Debian Installation with the Net-Installer RC2

There are many ways of installing Debian, this is just how I do it. This guide is dedicated to all the newbies out there, and users with old boxes. Update: Screenshots here.

Remember, if you break Debian, you get to keep both parts.

The net-installer-rc2 is still in beta (Release Candidate 2), the next
version will be the official installer, so you get a chance to know
what’s comming. You can download it from:

Sarge net-installer-rc2 (choose i386)

The type of installation I had in mind for my old machine is a minimal
one, installing light apps that will render my system lean and quick.
So, there will be no KDE, Gnome, splash screens, or little stars
titillating on the desktop. I will install IceWM, because it’s my
favorite; but XFCE4, WMaker, Fluxbox, are equally fast and excellent.
I want to install the kernel 2.4.27, my box is standard, there is
nothing complex, everything works with kernel 2.4.27.

During this installation you will have the options to install
Woody, Sarge, or Sid, and the kernels 2.4.27 or 2.6.8/2.6.9, depending
on the version of Debian you decide to install.


Processor PII 266
128 MB RAM
Yamaha sound card
Realtek 8139 NIC
Riva 128 nVidia video card with 4 MB RAM
40 GB IDE hd (5400)
Optiquest V73 17″ monitor
PS/2 generic 3-button mouse
Logitech iTouch keyboard (spanish)
Monitor’s horizontal frequency (30-70)
Monitor’s vertical refresh rate (50-160)
ADSL connection

You can find your monitor’s frequencies from its manual or googling
for its brand and model, or manufacturer. DO NOT USE MINE.

It is a desktop, so users with laptops, adjust accordingly.


I inserted the installation CD and rebooted, it brought me to the boot
prompt. There, I pressed F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, and F8. I read
everything, and chose the following boot parameters:

boot: expert noapic nolapic bootkbd=es

will allow me to have more control on the installation, there will be
more options to choose from.

noapic nolapic-
will allow me, together with the installation of
‘apmd’ (the apm daemon), to shutdown my machine which has an old BIOS,
and refuses to shutdown automatically otherwise.

will allow me to use my spanish keyboard from the start.

debian-installer/framebuffer=false –
will tell the installer NOT to
install the framebuffer, which hangs my system and has affected my
fonts in the past.

If you don’t understand any of this, it’s OK, just type:

expert (press Enter)

From here on, after choosing an answer (YES, NO, CONTINUE, CANCEL) with the
TAB key, press the key Enter.
All set, I press Enter, the installation begins, the first screen comes

Choose your country or region <Panama>
Select a keyboard layout <PC-style or PS2 connector>
keymap to use <Spanish>

Modules <Continue>
Prompt for modules parameters <No>
Start PCI card services (unless you use a laptop) <No>
Unable to load some modules <Continue>

Installer components to load <Continue>
Loading components… <it takes a few seconds>

Module to load <Continue>
(here it shows the NIC module to be installed)
Prompt for module parameters <No>
Start PC card services <No>

Unable to load some modules <Continue>

Auto-configure network with DHCP <Yes>
(it configures it…)
Hostname <write something short, e.g. debian> <Enter>
Domain name <write your isp domain, e.g.>

Prompt for module parameters <No>
Start PC card services <No>

Unable to load some modules <Continue>


a. Erase entire disk (hda)
b. Manually edit partition table

I’ve got no other OS, so I choose ‘a’ <Enter>
If you’ve got Windows or another operating system, choose ‘b’.
The installer will guide you.

The next screen will show the different partition schemes:

If you chose the option ‘a’ above, the next screen will be:


a. All files in one partition (recommended for newbies)
b. Desktop machine
c. Multi-user workstation

The installer will partition the hard drive automatically, without the
user’s intervention. Here’s how it will partition depending on your

a. It will create a root partition (/) and a swap one.
b. A root partition, swap, and /home.
c. It will create the following partitions:


All this without you moving a finger, pretty nifty!

Newbies choose ‘a’ and continue.

Of course, I chose “c”, always looing for sofmething different, I ended
up with this:

Ext 3 / 280 MB
Ext 3 /usr 5 GB
Ext 3 /var 3 GB
Ext 3 swap 390 MB
Ext 3 /tmp 399 MB
Ext 3 /home 31 GB

I wanted to use a different file system besides Ext 3.

