Debian Etch - A minimal setup with X

Posted by Azerthoth on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 12:56

As a not completely new Linux user I have been frustrated over and over again at all the extra bloat and apps that I will never use that gets loaded onto my system when I do an install. Debian was the second distro that I tried and have used many others since, but I keep coming back.

With Etch I finally decided to get my system MY WAY(tm). No excess junk and no excess apps. After I had played for a little while I came up with the way to do it, and since I had found very little in the way of easily human understandable documentation I thought I would share the process.

Now understand that what we are going to do is start from where I changed the installation.

1: netinst CD and an internet connection.

2: start the normal install process and proceed all the way to where it asks if you want to use a network mirror.

3: select NO for network mirror (we will change this in a minute)

4: reboot and log in root

5: edit the sources.list
nano /etc/apt/sources.list

add these lines
deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian etch main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.debian.org/debian etch main contrib non-free


Then make sure to comment out the line with the CD in it with a # otherwise it will drive you nuts asking for that blasted CD that has nothing of anymore use on it.

Close and save the file (double check your spelling and make sure you didnt fat finger any keys like I constantly do)

6: type in the command
apt-get update

7: type in
apt-get install xserver-xorg-core xorg

There will be a few questions at the end, for now just go with the defaults.

8: while apt is doing its thing we need to make a decision.
Which login manager do you want to use? Unless you want to run as root all the time ( #1 bad idea by the way) we need a login manager. Here are the 3 I have used and comments on them.

xdm:
smallest and works well to get you going on your way. Highly configurable.


gdm:
easily configurable and adds libraries you need if you want to use the synaptic package manager. (also contains alot of the extra functions of xdm)


kdm:
largest and bloated, I list it only because I know a few people who like it. (my opinion)


It honestly makes no differance to us which you pick. For ease of configuration I'd suggest gdm, if your just setting up a single user machine and will never change your desktop interface xdm might be the way to go. Your choice (thats what Linux is about right?)It doesnt matter which desktop environment you are going to use, any of them will fire up what ever you happen to have

So we
apt-get install xdm/gdm/kdm


9: Next decision, what desktop package to put in?

GNOME:
If you want Gnome you have just wasted time reading this, thats what you would have gotten if you had continued on with the installation normally.


KDE:
very much like the operating system that comes from redmond, and nearly as bloated with worthless junk. I have this installed only because my wife likes it.


Fluxbox:
This is the one I use. Very small, fast, and configurable. Its a low frills let our programs use system resources instead of having the desktop environment hog it approach. Nor will this one load your system up with oddbits like Gnome or KDE, however both are integrated with it. So if you install your favorite Gnome app or KDE app it automagicly appears in your menu in fluxbox.


There are others you can use as well, if you have one you like instead, use it.

So we
apt-get install fluxbox/gnome/kde


9A: If you went with fluxbox because like me you wanted to control what apps are on your system instead of letting someone else decide what is right for you. Remember this, fluxbox doesnt ship with proggies AT ALL. so at the very least you will want to add a web browser.

apt-get install firefox
(my choice, again use what you like)

10: reboot and poof you should be up and running.

For those who are wondering this worked equally well on my desktop as it did my laptop. I hope this helps someone else who like me is still learning all the wonderful things that can be done with Linux, but needs a few pointers because face it, we arent all programmers and everyone has to start the process of understanding somewhere.

 

 


Posted by Anonymous (83.175.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 14:27
KDE does not come with a lot of worthless junk if you install kdecore package only.

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Posted by Anonymous (217.91.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 14:34
You should add the security apt sources!

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Posted by mvanbaak (80.126.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 14:51
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There are no security updates for etch yet afaik

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Posted by arapaho (213.223.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 15:26
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What about http://security.debian.org/dists/ ?

There is an Etch dist section.

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Posted by coralsaw (212.205.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 15:28
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Parent is correct, these are the security sources for Etch:

#Testing security patches
deb http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main contrib non-free

Only for critical updates, those that don't go via-unstable, does Etch get security patches so the frequency is small, but the patches nevertheless important.

