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Using Debian Businesscard install and smxi to make the perfect Debian testing/kde/smxi enhanced distro

Posted 09-09-2008 at 11:21 PM by GoinEasy9

I really wanted an easy way to install Debian based Linux on my computer(s), and I wanted a KDE desktop (rather than the gnome default Debian uses). I also wanted my install to be clean and free from the bloat that installing desktop manager software usually creates. I think I've found a great way of doing both.

There are a number of ways to install Debian. I found the business card version of their installer to fit my needs perfectly. To download the businesscard iso go to and look for businesscard line (at time of writing the second line down, just under netinst). I chose the i386 version (if you want a 64 bit version choose amd64). Save the iso to your desktop, then, burn it to a cd. This doesn't take very long, since the iso is only about 40mb.

If your computer is set to boot from the CD, slide it into the drive and boot it up. When the Grub screen appears, make sure you choose the Advanced Install option, as it allows you to pick several options not available when doing a normal install. After your done trying to speed read the boot messages, the installation starts.

Debian Businesscard Installer: Below are the initial questions and the answers I supplied. They are the usual setup questions, each has their own screen and continue button. I am not going to go into detail explaining what each line/screen means. The comments I make along the way are just my thoughts as I move from screen to screen during the installation process.

Here we go:
Choose language – English
Choose country – United States
Choose a locale – en_US.UTF-8
Choose other locales to be supported – de_DE.UTF-8
Select a keyboard layout – PC-style
Keymap to use – American English

Detect and mount CD-ROM – While detecting CD-ROM, this message read – “The following Linux kernel modules were detected as matching your hardware. If you know some are unnecessary, or cause problems, you can choose not to load them. If you unsure, you should leave them all selected.” On my install, usb-storage (USB storage) came up. I left it marked to be installed. Continuing, my CD-ROM was detected successfully, Businesscard iso was found and the installation continued.

Load installer components from CD – Installer components to load:
cfdisk-udeb: Manually partition a hard drive (cfdisk).
Console-setup-udeb: Configure the keyboard.
ipv6-modules-2.6.24-1-486-di: Ipv6 driver.
ppp-modules-2-6-24-1-486-di: PPP drivers.
squashfs-modules-2.6.24-1-486-di: squashfs modules.
These 5 modules were the ones I chose. There were more available. I just guessed at which ones I would need since they sounded familiar from other installs that I had done. Don't worry, if you need some of the modules that weren't marked for install, you can always install them later. Continue.

Detect network hardware: There were no prompts, it detected my broadband connection etc. Continue.
Configure the network: Auto configure with DHCP? Yes. That was easy, continue.
Enter hostname: I chose “Debianbox”. You can name your box whatever you like.
Domain name: I do believe “localhost” is standard, but you can use your imagination. Just make sure if you have a network, that all Domain names are the same. Continue.

Choose a mirror of the Debian archive: Choose http, just easier, less hassles.
Debian archive mirror country: Unites States. (or wherever you are.)
Debian archive mirror: (heh, I'm biased, am an alumni)
HTTP proxy information: choose blank for none, unless you use a proxy. Continue.

Debian version to install: testing (note: the businesscard install for testing (testing) is the only one I've found that gives you a choice of all three Debian flavors i.e., stable, testing and unstable). Continue.

Configure the clock: Set the clock using NTP? This time I chose Yes. On some installs I've had a problem with Yes, but let's see how it works this time.
NTP server to use: OK.
Select your time zone: Eastern. Continue.

Detect disks: There is no prompt, it automatically detects disks.

Partition disks: I use manual. I like to see what partitions and corresponding info are recognized/created. Go to each partition and make sure “Use as” (for me ext3), “Format the partition” (for me Yes), “Mount point” (You need a root, a swap and for me a /home partition – total of 3 partitions). Note: swap partition is not ext3, its “Use as” is swap.
The partitioning screen for a newbie is a bit confusing, like every other partitioning program. Just keep in mind that you can make changes by hitting the enter key for each line, go through selections with up and down arrows and you can always cancel whatever you've done by choosing that option towards the bottom of the partitioning screen. If your satisfied with your choices, when you are prompted to “Write the changes to disks”, choose “Yes” and let the partitioner do its magic. Continue.

More questions from the Installer: (And some of my answers.)
Install the base system: -- Enter.
Kernel to install: linux-image-2.6.686
Set up users and passwords: Enable shadow passwords? Yes.
Allow login as root? Yes.
Root Password? ********.
Create a normal user account now? Yes.
Full name for the new user: ********.
Username for your account: ********.
Choose a password for the new user: ********.
Re-enter password: ********.

Configure the package manager: Use non-free software? Yes.
Services to use: security updates. (volatile updates are only available for stable). Continue.

Select and install software:
Participate in the package usage survey? -- Yes or No, your choice.
Choose software to install: Just leave Standard system marked, if the Desktop Manager is marked, uncheck it. I'll tell you a better way to install the desktop manager later. Continue.

Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk: Install GRUB 2 instead of GRUB legacy? No. I'd rather try experimentals on Sid (Which I do).
Install the GRUB boot loader to the master boot record? Yes. (since this is the only operating system on this particular machine.)
GRUB password? No. (Unless you really need one.) Continue.

You can skip:
Install the LILO boot loader on a hard disk.
Continue without boot loader. Continue.

Finish the installation:
Is the clock set to UTC? Yes. (oh well, retrieving utc modules.)