So, I went up with the keyboard arrow, to the first partition, root (/),
once it was highlighted, I pressed Enter; on the second screen, I went up
with the arrow to the first line:

use as Ext 3 journalling file system

and pressed Enter again. This in turn, took me to a third screen,
which listed all the file systems available for my choosing:

swap area
Physical Volume for LVM
Physical Volume for RAID

NOTE: in this installer, EXt2, Ext3, ReiserFS, and JFS, all work
flawlessly with GRUB, except XFS, so if you choose XFS, you will have
to choose LILO instead of GRUB from the main installation menu later on.
Naturally, this is the one I chose.

Once you choose your file system and press Enter, this will take you
back to the previous screen, go down with the arrow until you are at
the line:

Done setting up this partition <Enter>

This will take you back to the first partition screen, choose another
partition, and do the same all over again, until you have changed all
the partitions file system from Ext3 to your new file system, EXCEPT
swap. It only takes 2-3 minutes, once you get the hang of it, this
installer is hot!

If you choose “a” or “b” from the partitioning scheme, you
only have to change the file system on one or two partitions.

When you are thru with all the partitions, back at the original
partitioning screen, go down with the arrow, ALL THE WAY DOWN TILL THE
END OF THE SCREEN, otherwise, you might miss the following line,
select it, so it’s highlighted:

Finish partitioning and write changes to disk <Enter>

The next screen list the partitions to be formatted, and it says NO by
default for matters of safety, so you don’t accidentally make a mistake..

Choose <YES>

It begins formatting…


It starts installing the base system…
3/4 of the way in, it pop up a dialog box, asking you what kernel
you want, make your choice.

kernel-image 2.6.8-1-386
kernel-image 2.4.27-1-386

After this is finished, you’re back at the main installation menu, and
the next line is:


If you chose Ext3, ReiserFS, or JFS, GRUB will be the way to go,
install it to the MBR or choose another place of your liking.
If you chose XFS, skip this line and select the next one:


A box will pop up asking you where you want to install LILO:

/dev/hda. Master Boot Record
/dev/hda2: new Debian partition
other choice (Advanced)

I chose the first one, and installed LILO to the MBR.

The CD ejects, close the CD-ROM <Continue> <Enter>

The machine starts rebooting…

It comes back with the screen:

Welcome to your Debian System <Enter>

Is the hardware clock set to GMT? <No>
Are you in the Central America/Panama time zone? <Yes>
Is this information correct? <Yes>

Enable shadow passwords? <Yes>
Root password <enter it>
Re-enter your password
Create a normal user account now? <Yes>
Enter a full name for the new user <you can type anything>
Enter a user name for your account <do it>
Type a password for the new user <do it>
Re-type the same password <do it>
Set the hostname (already done) <Enter>

It gives a list of options <ftp>



I chose Testing <Enter>

Use non-free software? <Yes> (personal decision)
Mirror country <choose one close to you>
Choose the Debian mirror to use <choose one close to you>

Here, the screen goes black (console), and APT starts checking the
repositories for the Debian version you chose, it takes a few minutes.

Add another APT source? <No>
Use security updates from <Yes>
If you chose Sid (unstable), you won’t need them.


Here, I skipped this line with the arrow and installed my apps at the
end of the installation with apt-get.

In the next few questions, just take the default answers, nothing to

Thank you for using Debian <Enter>
It takes you to the console (black screen) with a debian login.

debian login: <write your username> Enter
password: <write your user password> Enter
(now you’ve become a user)


we have to become root in order to be able to install packages and edit
files. So type ‘su’ (switch user)

macondo@debian:~$ su <Enter>
password: <write your ROOT password> Enter
(now you’re ROOT)


Ok, now I install my apps so I can enter the X environment.

The first thing I do is:

#apt-get update
#apt-get dist-upgrade

After this, your repositories’ database will be updated and the apps
already installed in the base installation, upgraded to the latest
version of the Debian version, you installed.

Now, I’m going to install some basic packages necessary to enter the X
environment, and also necessary to function in everyday life.