/c

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Posted by mvanbaak (80.126.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 15:29
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My bad, sorry.
Thanks for correcting me.

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Posted by frhart (83.68.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 15:35
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deb http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ etch/updates main contrib non-free

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Posted by Azerthoth (65.74.xx.xx) on Wed 23 Aug 2006 at 00:40
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Actually guys since we were using the netinst CD the security repository is already included in the sources.list so there is no need to add them in, even though we chose no network mirror. This does drive home the need for them though, thanks for the reminder for everyone to make sure that they are there.


Converting M$ addicts one CD at a time.

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Posted by rutgerw (213.134.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 14:53
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I would say an user can use X without a login manager. Just use startx.

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Posted by undefined (192.91.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 17:22
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i second this.

i've been a linux user since '99 (redhat 6.2) and have used startx since the beginning. at one point i tried a display manager, but something went wrong somewhere and xdm kept failing and init kept spawning it. i decided then that it wasn't worth the pain so i stuck with startx and have to this day.

startx also allows me to easily set up one xorg.conf section to use dual head and another to only use one head (to allow for dri as the way i prefer running dual head as two separate screens without xinerama doesn't allow for dri).

not that there's anything wrong with a display manager, but to best suit my preferences i forgo them and just use startx (as an ordinary user, not root).

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Posted by cyberwiz (195.64.xx.xx) on Fri 25 Apr 2008 at 12:39
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lol... how about no desktop at all?

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Posted by coralsaw (212.205.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 15:36
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...and nearly as bloated with worthless junk...
To each his own. I find KDE a newbie-friendly desktop system, which BTW on my machine, a run-of-the-mill PC with 1G ram runs fast enough. Where was that kdetv app I was looking for now..

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Posted by reluctant (65.78.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 16:59
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But the fluxbox/openbox/etc choices "run fast enough" on 128 Mb Celeron or PIII's I'm using, and they are really fine with 256 mb.

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Posted by Anonymous (193.219.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 21:15
How can one compare window manager (e.g. blackbox) to desktop environment (e.g. KDE).
It should be Kwin vs blackbox, you still need applications, and these must use some GUI toolkit.
If one is running several KDE apps, I see no reason not to use whole environment.
If, however, applications are mostly firefox and terminal emulators, then something like blackbox makes perfect sense.

P.S.
I'm using KDE and mostly KDE/Qt applications (e.g. konqueror, not firefox), so I didn't liked how article describes it as bloated or slow - it isn't neither.
Even hot starting firefox takes ~2sec. to apear, while precached konqueror less than 0.2sec.

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Posted by Schlandower (209.212.xx.xx) on Tue 9 Oct 2007 at 22:17
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I am going to disagree with "anonymous" on the KDE story, as I am running a number of P1's with min 64 MB ram and max 128 MB ram.
Running KDE or Gnome is not an option!

They are very bloated, and very resource intensive.

I find xfce4 can run the same apps with MUCH less impact on resources.
It works just as well KDE or Gnome does on a P4 or AMD 64.

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Posted by reluctant (65.78.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 16:54
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Instead of fluxbox, of course there are others like openbox, which I'm using. And save yourself from all the rebooting:

# /etc/init.d/gdm start

will do the trick to launch the login manager. gdm also has some nice features the wife appreciates on her system; auto logon to her account, shutdown from user account (not root), etc. Of course these choices aren't for everyone.

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Posted by undefined (192.91.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 17:38
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let me second the usage of openbox. i used blackbox, then fluxbox, and now openbox for some years (since the release canidates).

as a side note: fluxbox is no more "integrated" into gnome or kde than any other window manager where the debian developer has written a script and placed it in the right location for use by the debian menu package.

honestly, the straw that broke the camel's back was the alt-tab behavior of fluxbox: when i press alt-tab to switch to a window, i expect hitting alt-tab to switch me back to the previous window, so as to allow me to easily toggle between two windows.

but openbox is also conformant to netwm specs (unlike fluxbox is/was), a window manager standard, so third-party tools like pypanel integrate well with it.

yeah, it was a few more dependencies than fluxbox (libxml), but for me it has the right balance between features and resource usage.