Installation Complete. The Businesscard install iso CD pops out, and you hit enter to continue.

The Debian grub screen passes and the boot scroll starts. Once again, use your speed reading skills to see if you can catch all those things that are being set up, very interesting.

At the login screen, login to root.
Then apt-get update
Then apt-get install unzip. This is not in the Debian base install and we need it for the next part of our custom testing installation.

Now we are going to download a utility (smxi) that contains a better way for you to install your desktop manager. The utility was designed for upgrading your Linux kernel and system. Originally designed for sidux and Debian Sid, it now works for all branches of Debian. It also contains a myriad of features that you will come to find as indispensable. It installs programs, utilities, graphics drivers and helps with file and old kernel removals. To see complete documentation on smxi go to But right now, let's get back to installing smxi and the Desktop Manager.

First we have to download smxi.
To download smxi do, as root: cd /usr/local/bin, then,
then, unzip
To start smxi, just type smxi at the prompt and your set to go.

Before the installation of the Desktop Manager, a few preliminaries.
The first time you run smxi, smxi will identify which distro you are using, and ask some set up questions.
First question (since it identified testing) it asks whether you want to use apt-get or aptitude. I choose apt-get since my home network contains 5 sidux boxes and I am used to apt-get. From conversations I've had in various IRC channels, I've heard that when using stable and testing, aptitude is the better of the two, because of the way it handles dependencies and recommends. I would love to try it, and someday I may, but right now, I'm afraid that while maintaining both Sid and testing boxes, I'll mistakenly use the wrong one on the wrong box and have problems later. One must remember that if you start with apt-get you stay with apt-get, the same with aptitude. I'm sure aptitude will run with an apt-get'd system and I wish I was knowledgeable enough to tell you the reasons how and why, but, since I can't (at least for now) let's just say it's a rule I will follow.

Next in smxi is the choice to do an upgrade or a dist-upgrade. I'm going to stick to my Sid rules and choose dist-upgrade. smxi now asks whether your using stable, testing, sid or debian other. I choose debian testing since that is what we are installing.

These questions will be asked once since we are setting up preferences in smxi. Next time around, the answers to these questions will be contained in smxi.conf, answer once, forget about it.
FYI: editing or deleting smxi.conf will allow you to change preferences later, but, most of us never find a need for that.

To use smxi, you have to install a few applications first. smxi automatically installs these apps when you answer yes-install to the question.

Since you have just installed testing from a recent download, the first part of smxi, which allows you to update the kernel, will just show you what kernel is already installed. If there was a new kernel available, you could install it here.

Choose 1) Continue. This will do a dist-upgrade. (or Upgrade, whatever you chose earlier.) IMPORTANT: Take a look at what applications are going to be removed before saying “Yes” to continue dist-upgrade/upgrade. Problems (mainly in Sid, but since I'm new to testing, maybe in testing also, can be avoided if you abort the dist-upgrade before important applications are removed because of version or dependency problems.

FYI: If you just did a recent download of the Businesscard iso, there may not be many, if any, apps that are upgraded during your initial dist-upgrade process. I always run the d-u just to make sure.

When the dist-upgrade is finished you can now install the display manager.

Continue to the next menu, choose 1) package-install, and go directly to 4) display-manager. The reason I use smxi and not the debian installer to install my display manager is because the maintainer of smxi (h2) has found the most efficient way of installing the DM of your choice. His full versions of DM's are lighter than most distro's lite versions. The fluff is kept out and the important apps are included. I chose kde-full, other choices are xfce, fluxbox and fvwm-crystal.

After the DM is installed, you might also want to go to choice 9) kde-extras, and install those apps, carefully chosen to add functionality to your kde desktop. Also, run choice 2) to make sure system utilities are included and up to date. Or choice 4) which will run system-utilities and add the xorg pieces if they are not already there.

After installing a display manager, I exit the package-install section (choice 15 at present) and then enter 3) utilities, and install 8) h2-favorites, 9) ceni and 10) infobash. There are many other applications to install here, you can look at docs at

I would check out all of the menu choices in the docs, as they contain many of the apps you might need to make your system complete.

Back at the main menu, run choice 7) continue to graphics. Every time you install a new kernel, one needs to reinstall the graphics drivers for whatever video card your running. This choice calls sgfxi, another of h2's apps that automatically installs the proper drivers. The sgfxi app can also be run separately if need be, especially if you have an older video card, or a newer video card that needs a beta driver. READ THE DOCS, I even got an old NeoMagic video card in an old Thinkpad running with it.

To put the finishing touches on your testing/smxi install, move to choice 4) on the main menu, the miscellaneous tweaks option. Now go into choice 2) install-graphics, then choice 3) grub-gfx-options, then choice 1) yes-install-grub-gfxboot. After it installs grub-gfxboot and runs apt-get update, it allows you to choose a graphic grub screen that is so much nicer than the stark one supplied by Debian. My choice here is 5) grub-gfx-debian-smxi, since this install was made possible by both Debian and smxi.

Hit choice 7) continue, then 4) continue. Notice the mozilla-tweaks and advanced tweaks options. READ THE DOCS, there are some interesting tweaks here. You can always come back and revisit them later. Then hit choice 6) continue, back to main menu, then 8) start-desktop, and enjoy your new Debian testing smxi GNU/Linux system.

It's nice here to restart the computer, just to marvel at the new graphic grub screen that replaces the text based Debian one. Oooo nice, enjoy.

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