I have used Ubuntu for over a year and decided to try Debian - I'm fairly familiar with the basics by now. I installed Debian 9.0.0 from a large ISO file (~3.5GB) using a bootable USB. My WiFi hardware needs additional tweaking, and hence unless I do that first, I can't install anything using apt-get.

While trying to get my WiFi working, I realized that I have very few packages/programs installed by default after the fresh install. For instance, for fixing the WiFi, I needed to use make - which didn't work because I had no build-essential installed. So, without internet, I tried to install build-essential using the ISO file mounted (and /etc/apt/sources.list updated appropriately). However, as expected I was met with a large number of Unmet dependancies, and at one point I noted that I did not have gcc installed. Similarly, I have found linux-headers not installed.

Question: Does Debian follow a do-it-yourself approach (like I heard Arch Linux does)? Or have I gone wrong somewhere (in the installation, or afterwards)?

I don't work in the CS field and I can't afford to install all basic packages from start - I use my machine for work. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

EDIT: I have searched on this topic, but could not find useful information except this post. However I don't even have aptitude installed on the system, by default.

  • 2
    Debian is by default not bloat.
    – Jaleks
    Jul 7 '17 at 15:18
  • As stated by Jaleks, Debian installs quite lean. Then you customize from there. Question: Why switch from Ubuntu to Debian? Jul 7 '17 at 15:29
  • Debian is definitely not "do it yourself", but it has so-called "base system" and additional predefined collections. You need to choose them if you need. Take a look: i.stack.imgur.com/tJQ3w.png
    – user996142
    Jul 7 '17 at 15:33
  • @EmmanuelRosa Thanks.. Why switch - I was suggested that Debian would be more "stable" and maybe even faster than Ubuntu because it's tested more stringently than Ubuntu.
    – QMrules
    Jul 7 '17 at 15:52
  • 1
    Debian would be more "stable" and maybe even faster than Ubuntu also because its not bloat :-) (And also because of more stable versions)
    – Jaleks
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:03

I don't have enough rep to comment yet, but since I installed Debian 9 just today, I guess I can answer. Given that you also installed the same stuff I did post-install, I'm guessing we have the same NIC (RTL8723BE).

As the comments mention, Debian tries to give you a non-bloated OS that has just enough, but still easy to use (by letting you choose your DE in the setup). It's assumed that you have access to Ethernet to install any non-free drivers. Other packages are part of the additional disks that you can download in case you need them.

I personally tethered my phone to my laptop, and installed build-essential, which also included make and the other tools needed to install the driver from the same GitHub repo that you used.

I wouldn't call Debian a DIY system like Arch or Gentoo, because it does provide you with a nice base to use; it's more about minimalism.

  • OMG yes. It's that horrible piece of hardware RTL8723be. Could you please tell me if you could get your wifi to work, and if yes, how? Thank you.
    – QMrules
    Jul 7 '17 at 15:55
  • 1
    I did. I downloaded the files from this branch of the repo, and ran make and sudo make install. Then, running modprobe -rv rtl8723be modprobe -v rtl8723be ips=0 ant_sel=2 seemed to do the trick.
    – Rahul
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:00
  • I think the trick is loading the module with ant_sel=2. The default one is 1, I think, from what I've read.
    – Rahul
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:01
  • It looks like the package you want is this: packages.debian.org/stretch/firmware-realtek You should be able to download it manually and copy it over.
    – bgvaughan
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:32
  • You'll notice it's in the 'non-free' section; Debian has fairly strict rules about how it handles software without source code, i.e., "binary blobs". It's a real issue with hardware drivers.
    – bgvaughan
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:39

It sounds like you didn't actually complete the installation and only had the minimal tools that are part of the installation system. The apt tools should be among those minimal tools, but not the aptitude front-end, which isn't installed by default in Debian.

When I installed Debian on my laptop, I did have some trouble with it at an early stage of the installation process, because it wanted network drivers that weren't available on the installation media. As I recall the suggested workaround I needed was to find the driver packages and put them on a USB stick. This would require identifying the WiFi NIC and finding the correct package in the Web frontend to the Debian repositories. One way to do that would be to check what driver is used under Ubuntu; the package probably has the same name. As I recall, what I did was to connect the laptop to a switch via an Ethernet cable and complete the installation that way.

In general, while I would say that Debian assumes more initiative on the part of the user than Ubuntu or Linux Mint, the goal of the Debian project is to offer a complete general purpose, so unless you explicitly chose a minimal install, a default Debian installation would include most or all of the tools you'd expect.

  • Thanks for the response.. what do you mean by not actually completing the installation? If there is a known step that would install the missing bunch, that would be helpful..
    – QMrules
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:13
  • I may have misunderstood what you've described happening by assuming you'd had a problem more like what I'd run into, and you did complete the installation. There are several different installation media options, so I'm wondering which you used. For the stable distribution, Debian has available the full distribution as a set of several DVD images; the slow but certain answer would be to download them all, copy the images to your system, and set them as local repositories.
    – bgvaughan
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:23
  • Thanks @bgvaughan . I am indeed planning to set up an offline repo.
    – QMrules
    Jul 7 '17 at 16:40

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