Debian Sarge Installation

Debian Sarge Installation

linux-logo debian-logo

The following description explains, how we installed Debian with a Sarge Debian installer CD on several different PCs.

Please note, that installing Debian today is quite easy with the new installer; however, it is not as user-friendly such as e.g. with a SuSE Linux installation CD or DVD. But you should know, that once you have installed your Debian Linux, you will never again have to newly install your Linux: with some simple commands (described e.g. on our Debian introduction page) you will be able to easily keep your system up-to-date!

Getting the Installation CD

An image for the Sarge installation-CD can be found on the webpage
Read the text on this web-page carefully in order to choose the correct installer image.
For a 'regular PC' (used to be called "IBM-compatible") you want to click on 'i386' and download the image. This image should then be burned on a CD, from which you then may boot.
The newest - maybe less stable - versions of the Sarge installer are available on; they are typically updated daily.

You may also use the image I used: It is from March 2004.

Because we installed Sarge Debian with the installer CD and chose 'German' as language, you will find many German words in this short installation guide. So it is somehow a german installation guide (deutsche Installations-Anleitung).

First Steps

As a first step, I recommend, to burn a CD with Knoppix. Booting Knoppix (also a Debian Linux) on your PC allows you to check several things: First, you may check whether your hardware is supported by Linux. Second, because of the excellent hardware detection of Knoppix, you may see, which kernel modules are loaded.
Ok, so we boot from the Knoppix CD and usually you end up in graphical mode. We only had problems with the X server on PCs with newer NVIDIA GeForce FX graphic cards (in such cases, we entered Cntl-Alt-F1 and worked from a console as root).
Being in graphical mode, we first have to make sure, the settings for the keyboard are ok. On the lower right edge you see a symbol with a German flag (red-yellow,black); right-click on it and select 'Einrichten'. With a Swiss German keyboard click on "Deutsch Schweiz", then on "Anwenden" and "Abbrechen". Afterwards, click on the German flag again, until a red and white Swiss symbol appears; now we may work with our Swiss German keyboard.

Enter the command su - in order to become root. The following command displays, which kernel modules are loaded: lsmod | more. You should note them on paper or - should you have a second disk or another partition - copy the output of lsmod in a file on the second disk or another partition of your first disk. How to do this? The command more /etc/fstab displays, what partitions were detected by Knoppix and what so-called mount-points are available. Say, you already have a Linux-partition on /dev/hdb3, you simply mount this partition with mount /mnt/hdb3 and then you enter the following command: lsmod > /mnt/hdb3/tmp/Knoppix-lsmod.txt which writes the output of the lsmod-command into the a file /tmp/Knoppix-lsmod.txt on partition 3 on th second disk.
Another useful thing is to know some more hardware details, which can be obtained by the command lspci, or, as in the example above, can be written into a file on the second disk: lspci > /mnt/hdb3/tmp/Knoppix-lspci.txt
Should you have a NVIDIA graphics card, it is also a good idea, to download the newest NVIDIA-driver from and to then put this driver (called like e.g. and to copy this file on the second disk or another partition than where you plan to install you new Debian Linux.

Plan Your Partitions

It is important, that before installing Linux on your PC, you think about what partitions under Linux you want to install. For the new user and for everybody, just installing a desktop PC or a laptop, which will not be a server of any kind (e.g. mail-server), we recommend to just have two partitions: Fist a so-called swap-partition with a size double the size of RAM memory you have on your PC, and second another partition for the so-called root-file-system with the name "/".

Installing Sarge Debian Linux

Ok, now we start the installation: insert the Deabian installer CD and boot; should the system not boot from the CD, you may have to modify the setup in your BIOS. We recommend, to set the following boot order: First, try to boot from floppy, second from CD/DVD, third from the first disk.

In the following, we assume you have a Swiss German keyboard. CR stands for Carriage-Return, meaning just hit the RETURN key. TAB means the TAB key.

