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The Perfect Desktop – Debian Etch (Debian 4.0)


With the release of Microsoft’s new Windows operating system (Vista), more and more people are looking for alternatives to Windows for various reasons. In this tutorial I will show people who are willing to switch to Linux how they can set up a Linux desktop (Debian Etch in this article) that fully replaces their Windows desktop, i.e. that has all software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that runs also on older hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!

 

1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Debian Etch desktop to have the following software installed:

Graphics:

  • The GIMP – free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • F-Spot – full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa – application for organizing and editing digital photos

Internet:

  • Iceweasel (Debian’s name for Firefox)
  • Opera
  • Flash Player 9
  • gFTP – multithreaded FTP client
  • Icedove (Debian’s name for Thunderbird) – email and news client
  • Evolution – combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule – P2P file sharing application
  • Bittorrent client
  • Azureus – Java Bittorrent client
  • Gaim – multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC – IRC client

Office:

  • OpenOffice Writer – replacement for Microsoft Word
  • OpenOffice Calc – replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash – double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus – open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok – audio player
  • Audacity – free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee – audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer – media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player – audio player, similar to Apple’s iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod – software similar to Apple’s iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS – audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip – full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino – free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor – CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player – media player (video/audio)
  • Real Player
  • Totem – media player (video/audio)
  • Xine – media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • GnomeBaker – CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B – CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:

  • Nvu– WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish – text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Quanta Plus – web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor

Other:

  • VMware Server – lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don’t have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

Debian automatically installs the GNOME desktop.

Lots of our desired applications are available in the Debian repositories, and some of these applications have been contributed by the Debian community. The rest (except for VMware Server) can be obtained by using Automatix. This makes it very easy to achieve our goal.

I will use the username falko in this tutorial, and I will download all necessary files to falko‘s desktop which is equivalent to the directory /home/falko/Desktop. If you use another username (which you most probably do ;-)), please replace falko with your own username. So when I use a command like

cd /home/falko/Desktop

you must replace falko.

 

2 Installing The Base System

The installation of the base system is easy as 1-2-3 because the Debian installer doesn’t offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Debian Etch Netinstall CD (the list of mirrors is available here: http://www.debian.org/CD/http-ftp/ – I downloaded this one: http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian-cd/4.0_r0/i386/iso-cd/debian-40r0-i386-netinst.iso), burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it. At the boot prompt, press ENTER:

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The installation starts, and first you have to choose your language:

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Then select your location:

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Choose a keyboard layout:

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The installer checks the installation CD, your hardware, and configures the network with DHCP if there is a DHCP server in the network:

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You can accept the default hostname:

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This is a desktop system, so you don’t have to type in a domain name:

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Now you have to partition your hard disk. For simplicity’s sake I will create one big partition (with the mount point /) and a little swap partition so I select Guided – use entire disk (of course, the partitioning is totally up to you – if you like, you can create more than just one big partition, and you can also use LVM):

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Select the disk that you want to partition:

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Then select the partitioning scheme. As mentioned before, I select All files in one partition (recommended for new users) for simplicity’s sake – it’s up to your likings what you choose here:

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When you’re finished, select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk:

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Select Yes when you’re asked Write changes to disks?:

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Afterwards, give the root user a password:

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Confirm that password to avoid typos:

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Create a normal user account:

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Create a normal user account:

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Now the base system is being installed:

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Next you must configure apt. Because you are using the Debian Etch Netinstall CD which contains only a minimal set of packages, you must use a network mirror:

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Select the country where the network mirror that you want to use is located (usually this is the country where your Debian Etch system is located):

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Then select the mirror you want to use (e.g. ftp2.de.debian.org):

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Unless you use an HTTP proxy, leave the following field empty and hit Continue:

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Apt is now updating its packages database:

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You can skip the package usage survey by selecting No:

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On the Software selection screen, we select Desktop environment and Standard system (if you use a laptop, you can select Laptop in addition to that):

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The required packages are being installed on the system:

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Next you have to select the desktop resolutions you’d like to use (normally the resolutions that are supported by your graphic card are already selected, so you can simply hit Continue):

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When you’re asked Install the GRUB boot loader to the master boot record, select Yes:

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The base system installation is now finished. Remove the Debian Etch Netinstall CD from the CD drive and hit Continue to reboot the system:

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After the reboot your new Debian system starts. Log in to the desktop with the username and password you provided during the installation:

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Now the base system is ready to be used.

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3 Update The System

First we have to make sure that all packages on our new Debian system are up-to-date. To do this, we open a terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal):

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In the terminal, we run

su

to become root. Afterwards, we run the following two commands:

apt-get update

apt-get upgrade

Afterwards, the system should be up-to-date.

 

4 Inventory Of What We Have So Far

Now lets browse all menus under Applications to see which of our needed applications are already installed:

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You should find the following situation ([x] marks an application that is already installed, where [ ] is an application that is missing):

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[ ] F-Spot
[ ] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Iceweasel (Firefox)
[ ] Opera
[ ] Flash Player
[ ] gFTP
[ ] Icedove (Thunderbird)
[x] Evolution
[ ] aMule
[x] Bittorrent
[ ] Azureus
[x] Gaim
[ ] Skype
[ ] Google Earth
[ ] Xchat IRC

Office:
[x] OpenOffice Writer
[x] OpenOffice Calc
[ ] Adobe Reader
[ ] GnuCash
[ ] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[ ] Amarok
[ ] Audacity
[ ] Banshee
[ ] MPlayer
[x] Rhythmbox Music Player
[ ] gtkPod
[ ] XMMS
[ ] dvd::rip
[ ] Kino
[x] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[ ] VLC Media Player
[ ] Real Player
[x] Totem
[ ] Xine
[x] GnomeBaker
[ ] K3B
[ ] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[ ] Nvu
[ ] Bluefish
[ ] Quanta Plus

Other:
[ ] VMware Server
[ ] TrueType fonts
[ ] Java
[ ] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

So some applications are already on the system…

5 Install Additional Software

To install additional applications, go to Desktop > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager:

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You will have to provide the root password:

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In the Synaptic Package Manager window, select the following packages for installation (* is a wildcard; e.g. MPlayer* means all packages that start with MPlayer):

  • f-spot
  • gftp
  • icedove* (select only the locales you need)
  • amule
  • amule-utils-gui
  • azureus
  • xchat*
  • gnucash
  • scribus
  • scribus-template
  • amarok
  • audacity
  • banshee*
  • mplayer
  • gtkpod
  • xmms* (not xmms2*!)
  • kino
  • kinoplus
  • vlc*
  • xine-ui
  • k3b
  • bluefish
  • quanta
  • java-*

You can use Synaptic’s search function to find the above packages:

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To select a package for installation, click on the checkbox left to the package name and select Mark for Installation in the menu that opens:

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Some packages have additional dependencies that need to be installed so that the package works. Accept the additional packages by clicking on the Mark button:

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After you’ve selected all of the above packages, click on the Apply button:

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Click on Apply again in the Summary window:

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The selected packages are now being downloaded and installed:

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After the packages have been installed, a window opens that says that the changes have been applied. Click on Close and close the Synaptic window afterwards.

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6 Inventory (II)

Now let’s check again what we have so far by browsing the menus again:

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(If you don’t find some applications anywhere in the menu although you know you’ve just installed them, log out and in again to the desktop. Afterwards they should be listed.)

Our inventory should now look like this:

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[x] F-Spot
[ ] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Iceweasel (Firefox)
[ ] Opera
[ ] Flash Player
[x] gFTP
[x] Icedove (Thunderbird)
[x] Evolution
[x] aMule
[x] Bittorrent
[x] Azureus
[x] Gaim
[ ] Skype
[ ] Google Earth
[x] Xchat IRC

Office:
[x] OpenOffice Writer
[x] OpenOffice Calc
[ ] Adobe Reader
[x] GnuCash
[x] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[x] Amarok
[x] Audacity
[x] Banshee
[x] MPlayer
[x] Rhythmbox Music Player
[x] gtkPod
[x] XMMS
[ ] dvd::rip
[x] Kino
[x] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[x] VLC Media Player
[ ] Real Player
[x] Totem
[x] Xine
[x] GnomeBaker
[x] K3B
[ ] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[ ] Nvu
[x] Bluefish
[x] Quanta Plus

Other:
[ ] VMware Server
[ ] TrueType fonts
[x] Java
[ ] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

7 Install Automatix

Automatix2 comes with a graphical interface, but in order to install Automatix2 there are a few steps we have to do on the command line. Go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal to open a command line window:

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In the command line window, type

su

to become root.

Now we have to open /etc/apt/sources.list and make sure that the non-free and contrib repositories are enabled. Run

gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

to open /etc/apt/sources.list in a text editor. You will find a line similar to this one in it:

[...]
deb http://ftp2.de.debian.org/debian/ etch main
[...]

Add the non-free and contrib repositories to it so that the line looks like this:

[...]
deb http://ftp2.de.debian.org/debian/ etch main non-free contrib
[...]

