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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Intel x86 - Chapter 1
Welcome to Debian


We're delighted that you have decided to try Debian. We are sure that you will find that Debian is unique among operating system distributions. Debian brings together quality free software from around the world, integrating it into a coherent whole. The sum is truly more than the parts.

The Debian GNU/Linux distribution is made up of a number of software packages. Each package consists of executables, scripts, documentation, and configuration information. Each package has a maintainer who is responsible for that package. In this way, Debian grows scalably. Anyone who agrees to abide by the Debian Social Contract may become a new maintainer. Any maintainer can introduce new software into Debian -- provided it meets our criteria of being free, and the package follows our quality standards.

The Debian Free Software Guidelines is a clear and concise statement of Debian's criteria for free software. It is a very influential document in the Free Software Movement, and provided the basis of the Open Source Free Software Guidelines.

Only Debian has an extensive specification of our standards of quality, the Debian Policy. This document defines the qualities and standards to which we hold Debian packages.

To protect your system against trojan horses and other malevolent software, Debian verifies that packages have come from their real Debian maintainers. Debian packagers also take great care to configure the packages in a secure manner. If security problems do arise with shipped packages, fixes are generally quickly available. Simply by updating your systems periodically, you will download and install security fixes.

For more general information about Debian, see the Debian FAQ.


1.1 Getting the Newest Version of This Document

This document is continually changing. Make sure to check Debian 2.1 pages for last minute information about the 2.1 release. Updated versions of this installation manual also available at the Official Install Manual pages.


1.2 Organization of This Document

This document is meant to serve as a manual for first time Debian users. It tries to make as few assumptions as possible about the level of expertise of the reader. However, general knowledge of how your hardware works is assumed.

Expert users may also find interesting reference information in this document, including minimum installation sizes, details of hardware supported by the Debian installation system, and so on. I encourage expert users to jump around in the document.

In general, the document is arranged in linear fashion, walking the user through the installation process. Here are the steps, and the sections of this document which correlate with the steps.

  1. Determine whether your hardware meets the requirements for using the installation system, in System Requirements, Chapter 2.
  2. Backup your system, and perform any planning and hardware configuration prior to installing Debian, in Before You Start, Chapter 3.
  3. Partition your hard disk as described in Partitioning Your Hard Drive, Chapter 4. Partitioning is very important, since you may have to live with it for a while.
  4. In Methods for Installing Debian, Chapter 5, the different ways to install Debian are presented. Select and prepare your installation media accordingly.
  5. Next, you shall boot the installation system. Information on this step is covered in Booting the Installation System, Chapter 6; this chapter also contains troubleshooting procedures in case you have a hard time booting.
  6. Perform initial system configuration, which is discussed in Using dbootstrap for Initial System Configuration, Chapter 7, Sections Introduction to dbootstrap, Section 7.1 to ``Configure the Network'', Section 7.13.
  7. Install the base system, from ``Install the Base System'', Section 7.14.
  8. Boot into the newly installed base system and run through some post-base-installation tasks, from The Moment of Truth, Section 7.18.
  9. Install the rest of the system, using dselect, in Installing the Rest of Your System, Section 7.26.

Once you've got your system installed, you can read Next Steps and Where to Go From Here, Chapter 8. This chapter explains where to look to find more information about Unix, Debian, and how to replace your kernel. In case you want to build your own install system from sources, take a look at Technical Information on the Boot Floppies, Chapter 9.

Finally, information about this document, and how to contribute to it, may be found in Administrivia, Chapter 10.


1.3 About Copyrights and Software Licenses

I'm sure you've read the licenses that come with most commercial software -- they say you can only use one copy of the software on one computer. The Debian GNU/Linux system isn't like that. We encourage you to put a copy on every computer in your school or place of business. Lend it to your friends, and help them install it on their computers. You can even make thousands of copies and sell them -- with a few restrictions. That's because Debian is based on free software.

Free software doesn't mean that it doesn't have a copyright, and it doesn't mean that the CD you buy containing this software is distributed at no charge. Free software, in part, means that the licenses of individual programs do not require you to pay for the privilege of distributing or using the programs. It also means that anyone may extend, adapt, and modify the software, and distribute the results of their work as well.[1]

Many of the programs in the system are licensed under the GNU General Public License, or GPL. The GPL requires that you make the source code of the programs available whenever you distribute a copy of the program; that ensures that you, the user, are able to modify the software. Thus, we've included the source code for all of those programs in the Debian system.[2] There are several other forms of copyright and software license used on the programs in Debian. You can find the copyrights and licenses of every program by looking in the file /usr/doc/package-name/copyright once you've installed your system.

For more information on licenses and how Debian decides what is free enough to be included in the main distribution, see the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

The most important legal notice is that this software comes with no warranties. The programmers who have created this software have done so for the benefit of the community. No guarantee is made as to the suitability of the software for any given purpose. However, since the software is free, you are empowered to modify software to suit your needs as needed -- and enjoy the benefits of others who have extended the software in this way.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Intel x86
version 2.1.11, 28 August, 1999
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo