Etch from scratch

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Last night I decided to install Etch from scratch on some spare partitions on my computer.

I had little reason to ‘upgrade’, as my computer system allows me to do my work and university assignments, and play a little. But, a few months ago I visited Charlotte’s Web, and I was disappointed that I could not play the movie trailer. Then I visited some other sites, mainly browsing, and I was unable to view their flashy sites too, and then I could not view the images in a newsletter (PDF 5.2 Mb). I put it down to badly designed web sites and newsletters (PDF), but it began to happen more frequently, that it became an irritation.

I did consider upgrading my Computer Angels system, but I decided to install Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (Etch) from scratch, and will return to my Computer Angels Sarge system and play with upgrading various applications once I’m happy with the new install.

This is what I did in preparation:

  1. I wasn’t sure whether to mount and share my existing /home directory or create a new /home directory, so I created some DVD backups of the directories that I consider important. This is in addition to the daily backup of my complete /home directory.
  2. While I downloaded debian-40r0-i386-xfce-CD-1.iso from a local Debian repository, I made two lists from my Sarge install; frequently used programmes, and infrequently used programmes.
  3. Created a bootable CD from the .iso file that I downloaded AFTER I checked the md5sum.
  4. Checked that my computer was set to boot from the CD.
  5. Left the CD in the CD tray and re-booted my computer.

My Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (Etch) install was unremarkable (thank you Debian). I was able to click through the prompts and accepting most if not all the defaults. I used two partitions. One for the operating system and programmes and the other as home. The only tricky question was knowing where I was going to obtain subsequent security patches or updates, i.e. what entry did I want in the /etc/apt/sources.list file. H checked his hosts file, and typed this in for me. Note: The reason why we had to doubly make sure is because the downloads were no longer ‘free’, i.e. they add to our download limits.

The Xfce panel that was installed as part of a fresh install of Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 (Etch) does not include Mozilla Thunderbird. The Xfce panel includes an application menu (also available from the workspace menu), terminal, text editor, file manager, and browser. I’ve already been told that this is because I have access to the internet, and I can apt-get whatever I want to use. So, the first application I grabbed was Icedove aka Thunderbird.

I went about setting up my email accounts in Icedove, but then recognised that they were not being displayed in the order that I preferred. Rather than starting over, I mounted my Sarge /home partition and copied over to my new Etch /home the .mozilla-thunderbird directory. Later, when I realised I wanted my bookmarks from the browser, I copied over the .mozilla directory for use by Iceweasel aka Firefox.

My first impression is that installing Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 from scratch is relatively easy. But I recognise that what has made it easier for me is that I have existing hardware that I know works with Debian Sarge and applications or programmes that work in their way.

It has only taken a few hours over two days to appreciate the effort, experience and skills offered freely by the volunteers that developed the Computer Angels computer system (Debian GNU/Linux Sarge). There is a lot more to an effective and cohesive computer system than the hardware and having access to the programmes from the internet.

The two configuration issues that I will have a look at next are:

  • installing Adobe Flash Player from Adobe
  • video problems – noise that causes a crash/logout and flickering monitor that hurts my eyes

10 thoughts on “Etch from scratch

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