Although I did have previous knowledge of it's existence, an amusing flamewar on Slashdot talked about various benefits of the installation and update packages for some of the major distributions [ 1 ] I didn't keep a link to that article. . I turned towards Debian as my choice because it was purported to have the best installation / uninstallation routine for it's software. I also understood that Mandrake Linux was also amazing, but since it didn't actually install I wanted to check out Debian.
I approached this project with the communication of my efforts in mind. I wanted to record my trip through this experience in order to further improve the efforts or Debian and other software producers. I also wanted the practice with this new method of doing things.
So, first thing's first with something like this.. I screw around and hope to bump into a silver platter which will answer all my questions and solve all my problems, holding my hand through installation and telling me what software is good for what and is better than what..
I found the Debian home page and looked it over. My first impressions were:
- God this is bland, Mandrake Linux is bells and whistles compared to this.
- I like bland.. it'll force me to pay attention (as seen in my own website)
- I did some reading into their What is Debian texts, and was put off a bit.. it didn't explain the look and feel or the functionality of the OS the way I had expected/wanted.
- I have many many years of experience with computer software, and I am about to go waay over my head.
I had better start taking notes.
So of course I procrastinated and didn't bother taking notes. Instead, I began looking for Debian-related resources for me to draw expert knowledge from (a.k.a. pester the FAQs for newbie help). I came up pretty short for real links.
Following a lengthy tradition of pestering people until I mature enough to find knowledge on my own, I emailed some of my seniors for help.
I neither conferred with FAQs nor did proper research first. I came off as somewhat knowledgable but munchkin.. it's a habit. If I were to stick around for longer, I would be confirmed as a munchkin and probably expelled from the list from mass outrage. =)
My diary ∞
I'm an experienced computer user, and have been looking at Linux closer and closer over the last few years. On a couple of occasions I have attempted to install various flavours of Linux with.. umm.. "classic" results. You see, I'm cursed.. for me, software breaks in the strangest ways. Trust me. If you think it happens only to you, yes, it's documentable and exists in others. There is no cure.
- Kernal-independence (why base the distrib on someone else's work?)
- Fair popularity (tough to gauge since I haven't looked for Debian links yet, but there are some commercial packages based on Debian, so that's a positive guage)
- Quality software install/uninstall function (I'm entirely anal about this, yes I've heard Mandrake has a good package handler.. but.. umm, when the OS doesn't actually install.. who cares.)
Various other reasons amounting to a good fuzzy feeling about this one. =)
Anyhow. I would like some user help. I need a set of links pointing towards user stories on Debian, as well as various other user pages. There are no links on the home page and I couldn't find a webring [ 2 ] 2019-08-29 - Yes, this was back in the day. with a couple of quick searches.
I would like to document my experiences with Debian, essay-style, to contribute to the efforts. My gift of finding problems with software will kick in.. I'll take notes and review the software so hopefully everything will be reproducible. If Debian manages to miraculously survive the ordeal, I will have an archive filled with screenshots, doodles and essays describing how it can be made even better. But that's for later.
To no avail, I have screwed with:
- Although mostly unsupported now, it's still way more powerful than Windows and I know it inside out (and then some). I'll be heading back to this since I'm getting an HP 200LX (modified, of course). I'm going out of my way to get a 286 "laptop" (call it a portable, it's huge).. I'm going retro.
- I screwed with this to the point of considering releasing Windows "3.12" (3.11b non workgroups) by documenting the modification of an upgraded 3.1.. the project got frozen indefinitely and now it's years later.
- Ooh, pretty. I can play games.. wait a sec, I could play games on my old 486, and now I need a pentium to play win95 games.. why did I want this OS again? Games? I used to be learning programming.. hmm..
- Win95 on crack
- Tell me why I need this again? / see previous comment.
- From a book. The book was a nice read, the distrib didn't actually install (missing file(s)). The CDs were in perfect condition. I can pronounce the name, but I'm not sure if I can spell it.
- Around this time I researched most Linux distributions, and read everything everywhere.. I still couldn't understand why these people didn't fix DOS and use that instead.. I couldn't even see a spreadsheet program for Linux, let alone text-graphics a-la the c64 text mode. All this to procrastinate over learning to program.. damn, I should have stayed with the c64, cause I was doing it there.. stupid internet. =/
RedHat 5.who cares
- Nice, big book. I bought the biggest, most popular, most up to date and therefore most expensive book. I found out that somehow I already know most of the content (go figure). The install didn't work, missing files.. hmm. Once again, perfect CDs and no luck.
- Enter a cablemodem, toss to the winds all free time. =)
- It doesn't go, not with a wiz beos games tester helping me install. Later efforts with the free download (nice idea, nice when it boots) resulted in a horrifically slow system.. hrmph
- Great website, fucking fantastic website. You have to pay for support though.. but I checked it out anyways. Awesome install, I knew it inside-out from the website demos. It autodetects everything perfectly, but it just does not work .. yet another sad, sad installer which can't find it's own files.
And so I'm left with Debian.