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Posted by Anonymous (206.27.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 17:44
You can use the "CORE" packages to get X running.

I always install etch and at the very last screen I don't check any boxes (no desktop env, web server, or anything like that). It then does its updates (with security already added) and gives me root login.

At login I type a few simple commands:

apt-get install x-windows-system-core
apt-get install gnome-core

(or I could use kdecore, fluxbox, or xfce4)

Lastly I can install a login manager

apt-get install gdm

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Posted by Anonymous (149.239.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 18:15
Nice help, thats what i need right now. What i plan to do is to put down all normaly installed distro from my hosts and setup systems with minimal X functionalty. This is only to support running VMware Machines inside X or to make remote connections to other servers and vm's. As a result i have a minimal secure system capable of totaly virtualizing all my (home/work) systems to ease further administration. I thought about using BSD for security reasons but unfortunately VMware does not work very well on BSD. So a minimal etch with X would fit my needs and plans perfectly. Thanks for your guide!

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Posted by Anonymous (130.243.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Aug 2006 at 22:00
So you only want X clients and no X server?
Debian X packages are divided in a way to make this easy (don't remember how just now :( so you have to wait for others to fill in). Just install x-clients(?) and a ssh-server.
Then you can run X programs from other computers with an X-server installed :)

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Posted by Anonymous (71.228.xx.xx) on Thu 24 Aug 2006 at 07:15
I'm actually setting up the same thing and was looking for a optimal X setup, but with support for remote connections. I tried to use ssh -X to run vmware, but it's really slow. I've tried the vnc packages from debian repository, but it was not very good either. I don't really know how to run apps on a seperate display yet, so I'm using FreeNX. It's pretty good so far, but I would love to have a pure X implementation (security is not a big issue for my local network).

Anyway, it's nice to see others with the same needs. Thanks.

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Posted by Anonymous (203.160.xx.xx) on Thu 31 Aug 2006 at 12:23
My server running VmWare on VNC (apt-get install vnc4server) on sarge. It save a lot of RAM for the guest computer. I use vncviewer from workstation to control the server.

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Posted by yaarg (129.215.xx.xx) on Wed 23 Aug 2006 at 15:52
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Yikes, this article seems far too subjective. It would be more suitable on a blog surely..

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Posted by Anonymous (83.17.xx.xx) on Thu 24 Aug 2006 at 01:09
Exactly.

What was the point of bashing KDE for example?

I have few hints for poster: konqueror is probably
the fastest graphical browser out there (dillo may
be faster but it doesn't handle CSS at all;
I haven't tested Opera, but it's not it Debian...).
Additionaly konqueror uses far less RAM than for
example Firefox. Really. I've been using
konqueror for about 1.5 years on Celeron 333MHz
with 64MB of RAM...

Just because I use KDE apps (konqueror and
akregator) and I prefer KDE features over GNOME
simplicity doesn't mean I bash GNOME by writing
that it's just worthless piece of junk. Every project
has its own set of goals, not everything you don't
understand is crap. It's that simple.

Remember: "What you are saying about others tells
more about you, than about them" (translated from
my native tongue, I hope you get the meaning).


</offtopic>

I would also add Window Maker/Afterstep and FVWM
to the list of lightweight WMs.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (203.10.xx.xx) on Fri 9 Oct 2009 at 00:41
Chromimum (google it, it's a Linux port of Google Chrome) is faster than Konqueror. And Opera is too...

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Posted by Anonymous (201.216.xx.xx) on Tue 17 Aug 2010 at 20:07
very useful in 2006 xD

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Posted by Steve (62.30.xx.xx) on Sat 26 Aug 2006 at 12:20
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I almost didn't post it, but I figured that it was worth it as an experiment to see how people reacted.