Then update your packages database:

apt-get update

To install Automatix, we proceed as follows:

echo “deb http://www.getautomatix.com/apt etch main” | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list

Afterwards, run

wget http://www.getautomatix.com/keys/automatix2.key

gpg –import automatix2.key

gpg –export –armor E23C5FC3 | sudo apt-key add –

and update the packages database again:

apt-get update

Finally, install Automatix:

apt-get install automatix2

Then close the command line window. After Automatix has been installed, you can find it under Applications -> System Tools -> Automatix:

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8 Install Further Packages With Automatix

Now start Automatix. It comes up with a warning that you must not install the package AUD-DVD if you are from the USA because it is illegal there (so if you are from the USA, don’t install that package).

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After you’ve accepted the warning, Automatix starts:

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and adds some repositories to /etc/apt/sources.list:

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In the left window you see all available package groups (File Sharing, Web Browsers, etc.), and in the right window there are all packages that belong to the package group and that can be installed by Automatix. Select the following packages for installation:

  • Skype
  • AUD-DVD Codecs
  • Flash Player
  • MPlayer and FF Plugin
  • Multimedia Codecs
  • Sun Java 1.5 JRE
  • DVD Ripper
  • RealPlayer
  • Automatix read/write NTFS and FAT32 Mounter
  • Extra Fonts
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Google Earth
  • Google Picasa
  • Opera Browser

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After you’ve made your selection, click on Start. The package installation begins, and it can take some time.

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In order to install Sun Java 1.5 JRE, we need to accept its license:

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When Mplayer gets installed, the installer will ask you if you want to replace the existing file /etc/mplayer/mplayer.conf with a new one. Choose no here (hit ENTER or type in N):

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To install NTFS read/write support (ntfs-3g), click on Yes when the following message comes up:

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Then hit Ok:

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Hit OK again. If you are currently using NTFS partitions, you might have to reboot the system after Automatix has finished to get read/write support on the NTFS partitions.

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Google Earth will ask you to accept its license, so click on I Agree:

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Google Earth’s default settings are ok, so click on Begin Install:

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After the Google Earth installation, you can either select to start it immediately or to quit. I select Quit here (although it doesn’t matter what you select):

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After the installation of all selected packages, we can leave Automatix by clicking on the cross in the upper right corner of the Automatix window. A new window pops up where we select Yes:

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9 Update The System Again

Now it’s a good time again to check for updates. To do this, we open a terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal).

In the terminal, we run

su

to become root. Afterwards, we run the following two commands:

apt-get update

apt-get upgrade

Afterwards, the system should be up-to-date.

10 Flash Player

To see if the Flash plugin (which we installed with Automatix before) is working, start Iceweasel (Firefox). Then type about:plugins in the address bar. Iceweasel will then list all installed plugins, and it should list the Flash Player (version 9.0r31 which is the newest one at the time of this writing) among them:

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You can now open a web site of which you know that it uses Flash. For example, www.spiegel.de has video news in Flash. You should be able to see (and hear) the Flash movies:

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Another web site that uses Flash movies is YouTube, for example.

 

11 Inventory (III)

Browse the Applications menu again and check what you’ve got installed so far. Your list should look like this now:

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[x] F-Spot
[x] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Iceweasel (Firefox)
[x] Opera
[x] Flash Player
[x] gFTP
[x] Icedove (Thunderbird)
[x] Evolution
[x] aMule
[x] Bittorrent
[x] Azureus
[x] Gaim
[x] Skype
[x] Google Earth
[x] Xchat IRC

Office:
[x] OpenOffice Writer
[x] OpenOffice Calc
[x] Adobe Reader
[x] GnuCash
[x] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[x] Amarok
[x] Audacity
[x] Banshee
[x] MPlayer
[x] Rhythmbox Music Player
[x] gtkPod
[x] XMMS
[x] dvd::rip
[x] Kino
[x] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[x] VLC Media Player
[x] Real Player
[x] Totem
[x] Xine
[x] GnomeBaker
[x] K3B
[x] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[ ] Nvu
[x] Bluefish
[x] Quanta Plus

Other:
[ ] VMware Server
[x] TrueType fonts
[x] Java
[x] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

12 Nvu

Nvu isn’t available neither in the official Debian repositories nor from Automatix, but fortunately backports.org has an Nvu package for Etch which can be found on http://backports.org/debian/pool/main/n/nvu/. Go to that address with your browser and download the latest Nvu package, e.g. nvu_1.0final-0bpo1_i386.deb, to your desktop:

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Afterwards, right-click that package and select Open with “GDebi Package Installer”:

