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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For Intel x86
Chapter 8 - Booting Into Your New Debian System


8.1 ``Make System Bootable''

The standard i386 boot loader is called ``LILO''. It is a complex program which offers lots of functionality, including MS-DOS, NT, and OS/2 boot management. Please carefully read the instructions in the directory /usr/share/doc/lilo/ if you have special needs; also see the LILO mini-HOWTO.

You can skip this step for now, and set the bootable partition later with the GNU/Linux fdisk or activate programs.

If you mess up and can no longer boot into MS-DOS, you'll need to use a MS-DOS boot disk and use the fdisk /mbr command to reinstall the MS-DOS master boot record — however, this means that you'll need to use some other way to get back into Debian! For more information on this please read Reactivating DOS and Windows, Section 9.4.

If you are installing a diskless workstation, obviously, booting off the local disk isn't a meaningful option, and this step will be skipped.


8.2 The Moment of Truth

Your system's first boot on its own power is what electrical engineers call the ``smoke test''. If you have any floppies in your floppy drive, remove them. Select the ``Reboot the System'' menu item.

If are booting directly into Debian, and the system doesn't start up, either use your original installation boot media (for instance, the rescue floppy), or insert the Custom Boot floppy if you created one, and reset your system. If you are not using the Custom Boot floppy, you will probably need to add some boot arguments. If booting with the rescue floppy or similar technique, you need to specify rescue root=root, where root is your root partition, such as ``/dev/sda1''.

Debian should boot, and you should see the same messages as when you first booted the installation system, followed by some new messages.


8.3 Debian Post-Boot (Base) Configuration

After booting, you will be prompted to complete the configuration of your basic system, and then to select what additional packages you wish to install. The application which guides you through this process is called base-config. If you wish to re-run the base-config at any point after installation is complete, as root run base-config.


8.4 Configuring your Time Zone

You will first be prompted to configure your time zone. After selecting local vs. GMT hardware clock setting, you will select a region and then a city within that region which is in the same time zone you are. When making selections in these lists, you can type a single letter to take you to the section of the list beginning with that letter.


8.5 MD5 Passwords

You will next be prompted whether to install MD5 passwords. This is an alternate method of storing passwords on your system which is more secure than the standard means (called ``crypt'').

The default is ``No'', but if you do not require NIS support and are very concerned about security on this machine, you may say ``Yes''.


8.6 Shadow Passwords

Unless you said ``Yes'' to MD5 passwords, the system will ask whether you want to enable shadow passwords. This is a system in which your GNU/Linux system is made to be a bit more secure. In a system without shadow passwords, passwords are stored (encrypted) in a world-readable file, /etc/passwd. This file has to be readable to anyone who can log in because it contains vital user information, for instance, how to map between numeric user identifiers and login names. Therefore, someone could conceivably grab your /etc/passwd file and run a brute force attack (i.e. run an automated test of all possible password combinations) against it to try to determine passwords.

If you have shadow passwords enabled, passwords are instead stored in /etc/shadow, which is readable and writable only by root, and readable by group shadow. Therefore, we recommend that you enable shadow passwords.

Reconfiguration of the shadow password system can be done at any time with the shadowconfig program. After installation, see /usr/share/doc/passwd/README.debian.gz for more information.


8.7 Set the Root Password

The root account is also called the super-user; it is a login that bypasses all security protection on your system. The root account should only be used to perform system administration, and only used for as short a time as possible.

Any password you create should contain from 6 to 8 characters, and should contain both upper- and lower-case characters, as well as punctuation characters. Take extra care when setting your root password, since it is such a powerful account. Avoid dictionary words or use of any personal information which could be guessed.

If anyone ever tells you they need your root password, be extremely wary. You should normally never give your root account out, unless you are administering a machine with more than one system administrator.


8.8 Create an Ordinary User

The system will ask you whether you wish to create an ordinary user account at this point. This account should be your main personal log-in. You should not use the root account for daily use or as your personal login.

Why not? Well, one reason to avoid using root's privileges is that it is very easy to do irreparable damage as root. Another reason is that you might be tricked into running a Trojan-horse program — that is a program that takes advantage of your super-user powers to compromise the security of your system behind your back. Any good book on Unix system administration will cover this topic in more detail — consider reading one if it is new to you.

Name the user account anything you like. If your name is John Smith, you might use ``smith'', ``john'', ``jsmith'' or ``js''. You will also be prompted for the full name of the user, and, like before, a password.

If at any point after installation you would like to create another account, use the adduser command.


