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Posts Tagged ‘Debian’

Breaking News: Debian moves to LibreOffice

Debian Moves To LibreOfficeDebian has dropped OpenOffice and included LibreOffice. LibreOffice has been available in testing since March and I’ve been curious when it was going to be stable, now it is and I’m glad. After all Debian is kind of the standard for distributions setting a mark for stability. After most other distributions have moved to LibreOffice, the inclusion of LibreOffice into Debian kind of seals the deal in my opinion. In the release announcement, Rene Engelhard, the Debian LibreOffice maintainer, said “I am sure Debian and its users will benefit greatly from this transition; I expect not only an improved collaboration but also quicker development cycles.” It seems that this is just another calculated step in the right direction for Debian.

Full instructions are available at Debian.org

Categories: Desktop User Tags: ,

Using Debian from a USB Drive

June 21, 2009 2 comments

There are various ways to try Debian before you ‘buy’ it. One is the live CD either Debian or Ubuntu, and the other is to run a self contained install from a USB drive. Seeing as these handy little gadgets are getting larger and cheaper as time goes in, this is a pretty viable method of doing things.
When I first tried this a year or so ago, I found it almost impossible to figure it out. Luckily a little further down the line, it is as easy as it could be. If you can complete an install on a normal hard drive, you can complete is on a USB drive. If I can do it then anyone can! Previously there were lots of command line action needed to get anywhere with a USB install. Now it’s pretty much the same as a standard one!

Caution: You should have all of your important files backed up before you try this or any other installs…use at your own risk.

I will now describe the basics of putting this altogether, assuming you have a decent speed USB drive with a capacity larger than 256mb. Decent speed is quite important as you are running almost everything from the drive. My first install used a cheapo slow-o drive that seemed to take an eternity to do anything. Then I upgraded to my 8gb Patriot Xt and now it flies.
To get started, load the Debian installer disk as usual and choose graphical install. Go through the normal install routine until you get to Partition Method. Here you want to choose your USB drive. In my case it came up as /sda.

usb

Select ‘All files in one partition’ at the next option. This is the easiest way to run things on an external drive. You can partition if you want to, but it complicates life somewhat so I’m not going to cover it here.

Complete the process as you would a normal install. Make all the selections you would do on an HDD, just make them relevant where necessary to you /sda mount point. Also ensure you install the Grub bootloader onto the USB drive, otherwise it won’t work.
Once you have made your selections, the install process begins. It may take a while depending on the speed of your USB drive. Once done remove the drive and reboot your machine. When your machine reboots access the BIOS and add the selection to be able to boot from a removable device or USB drive. Where this is will vary depending on your motherboard.
Save and reboot once more making sure you plug your USB drive in. Grub should then load and you get the option to boot into Debian from the drive! Worked for me!
When using Debian in this way you don’t really notice the difference from a standard install. Space may become an issue if you use this method for a prolonged period of time, but that will depend entirely on the size of the USB stick you use.

Firewall on Debian Lenny

May 4, 2009 3 comments

There is no doubt that a Linux system is many times more secure than a Windows one. That isn’t an excuse to ignore risk however, as there are still ways to compromise a system. The internet is still the modern equivalent of the Wild West and you need to protect yourself whatever you do.
Installing a firewall should be job number one for any machine of any kind that is going to be connected to a network. Even geeks like me who have a hardware firewall on their router, still have a firewall on the local machines as a second line of defense against the naughty people.

468_deb

This is where Debian falls down in my opinion. There is an iptables basis for a firewall built in, but it seems to need a lot of configuration to get it working. I got round this by using Firestarter, which is an external program that packages everything in a nice friendly GUI.
Firestarter is available through Synaptic Package Manager or apt-get, and installs quite quickly. There are a couple of configuration screens but the defaults are pretty much all you need unless you still use dialup or want to share your connection with other machines.

apt-get install firestarter
If installed through apt-get or Synaptic the package installs itself as a service so it will run whenever you use your machine. This is a good thing as you are automatically protected. I’m not sure I’m quite up to configuring a firewall every time I use the machine!
I love wizards, I think they are great. Tall pointy hats and big sleeves. No!
Firestarter has a configuration wizard which takes all the grunt work out of setting things up for you. The program automatically detects your network hardware and asks you to choose your Internet facing device. If you are on broadband or have a switch or router then this will probably be eth0.
Unless you have a static IP address, leave the tick by IP Address is assigned via DHCP. This option will be suitable to most users as the majority of ISPs use dynamic IP addressing.

You next choice will be whether to allow internet connection sharing. That is if you want other machines to connect to the internet through your Debian box.
The next page is the last one. See, I told you it was easy.
Here you get to save your options and start the program. If you save here and change your mind later, you can always reconfigure it, nothing is written in stone.

f1

f2

f3

f4

When you first start Firestarter you will see the status page. It shows you pretty much what’s going on with it. The main thing you want to check is the Status on the left. There should be a blue circle with the word ‘Active’ underneath. If you have that then you are protected.

f5

When the firewall is active it will record any events that it sees. You can check these on the Events page. It is wise to check this page periodically once first configured to ensure it isn’t blocking something you want to let through. Other than that you can just leave it alone to do its thing!
Firewalls are another massive subject that go way beyond the scope of this post, but you should at least have a basic understanding of one of many firewall options open to you and have one running while you explore the subject further.