- boot with Sarge CD
- CR
- de_CH
- schweizerdeutsch
- Give the name of your machine (e.g. kava)
- Partitionstabelle von Hand eingeben
- Should you already have some partitions, you either use them, delete them
  or create new ones. Should you want to create a new partition on an empty
  disk, move your 'cursor' to 'FREIER SPEICHER', using the up and down arrows
- For each partition, do the following:
  * Zugriffsmethode - Partition formatieren - Dateisystem - ext3 (or swap)
  * If you are asked for the size, you may e.g. enter 4GB (for 4 GigaBytes)
  * For the root file system click as 'Mount Punkt' to '/'
- With the arrows move to the bottom of the page and select
  "Partitionierung beenden und Aenderungen uebernehmen"
- Ja  (creates filesystem)
- Installation des Basissystems.... wait some minutes
- Grub (hd0) - TAB - Weiter
- Here an important note: This usually takes a short time, *however*, on our
  laptop we experienced, that the installation was hanging for several minutes
  and the installation of grub seemed to stop at " 40% ". Please just be
  patient and wait - the installation *will* continue.... just wait!
  The installation does not hang - it just seems to need some extra-time...
- Remove the installer CD
- CR (for 'weiter')
- CR (Kernel 2.4.35-1-386)  and the system boots....
- CR (ok, Debian will be installed further)
- No (clock not set to GMT)
- Yes (Europe/Zurich)
- enter root-password (the entered password does *not* appear on the screen!)
  !! Attention !! Here and for this moment, you should *not* yet choose a
                  secure password: avoid the letters 'y' or 'z' and also any
                  special characters, such as %, &, $ or others.
             -->  It could be, that your keyboard is not properly detected
                  during the installation and then you will not be able to
                  successfully login into your computer, because the keys
                  you press are not understood correctly by the system.
                  (This is especially the case with non-US-ASCII keyboards,
                   as they are used e.g. in Switzerland or Germany, where
                   special Swiss or German keyboards are delivered and used.)
             -->  So I suggest, you choose a password without the characters
                  mentioned above (examples for such passwords: abcd, 1234)
     Once the installation is successfully completed, you then *should* use
     a good and secure root password (such as e.g.: blu_%fi3)
- TAB - OK
- Enter root password again
- Enter your first and last name (e.g. Joe Miller)
- enter your username (e.g. joe)
- Enter password for new user (joe)
- Enter password again
- http (Zugriff aufs Debian Archiv)
- Choose "Schweiz" (or anything other, depending on where you are)
- Choose (depending on your site)
- tasksel (Software-Auswahl) - CR
- Choose (using up and down arrows) and select (using space-bar)
  * Desoktop environment
  * Deutsche Umgebung
  * Linux Standard Base
  (attention: not all of the above itmes may appear!)
- TAB to 'Fertig'  .......... wait some time
- Ok (console-data)
- Ok (stop pcmcia)
- Choose 'Nachfragen', if you are asked
- pcmcia: nein (if you have no Laptop/pcmcia) or ja of you have e.g. laptop
- Nur lokale Mailzustellung
- root (Mailzustellung)
- Nein (popularity contest)
- Ok (popularity contest)
- Nein (popularity contest)
- xserver: choose 'ati' if you have a Radeon 7000 graphics card,
           choose 'nv' if you have a NVIDIA graphics card,
           or choose whatever you have
- Ok (xerver)
- Ok (PCI:0:1:0)  [this question did not come when installing the laptop]
- Ja (Maus automatisch konfigurieren)
- Ja (Monitor erkennen)
- On the Laptop we had to enter: Ja (LCD) - Ok - Medium - 1280x960@60Hz
(... wait ... ) "Ersatz" fuer diverse Pakete ...
- CR ( = N; beibehalten)
(... wait ...) chooses many 'vormals abgewaehlte Pakete'  ...wait.....
- Ok (libssl 0.97)
- Ok (exim4)
(... wait ...)
- CR (discover.conf: N=Version beibehalten)
(... wait for quite some time ... ...)
- CR (and reboot as soon as this install is finished)
(... wait ...)
- Ok (Installation abgeschlossen)
- Ja (even if the X-Server is here; do now a reboot; press ctnl-alt-delete )
- Select "Kernel 2.4.35-1-386" and hit CR when you see the boot screen
Now follows sometimes a somewhat complicated procedure: if the X-server is
not properly behaving and/or the mouse is not supported, you have several
possibilities: cntl-alt-F1 to enter a console and the enter: xf86config
and move the cursor using the numerical keypad on the right side of your
However: here a give links to downloadable files, which should go to
the directory /etc/X11 with the filename XF86Config-4 . Should you have
a NVIDIA graphics card, first use
   Driver      "nv"
in the   Section "Device" - once you have installed the NVIDIA device driver
( sh /tmp/ ) you should use 'nvidia' instead
of 'nv' there.
OK, now here are some downloadable files XF86Config-4 for various platforms and
monitors; download the file and store as /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 :





Please note: Should you have a working XF86Config file e.g. from a SuSE installation or after a boot of Knoppix, you may well use this file. However, please note that under Debian this file is called XF86Config-4 and not XF86Config ! So under Debian copy your existing file to /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 !

