I'm a long term Ubuntu user who is considering migrating from Ubuntu to Debian (mainly because of Unity and the fact that my school has a Debian mirror). I haven't installed Debian on a system before. But again, I am fairly comfortable with reading manuals and working with the command line. Here is my installation plan (after spending some time reading the Debian wiki):

  • Download the Live CD image and use dd to make a Live USB (I think this is the easiest way?)
  • Install Debian
  • Configure repos using debgen
  • Post-install

It is the post install part I am most confused about. I'd like to know some specific things:

  • Is there an alternative package to ubuntu-restricted-extras on Debian?
  • What the best way to get around with the font smoothing problem in Debian?
  • How much functionality can I expect from Ubuntu Tweak on Debian?

Any other tips are also welcome.

I found a solution to the font rendering problem here

  • Since ubuntu-restricted-extras is a package group, you can see the members (including recommends) here. It should not be too difficult to find the same packages in Debian, even if an overarching package group for them does not exist. Bear in mind that you will have to enable the non-free repositories for Debian (this is an option in the installer). – Chris Down Sep 15 '11 at 23:23
  • Are you sure that copying a livecd on a USB with dd will work? – enzotib Sep 16 '11 at 7:29
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    @enzotib Yes it will. I personally did it and it is the official solution – Bernhard Heijstek Sep 16 '11 at 16:08
  • Ok, you need a ISO hybrid image. Good to know. There are other solutions in the Debian Installation guide – enzotib Sep 16 '11 at 16:11

Speaking as a long time Debian user I say take the plunge. You're familiar with Ubuntu, so there will be a lot you're already comfortable with. Don't expect to get 100% feature parity on day one though.

Some specific answers:

  • ubuntu-restricted-extras looks like it's basically Flash and gstreamer plugins. For flash, just install flashplugin-nonfree or get it right from Adobe and plop it into Firefox. For the gstreamer plugins there are unofficial sources available (although I don't know exactly where) for multimedia packages.
  • There's a post here about font smoothing on Debian. I've never tried it, but the author claims it works well.
  • Ubuntu Tweak is all stuff that Debian folks generally prefer to do manually. You'll learn a lot, and have fun doing it.

And a final note, don't bother using debgen. Just use the Debian mirror for the country you're in (e.g., the U.S. is ftp.us.debian.org). After install your school's mirror to /etc/apt/sources.list.

  • Thanks! The solution in the link for font smoothing seems to work only for Lenny and not for Squeeze. I found a solution for Squeeze here. I tried it on the Live USB and it seems to solve the problem. – Bernhard Heijstek Sep 16 '11 at 0:06
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    Why use flash offered by Adobe, instead of installing the installer packaged by Debian (flashplugin-nonfree from non-free)? – tshepang Sep 19 '11 at 11:13
  • @Tshepang: good point. I wasn't sure it was repackagable. – bahamat Sep 19 '11 at 14:12
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    It's not, flashplugin-nonfree is just a wrapper script that downloads and installs it. – Arrowmaster Sep 19 '11 at 15:59
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    @Arrowmaster: that's why I called it an installer. Point is it's a far easier process than visiting the Adobe website and looking for the executable yourself. – tshepang Sep 19 '11 at 17:40

What the best way to get around with the font smoothing problem in Debian?

Auto-hinting is not enabled be default. I have had great results by enabling auto-hinting in Xorg and using font families that do well with anti-aliasing. Procedures are below.

  1. (Optional) Install some pretty fonts (you'll need non-free for mscorefonts): apt-get install ttf-dejavu ttf-liberation ttf-mscorefonts-installer xfonts-terminus
  2. dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config, select Autohinter, Automatic and No
  3. dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig
  4. Restart Xorg

Is there an alternative package to ubuntu-restricted-extras on Debian?

You are looking for non-free, contrib and Debian Multimedia.

(The DFSG is the Debian Free Software Guidelines. See the Debian Social Contract for more information - this is a major differentiating feature between Debian and Ubuntu.)

From the Debian Policy Manual:

The non-free archive area contains supplemental packages intended to work with the Debian distribution that do not comply with the DFSG or have other problems that make their distribution problematic. They may not comply with all of the policy requirements in this manual due to restrictions on modifications or other limitations.


The contrib archive area contains supplemental packages intended to work with the Debian distribution, but which require software outside of the distribution to either build or function.

Every package in contrib must comply with the DFSG.

An important note about non-free and contrib is that the Debian Security team does not handle security for packages from those repositories as they are not part of the official Debian distribution - security is handled by upstream maintainers.

See the Debian Securit FAQ:

Q: How is security handled for contrib and non-free? A: The short answer is: it's not. Contrib and non-free aren't official parts of the Debian Distribution and are not released, and thus not supported by the security team. Some non-free packages are distributed without source or without a license allowing the distribution of modified versions. In those cases no security fixes can be made at all. If it is possible to fix the problem, and the package maintainer or someone else provides correct updated packages, then the security team will generally process them and release an advisory.

Multimedia packages that can't be distributed through the normal debian package repos due to licensing of patent issues can be found at the unofficial (and unsupported) Debian Multimedia repository (as pointed out by Juan).

How much functionality can I expect from Ubuntu Tweak on Debian?

None that are supported. Ubuntu Tweak is for Ubuntu. I would highly recommend you do not use it with Debian - things will probably break in novel and interesting ways. There are Debian-ways to modify or configure your system to accomplish the same goals. They're not complicated and you'll pick them quickly.

The defaults are often sensible enough. I rarely feel the need or requirement to deviate from them.


For multimedia packages you can use Debian Multimedia. This repo is very stable.


Would be better to encrypt your /home stuff you absolutely must have and upload it to dropbox, then burn the latest Debian .ISO and install using LVM encryption (it gives you this option during install) which wipes the disc and provides you with security. Aptitude install iceweasel flashplugin-nonfree and can stream any video online, never had any issues.

  • Why is it a must to encrypt /home? I mean modern CPUs have extra modules to do that at no extra cost but what is the connection to the question? – Martin Ueding Jan 1 '16 at 21:28

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