8.9 Setting Up PPP

You will next be asked whether you wish to install the rest of the system using PPP. If you are installing from CD-ROM and/or are connected directly to the network, you can safely say ``No'' and skip this section.

If you do choose to configure PPP at this point, a program named pppconfig will be run. This program helps you configure your PPP connection. Make sure, when it asks you for the name of your dialup connection, that you name it ``provider''.

Hopefully, the pppconfig program will walk you through a pain-free PPP connection setup. However, if it does not work for you, see below for detailed instructions.

In order to setup PPP, you'll need to know the basics of file viewing and editing in GNU/Linux. To view files, you should use more, and zmore for compressed files with a .gz extension. For example, to view README.debian.gz, type zmore README.debian.gz. The base system comes with an editor named nano, which is very simple to use, but does not have a lot of features. You will probably want to install more full-featured editors and viewers later, such as jed, nvi, less, and emacs.

Edit /etc/ppp/peers/provider and replace /dev/modem with /dev/ttyS# where # stands for the number of your serial port. In Linux, serial ports are counted from 0; your first serial port (i.e., COM1) is /dev/ttyS0 under Linux. The next step is to edit /etc/chatscripts/provider and insert your provider's phone number, your user-name and password. Please do not delete the ``\q'' that precedes the password. It hides the password from appearing in your log files.

Many providers use PAP or CHAP for login sequence instead of text mode authentication. Others use both. If your provider requires PAP or CHAP, you'll need to follow a different procedure. Comment out everything below the dialing string (the one that starts with ``ATDT'') in /etc/chatscripts/provider, modify /etc/ppp/peers/provider as described above, and add user name where name stands for your user-name for the provider you are trying to connect to. Next, edit /etc/ppp/pap-secrets or /etc/ppp/chap-secrets and enter your password there.

You will also need to edit /etc/resolv.conf and add your provider's name server (DNS) IP addresses. The lines in /etc/resolv.conf are in the following format: nameserver xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx where the xs stand for numbers in your IP address. Optionally, you could add the usepeerdns option to the /etc/ppp/peers/provider file, which will enable automatic choosing of appropriate DNS servers, using settings the remote host usually provides.

Unless your provider has a login sequence different from the majority of ISPs, you are done! Start the PPP connection by typing pon as root, and monitor the process using plog command. To disconnect, use poff, again, as root.

Read /usr/share/doc/ppp/README.Debian.gz file for more information on using PPP on Debian.

For static SLIP connections, you will need to add the slattach command (from the net-tools package) into /etc/init.d/network. Dynamic SLIP will require the gnudip package.


8.10 Removing PCMCIA

If you have no use for PCMCIA, you can choose to remove it at this point. This will make your startup cleaner; also, it will make it easier to replace your kernel (PCMCIA requires a lot of correlation between the version of the PCMCIA drivers, the kernel modules, and the kernel itself).


8.11 Configuring APT

The main means that people use to install packages on their system is via a program called apt-get, from the apt package.[5] APT must be configured, however, so that it knows where to retrieve packages from. The helper application which assists in this task is called apt-setup.

The next step in your configuration process is to tell APT where other Debian packages can be found. Note that you can re-run this tool at any point after installation by running apt-setup, or by manually editing /etc/apt/sources.list.

If you are booting from an official CD-ROM, then that CD-ROM should automatically be configured as an apt source without prompting. You will notice this because you will see the CD-ROM being scanned, and then asked if you want to configure another CD-ROM. If you have a multiple CD-ROM set — and most people will — then you should go ahead and scan each of them one by one.

For users without an official CD-ROM, you will be offered an array of choices for how Debian packages are accessed: FTP, HTTP, CD-ROM, or a local file system. For CD-ROM users, you can get to this step by specifically asking to add another source.

You should know that it's perfectly acceptable to have a number of different APT sources, even for the same Debian archive. apt-get will automatically pick the package with the highest version number given all the available versions. Or, for instance, if you have both an HTTP and a CD-ROM APT source, apt-get should automatically use the local CD-ROM when possible, and only resort to HTTP if a newer version is available there. However, it is not a good idea to add unnecessary APT sources, since this will tend to slow down the process of checking the network archives for new versions.


8.11.1 Configuring Network Package Sources

If you plan on installing the rest of your system via the network, the most common option is to select the ``http'' source. The ``ftp'' source is also acceptable, but tends to be a little slower making connections.

Next you will be asked whether you wish to have any non-free software. That refers to commercial software or any other software whose licensing does not comply with the Debian Free Software Guidelines. It's fine to say ``Yes'', but be careful when installing such software, because you will need to ensure that you are using the software in compliance with its license.