Debian Lenny from a USB Drive

April 19, 2009 1 comment

There are various ways to try Debian before you ‘buy’ Debian. One is the live CD either Debian or Ubuntu, and the other is to run a self contained install from a USB drive. Seeing as these handy little gadgets are getting larger and cheaper as time goes in, this is a pretty viable method of doing things.
When I first tried this a year or so ago, I found it almost impossible to figure it out. Luckily a little further down the line, it is as easy as it could be. If you can complete an install on a normal hard drive, you can complete is on a USB drive. If I can do it then anyone can! Previously there were lots of command line action needed to get anywhere with a USB install. Now it’s pretty much the same as a standard one!

I will now describe the basics of putting this altogether, assuming you have a decent speed USB drive with a capacity larger than 256mb. Decent speed is quite important as you are running almost everything from the drive. My first install used a cheapo slow-o drive that seemed to take an eternity to do anything. Then I upgraded to my 8gb Patriot Xt and now it flies.

To get started, load the Debian installer disk as usual and choose graphical install. Go through the normal install routine until you get to Partition Method. Here you want to choose your USB drive. In my case it came up as /sda.

aa

Select ‘All files in one partition’ at the next option. This is the easiest way to run things on an external drive. You can partition if you want to, but it complicates life somewhat so I’m not going to cover it here.

Complete the process as you would a normal install. Make all the selections you would do on an HDD, just make them relevant where necessary to you /sda mount point. Also ensure you install the Grub bootloader onto the USB drive, otherwise it won’t work.
Once you have made your selections, the install process begins. It may take a while depending on the speed of your USB drive. Once done remove the drive and reboot your machine. When your machine reboots access the BIOS and add the selection to be able to boot from a removable device or USB drive. Where this is will vary depending on your motherboard.
Save and reboot once more making sure you plug your USB drive in. Grub should then load and you get the option to boot into Debian from the drive! Worked for me!

When using Debian in this way you don’t really notice the difference from a standard install. Space may become an issue if you use this method for a prolonged period of time, but that will depend entirely on the size of the USB stick you use.

The Unthinkable: Moving From Ubuntu to Debian 5 Lenny

February 7, 2009 46 comments

This is an older post, for up-to-date Debian tutorials visit our Debian Tutorials section.

I am thinking the unthinkable…..I am considering changing from Ubuntu 8.10 for my desktop to Debian 5. I have been running the Debian 5 Lenny candidate for awhile and have bee very pleased with the stability and features. It actually functions and acts more like the distribution I need and work on than Ubuntu. Not so say that Ubuntu is bad, just that I typically do not need or use the latest applications. I mainly work on my Linux desktop for about 60 hours a week. So I really need something I can count on. Again, not that Ubuntu has let me down, it has never really crashed on me but I do struggle with bugs from time to time. I use my GUI desktop to work from as I manage Linux servers, either Ubuntu or CentOS.

Buy Debian Linux on DVD or CD

1. Stability
Debian has a philosophy that is more like Red Hat/CentOS in that the focus is more on testing to insure stability of the whole system than to provide the latest and greatest applications. I am weary of checking bug reports for Ubuntu, especially on the server end. In one recent week working on Ubuntu servers I had to work through 3 bugs that cost me a lot of time and energy that could have been spent elsewhere. Every time I talk about bugs in Ubuntu I get riddled with attacks, but what I have discovered is that most of the attacks are emotional responses from people attached to Ubuntu but not those who spend 20-30 hours a week working on configuring and managing Ubuntu servers. Sorry but Ubuntu needs to do a better job on the server end in terms of testing.

login

2. Security
Basically the security issue is the same as stability. It is even more important now in terms of servers. Security is always related to the testing of applications, that is where many of the security issues develop. This is where Debian 5 has done more testing, at least from what I can see and ascertain than is done with Ubuntu. Debian seems to take security more serious that Ubuntu. I remember writing an article on how it was unthinkable for me to see the first Ubuntu desktop with no firewall option at all. Or even worse, calling the UFW firewall “uncomplicated” in current versions of Ubuntu. I am happy to write an iptables firewall and be done with it.

3. Simplicity
I do not need many features, in fact I can easily be happy with a system that has less features. I am tired of the bloated desktop that takes CPU cycles but that I do not use. I am probably looking at moving to Fluxbox on Debian. I see where some have labeled the icons of Debian as the worst on the planet, well not quite but they are not as nice as Ubuntu but so what?

flux1

4. Scope
Debian comes with 18,733 packages. Debian 5 Lenny will have 5 DVDs to download with those packages, that is simply beyond any other distribution. The scope is not just in relationship to the packages that are offered, these packages are maintained by volunteers who cover the globe providing insight and thinking from various cultures and backgrounds. Of course I recognize that all distributions are international in scope but Debian 5 is a group of volunteers which separates them from a group of paid programmers run by a corporation.

5. History and Purpose
This paragraph from the Debian web site sums up the history and purpose of Debian. Now certainly it has not been a golden road of tranquility, as there have been problems, but for the most part this purpose is seen throughout the distro.

“Debian was begun in August 1993 by Ian Murdock, as a new distribution which would be made openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU. Debian was meant to be carefully and conscientiously put together, and to be maintained and supported with similar care. It started as a small, tightly-knit group of Free Software hackers, and gradually grew to become a large, well-organized community of developers and users”

All in all, some of this may be a result of having used Ubuntu for several years and yearning for a change. But I think now is the time as Debian 5 Lenny is on the way.

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