Summary of its responses ∞
A quick summary of feedback to my emails:
Responses are same-day if not same-hour.
- These guys seem to live and breath email, even the people overseas.
- "Typing a lot" is not an issue as long as it's well worded and well formatted.
- My formatting needs mild work.
- My content needs some work (not very quotable).
- Newbies are directed to official sources for general information.
Well written user feedback is welcome, promoted and applauded.
All those items point toward a mature body of users in the Debian world. Indications are that there is a good deal of automated help (a-la FAQs and the like), but there is either poor use of those resources or poor faith in them.
My general impression is that real footwork is necessary for complete understanding of this OS, and that hand-holding is never done. Good, I will do things the thorough way.
My continued effort ∞
So of course I'm a complete idiot and decide to install without reading anything. I figured.. what the hell, I have a spare HDD and I have some familiarity with the procedure.. I'm just screw around until something happens.
Enter pen and paper
I went through my old floppy collection, and one by one formatted the suckers.. anything which so much as hiccuped got tossed. Out of a hundred I got 2 dozen. yay I rawwrote all of the images (and then some) for a floppy-only installation.. I didn't want to play with writing a cdrom and booting off of it, or writing a boot floppy and installing from CD.. I wanted to do things the old fashioned, extra painful way! *flex* I think all of the images ought to be compressed using
dxp to have self-extracting compressed disks.. it's so much better than rawwrite for size, speed and ease of use (one
.exe file, run it and it asks for a disk to decompress to). Someone bug me about it.. I should approach the author to release the program into freeware or for special use for Debian/whoever. [ 3 ] 2019-08-29 - Well I forgot entirely about this. I do recall maintaining archives of this sort though.
I recall having BIOS stuff that I had to play with. Damn, something about:
- Shadow Ram being off
- Plug and Play aware OS = no
- PCI settings.. something fancy and outside of my experience, so of course I don't remember.
Disable unused IDE channels (whatever.. done already, since I use SCSI)
So I proceed to head into it, even after remember specific problems I ought to have taken notes on, and after not reading any installation notes. Who needs skydiving or bungee jumping, I'll install Debian blindfolded! (Don't do this at home kids, you'll stain the carpet.)
Ok, so I go through all of my floppies, formatting away in order to ensure that the disks I use for installation are of at least fair quality.. about 3 in 20 are functional (no bad sectors). Yay. The next step is to write all of the disk images over to a set of floppies. I do realise that formatting != working disk, so I'm prepared to go the extra mile on this one.
So I try:
rawrite2 root A:
rawrite2 A: root
Ok fine, I'll RTFM.
No wait.. (*bonk self*) it's linux.
Which displays this: (I'm not sure why a chunk of it is indented, but whatever).
So the proper commandline must be:
rawrite -froot.bin -dA
-dA: No such file or directory
rawrite -froot.bin -dA:
-dA:: No such file or directory
Hmm.. maybe it's:
rawrite2 root.bin A
rawrite: 'root.bin' - unknown option. Use 'rawrite -h' for instructions.
rawrite2 -f root.bin -d A:
Bingo. I also could (should) have run it without parameters for braindead mode. =)
the root disk isn't readable from DOS, I guess I have to boot from the disk to get at it's contents.. fine by me. Btw,
rawrite does not work well in Windows.. I would have thought it would be like formatting a floppy under windows.. but
rawrite takes over.. just try typing while it's at work. 3 CPUs =)
Lots of waiting for the floppies to get made.. fine by me, since I didn't understand HD instructions (I'm too lazy). I put root on a blessed disk -- one which magically formatted three times faster than the others.. go figure.
I'm not sure if I ought to write protect these disks.. so I won't.
Rawrite (or a special batch file) should scan for the next in the series, and if found should ask the user to insert the next disk. It'd make life easier.
I also feel that the program ought to format the disk for the user, if that's necessary. Or format as it goes.. On a side note, I'm not sure how it handles bad disks.
When writing the disks,
Head stays fixed at
Ok, now comes the fun part.. installation. I'll have to use one of those old fashioned flat white computers with a pointing device, then transcribe it back here.
First rule of OS'. Backup. If you don't have the means to back up your system, don't install. In my case, I'm yanking the HDD and swapping it for another. I'm not gonna play. =)
I have to prep a DOS boot disk with the
loadln.exe program.. I intend to format the new HDD under DOS, copy a very basic copy of DOS over to the HD, then see how the partition manager stuff works out.
- Enter CMOS setup - screw around, reboot.
- Enter SCSI setup - verify the replacement HDD is found and set up properly.
- Format the HDD (just in case). Eesh, I can't even tell it's being formatted since my fans are so loud. Reboot #2
- By this time I have a vicious headache[doesn't exist] since the case is open.. stupid Magnetic field sensitivity. =(
- Sacrifice a goat (just in case)
- Watch Television (sacrifice brain to the media)
- Reboot, boot off disk.. looks like the new HD took over from my CDROM.. no wait, nothing works.. crap. HDD not found.
