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Installing Debian
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Configuring the base system

When partitioning is complete, the installer will copy over the base Debian system to the hard disk, and then eject the installation CD. At this point, you will be asked to confirm that you want the computer rebooted. This is the moment of truth!

On reboot, PC users will find themselves looking at the grub boot screen, a list of operating systems available on the computer. Mac users will find themselves in yaboot, which offers a choice of booting Linux, OS X, or a CD-ROM. In both cases, after a few seconds' wait, the machines will boot the default choice, Debian.

There are now just a handful of questions to answer before the installation completes.

Time zone configuration

Unless you intend to dual-boot Windows and Linux, you should confirm that your hardware clock uses the GMT format here. (Note that UTC, which the installer displays, is the same as GMT.) After this, pick your time zone from the list displayed. You can configure the time zone later by running tzsetup as the root user.

Root password

The root user, or superuser, is able to modify anything on your machine. This is the most important system password.

User account

This is an initial user account for you to use. Enter your full name first, and then an abbreviated login name and password.

APT configuration

APT is the mechanism Debian uses to manage and install software packages. Before the rest of the installation can commence, you must select a source from which APT can install packages. When installing via CDs, choose cdrom, and insert each CD in turn for scanning. If you don't have a network connection, the installer will ask you if you want to set up a PPP (dial-up) connection in order to download security updates. This is the recommended approach if you have a modem attached to the computer.

Some internet service providers maintain their own Debian mirrors: if your ISP is in the list, choose their mirror.

If performing a net installation, choose http. You must then choose which Debian server, or mirror, to use. Pick the one closest to you. If you are on a network with an HTTP proxy, there's an opportunity to enter this before proceeding. The installer will then retrieve the list of available packages, including any security updates, from the network.

The final choice to make before installation gets under way is the software you wish to have preinstalled, as Figure 4 shows. You can select one or more of these options to include a variety of software. If you're doing a net installation, be aware that this can have a significant effect on download time!

Software selection menu
Figure 4. Software selection menu

What do you get if you choose the preinstalled selections?

Desktop environment

Installs the XFree86 graphical windowing system, plus the GNOME and KDE desktop environments.

Web server

Installs the Apache 2 web server.

Print server

Installs the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), setting your machine up as a print server.

DNS server

Installs the Berkeley Internet Name Daemon (BIND), for serving DNS requests.

Mail server

Installs the Exim 4 mail server.

SQL database

Installs the PostgreSQL relational database server.

Manual package selection

This option allows you to use aptitude to manually pick from the packages Debian has available.

If you don't choose anything extra from the selection menu, you get just the standard system installed. Veterans of multiple installations often find this works best for them, as they can selectively install just the software they want at a later date. The contents of the standard system include everything to get the system and its hardware running, everything you'd expect on a normal Unix system, a C programming environment, Python and Perl interpreters, and network tools.

If you've chosen extra software packages, the remaining installation process will perform any essential configuration they require. As they're optional, I won't deal with them here. The most important is probably the XFree86 windowing system configuration.

The standard installation asks just a few more questions to get your system configured. Unless you have special requirements, accept the suggested defaults.

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