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.
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.
Ever want to know how your computer stacks up against other computers? Are you running a decent machine or are you seriously underpowered? Debian 5 Lenny provides an easy way to start making some comparisons.
Choose Preferences and “System Profiler and Benchmark”. When the window opens you will see that you can generate a system profile which will provide you with a list of your system resources, hardware, etc. This is a very handy troubleshooting tool. But it also provides a way to benchmark your computer. A benchmark runs a standard test on your hardware and operating system to determine how you stack up against other machines. It will give you a good reference point if you need to convince the wife…you need a new computer!
The benchmarks are at the bottom of the left hand screen. It may be the easiest just to click “Generate Report” at the top of the window because that will run it all and provide the reports in a web browser…easy.
Once you generate the reports you will be able to see how you match up on each of the benchmarks. The comment at the bottom of each window tells you if the best is a higher or lower score in each benchmark. It also compares your score with an Intel processor and a PowerPC. Once you have reviewed your benchmarks closely this is what you say to the wife:
“Honey, Lenny told me I need a new laptop”
“Who is Lenny?”
“Oh, Lenny is my new assistant, he just started work on Valentines Day.”
Good Luck on the laptop.
OK, so you use the same application every time you login. So, you are wondering, how do I start that application so that it is already running when I start up? Easy, create an entry in the Session manager so that it will start on boot. Here is how to do that.
Open Sessions Preferences
Sessions Preferences is a program that monitors applications at startup. You can see the applications that are started by default listed. The first thing you should do is to turn off some of these applications that you do not use. This will increase your boot time, slightly, and it will save on system resources. For example, if you do not run Bluetooth, uncheck it so that it does not run on boot time.
If you want to add an application you can choose “Add” and this window will open. The problem is, what do you place in the window? You need the name of your application and a comment but the real problem for you will be, what is the command that will work to start my application. You can open a terminal and use the which command like so:
The which command is asking the system the path to the application you want. It will return the path which is what you can place in the “Command:” section. So if you wanted to start gimp when your machine boots then you place /usr/bin/gimp in that line and add the name and you are set.
Another way to find the path for the application you want to start is to go to the menu right click the application you want, like Iceweasel, and place it on the panel. Once it is on the panel, right click and go to properties which will list the command to start Iceweasel.
You can see the command for iceweasel that has been copied and saved to the command section.
Here is what it looks like once you have it set up. If you decide not to start it at login, then simply uncheck it.
One other thing you can do to get the applications you want to start at boot. You can start all of the applications that you want to start at login and then go to the “Session Options” and click “Automatically remember…”. That way you do not have to search for the command to start an application.
These options then allow you to set up your login sessions any way you want to and have all of your programs running when you log in.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.