Here, you can go different ways, the first option is recommended for
newbies, it will come with xterm (terminal) and XDM (display manager).
So, now that you’re root:

Option 1:

#apt-get install x-window-system mozilla-firefox mozilla-thunderbird
icewm icewm-themes firehol nano

You can replace icewm with wmaker, xfce4, fluxbox, etc

Option 2 (my favorite, it’s much lighter):

#apt-get install x-window-system-core mozilla-firefox aterm menu icewm
icewm-themes iceme firehol aee apmd

I’ll install Pine later on.

After you come back, it’s time to configure X, I follow the
instructions from the article:

The Very Verbose Debian Installation Walkthrough
Sections 9 and 10

(it takes all of 15 minutes to read, and will save you hours if not days).

The reason I tell you to read this, it’s because nobody can explain
this better than Clinton De Young.

After reading this 2 sections, it’ll take you just a few minutes to
configure X.

So, I say NO to auto-detection, I have an old video card that only
works with 15 bit color depth.

Select the driver for your video card <nv>
Enter an identifier for your video card <nVidia Stb Riva 128>
Read the next screen <Accept>
Please enter the video card bus identifier <leave blank>
Enter the amount (in kb) of memory for your video card <4000>

Please select the set of rules XKB to be used <xfree86>
Read next screen <Accept>
Please select your keyboard model <Logitech iTouch>
Here, you can enter “PC104” for an American keyboard or “PC105 for a
Please select the language (keymap) <es>
here you can enter “us” for American, or “gb” for British.
Please select your variant <leave blank>
Read the next screen <Accept>
Please select the options for your keyboard <leave blank>

Please show the port for your mouse </dev/psaux>
Please choose the option that better describes your mouse <ImPS/2>
this will activate the scroll wheel on your mouse.
Emulate a 3-button mouse? <Yes>
Activate the mouse wheel? <Yes>

Enter an identifier for your monitor <Optiquest V73>
Is your monitor LCD? <No>
Please select a method to configure your monitor <Advanced>
Enter your horizontal frequency range <30-70>
Enter your vertical refresh frequencies <50-160>
Choose your resolutions <1024×768>
Please choose the color depth in bits <15>
Read next screen <Accept>
Select the XFree86 modules that should be loaded by default <leave as is>
Next screen write Files section by default <Yes>
Write section DRI by default in the configuration file? <Yes>

After I’m thru configuring X, the firewall (firehol)
configuration is next. For this, I need to edit the file


So, as root, I launch the text editor:

#nano /etc/default/firehol

and edit it to look like this:



in other words,

Ctrl+O <Enter>

The first line will activate Firehol, the second will divert the log
messages somewhere else, so the console screen will be free of them,
which is marvelous if you use “startx” (as I do) to enter the X environment..

We have to reconfigure the locales:

#dpkg-reconfigure locales

A list will come up, go down the list with the arrows, and select with
the spacebar all the instances of en_US (about 3) and any other
language you use, choose OK, and on the next screen, choose your
environment language (the language all your instructions will be in)
select OK and the locales will be generated.


The default kernel during the installation was:


but my box is a PII, (processors PII, PIII, and P4 use 686) I want this
kernel optimized for my processor, so, I’ll install a 686 model:

#apt-get install kernel-image-2.4.27-1-686

If you installed Sarge with the 2.6.8-1-386, you can install the one
with the 686 flag at the end.

#apt-get install kernel-image-2.6.8-1-686

If you installed Sid, with 2.6.8-1-386, you can install the latest:

#apt-get install kernel-image-2.6.9-1-686

For those smart enough to install GRUB, you have to do nothing, no
questions to answer, it will install, update the grub menu
automatically, at the end, all you have to do is:


It can’t get any better than this!

If you have LILO installed like me, and no other OS in the hd, just say
YES to the question asked,



Later on, you can get rid of the old kernels with Synaptic or Debfoster.

When you reboot, you will come back with a new kernel, some basic
applications, and a working firewall. If you chose option 1, you will
come back to XDM to log in, on option 2, you’ll come to the console,
in text mode; login, and use “startx”.

I hope this helps a little bit.
Good Luck!

This article was written using the text editor aee (another easy editor).


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