Installing Debian 8 on a Dell XPS
To install Debian 8 onto a Macbook Pro, check out Jessie Frazelle's tutorial.
Note that on the 2016 XPS model, nonfree software is required for a stable graphics card, after installing Debian itself.
You will need:
- A USB drive with at least 1 GB of space.
- A USB network connection. Like a smartphone that can tether a WiFi connection over USB, or a USB WiFi stick.
You Will Also Need A Computer
TODO: Update with model and photo of new computer below
I am using a Dell XPS 13 purchased through the Dell Ubuntu program:
The Dell XPS is also used by multiple Debian team members, so your pain points will be theirs, and they're likely to quickly fix things.
Supporting Dell's program is a wonderful thing to do, and it's also just a great goddamned laptop.
You Will Also Need Debian
unstableis the most fresh: the edge.
testingruns 10 days behind
unstable, and is probably what you want.
stableis (deliberately) quite out of date as it waits for software to prove itself, and because of that is extremely stable. It runs underwater robots.
This guide uses the latest beta image, on the
testing channel. As of writing, the latest listed Debian testing CD was:
The instructions below assume the downloaded file has been renamed to
Preparing Debian for Installation
First, we'll be flashing the USB drive. From Ubuntu:
- Find the device ID: it will probably look like
- Assuming an ISO renamed to
/dev/sdXwith your device name for the USB flash drive, and run:
sudo dd if=debian.iso of=/dev/sdX
Now we'll tell the computer to boot from the USB drive first.
- Plug in the flashed USB drive to the XPS.
- Reboot the computer.
- On boot, go into the BIOS by pressing F2 while the Dell logo appears.
- Go to the
Secure Boot Enablesubsection of the
Secure Bootsection, and disable secure boot. (Debian does not support UEFI Secure Boot yet. Sadness.)
- Use the
Applybutton, and confirm the popup dialog that appears.
Exitthe BIOS screen. The computer will restart.
- On boot, go into the one-time boot screen by pressing F12 while the Dell logo appears.
- Select the option that looks like your USB drive.
You should soon see the Debian install screen pop up.
You should be at the installer screen.
General warning: The installer has "Go Back" options laid throughout the process. It may not always do what you think. While it will usually be fine, and as much as I hate to say it: try to get each step right the first time. If you end up "Going Back" and it doesn't look like you've actually gone back, consider starting over fresh.
General encouragement: There's a lot of steps, but this is all super easy. You will be just fine.
Pick the second option,
Choose your language (e.g.
English), your country (e.g.
United States), and your key map (e.g. 'American English').
- Then it will try to find a network connection. It's likely to say that it can't use your WiFi card without installing new packages. Say
- You'll arrive at a screen showing you options. Don't select "no ethernet card". Plug in your USB network connection. Hit
Go Back, then hit
- That will take you here. Select
Detect Network Hardware:
- Then enter your hostname, which is essentially your computer name (mine was
- When it asks for a domain name, leave it blank and hit Enter.
- Enter a password for the
rootuser, and verify the password.
- Now you'll make a user account. Enter your full name (e.g.
- And pick a username (e.g.
eric). This is the user you'll be running as.
- Enter a password for that user, and verify that password.
- Pick your time zone.
Setting up your disk
Now you'll be asked about disk stuff. This can be intimidating, but don't worry about it.
I'm going for full disk encryption. The Debian installer makes this super easy. The downsides are:
- You'll enter a password when you boot your computer up, or resume from hibernation. (Not from ordinary sleep.)
- Can add some slight latency on some kinds of disk writes. This isn't a common problem, and you shouldn't notice much of anything in practice.
- Will make the install process take a couple hours, as it first erases every block of the disk.
The upside is your entire disk is goddamn encrypted, which makes you more safe from attackers the world over. And it's so easy: besides the boot password, there's no impact on usability. I strongly recommend it.
- To encrypt, go with the third option ("encrypted LVM"):
- It will ask you to confirm which disk you want to encrypt and write Debian to. Make sure you pick your actual hard drive, not the USB flash drive.
- Just put everything on one partition.
- It'll ask you to really confirm what you're about to do. Say
- Then prepare for the disk erasing to take a long time.
- When it finishes, enter in the disk encryption passphrase, and verify it.
- Then you'll get 2 confirmation prompts in sequence, to confirm that you want to write the partitions to disk. Go for it.
- This will begin installing the base system.
- First, it'll ask you to pick the country it should look for a close Debian archive in.
- Then, it'll offer you some specific mirrors. Pick whatever.
- It'll ask you to pick a proxy. You can leave it blank and hit
- It will ask you whether you'd like to participate in submitting weekly analytics to the Debian team about your packages. As of version 1.6 of
popcon, which is contained in the
.isoI downloaded, this information is encrypted, so I elected to participate.
- It will ask about what pieces of the system you'd like to install. I recommend changing from "MATE" to "GNOME" so that the selections are: "Debian desktop", "GNOME", "print server", "standard system utilities".
- When it finishes, you should be done!
Reboot the computer.
Debian: First Boot
On your first boot, you should end up at the new Debian-themed Grub boot loader. The default is what you want, and you can either hit Enter or it it will proceed automatically after a few seconds.
On your first boot, the disk decryption prompt is scary and stark. We'll make this screen much nicer on future boots in a moment, but for now just enter your disk decryption passphrase.
You should end up at a pleasant login screen!