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A Package Installer window comes up. Click on the Install Package button to install Nvu:

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Afterwards, you can close the Package Installer window:

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After the successful installation, you can move the Nvu .deb package to the trash bin:

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13 Inventory (IV)

Browse the Applications menu again. Your list should look like this now:

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[x] F-Spot
[x] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Iceweasel (Firefox)
[x] Opera
[x] Flash Player
[x] gFTP
[x] Icedove (Thunderbird)
[x] Evolution
[x] aMule
[x] Bittorrent
[x] Azureus
[x] Gaim
[x] Skype
[x] Google Earth
[x] Xchat IRC

Office:
[x] OpenOffice Writer
[x] OpenOffice Calc
[x] Adobe Reader
[x] GnuCash
[x] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[x] Amarok
[x] Audacity
[x] Banshee
[x] MPlayer
[x] Rhythmbox Music Player
[x] gtkPod
[x] XMMS
[x] dvd::rip
[x] Kino
[x] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[x] VLC Media Player
[x] Real Player
[x] Totem
[x] Xine
[x] GnomeBaker
[x] K3B
[x] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[x] Nvu
[x] Bluefish
[x] Quanta Plus

Other:
[ ] VMware Server
[x] TrueType fonts
[x] Java
[x] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

So everything is installed except for VMware Server…

14 VMware Server

With VMware Server you can let your old Windows desktop (that you previously converted into a VMware virtual machine with VMware Converter, as described in this tutorial: http://www.Kreationnext.com/vmware_converter_windows_linux) run under your Debian desktop. This can be useful if you depend on some applications that exist for Windows only, or if you want to switch to Linux slowly.

To download VMware Server, go to http://www.vmware.com/download/server/ and click on Download Now:

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Accept the license agreement by clicking on Yes:

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Then download the VMware Server for Linux .tar.gz file (not the rpm file!) to your desktop (e.g. to /home/falko/Desktop):

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To get the serial number you need to run VMware Server, go to http://www.vmware.com/download/server/ again and click on the register for your free serial number(s) link. Fill in your personal details. Afterwards you will get a page with a serial number for VMware Server. Write it down or print it out:

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Before we install VMware Server, we have to install some other packages that are required by VMware Server. Open a terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and type in

su

to become root. Afterwards, install all prerequisites in one command:

apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r` libx11-6 libx11-dev x-window-system-core x-window-system xspecs libxtst6 psmisc build-essential

Then go to the location where you saved the VMware Server .tar.gz file, e.g. /home/falko/Desktop (replace falko with your own username!):

cd /home/falko/Desktop

Unpack the VMware Server .tar.gz file and run the installer:

tar xvfz VMware-server-*.tar.gz
cd vmware-server-distrib
./vmware-install.pl

The installer will ask you a lot of questions. You can always accept the default values simply by hitting <ENTER>.

When you see this question:

In which directory do you want to keep your virtual machine files?
[/var/lib/vmware/Virtual Machines]

you can either accept the default location if you have enough free disk space there or enter another directory of which you know that you have enough free disk space there.

At the end of the installation, you will be asked to enter a serial number:

Please enter your 20-character serial number.

Type XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX or ‘Enter’ to cancel:

Fill in your serial number for VMware Server.

After the successful installation, you can delete the VMware Server download file and the installation directory:

cd ../
rm -fr vmware-server-distrib/
rm -f VMware-server*.tar.gz

You will now find VMware Server under Applications > System Tools:

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When you start it, select Local host:

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15 Inventory (V)

We have now all wanted applications installed:

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[x] F-Spot
[x] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Iceweasel (Firefox)
[x] Opera
[x] Flash Player
[x] gFTP
[x] Icedove (Thunderbird)
[x] Evolution
[x] aMule
[x] Bittorrent
[x] Azureus
[x] Gaim
[x] Skype
[x] Google Earth
[x] Xchat IRC

Office:
[x] OpenOffice Writer
[x] OpenOffice Calc
[x] Adobe Reader
[x] GnuCash
[x] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[x] Amarok
[x] Audacity
[x] Banshee
[x] MPlayer
[x] Rhythmbox Music Player
[x] gtkPod
[x] XMMS
[x] dvd::rip
[x] Kino
[x] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[x] VLC Media Player
[x] Real Player
[x] Totem
[x] Xine
[x] GnomeBaker
[x] K3B
[x] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[x] Nvu
[x] Bluefish
[x] Quanta Plus

Other:
[x] VMware Server
[x] TrueType fonts
[x] Java
[x] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

 

  • Debian: http://www.debian.org
  • Automatix: http://www.getautomatix.com

 

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