If the ranting got out of hand I'd know not to do it in the future ..

Steve

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Posted by Azerthoth (208.157.xx.xx) on Tue 29 Aug 2006 at 00:22
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I'm glad you did, it taught me something very valuable being the first time I attempted a how to. It was not my intention to set out to blast any specific platform. Unfortunatly I wrote alot of it without thinking too much about it and my personal peeves got tossed in on top of everything else.

I have found justifying my opinions (and we all have them) to be even more educational. In the future I will make a stronger effort to lay out the facts as I know them at the time with a minimal amount of opinion behind them. Unfortunatly if I didnt have an opinion, I probably wouldnt take the time to bother with writing about it.

Converting M$ addicts one CD at a time.

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Posted by Anonymous (213.224.xx.xx) on Thu 24 Aug 2006 at 00:53
xdm/gdm/kdm -> and what about wdm? ;)

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Posted by deadcat (66.245.xx.xx) on Thu 24 Aug 2006 at 01:11
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if you guys want a basic but nicer looking login manager than xdm, check out slim:
i have this thing in .deb (works for me)
http://debian.sshonly.sytes.net/unstable/slim_1.2.5-1_i386.deb

for those openbox users here:
you guys using openbox from unstable or compiled from cvs? or 3.3? i am currently using the cvs version with the menu header patch.. VERY nice (=

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Posted by reluctant (65.78.xx.xx) on Thu 24 Aug 2006 at 15:30
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using openbox from unstable or compiled from cvs? or 3.3?

~$ openbox --version
Openbox 3.2

This is the debian stable package.

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Posted by Anonymous (69.1.xx.xx) on Sat 26 Aug 2006 at 04:31
Depending on your needs, you may even wish to consider a non-X system, such as links2 with svgalib. use the venerable text-based login, then use links2 as a browser. links2 is surprisingly versatile - it works in text mode, with X, and it also does a reasonable graphical interface with svgalib (some setup necessary though). the 2-floppy micro-distro:
http://blueflops.sourceforge.net/
may give some ideas on the configuration. a debian version would be larger, of course, but it still would be fairly small. it definately isn't for everyone, but it may fit a niche.
personally, i too like fluxbox, but the family does prefer kde. installing just the core seems to keep down the installed size a bit.

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Posted by Anonymous (70.137.xx.xx) on Sun 27 Aug 2006 at 03:50
Personally I use ion3 as my window manager. Much much smaller than Gnome, KDE or xfce, while very productive. Even that can be argued whether it's minimal (I know ratpoison, wiim, etc.)

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Posted by Anonymous (146.63.xx.xx) on Wed 30 Aug 2006 at 02:16
Not sure I understand the "Unless you want to run as root all the time ( #1 bad idea by the way) we need a login manager." comment.

Using startx and an .xsession file seem to be fine alternatives to a login manager.

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Posted by Azerthoth (208.157.xx.xx) on Wed 30 Aug 2006 at 17:45
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That would depend on the environment you were going to have it in. In my case the rest of the family is functionally illiterate when it comes to computers. Having to run anything from command line is something that would stop them dead in their tracks.

Hmm, come to think of it, thats not such a bad idea after all. *grin*

Converting M$ addicts one CD at a time.

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Posted by Anonymous (128.253.xx.xx) on Sun 3 Sep 2006 at 22:13
You could also minimize the other proggies that the more bloated desktop managers install.

Instead of "apt-get install gnome/kde" go for "apt-get install gnome-core/kde-core". Then you will have to grab your own browser, fat email client and other applications, but you'll get the choice.

I run this approach on three of my systems and have noticed no critically missing functionality.

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Posted by Mike_W (84.64.xx.xx) on Sun 3 Sep 2006 at 23:20
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It should also be noted that you might be better off choosing a Debian FTP server that's nearby e.g. I use ftp.uk.debian.org. You might also like to mention how to find additional packages e.g. apt-cache search, through Synaptic, packages.debian.org, etc.

