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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Alpha - Chapter 8
Next Steps and Where to Go From Here


8.1 If You Are New to Unix

If you are new to Unix, you probably should go out and buy some books and do some reading. The Unix FAQ contains a number of references to books and Usenet news groups which should help you out. You can also take a look at the User-Friendly Unix FAQ.

Linux is an implementation of Unix. The Linux Documentation Project (LDP) collects a number of HOWTOs and online books relating to Linux. Most of these documents can be installed locally; just install the doc-linux-html package (HTML versions) or the doc-linux-text package (ASCII versions), then look in /usr/doc/HOWTO. International versions of the LDP HOWTOs are also available as Debian packages.

Information specific to Debian can be found below.


8.2 Orienting Yourself to Debian

Debian is a little different from other distributions. Even if you're familiar with Linux in other distributions, there are things you should know about Debian to help you to keep your system in a good, clean state. This chapter contains material to help you get oriented; it is not intended to be a tutorial for how to use Debian, but just a very brief glimpse of the system for the very rushed.

The most important concept to grasp is the Debian packaging system. In essence, large parts of your system should be considered under the control of the packaging system. These include:

For instance, if you replace /usr/bin/perl, that will work, but then if you upgrade your perl package, the file you put there will be replaced. Experts can get around this by putting packages on ``hold'' in dselect.


8.3 Further Reading and Information

If you need information about a particular program, you should first try man program, or info program.

There is lots of useful documentation in /usr/doc as well. In particular, /usr/doc/HOWTO and /usr/doc/FAQ contains lots of interesting information.

The Debian web site contains a large quantity of documentation about Debian. In particular, see the Debian FAQ and the Debian Mailing List Archives. The Debian community is self-supporting; to subscribe to one or more of the Debian mailing lists, see the Mail List Subscription page.


8.4 Compiling a New Kernel

Why would someone want to compile a new kernel? It is often not necessary since the default kernel shipped with Debian handles most configurations. However, it is useful to compile a new kernel in order to:

Don't be afraid to try compiling the kernel. It's fun and profitable.

To compile a kernel the Debian way, you need some packages: kernel-package, kernel-source-2.0.35 (the most recent version at the time of this writing), fakeroot and a few others which are probably already installed (see /usr/doc/kernel-package/README.gz for the complete list). Note that you don't have to compile your kernel the ``Debian way''; but we find that using the packaging system to manage your kernel is actually safer and easier. In fact, you can get your kernel sources right from Linus instead of kernel-source-2.0.35, yet still use the kernel-package compilation method.

Note that you'll find complete documentation on using kernel-package under /usr/doc/kernel-package. This section just contains a brief tutorial.

Hereafter, we'll assume your kernel source will be located in /usr/local/src and that your kernel version is 2.0.35. As root, create a directory under /usr/local/src and change the owner of that directory to your normal non-root account. As your normal non-root account, change your directory to where you want to unpack the kernel sources (cd /usr/local/src), extract the kernel sources (tar xzf /usr/src/kernel-source-2.0.35.tar.gz), change your directory to it (cd kernel-source-2.0.35/). Now, you can configure your kernel (make xconfig if X11 is installed and configured, make menuconfig otherwise). Take the time to read the online help and choose carefully. When in doubt, it is typically better to include the device driver (the software which manages hardware peripherals, such as ethernet cards, SCSI controllers, and so on) you are unsure about. Be careful: other options, not related to a specific hardware, should be left at the default value if you do not understand them. Do not forget to select "Kernel daemon support (e.g. autoload of modules)" in "Loadable module support" (it is not selected by default) or your Debian installation will experience problems.[3]

Clean the source tree and reset the kernel-package parameters. To do that, do /usr/sbin/make-kpkg clean.

Now, compile the kernel: fakeroot /usr/sbin/make-kpkg --revision=custom.1.0 kernel_image. The version number of ``1.0'' can be changed at will; this is just a version number that you will use to track your kernel builds. Likewise, you can put any word you like in place of ``custom'' (i.e., a host name). Kernel compilation may take quite a while, depending on the power of your machine.

Once the compilation is complete, you can install your custom kernel like any package. As root, do dpkg -i ../kernel-image-2.0.35-subarch_custom.1.0_alpha.deb. The subarch part is an optional sub-architecture, depending on what kernel options you set. dpkg -i kernel-image... will install the kernel, along with some other nice supporting files. For instance, the System.map will be properly installed (helpful for debugging kernel problems), and /boot/config-2.0.35 will be installed, containing your current configuration set. Your new kernel-image-2.0.35 package is also clever enough to automatically use lilo to update the kernel image information allowing you to boot, so there's no need to re-run lilo. If you have created a modules package, you'll need to install that package as well.

It is time to reboot the system: read carefully any warning that the above step may have produced, then shutdown -r now.

For more information on kernel-package, read /usr/doc/kernel-package.


8.5 Using the Linux 2.2 Kernel with Debian 2.1

Debian 2.1 is not certified for use with the Linux 2.2 kernel. However, if you are willing to download some packages from ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/dists/unstable/, you should be able to have a functioning system.

For a list of packages which are known to be incompatible with the 2.2 kernel, see Errata: Running Linux 2.2.x in slink. More updates on the situation may be found at Debian 2.1 Release Information.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Alpha
version 2.1.11, 28 August, 1999
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo