Installation of Debian GNU/Linux Step by Step

from the September 2002 Newsletter
by John Anderson

Though John Anderson has left Actrix, he has provided us with a few more articles in order to complete his series. This then is the next step in his series on Installation of Debian GNU/Linux. -Ed

Debian GNU/Linux

So here we are on the home stretch. The majority of our journey extends out behind us. We're over the 'hump' as it were.

When I left you last time we had just rebooted. You should now be asked about what passwords to use. Both MD5 sums and Shadow passwords are good ideas, so say yes to both.


The root account is the main administrator account on the system. This account can do literally anything to the system. The root account should be used only when needed, which is usually when substantial changes need to be made to the system. You should never run your system habitually as a root user (also called superuser).

For the above reasons you should also be running a user account. Choose a username that you can remember; a good one might be the same username you use for your email address. The user account should be used for your everyday sessions on your computer.

Password Security

A good way to pick a password is to make an acronym. Acronyms are words made up of the starting letter of a phrase.
The first step is to pick a phrase like

The road goes ever on and on

Now pick out the first letters:


Check that you have 7 or higher characters. If you have, this should be adequate to start with. The next step is to add other features to our budding password. It is best to include at least some numbers and punctuation characters, and to vary the capitalisation. For example, you could end up with:

TrGe0@o or 2rGe0A0 or even !Rg3@A#

Have a go at coming up with a password using the above system and seeing what you end up with. When you want to remember your password it will soon come quickly with the aid of the phrase. A word of warning though - try and avoid using phrases that you use regularly, or phrases from your favourite piece of writing.


If you have an external modem, you should simply be able to select it and set up your connection manually. If you don't have an external modem, then I recommend leaving the set up until you've finished your installation.

Sources and Tasksel

Debian uses a package system; this means that clusters of software are arranged in groups of packages or on their own. These packages allow the user to choose with a fine degree of control what you want on your system and what you don't.

If you are using the disks I have now sent out, you should find all the packages (and more) you'll need for the next couple of months. The install process should prompt you to enter those disks into your apt sources. You can also add an ftp source, like, which will allow you to download sources from their site. The above link is probably the best site for Actrix customers.

During this part of the install, you will be asked about package methods. If you have a lot of hard disk space on your computer you may want to just use Tasksel. Tasksel gives you a high degree of control over the software you want on your computer. For example, it bundles all the desktop software, like KDE and Gnome, into one massive bundle.

Another alternative is dselect. This application allows you to select individual packages, but will tell you also what they depend on, however, it does rely on you knowing what to look for. A good start are the packages xserver, mozilla and wmaker - these should provide a good swag of the other packages you need, although you still might find it easier to just use tasksel to start with.

If you do suddenly find you want to install something else, you can always type on the command line apt-get install whateverpackageyouwant.

Next month we'll cover configuring the xserver and desktops - not quite the Himalayas, but no small journey indeed.

NOTE: I have now sent out the CDs and I hope you enjoy them. I apologise for the extreme delay, but there have been a number of extenuating circumstances. I have also had to increase the set to two, because the first CD does not cover the xservers that go with older video cards. There may well be many other joys to be found on those CDs. If you do send in a request for your own copy, you will need to include a SASE and 2 burnable CDs. I also have to reiterate that neither Actrix or myself take any responsibility for the quality of the CDs or any problems that may occur as a result of their use. If you have any questions though, please do send them to