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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), Intel x86
Chapter 3 - Installation System

The Debian Installer is the official installation system for Debian. It offers a variety of installation methods. Which methods are available to install your system depends on your architecture.

Images of the installer for etch can be found together with the Installation Guide on the Debian website.

The Installation Guide is also included on the first CD/DVD of the official Debian CD/DVD sets, at:


You may also want to check the errata for debian-installer for a list of known issues.

3.1 What's new in the installation system?

There has been a lot of development on the Debian Installer since its first official release with sarge resulting in both improved hardware support and some exciting new features.

In these Release Notes we'll only list the major changes in the installer. If you are interested in an overview of the detailed changes since sarge, please check the release announcements for the etch beta and RC releases available from the Debian Installer's news history.

3.1.1 Major changes

No reboot during the installation

Previously, the installation was split into two parts: setting up the base system and making it bootable, followed by a reboot and after that the execution of base-config which would take care of things like user setup, setup of the package management system and installation of additional packages (using tasksel).

For etch the second stage has been integrated into Debian Installer itself. This has a number of advantages, including increased security and the fact that after the reboot at the end of the installation the new system should already have the correct timezone and, if you installed the Desktop environment, will at once start the graphical user interface.

UTF-8 encoding default for new systems

The installer will set up systems to use UTF-8 encoding rather than the old language-specific encodings (like ISO-8859-1, EUC-JP or KOI-8).

More flexible partitioning

It is now possible to set up file systems on an LVM volume using guided partitioning.

The installer is also able to set up encrypted file systems. Using manual partitioning you have the choice between dm-crypt and loop-aes, using a passphrase or a random key, and you can tune various other options. Using guided partitioning, the installer will create an encrypted LVM partition that contains any other file systems (except /boot) as logical volumes.

Graphical user interface

If you prefer a graphical user interface, try booting the installer with installgui.

The functionality of the graphical installer is almost identical to the regular installer, only the presentation differs. There is one exception: the graphical frontend does not support setting up encrypted partitions using random keys.

The major advantage of the graphical user interface is that it supports more languages than the regular user interface (newt). Information about the graphical installer and the most important differences between the graphical and regular installer are documented in an appendix in the installation guide.

Note: the graphical user interface is not available for all architectures.

Rescue mode

You can use the installer to solve problems with your system, for example when it refuses to boot. The first steps will be just like a regular installation, but the installer will not start the partitioner. Instead it will offer you a menu of rescue options.

Activate the rescue mode by booting the installer with rescue, or by adding a boot parameter rescue/enable=true.

Using sudo instead of root account

During expert installations you can choose to not set up the root account (it will be locked), but instead set up sudo so that the first user can use that for system administration.

Cryptographic verification of downloaded packages

Packages downloaded with the installer are now cryptographically checked using apt, making it more difficult to compromise a system being installed over the network.

Simplified mail configuration

If the "standard system" is installed, the installer sets up a basic configuration for the system's mail server which will only provide for local e-mail delivery. The mail server will be unavailable to other systems connected to the same network. If you want to configure your system to handle e-mail not local to the system (either to send e-mail or to receive it), you will have to reconfigure the mail system after installation.

Desktop selection

The installation system will install a GNOME desktop as the default desktop if the user asks for one.

However, users wishing to install alternate desktop environments can easily do so by adding boot parameters: tasks="standard, kde-desktop" for KDE and tasks="standard, xfce-desktop" for Xfce. Note that this will not work when installing from a full CD image without using a network mirror as an additional package source; it will work when using a DVD image or any other installation method.

There are also separate CD images available that install the KDE or Xfce desktop environment by default.

New languages

Thanks to the huge efforts of translators, Debian can now be installed in 47 languages using the text-based installation user interface. This is six languages more than in sarge. Languages added in this release include Belarusian, Esperanto, Estonian, Kurdish, Macedonian, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Wolof. Due to lack of translation updates, two languages have been dropped in this release: Persian and Welsh.

If the graphical user interface is used, an additional eleven languages are supported. These languages can only be selected using this installer as their character sets cannot be presented in a non-graphical environment. The new languages are: Bengali, Dzongkha, Gujarati, Hindi, Georgian, Khmer, Malayalam, Nepali, Punjabi, Tamil and Thai.

Users that do not wish to use any locale can now select C as their preferred locale in the installer's language selection. More information on language coverage is available at the d-i languages list.

Simplified localization and timezone selection

Configuration of language, countries and timezones has been simplified to reduce the amount of information needed from the user. The installer will now guess what the system's country and timezone is based on the language selected, or will provide a limited selection if it cannot. Users can still introduce obscure combinations if need be.

Improved system-wide localization

Most of the internationalization and localization tasks that were previously handled by the localization-config tool are now included in the stock Debian installer or in packages themselves. This means that selection of a language will automatically install packages necessary for that language (dictionaries, documentation, fonts...) in both standard and desktop environments. Configuration that is no longer handled automatically includes the papersize configuration and some advanced X Windows keyboard settings for some languages.

Note that language-specific packages will only be installed automatically if they are available during the installation.

3.1.2 Automated installation

A lot of the changes mentioned in the previous section also imply changes in the support in the installer for automated installation using preconfiguration files. This means that if you have existing preconfiguration files that worked with the sarge installer, you cannot expect these to work with the new installer without modification.

The good news is that the Installation Guide now has a separate appendix with extensive documentation on using preconfiguration.

The etch installer introduces some exciting new features that allow further and easier automation of installs. It also adds support for advanced partitioning using RAID, LVM and encrypted LVM. See the documentation for details.

3.2 Popularity contest

The installation system will again offer to install the popularity-contest package. This package was not installed by default in sarge but it was installed in older releases.

popularity-contest provides the Debian project with valuable information on which packages in the distribution are actually used. This information is used mainly to decide the order in which packages are included on installation CD-ROMs, but is also often consulted by Debian developers in deciding whether or not to adopt a package that no longer has a maintainer.

Information from popularity-contest is processed anonymously. We would appreciate it if you would participate in this official survey, helping to improve Debian.

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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), Intel x86

$Id: release-notes.en.sgml,v 1.312 2007-08-16 22:24:38 jseidel Exp $

Josip Rodin, Bob Hilliard, Adam Di Carlo, Anne Bezemer, Rob Bradford, Frans Pop (current), Andreas Barth (current), Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña (current), Steve Langasek (current)