No aptitude. Yep, there was no aptitude. At least, command aptitude update got error message. It had been already reported and discussed in a bug tracker, but still...
  • No network. Even when I (finally) connected my laptop to LAN cable. There was no Network Manager. Neither Wicd. "Classical" ifup switched on the network, but not more than that. Not much could be done without proper aptitude with...
  • Lack of software. Only very basic software packages was installed. No Office. No graphic editor. Very limited administration tools.
Weird situation. One of the most strong and powerful Linux distributives became so stripped on the way to my HDD!
Was it the end? Nothing is the end until you see other options! This post is published from Debian system running on my laptop! How was this done? This will be another story. Another reason to subscribe to this (pretty much) unique blog!!! There are plenty of options available - just look on the right column at the start of the page.


  1. Just so you know, the text-mode and graphical installation modes are almost *identical*. The only difference, literally, is whether you use ncurses or GTK+. The actual dialogs are the same.

    You also get a much better selection of packages if you let it use the network while installing (as you saw when you tried again in your follow-up post), or install from DVD instead if you really have no network available during installation.

  2. Thanks Anonymous.
    I wonder though why other systems can be installed from CD in full (Ubuntu, Fedora), but Debian required DVD.
    Unfortunately, my CD/DVD drive is not reading DVDs any more...

  3. Debian is not that easy.

    MAking sudo work means to edit the sudoers file,
    making a debian network work, means sometimes to edit /etc/network/interfaces and to disable network-manager and avahi daemon.

    Once the network is up and running you can install anything you want, like aptitude, with apt-get.

    The installation process looks like it came from 1995, and ask all the questions you might not be able to answer.

    But debian is great for servers, and for power users.

    Have fun,


  4. @Anonymous (bert):
    You're right about sudoers file, but I would rather disagree about the rest.
    I made my own full installation of Debian and use it from time to time (http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/02/riding-milky-way-with-tux.html)
    I did not need to add interfaces file. Installation process was more or less painless and nice, why do you think about 1995? Do you need lots of graphs with presentations in Windows style? I'd rather prefer simple and stright forward action without much user involvement. I was more or less satisfied with Debian installer.