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Using Debian

Part Two


Version 1.2b

These notes apply to 2.1 (Slink) and are intended as an Appendix to A Brief Beginner's Guide to Using Debian GNU/Linux (2.1 Slink) version 5.1b

Dual Boot

What follows is one way to set up a dual system - there are several other ways.  First, install the other OS, using the whole drive for the install. Then use the fips utility to re-size the partition used by the other OS, and make a new partition to accommodate Debian.
Boot the Debian install programme, delete the new partition created by fips, and create new GNU/Linux partitions using the Debian install programme. Then install Debian and set Lilo to boot from the MBR (master boot record) using the default boot from hard disc option.

After the Debian install, all you need to do is change the /etc/lilo.conf to include the other OS:


#other OS


(Note: This example assumes the root partition is hda2. You should run /sbin/lilo after altering the file to re-load lilo.)

Then, when the system next boots, press Alt for a boot prompt, then enter either linux to boot Debian or win to boot the other OS.

Security and other Updates

It is a good idea to frequently update the system using apt-get. This applies particuarly to security patches. To retrive and install the security patches add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list then enter apt-get  update followed by apt-get  dist-upgrade.

deb   stable  updates

General updates can be obtained by entering

deb   stable  updates

XDM Crash

In the event of xdm crashing (it has been known) and you find you cannot kill the X server with Control-Alt-Backspace, then find the xdm PID's using top and kill both of them.

When xdm starts, it forks and two xdm processess are run.

Mutt Configuration

The file to edit is /etc/Muttrc

To save a copy of outgoing mail, unset (by removing the #)

#set  copy=yes

and then change #set record= " " to

set record="+outbox"

This creates an Outbox for users in ~/Mail

Updating X Server

You will need to enter the source of the latest X  .deb packages in the /etc/apt/sources.list file.  For example, enter

vi      /etc/apt/sources.list

which will open the file using the vi editor. [ Note that vi starts in command mode - to enter text, press the i key. To delete text, press the Esc key,
pressing the x key deletes what is under the cursor. To return to edit mode, press the i key. To quit and save, press :wq (that is, colon followed by wq). Another way is to use fte.

At the time of writing (November 1999) the latest Slink deb for X  is version 3.3.4 and is available at:  xfree86-334-slink

This (with deb before the http) is what you should enter as the source in the /etc/apt/sources.list file.

Then connect to the Net, and enter

apt-get   update

Then enter

apt-get   dist-upgrade

After the download is complete, the packages will be automatically unpacked and installed.  You should then run

apt-get  clean

Silent Modem

If you want to disable the speaker on your modem, you need to alter the modem initialization string. For wvdial this is in /etc/wvdial.conf and simply add M0 (that is, Mzero) to the Init 2 string after ATQ0 V1.

For the chatscript used when pon is entered, edit the /etc/chatscripts/provider file and add ATM0  followed by OK after ATZ   OK so that it reads

" " ATZ

Here, M is the AT command for speaker; followed by 0 means off; by 1 speaker off until carrier detected; by 2 speaker always on; by 3 off while dialing and on until carrier detected.

You can also use the AT command L to adjust the volume; L0 is low; L1 not so low; L2 medium; L3 high volume.

Tuning X Server

To fine tune or adjust the X server defaults, use (or install the package if not installed) xvidtune which provides a config tool to change options. Enter xvidtune in an xterm.

Format Floppy

To format a floppy in drive 0 - i.e. dev/fd0 - enter, in an xterm,

superformat   /dev/fd0   hd

For details about this, enter

info      fdutils

Note:  The fdutils package is usually installed by default.


The easiest way to set file and directory permissions is to remember the following:

4 = read  r
2 = write  w
1 = execute  x

Thus 7 (4+2+1) means rwx and 5 means r-x.

Hence 755 would mean rwx  r-x  r-x

To change permissions, enter:

chmod    <permissions>    <path>


chmod   755   /usr/bin/cal

would change the permissions of cal in /usr/bin/ to  rwx  r-x  r-x

More on Security

To make the system more secure, check the /etc/inetd.conf file and comment out those services not used or required (e.g. finger).
Two services which should usually be left enabled are

pop3        stream

ident        stream

Also, edit /etc/hosts.deny and deny access to all:


Then place in /etc/hosts.allow those allowed.

Adding Users to Group DIP

To save using su every time a user connects to an ISP using pon, you can add the user to the dip group. Enter

gpasswd    -a    <username>    dip

To remove a user from a group:

gpasswd    -d    <username>    <group name>

Scroll X Terminals

It is sometimes useful to scroll up and down an xterm if the information fills more than the visible screen (for example, if you enter something like ps aux, most of which cannot be read).


Shift+PageUp  (or Page Down)

MC in Colour

If you have not got the Midnight Commander file manager in colour mode as default and want to use colour for a session, enter

mc  -c

If you want to make this the default for the current session:

alias    mc="mc  -c"

Proxy ARP Error Message

If you get an error message about not finding Proxy ARP and you do not have a network card installed, edit /etc/ppp/options and change the proxyarp line to:



Copyright 1999 by Muhammad Yusuf.

 This work may be freely distributed and freely republished in any format without any prior notification being required, provided the above copyright and this free distribution notice are added either at the beginning or the end of the distributed/published document.

There is no warranty or guarantee of any kind offered or implied in or by this work.