Also, if you're wanting to avoid bloat, then XFCE tends to be a decent compromise - fairly nippy, but still with a great deal of usefulness, not to mention the fact that it uses GTK, so those applications will fit in nicely. Personally, I find apt-get install gnome-core gdm is the first step for me, and then I can just add in whatever I need as I need it.

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Posted by Anonymous (84.155.xx.xx) on Tue 5 Sep 2006 at 08:21
What about kdebase?

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Posted by Anonymous (66.128.xx.xx) on Tue 12 Sep 2006 at 13:34
This article should be on the top of all google searches. After spending countless hours with the net-isntaller I almost gave up until I found this article.

APT? with Atitutde! I don't think that is even an option in a Manual Package Selection Installation vs. desktop when you only have a 2.1 GB drive to contend with.

These outlined steps are how I have it so far, and am thankful they were posted, but they need to be re presented in something like this:

STEPS to a Minimal Setup with X

Take a fresh breath and say "Hello World"

0. Perform a Net Install off base CD

1. Start the normal install process and proceed all the way until it asks you if you want to use a network mirror, select CANCEL, then Execute a command prompt.

2. nono /etc/apt/sources.list

3. Add the following lines to sources.list

deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian etch main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.debian.org/debian etch main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/etch updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/etch updates main contrib non-free

Quit and Save the File [Y] or y, I prefer the latter letter.

Hope that helps.. Its more of a condensed version of all of the posts on this thread..

I'm trying this for the first time so, hopefully all goes well, No news is good news!

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (84.133.xx.xx) on Thu 8 Mar 2007 at 02:48
deb-src in a minimal install?

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Posted by macondo (201.226.xx.xx) on Tue 19 Sep 2006 at 01:43
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Hmm, this is how i do a minimal install:

http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?t=5484

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Posted by Anonymous (71.108.xx.xx) on Wed 13 Dec 2006 at 06:34
This is a very sad article and it is even more unfortunate that it is written on a site devoted to Debian. Minimal X? Try Ratpoison with no window manager and make sure to install Screen. That is what minimal X means. To say that it has to do with installing KDE and GDM by themselves and not without extras I think loses out on how minimal a system can be and still perform better than a bloated box with respect to ease of use. Please use a better title. What you have described is perhaps an easy way of setting up an X environment but it does not cut the fat that can easily be cut and this is what I argue must be the definition of minimal, cutting the fat that can be - or as I would argue should be - cut.

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Posted by Anonymous (214.3.xx.xx) on Fri 29 Dec 2006 at 19:51
The entire concept of minimal is completely subjective. What is minimal to one is unusable to another. Why is it unfortunate this article was written about Debian? The entire concept of GNU/Linux is about choice. Just because you use a minimal set up does not make it right for the rest of the world, only right for you.

Given today's hardware, cutting fat is far less important than it was 10 years ago. I am not advocating that fat systems such as Windows are efficient; they are far from it, but my Etch box with Gnome is fast and usable, FOR ME. Functionality is not a bad thing, and condemning people for wanting functionality beyond ratpoison and screen is ludicrous.

I could care less what others use, nor do I condemn what others use, even if I do not like the choices they have made, because as GNU/Linux users, we can make those choices. Don't argue that MY choices be cut just because you think they should be. Who are you to make choices for me?

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (72.181.xx.xx) on Sat 27 Jan 2007 at 23:15
Hey thanks..I was looking for information on how to just get x installed....now I can install xfce4 after the fact and all will be good...