- Now, I recommend to install the 'kdm' login manager, because we made bad experiences with 'gdm', regarding the german keyboard; so we enter: - apt-get install kdm You will then be be asked, what login-manager should be the default: click on 'kdm' !

Some Special Hints

With the Sarge Debian installer I used, we sometimes hat the problem, that suddenly the network was not reachable...
Should you get the message:
eth0: error while getting interface flags: no such device
then you might have to manually insert the appropriate network kernel module: * on the Compaq PCs we hat to enter: modprobe natsemi * on the older transtec PCs we entered: modprobe eepro100 * on the newer transtec PCs we entered: modprobe e1000 * on the Dell Inspiron 8200 Laptop we entered: modprobe 3c59x If the network works after having inserted the appropriate module, you should include it in the file /etc/modules - just add a new line there with the name of the module (natsemi, eepro100, e1000, or 3c59x)

- On some machines, after the installation we got a problem message, saying that module rivafb is in conflict with Nvidia module. Later, this message did not come again; maybe I simply did a: rmmod rivafb ...

Modify /usr/lib/X11/app-defaults/XOsview (new version looks prettier for me). You may download the file XOsview for a prettier look of XOsview (at least for my taste...).

/etc/profile: Add export COLORTERM=1 (for files in color with 'ls')

cd /dev ; ln -s hdc dvd
and make appropriate entries in /etc/fstab and mkdir /dvd )

On the Desktop create a new icon for DVD)

Add a line in /etc/apt/sources.list with 'mowgli':
# divx4linux, gpg-idea, lame, transcode, xv, win32-codecs, gpsdrive
deb sarge unofficial
apt-get install xv

As root restore the settings for KMail:
cp /suse/home/kradi/.kde/share/config/kmailrc /home/kradi/.kde/share/config/.

Java: apt-get install java-common java-virtual-machine-dummy
Add line in /etc/apt/sources.list:
# Java
deb testing main non-free
apt-get update
apt-get install j2rel.3 j2sdkl.3
Enter 'space' until '(END)' appears, then enter "q" and "yes" ; the same again: enter 'space' until '(END)' appears, then enter "q" and "yes"

Flash: apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree swf-player gstreamer-swfdec

Realplayer: Download from:
  * Download the rpm-package --> you will get a file called:  rp8_linux20_libc6_
  * Move/rename this file into a file, with the prefix *.rpm :
    mv rp8_linux20_libc6_i386_cs2_rpm rp8_linux20_libc6_i386_cs2.rpm
  * Convert this rpm-package into a deb-package using 'alien':
    - Do you have 'alien' intalled? Check with 
    - If it is not installed, install it: apt-get install alien
    - Enter: alien --to-deb rp8_linux20_libc6_i386_cs2.rpm
    - You will then get a file named realplayer_8.0-2_i386.deb
    - Install this Debian-package with the command
      dpkg -i realplayer_8.0-2_i386.deb
  * Now you may watch movies and TV-stuff with "Real Player".
  * In order to listen to radio with the browsers Mozilla or Firefox
    you also need to copy into the corresponding plugin-directo
    cp -p /usr/lib/RealPlayer8/ /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/
    cp -p /usr/lib/RealPlayer8/ /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/plugins/
    Now you may listen radio on e.g.

- Konqueror 'einrichten' (setup):
    Dateizuordnung -> wav & mp3 -> xmms (& symbol = loudspeaker (sounds))

/home/user/.bashrc : add line
. /etc/profile
(otherwise these global settings are not used when working on the Desktop)

Last Update: 19Sep2004 uk   -   Created: 14Jun2004

Go to our Debian Linux homepage