- Setup SCSI again. Reboot #3
- CDROM and HDD both found, yay.
- Boot off of DOS drive,
fdiskHDD, format, sys and copy stuff over to it. Of course, I then realise that I probably didn't need to do any of this.
Recall that I've forgotten the install batch file. Great. Oh, and I didn't copy the boot loader to disks. Double-crap.
(Heroically, our hero marches on.. missing both arms, but it's just a flesh wound!)
- Reboot #4 off of the root disk.. crashes. Guess that one's not bootable.
- Open case, swap drives, rearrange cables. Wow, look at that fan.. it's dusty as hell. I'll just blow on it.. *spit*.. uh, did I just spit on my mainboard? *shrug* Maybe I should dust the board.. naw, I'll buy a new system before dust becomes a problem. =) [ 4 ] 2019-08-29 - I still do that.
- Reboot #5 - turn on comp. No sparks = No spit.
- Oh great, and of course I forget to re-config my SCSI settings.. This time I'll get things right.. third's a charm right?
Reboot #6 into Windows. How many times have I rebooted? Waiting for a POST sucks.
- Mental note, get BIOS setup suggestions, install batch file, install FAQ.
Give up and play StarCraft - (1998/2017 game) instead.
Lessons learned ∞
- RTFM. You can't run without legs.
- Prepare before attempting. You can't climb without arms.
- Memorize the FAQ and write notes or print a copy. You can't fly without wings.
- You can't teach a new dog old tricks. Use contemporary methodology and thinking.. don't rely on oldschool methods where new methods have trail-blazed a new route.
- Patience is a virtue, but not when paired with stubbornness.
Don't get goat's blood on your monitor.
Rough notes at this point ∞
- Check around for "Debian v. Foo" package comparisons.
- Check articles at NewsForge, LinuxWorld, LinuxToday, apparently a lot of recent advocacy at Slashdot.
- Similarly, advocacy discussions elsewhere online.
There are folks who occasionally post useful intro/howto/what-the documents
- FAQs cover backups, browsers, books, partitioning, and xdm. No general installation FAQ.
- For capturing an install via console, use
scriptin case you're not familiar with it... not good to use when your cursor is hopping all around (as in an editor or an n-curses dialog) but great for capturing all the text flying by...
- Never ever install anything yourself unless its in
- Partitioning is important [ 5 ] 2019-08-29 - This turned out to not actually be the case. All those years of taking careful notes and planning ahead were for absolutely nothing.
- They do something called "backporting", where an existing stable release is patched instead of relying on a future version to upgrade away from the bug.
- There are no links on the Debian website to other users groups, webrings or user pages.
- Get a motherboard which supports "true parity" memory, not "virtual parity" memory. [ 6 ] 2019-08-29 - I completely forgot about this and never looked into it.
- Host a
autoexec.batswapper, so others don't have to press
F8to do a clean load.
Boot off of the rescue diskette, then use the root images
- Linux kernel (not needed if installing from floppies)
- Boot loader
Leftover general Linux questions ∞
- Can I do faked graphics in textmode like the c64 did? [ 7 ] 2019-08-29 - It turns out that yes it's possible to do "graphics" in the raw TTY console, but I never looked into that, and it's never actually been a useful idea to pursue anyway.
- Textmode screenshots (with weird cursor movements and such -- not using 'script') [ 8 ] 2019-08-29 - While this was doable, I never did bother to get this running. Several terminal multiplexers have a feature like this.
- How would I make X-windows screenshots? [ 9 ] 2019-08-29 - Scrot is the common tool to take screenshots.
BIOS Settings ∞
- Manual Primary master: user
- All other drives: none
- BIOS features: (Disable all "shadow" options)
PNP/PCI: PNP OS: no
- Resources controlled by: manual
- IRQs 5, 10, 11 set to "PCI/ISA PNP"
- All other IRQs set to "Legacy ISA"
Parting notes ∞
(long pause, days pass.. things get transcribed.. I ponder getting my palmtop)
So it turns out I was booting off of the wrong diskette. I was supposed to boot from the "Rescue Diskette". Odd.
|^ 1||I didn't keep a link to that article.|
|^ 2||2019-08-29 - Yes, this was back in the day.|
|^ 3||2019-08-29 - Well I forgot entirely about this. I do recall maintaining archives of this sort though.|
|^ 4||2019-08-29 - I still do that.|
|^ 5||2019-08-29 - This turned out to not actually be the case. All those years of taking careful notes and planning ahead were for absolutely nothing.|
|^ 6||2019-08-29 - I completely forgot about this and never looked into it.|
|^ 7||2019-08-29 - It turns out that yes it's possible to do "graphics" in the raw TTY console, but I never looked into that, and it's never actually been a useful idea to pursue anyway.|
|^ 8||2019-08-29 - While this was doable, I never did bother to get this running. Several terminal multiplexers have a feature like this.|
|^ 9||2019-08-29 - Scrot is the common tool to take screenshots.|
|^ 10||2019-08-29 - I never ended up needing RAR all that much, and 7zip is better.|