And after logging in with your user password, you should end up at a pleasant desktop!
Now we'll take care of a few things you'll almost certainly want around for day-to-day Debian use.
Giving yourself sudo
First, become root and install sudo:
su apt install sudo
Then add yourself to sudo. Replace
eric with your username:
adduser eric sudo
Log out and log in to get this to take effect.
Installing nonfree graphics firmware
It's a bummer, but nonfree software is necessary to have working WiFi, a non-buggy graphics card, and to use a graphical boot screen when typing in the decryption password. I observed at least one hard graphics crash/freeze before installing this firmware.
/etc/apt/sources.list to add
contrib non-free to the end of each entry. Mine ended up looking like this:
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free deb http://security.debian.org/debian-security stretch/updates main contrib non-free deb-src http://security.debian.org/debian-security stretch/updates main contrib non-free
apt and install the nonfree firmware:
sudo apt update sudo apt install firmware-linux-nonfree
Next, let's get your WiFi working. You'll need to have installed non-free firmware (see above).
sudo apt install firmware-iwlwifi
On your next boot, you should see working WiFi:
Scaling up for the high-res screen
You'll want to scale GNOME, as well as any web browsers, to use a scaling factor of 125%.
In GNOME, just run:
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface text-scaling-factor 1.25
(There's a preferences pane for this, but it won't let you set decimal values.)
In Firefox, visit about:config, and search for "css". Find
layout.css.devPixelsPerPx and change the value from
-1.0 (system default) to
Now we'll fix that scary decryption screen we saw on the first boot. You'll need to have installed non-free firmware (see above).
To enter your disk decryption password in a clean, well-lighted place, you need to install Plymouth.
You'll also need to install necessary non-free firmware.
sudo apt install plymouth plymouth-themes
/etc/initramfs-tools/modules and add the following lines:
# KMS intel_agp drm i915 modeset=1
/etc/default/grub and add this line:
And edit the
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT line to read:
Update Grub to pick up the changes:
Set the default theme to
sudo /usr/sbin/plymouth-set-default-theme lines
Apply the changes:
sudo update-initramfs -u
On your next boot, you should see a nice graphical interface when it's time to enter your disk password. The nice
lines background should even animate for a second during the decryption.
Debian: Is Awesome
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the feeling of running a beautiful, powerful computer maintained by a global community of dedicated, passionate people that believe in a world of free software.
That said, there's no easy Q&A archive like Ask Ubuntu for common problems. You're best off making friends in the Debian community, and asking around in the #debian IRC channel on
irc.oftc.net. Debian has some tips for you on it.
Friendship and computers are what Debian is all about!
Some notes for myself of stuff to do later:
- "alternate tab" extension for normal alt+tab behavior
- get ubuntu monospace font
- static workspaces
- workspace grid
- download zip of fork of workspace grid extension on github
- open up gnome-tweaks and load in .zip
- open up gnome-shell-extension-prefs and enable it
- on next boot/login it should work
- moving from unity to gnome 3
- from Alt+Click to Super+Click for dragging windows
- Ctrl+Delete for deleting things in the explorer
- test out u2f instructions
- if they work, update blog post to say debian also
- update my personal ubuntu repo to point to debian repo
- http://askubuntu.com/a/613573 - How I got native nvidia drivers going on my Mac Pro 3,1/UEFI. My favorite stationary machine for Linux, was very surprised how well everything works. 32gb in it, 3,1 was the first 64-bit Mac Pro tower and they over built it. Getting native 3d drivers working made life more fun, still doing Quake 3 FPS as my only gaming experience. I digress.
- Any time you may experience trouble in Gnome Shell, hit Alt+F2 and before you even see any dialog type "r" and hit enter. This will restart Gnome shell only, not your apps and save your session in many "total freeze" like scenarios.
- sudo apt-get install ttf-freefont ttf-bitstream-vera ttf-dejavu ttf-liberation (before the next step for fonts, installs required fonts for the infinality package)
- For nice font rendering easily more like Ubuntu in Debian I like to use Infinality. The instructions that I used were from here (https://www.linuxbabe.com/desktop-linux/improve-font-rendering-on-debian-8-by-install-infinality-and-google-fonts). Replace trusty in those commands with your release (jessie,stretch etc..) I liked Ubuntu's DejaVu fonts so I used their Linux setting with the setstyle command and then I also go into Tweak Tool and change the Cantarell Fonts all to DejaVu Book.
- sudo apt-get install activity-log-manager - Mmanage the "journal" service the OS keeps of your actions by default. Some people called this spyware in Ubuntu but it's in debian as well.
- I disable "edge tiling" that maximizes a window in Gnome Shell when you drag it to the top of the screen (gsettings set org.gnome.shell.overrides edge-tiling false)
- Gnome Shell extensions I have installed - OpenWeather,Freon(sudo apt-get install lm-sensors first),Dash to Dock,Clipboard Indicator,Steal my Focus,Transprent Top Bar.
- Spotify runs nicely for me if you do that for music (https://www.spotify.com/us/download/linux/)
- Redshift like fl.ux on Mac for night-time colors (sudo apt-get install redshift redshift-gtk), to configure (http://jonls.dk/redshift/#configuration-options)
- You may laugh and return to the terminal but sometimes Git GUI's are helpful (sudo apt-get install gitg)
- There are countless other things I've had to tweak, if you have anything else you'd like to customize I may know how. email@example.com