Moving to Debian

For the last two weeks or so I’ve been constantly downloading and installing different distributions of Linux. Mostly Ubuntu/Kubuntu, then SUSE and now Debian. I’ve had Fedora installed before (and I didn’t use it much) but after trying Ubuntu for a few days, I found its package manager to be easy to use. The problem was that about once a day the screen would just freeze (usually while surfing in Firefox) and I couldn’t restart X or do anything else. Another problem was that firefox would just crash (the window disappeared). I found the argb fix while searching the Internet, but I’m not sure it works for me (I’ll see how it works on my latest Ubuntu install).

I had heard that OpenSUSE is a very stable operating system, and I installed it, but it also froze once (I don’t think I have a hardware problem, since Windows is working fine and memtest found no errors). I need to a run a script (with php) to have Internet access (my provider requires this) and I also want to start the 3proxy proxy server to share my Internet connection with the other computer in my house. I highly recommend it (among other things, it is the only proxy server I could find to work on 64-bit Windows XP, though my search was conducted almost a year ago. The other proxy servers would just crash after a few minutes of running, I suspect because of 32/64 bit incompatibilities). I can’t use NAT to share my Internet connection (I think my ISP is sending me packages with TTL=1) so I need a proxy server (or I need to learn how to change the TTL of incoming packages). You shouldn’t encounter difficulties in setting up 3proxy after reading the comments in the configuration file and the man pages on their site carefully you should figure out most of it.

The reason I removed OpenSUSE is that I couldn’t find an equivalent for /etc/rc.local, a file where you can put startup scripts that run when the system loads. From what I found on the Internet, OpenSUSE doesn’t have such a mechanism so I needed to learn how to start/stop services automatically (only for runlevel 5 is enough) but I don’t have the time right now (and I didn’t like the “Start” menu very much), so I removed SUSE. Ubuntu is based on Debian, so I could keep using its package manager (apt-get or aptitude, I haven’t read their man pages yet but from what I read on the Internet you shouldn’t use both, just stick to one) and a colleague from school told me that he is running the testing distribution of Debian for some time and it never crashed. So I decided to install Debian Linux.

After downloading the first Debian DVD from the stable release (sarge) I saw that the first step of the installation stopped at ‘Loading module ide-disk for Linux ATA Disk’. If I gave the parameter linux26 (apparently this causes it to run the 2.6 kernel) when booting from the DVD, it went past that point, but I thought that the stable release might have some older packages, and maybe I was in for some issues like the previous halting of the installation, so I decided to try the testing version.
After navigating a little through the Debian website I got used to its content and found the weekly builds for etch (the testing distribution of Debian, at the time of this writing).

The jigdo method of download proved very good, because my local mirror didn’t hold the weekly DVD builds. This jigdo program downloads two files (one is very small .jigdo file, the other is a .template file – 22 MB in my case) and finds out what packages are contained on the DVD. Then you can easily tell it which mirror to use from the Debian list of mirrors. The idea is that many mirrors have the packages (so everyone can use them to update an installed system) but fewer ones have CD/DVD images (especially if these are weekly builds).
I couldn’t get jigdo to run on my Windows XP x64, but I already had Ubuntu installed and I knew about the ntfs-3g package which allows it to write on a NTFS partition – which can hold files larger than 4GB in size. So I booted in Ubuntu, installed jigdo and told it to download the .jigdo file. After I told it which mirror I wanted to use, it started downloading the packages (after creating a 4.3GB .iso file). After a few hours of downloading, the .ISO was complete (while I was sleeping). This morning I wrote the image on a DVD and installed Debian.

All went well and I am pleased with the way it is working. When I tried to install the nVidia drivers using apt-get (sudo apt-get install nvidia-glx) it wanted to install a nvidia-kernel kernel version that was for the 486 architecture. I have the i386 version of Debian (I didn’t download a 64 bit version to make sure I stay out of trouble) and the linux-kernel is for the K7 architecture. So I manually installed the nvidia-kernel with the same version for K7 and then downloaded nvidia-glx. After installing and running nvidia-xconfig and restarting, the driver was installed (and now I have graphic acceleration – for example when using OpenGL screen savers).

My colleague said that the testing distribution is working so well because of the criteria they use to evaluate packages before they enter this state. In his opinion, the stable distribution is rock solid, though with packages that are a little older – for a normal user I think this shouldn’t matter.
I truly hope Debian will work fine because I’ve lost a lot of time installing Linux (I need it for school a little, and I need to have it installed anyway so I can learn some Linux from time to time). I’ve been learning and playing the guitar very little and I need to correct that; especially the guitar part :).

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