Minimal Debian

  Last modified on Wednesday 06 August 2014

Debian Vader

[Image: Debian Vader, courtesy jschild].

Debian GNU/Linux is an operating system created by volunteers of one of the largest and longest-running free software projects in the world. More than a hundred other Linux distributions like Ubuntu build their distributions on solid Debian awesomesauce.

There are 3 release branches - stable, testing, and unstable - and the current stable branch is wheezy. I use Debian's minimal install image to create a lightweight, console-only base configuration that can be customized for various tasks and desktops.

Below is a visual walk-through of a sample Debian setup that makes use of an entire storage device divided into 3 partitions: an unencrypted root and LUKS encrypted home + swap.

0. Installer

Download a 64bit (32bit for older machines) Debian mini.iso and burn the image to a CD or prepare a USB boot device.

Step 1 - Go!

Install Select Language Select Location Configure Keyboard Hostname Domain Mirror Country Mirror archive Mirror Directory Proxy Root password Verify password Full Name Username User password Verify password Select time zone

Step 2 - Partitions

In the example below I create 3 partitions on the disk:

Partitioning method Partition disks Partition table Free space New Partition Partition size Primary partition Beginning

Setting Mount options to noatime decreases write operations and boosts drive speed.

Mount options noatime Done setting up partition Free space New partition Partition size Logical partition Beginning Use as Encrypt volume Encryption key Random key

If the hard disk has not been securely wiped prior to installing Debian (using a utility like DBAN) you may want to configure Erase data as yes. Note, however, that depending on the size of the disk this operation can last several hours.

Erase data Done setting up partition Free space New partition Partition size Logical partition Use as Encrypt volume Passphrase Erase data Done setting up the partition Configure encrypted volumes Write changes to disk Create encrypted volumes Devices to encrypt Finish encrypt Encryption passphrase Verify passphrase Configure encrypted volume Mount point Mount home Mount options noatime

Reserved blocks can be used by privileged system processes to write to disk - useful if a full filesystem blocks users from writing - and reduce disk fragmentation. On large, non-root partitions extra space can be gained by reducing the 5% reserve set aside by Debian to 1%.

Reserved blocks Percent reserved Done setting up the partition Finish partitioning Write changes to disk

Step 3 - Install packages and finish up


Select only [*] Standard system utilities if you wish to start with a minimal, console-only base configuration ready for further customization. The task menu can be accessed post-install by running tasksel.

Software selection GRUB Finish install GRUB menu

If an encrypted home partition was created in Step 2 the system will display a passphrase prompt to unlock the partition.

Enter encrypt passphrase Login

I have created a post-install shell script that can be used to configure tracking of Debian's stable, testing, or unstable branch.

Happy hacking!

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