26 Sept 2011

Re-settling Mageia and Debian

Those who closely follow my blog already know: I have recently changed my lapop. It was due to unresolvable hardware issue: hinge on the old one became broken.
Old laptop had 4 inhabitants on its hard disk: Windows XP, Mageia 1 KDE, Linux Mint XFCE and Debian Squeeze GNOME.
I wrote about my experience how old installed systems behaved themselves in their new house.
Next task for me was to re-install all Linux systems which I had. I did not plan to re-install Windows XP for two reasons:
  • it behaved itself pretty well and did not show any glitches
  • I use it too rare to bother.
Another part of the plan was to replace one of inhabitants: Linux Mint XFCE left the league and new Salix 13.37 XFCE joined quadro-boot landscape.
So, I left with 2 more systems to tell you about: Mageia and Debian.
Follow the link to read how they felt during and after re-installation.

Before I start, I would like to add another task to the list. My Linux systems were installed on 3 different partitions 10Gb each with one shared swap partition 2Gb. Rest of he disk, about 430Gb was given to Windows NTFS partition. It was effectively local storage space. As long as I never used in full, I decided to increase Linux partitions to 15Gb each. To do so, I used Windows tools and reduced size of Windows partition by 15Gb. Now, I need to add 5Gb to each of Linux systems. To increase complexity, I need to add that free space now forms primary partition while all the Linuxes sit in another primary partition in three logical partitions. How this all can be accomplished? That was a task...

Mageia 1 KDE

Installer was started from Live session where I checked that Mageia basically works with my new laptop without any issue. Even Wireless card (Intel 3945ABG) was automatically found and activated. Mageia's installer is not the most convenient I've ever seen. Even though system itself looks and feel very modern, I believe installer was not reworked for 5-7 or so years.
Because of that, installer has very inconvenient tool for partition management. The partitioning task I had simply could not be performed there.
Rest of installer process went OK up until the moment of reviewing GRUB records. At this stage installer disappeared from the screen like never worked.
Fortunately I installed Mageia on the same partition as it had before. It means Debian's GRUB2 managed to boot the system even without bootloader to be formally installed. As you may be aware, there is no way to avoid installation of GRUB in Mageia installer.
So, reboot... Choose Mageia from he list (it remained default), and I am greeted by window with request for root and user name and password.
As expected, Mageia operating system worked as nothing wrong happened during the installation. That is OK because all the necessary files were copied and prepared before the failure.
So, I found myself in well-known desktop. Of course, I had experience of Mageia 1 KDE installation before.
The rest steps are familiar... Configure, configure, configure. Add programs, change preferences.
What was nice to see, my Wireless network is up and running from very beginning, because installation was started from Live run where network was also activated.
How did Mageia configure semi-hardware key combinations for volume and brightness control? It did only half of the job. Brightness control elements (Fn-F7 and Fn-F8) work fine, but volume controls (Fn-F5 and Fn-F6) do not work. I can't say I am absolutely happy about this. But at least this is better than to have hanged system if somebody unprepared press the wrong combination.

Debian Squeeze GNOME

I had installation (not Live) version of Debian. So, I could not pre-check the system before diving into installation. The only assurance I had was that ported Debian worked more or less fine with minor issues to worry about.
Installation process was not different from what I had before.
Installer did not find my wireless network card. That was a surprise, because I expected Intel chipset to be supported by Debian right out of the box. Anyway... Knowing that installer is going to download a lot from the Internet, I took my laptop to usual network cable.
Rest of installation process was not difficult at all, same as during previous attempt.
Unfortunately, Debian's partitioning tool is not the most convenient. Basically speaking, it had no option to move partitions. Of course, there was option to resize. But only downwards. Things like moving, changing sizes of primary partitions etc were not in the list. Maybe that's too complex task. Task was even more difficult because Debian did not recognize NTFS partition as such and assumed it is Ext3. If I had touched it, there was a chance to loose data on that partition, so I left it untouched and even not included into fstab.
What does this mean for me? That I probably need to use either Partition Magic tool in Windows, or try specific Live CD like Parted Magic. Let me think about this later.
Coming back to Debian...
Right after installation and first reboot system found lots of updates. No surprise here, as you understand. Distribution is live organism, at always has something to refresh. I have complained about this in my review of OpenSuSE: developers need to periodically produce "service-pack-patched" ISO images. Looks like Debian actually does this. At least image which I downloaded was dated later than February when Debian Squeeze was released. Of course, I downloaded and installed all the updates first of all.
Then is was time to configure wireless card. This task was accomplished from package manager: search for 3945 gave me the package to install. The only issue was that I could not do modprobe to immediately activate my card, so another reboot was required. Not a big deal.
Unfortunately, Debian's GRUB2 still has same issue with incorrect configuring of Mageia item. I had to manually fix this in grub.cfg after all the updates.
Surprisingly enough, the most difficult task for me was... replacement of OpenOffice with LibreOffice!
LibreOffice is currently part of Debian Squeeze Backports repository. I added this repository into sources file and tried to use Synaptic to install LibreOffice. It did not work. Most likely because Synaptic took some of the dependent packages from main stable repository, and they are incompatible. Solution was found in the Internet: installation should be started from command line specifically stating backports as source:
aptitude -t squeeze-backports install libreoffice
So, I followed the process, downloaded all the necessary packages and in about 10 minuted could start LibreOffice from under Debian.
Other parts of configuration went very slick: this was not the first time I made them.
Debian activated my semi-hardware control buttons for volume and brightness. Unfortunately, it did this wrong way. Fn-F6 and Fn-F5 disable keyboard and most menus when pressed. I found a solution which is better than hard reset. It is to restart X (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace), but this is a plaster, not the medicine.
The only other thing which I would like to mention: this blog helped myself a lot during this configuration. My own notes published for public helped myself!
Hope them help you too!


  1. Debian does not have a live version? Look at live.debian.net, or on www.debian.org/CD/live/, or on http://pkg-kde.alioth.debian.org/kde4livecd.html. These were just a few of the results that popped up immediately just one Google search away.
    Please, get a clue before you post something.

  2. @Anonymous: Thanks for correcting me... I've updated the post correspondingly.