Thanks,

Zarephath

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Posted by Anonymous (207.225.xx.xx) on Fri 9 Feb 2007 at 06:00
thanks for the help very useful

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Posted by Anonymous (207.138.xx.xx) on Tue 8 May 2007 at 01:45
For those people that are running away from bloat, you might as well just download and install dwm now, because that's where you WILL end up eventually. Just thought I'd save some people time and effort.

http://www.suckless.org/wiki/dwm

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (76.98.xx.xx) on Fri 21 Sep 2007 at 22:03
I have an acer flat screen model AL2021 and it is both digital and analog auto configuring. However I after I run the setup I get a black screen and this is a sad thing since I am almost being forced to use ubuntu or xubuntu. Yes both debian based however it is not Debian. Also I have used the advanced installation gui but still fails. Once it worked but had to reinstall and ever after it was blank screen. Error message reads input not supported I have tried both adaptors and am using radeon suggested by linux.

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Posted by Anonymous (66.92.xx.xx) on Sun 18 Nov 2007 at 15:36
Hello,
Installing both xorg and xserver-xorg-core is simply redundant. Just install the xorg package. It's a minimal package as it is, with the only non-required bit being xterm, which most people will want anyhow. If people are really hurting for disk space, they can remove unneccessary drivers once they're done with the install.

- David Nusinow

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (128.83.xx.xx) on Fri 28 Dec 2007 at 15:43
Dear sir,

Your statement that you need a display manager (xdm/gdm/kdm) if you want to run as anything other than root is incorrect. You need a display manger to start the graphical login process; else you get a text login box and need to start the Xserver with the command 'startx' at the command line after logging in as usual with username and password. To add new users you need the adduser command.
To choose the window manager/desktop environment, you can edit ~/.xinitrc or ~/.xsession and add as the last line 'gnome-session' 'startkde' or 'fluxbox' as per choice.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (71.170.xx.xx) on Sun 13 Apr 2008 at 20:38
Thank you!

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (77.161.xx.xx) on Tue 22 Apr 2008 at 21:26
Hey this thing helped me finally to install kde on my debian base install.
Since I'm running on a PI-266Mhz and 32MB of RAM, there's not much that runs on it, like KNOPPIX 3.3, but that was just nothing....

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (203.10.xx.xx) on Fri 9 Oct 2009 at 00:51
You may like Tiny Core Linux - only uses 8MB/10MB of RAM when booted - wait, that's not debian though

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (204.149.xx.xx) on Tue 24 Jun 2008 at 15:24
Thanks! Your article helped this Linux novice (and complete Debian noob) with getting a GUI installed after running the OSSIM installer.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (99.231.xx.xx) on Tue 3 Feb 2009 at 15:59
After _weeks_ of trying various Linux distros, I finally found this article.

Many Thanks -- just what I needed! I'm not new to computers (last 20 yrs on Mac/Win; UNIX on PDP-11s in the 70's) & needed to build a current, stable, reliable, user-proof, secur-able, update-able, hardenable, linux server. This gave me the experiential starting point (through following along) that I needed to bring understanding to massive amounts of recent reading.

The penny dropped - easy to progress from here.
I'd enjoy more from this author.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (200.169.xx.xx) on Wed 18 Feb 2009 at 22:41
Firefox wont work. Mauybe iceweasel :P

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (222.252.xx.xx) on Fri 1 Jan 2010 at 14:38
Your pointers are just great! Thank you so much. Been trying to fix the problem for the whole day. Happy New Year!

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (77.160.xx.xx) on Sat 25 Sep 2010 at 09:23
It does not work with me. After i chose `no mirror` and gave enter,i saw a install menu; i did ctr-alt-del to reboot, but there was no command line.

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Posted by Anonymous (190.218.xx.xx) on Sat 13 Aug 2011 at 08:43
Someone could confirm the following, which of these steps in this article (Etch) apply to Debian 6 (Squeeze) and if necessary update/add/remove the steps. Please, write the changes.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (67.232.xx.xx) on Sat 5 Jul 2014 at 12:56
Just to let anyone who comes across this article in the future, the debian net install gives you options at bootup, if you choose the expert install know that for the most part it will be just like the original "non-gui" installer but take you back to the menu, just keep going down the list until you reach install base system and after that just install grub/lilo and choose execute a shell and then make the appropriate changes (Debian 7 wheezy 2014 Jul,5)

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