The Caboteria / Tech Web / TechNotes > UnixNotes / DebianTips (22 Apr 2017, TobyCabot)
Debian GNU/Linux is the computer operating system that I use when I get to choose. It's a version of the GNU/Linux operating system that's developed cooperatively by people around the globe. It's very stable, very high-quality, and you can decide for yourself whether you want older, more proven software, newer software, or bleeding-edge software. Freedom and control. Sweeeet.

It's also somewhat more difficult to install than its commercial counterparts, so most people start with Fedora or Ubuntu first. You can get more info about Debian (and the operating system itself!) at

netinst - - this is a small file that allows you to burn an installation CD that gets most of its files from the net. It's much quicker than downloading an ISO because you only get the files that you need.

installing Debian - install the smallest number of packages possible during the initial install process. I've found that it's better to get a minimal system up and running and then add packages to it later.

Before installation make sure that you unplug the power cord for a few seconds and then plug it back in. Modern machines don't always power down completely, sometimes they stay awake enough to see network events and I've had problems with the kernel not being able to initialize devices like network cards as a result. It's best to get a fresh start.

After installation check:

Before you walk away from the console:

installing using chroot - this seems like a good way to get debian onto a machine which isn't supported by Debian's installer, perhaps one with funky kernel drivers like my Compaq DL-380.

installing/configuring i18n - Debian by default appears to install just the "C" locale, but you can do a little work to get many more languages. You need to install the locales package, then dpkg-reconfigure locales and pick the languages that you want. They'll be generated when you leave the program. The language codes are listed in /etc/locale.gen and there are aliases in /etc/locale.alias. To switch the locale set the LANG environment variable, e.g.

$ LANG=fr_FR.ISO-8859-1 hello
Bonjour, le monde!

fan speed control -

automatically mounting devices

GNOME 2.8 (in sid now) supports auto actions when devices (such as thumb drives and digital cameras) are plugged in. Here are my notes on getting it to work.

First make sure that you've got the right packages installed. I needed to install gnome-volume-manager, dbus-1, dbus-glib-1, hal-device-manager, and ifrename (and all of the other packages that apt-get pulled in).

One of the packages that gets pulled in is udev which is a daemon that manages the device files in /dev. udev doesn't auto-load modules the way devfs used to, so you probably want to load the modules that you need by listing them in /dev/modules. In my case I needed to load 8250 since I've got a serial mouse. On another machine I needed to load snd-mixer-oss and snd-seq-oss to get the OSS emulation device files.

Make sure that you've got the devices that you need for your USB bus: . I needed uhci_hcd.

reducing disk I/O

quote from the article:


USB device permission

I had a problem where Debian would see that a camera was plugged in but I could only list the files on it (e.g. gphoto2 -L) as root. It turns out that there's a group called plugdev that controls access to the /dev/bus/usb files that are used to talk to the camera.

System Clock

By Unix tradition the system hardware clock is set to UTC, but Windows expects it to be set to local time. You can edit this in /etc/default/rcS.
dpkg-reconfigure tzdata sets the time zone.


You probably want to shut the PC speaker off - it's very annoying. Add blacklist pcspkr to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf. - installing codecs (including MP3)


Debian tends to be conservative about the versions of software that they include in their stable distribution, but sometimes you want to be more cutting-edge. There's a repository of Iceweasel backports at so you can install newer versions of the browser on older versions of Debian.


/usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/xfree86.lst - list of keyboard rules
/etc/console-setup/ - The content of this file will be appended to the keyboard layout
$ setupcon -k - reload the console keyboard map
/etc/init.d/console-setup (via the link /etc/rcS.d/S21console-setup) calls
/bin/setupcon which is a shell script that reads
/etc/default/keyboard - keyboard options. I like to add: XKBOPTIONS="terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp,ctrl:swapcaps" to this file to make Emacs much easier to use in both X and the console.

Setting up an Email Server

Dark Theme

Use gnome-tweak-tool to set the overall dark theme
For Firefox I needed to use:

$ xprop -f _GTK_THEME_VARIANT 8u -set _GTK_THEME_VARIANT dark

...then click on the window you want to be dark
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