18 Feb 2011

Riding the Milky Way with Tux

I have tried Debian and its derivatives quite few times now. My previous attempt was to install Debian Squeeze onto hard drive of my laptop using single CD from Debian installation package. This is a way you should NEVER EVER install your system, unless you want to get bare-bone one.
When I got this naked Debian on my computer, I saw how weak a powerful system can be. I became fed up very quickly. As long as I had nothing to lose, I decided to give Spiral Tux another try. This time I took my laptop from its usual place and took it close to my network router, so usual network cable was reachable.
So, put Debian installation CD1 into CD drive. Connect network cable. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!

This time Debian installation program again requested driver files for my wireless network card. And again it was not provided. Next step though was different. Installer saw that LAN cable is already plugged in and suggested LAN to be default network connection during further installation steps. Of course, I agreed.
Groundhog day... installation program asked me all the same question... Stop! This is something new! It asked me which domain I want to put my computer in. What??? Domain? No, thanks, this is standalone computer, even though I have several laptops at home. This step was successfully skipped.
Finally, file copying began. And I saw a difference. Last time Debain was installed as consisting of something like 550 packages. This time it has more than 1000, circa 1090. Do you feel the difference? These additional packages make all the clothes for naked system I had last time! Hurray!
Where did these additional packages come from? Guess? I did not check it myself, but you don't need to be seer to understand they were downloaded from the Internet.
What did I get as a result?
Result was absolutely fantastic!
I got my own Debian! This time it is fully functional Debian!
Did I get my wifi network card functioning in my own Debian? No, not out of the box. But like with any Big Tux, you can easily find a way to do almost anything. Connection with Broadcom 4311 WiFi card is not an exception. Steps described in Debian Wiki page gave what I expected. The only step which is not described there, but which I had to figured out myself, was inclusion of my username in sudoers file. If I remember correctly, Ubuntu does sudoers automatically. It was my first ever case when I had to touch sudoers.
Anyway, like Russians say, Everything is good that ends up good.
Russians? Yes, I almost forgot... What is about keyboard? As far as I got GNOME version of Debian, it was just a matter of minutes to enable Russian keyboard layout. Nothing difficult here. Everything "just works".
When I installed Ubuntu few moths ago, it found all the drives on the laptop and showed them to me during installation, suggesting to automatically mount. Debian is slightly different here. It found everything, except for NTFS drive with Windows. Little manual intervention required in fstab file where I added Windows partition to automatically mount points. Nothing difficult, but still some manual work.
While I was busy with NTFS partition and fstab was opened, I decided to give another go to my attempts to mount my network drive automatically. And here was the solution! How did I mount my drive before via terminal?

sudo mount -t cifs //fnd/public /fnd -o guest,nolinux,iocharset=utf-8

When I put similar parameters into fstab, it did not work. Solution was found very quickly this time by checking dmesg. The difference is in one dash sign! This is how my fstab looks like now:

//fnd/public /fnd cifs noserverino,nolinux,guest,iocharset=utf8 0 0

You may notice there is actually another difference: noserverinfo. But this one is not so important like utf8 vs utf-8.
When solution was found in Spiral Tux, it was tested in (K)Ubuntu. And it works! Are you surprised? I am not!
And now system is ready to use. Of course, it lacks of some software I like personally. But it already has pretty much everything to start working: full set of OpenOffice.org applications, GIMP, Transmission, couple of browsers (no Chrome yet, but I can quickly fix this!), more than a dozen of games...
What is my impression of Debian? I think it is very good. Subjectively it works faster than Ubuntu. And it provides same level of user experience. As long as you are in good relationships with GNOME, there is no much difference between Debian and Ubuntu (I know fans of either system will lynch me for this phrase! - just do it in comments field below)
Will I leave Debian to live on my HDD? Or will I put Puppy back? I don't know yet. Maybe Debian will stay, maybe it will go. Maybe Puppy will come instead. Maybe not. Who knows? As long as I freed up one partition to test Tux system in non-live mode, why should I stop here? Future will see...
But now Debian stays on my HDD. This post is written and published from Debian.


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