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Installing Debian on an older System76 laptop. Minimal install. No desktop environment from the start. Will install the i3 window manager later.


  1. Debian netinstall. Asking me for missing firmware file: iwlwifi-3160-17.ucode. I don't have an extra USB stick and will have to install later.
  2. Software selection, minimal. Will install window manager and related (sound, etc) later:
    1. SSH server
    2. standard system utilities
  3. Install i3 first because this will take care of various X dependencies
    1. apt install i3
  4. reboot computer (probably could have started x)
    1. (didn't know, but can just type reboot instead of systemd reboot. I wonder if this is a new thing or a Debian thing.
  5. Install xinit
    1. apt install xinit
  6. i3 works (startx). It generated a default config file. Need to install a better terminal emulator. xterm is ugly.
  7. Install Firefox
    1. apt install firefox-esr
  8. Install sound
    1. apt install pulseaudio pavucontrol
  9. Sound still not working, install alsa
    1. apt install alsa-utils
  10. Ran alsactl
    1. /usr/bin/alsactl init
    1. Add to sources.list: and:
    2. apt install firmware-iwlwifi
    3. apt install wicd-curses
      1. start wicd-curses
      2. press P to enter preferences
      3. Under General Settings tab, enter name of wireless interface (e.g., wlp3s0)
      4. Still not connecting. Install dhcpcd5, and selected that in wicd preferences, but it's still not connecting; was able to connect in wicd-client (GUI app); saved wireless-settings.conf for later use.
    4. Battery monitor (or just install byobu, has battery monitor)

I'm going to have to redo this because, as usual, I'm not sure what caused this to start working. The Linux sound system is undesirable.

Fresh Start, console only install

  • Debian 9.4 netinstall (connected to wired network)
    • Select SSH server and standard system utilities only, otherwise accept all defaults
  • Turn off console bell
    • vi /etc/inputrc
    • uncomment set bell-style none


  • Update repos and install firmware
    • # apt update && apt install firmware-iwlwifi
    • # modprobe -r iwlwifi ; modprobe iwlwifi
  • Install wicd-curses
    • # apt install wicd-curses wicd-cli
  • Install dhcpcd5 (don't know if the following was necessary)
    • # apt install dhcpcd5
    • # /etc/init.d/wicd restart
    • # /etc/init.d/networking restart
  • The above didn't work, and the wireless-settings.conf was deleted. Found the following documentation and followed it:
    • # apt install wicd-cli
    • # adduser USERNAME netdev
    • # service dbus reload
    • # service wicd start
    • # wicd-curses start
    • add to manager-settings.conf
      • wireless-interface = wlp3s0
    • # wicd-curses
      • Highlight channel
      • Right arrow to enter configuration
      • Enter password, etc (worked this time)


  • Add user to sudo group; logout and login to take effect
    • # adduser USERNAME sudo
  • Install vim-nox and git (for Vundle plugin mgmt) and copy .vimrc to system
  • Basic Bash setup:
    • set -o vi
    • alias c='clear'
  • Install w3m, byobu, htop
linux/basic-debian-laptop-install.txt · Last modified: 2018/04/04 01:21 by seanburns