The next step during the configuration of network packages sources is to tell apt-setup which country you live in. This configures which of the official Debian Internet mirror network you connect to. Depending on which country you select, you will be given a list of possible machines. Its generally fine to pick the one on the top of the list, but any of them should work.

If you are installing via HTTP, you will be asked to configure your proxy server. This is sometimes required by people behind firewalls, on corporate networks, etc.

Finally, your new network package source will be tested. If all goes well, you will be prompted whether you want to do it all over again with another network source.


8.12 Package Installation: Simple or Advanced

You will next be prompted whether you wish to install packages the simple way, or the more fine-grained, advanced way. We recommend you start with the simple way, since you can always run the more advanced way at any time.

You should know that for simple installation, base-config is merely invoking the tasksel program. For advanced package installation, the dselect program is being run. Either of these can be run at any time after installation to install more packages. If you are looking for a specific single package, after installation is complete, simply run apt-get install package, where package is the name of the package you are looking for.


8.13 Simple Package Selection — The Task Installer

If you chose ``simple'' installation, you will next be thrown into the Task Installer (tasksel). This technique offers you a number of pre-rolled software configurations offered by Debian. You could always choose, package by package, what you want to install on your new machine. This is the purpose of the dselect program, described below. But this can be a long task with around 8300 packages available in Debian!

So, you have the ability to choose tasks first, and then add on more individual packages later. These tasks loosely represent a number of different jobs or things you want to do with your computer, such as `desktop environment', `development in C', or `file server'.

For each task, you can highlight that task and select ``Task Info'' to see more information on that task. This will show you an extended description and the list of packages which will be installed for that task. A table showing approximate sizes of the various tasks for planning purposes is in Disk Space Needed for Tasks, Section 11.4.

Once you've selected your tasks, select ``Finish''. At this point, apt-get will install the packages you've selected. Note, if you did not select any tasks at all, any standard, important, or required priority packages that are not yet present on your system will be installed. This functionality is the same as running tasksel -s at the command line, and currently involves a download of about 37M of archives. You will be shown the number of packages to be installed, and how many kilobytes of packages, if any, need to be downloaded.

Of the 8300 packages available in Debian, only a small minority are covered by tasks offered in the Task Installer. To see information on more packages, either use apt-cache search search-string for some given search string (see the apt-cache(8) man page), or run dselect as described below.


8.14 Advanced Package Selection with dselect

If you selected ``advanced'' package selection, you'll be dropped into the dselect program. The dselect Tutorial is required reading before you run dselect. dselect allows you to select packages to be installed on your system. You must be the super-user (root) when you run dselect.


8.15 Prompts During Software Installation

Each package you selected with either tasksel and/or dselect is unpacked and then installed in turn by the apt-get and dpkg programs. If a particular program needs more information from the user, it will prompt you during this process. You might also want to keep an eye on the output during the process, to watch for any installation errors (although you will be asked to acknowledge errors which prevented a package's installation).


8.16 Log In

After you've installed packages, you'll be presented with the login prompt. Log in using the personal login and password you selected. Your system is now ready to use.

If you are a new user, you may want to explore the documentation which is already installed on your system as you start to use it. There are currently several documentation systems, work is proceeding on integrating the different types of documentation. Here are a few starting points.

Documentation accompanying programs you have installed is in /usr/share/doc/, under a subdirectory named after the program. For example, the APT User's Guide for using apt to install other programs on your system, is located in /usr/share/doc/apt/guide.html/index.html.

In addition, there are some special folders within the /usr/share/doc/ hierarchy. Linux HOWTOs are installed in .gz format, in /usr/share/doc/HOWTO/en-txt/ and /usr/share/doc/HOWTO/en-txt/mini/. The /usr/share/doc/HTML/index.html contains browse-able indexes of documentation installed by dhelp.

One easy way to view these documents is to cd /usr/share/doc/, and type lynx followed by a space and a dot (the dot stands for the current directory).

You can also type info (command) or man (command) to see documentation on most commands available at the command prompt. Typing help will display help on shell commands. And typing a command followed by --help will usually display a short summary of the command's usage. If a command's results scroll past the top of the screen, type | more after the command to cause the results to pause before scrolling past the top of the screen. To see a list of all commands available which begin with a certain letter, type the letter and then two tabs.

For a more complete introduction to Debian and GNU/Linux, see /usr/share/doc/debian-guide/html/noframes/index.html.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For Intel x86

version 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002

Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo