Let’s Talk Tech Episode 1 – Setting Up a Debian Web Server

Welcome to Let’s Talk Tech with Deep Core Data, DCD’s new video based how-to blog. In our first episode, we will be covering how to install a Debian 8.2 web server. The video features step by step instructions while demonstrating the process on the screen, however, below we have included written instructions for those who can’t hear the video, or are unable to get it to load.

The installation system in this video is on a VMware Virtual Machine, although the installation procedure is similar across most hardware or virtual machine configurations. In this case, the ISO will be mounted to the virtual CD-ROM on this virtual machine. If Debian is being installed on physical hardware, you would boot off a CD or USB stick on the target computer. Details on how to configure your computer to boot off a CD or USB stick should be included with your motherboard documentation.

Step 1: After booting the computer, the installer boot menu will appear.  For this demonstration, Graphical Install will be selected. This demonstration also assumes you have a mouse attached to the machine you’re installing on.

Step 2: Select the language you wish to install Debian in.

Step 3: Select your location. This is used primarily for timezone purposes, but also handles differences between nations.  This list is limited by the language selection, but the “other” selection at the bottom of the drop down menu can be chosen to select a location not on the list.

Step 4: Select which keymap to use. This setting determines how the computer will interpret input from the keyboard.

Step 5: The installer will load components off the ISO, CD or USB stick to support the rest of the installation.

Step 6: Next is detection and configuration of the network hardware.  This is critical because the ISO used to start this install only has about 280 MB of packages on it, which is only the bare minimum that the installer needs for functionality.  Most of the packages that might be downloaded are online, so the network needs to be configured properly.  If you’re using very old or very new hardware, this is the most likely place you’ll run into trouble.

Step 7: Next, the system will ask for a hostname.  The hostname is the name that the computer will use to identify itself both internally and to other computers on the network.

Step 8: Here, the system will ask for a domain name.  While there are more precise ways of finding the exact domain name, pinging another computer on the network should also bring it up.

Step 9: Enter a password for the root account, then again to ensure that it has been entered correctly.

Step 10: Next, the system will ask for a full name to begin setting up a personal user account.

Step 11: The next screen is used to designate a username.  By default, the system suggests you use the given name from the last step, but any preferred username is acceptable.

Step 12: Finally, in the user setup sequence, the system will request a password for the personal account. This is distinct from the password created for the root account earlier.

Step 13: After the user account is setup, select the timezone for the machine.  The options listed will be limited by which location was chosen for the computer earlier. UTC cannot be chosen as the primary timezone at this time, however, once installation is complete, you can go back and adjust this setting.

Step 14: While many different configurations of disk partitioning are possible to optimize for some combination of performance, disaster resilience, and data security, for this example, the entire disk is going to be allocated as one block, so “Guided – use entire disk” will be selected.

Step 15:  On the partition disk screen, select the disk to be partitioned, and click continue.

Step 16:  Select the scheme that the disk will be partitioned into.  For a sandbox or other non-production web server, selecting “All files in one partition” is acceptable; however, for production web servers, a more complicated partition structure is recommended.

Step 17: Confirm the decision, and select “Finish partitioning and write changes to disk”.

Step 18: Confirm the decision to partition the disk one final time.  Note that the default here is to not write the changes, and return to the partitioning selection, so if continue is selected in this installer, it will loop back to the beginning.  Select “yes” and click “continue”.

Step 19: The base system begins to install. The base system is the parts of the system that are on the CD or USB  drive, and are the components that are absolutely required for basic functionality.

Step 20: Once that’s done, select where the rest of the install packages will be downloaded from.  When the location is selected, a list of servers packages may be downloaded from will appear.  If you don’t have a specific server you wish to download from, the default, ftp.us.debian.org., is generally recommended.

Step 21: Next is the HTTP proxy.  This step is optional, and you can leave the text area blank if you do not have one.

Step 22: Popularity-Contest is a subsystem that communicates usage statistics back to Debian’s developers.  By default this is turned off, however, it can be turned on to send information regarding what kind of systems are being used to Debian.

Step 23: Next, select from the list of software available to install on the web server. The Debian desktop environment, GNOME, Xfce, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, and LXDE are all forms of graphical user interfaces, and are therefore unnecessary for a web server. Deselect the checkboxes for these options, as well as print server, then select web server and SSH server. The standard system utilities are a very useful set of tools, so they can be left selected. Click “continue.”

Step 24: The installation process will begin.  It will take a few minutes.

Step 25: Once the system is installed, configure the boot loader.  This is the little bit of code that starts the Operating System after the server is first turned on.  Select “yes” to install GRUB to the master boot record, then click continue.

Step 26: Next, the installer will ask where to install GRUB.  Typically, it is installed on the first hard disk on the system.

Step 27: The installation process will continue, and once it is completed, it is time to reboot.  Select Continue.

Step 28: The blue box on the screen here is the GRUB boot loader that was set up at the end of the install process.  It automatically boots the computer into Debian. Once the system has started, the debianwebserver login screen will appear.

This concludes the Let’s Talk Tech walk-through on how to install Debian Linux 8.2. Hopefully you found this educational, and stay tuned for more Let’s Talk Tech videos from Deep Core Data. Future videos will cover more about Debian, as well as other tech related walk-throughs. Is there a system you would like to see covered by Deep Core Data? Is there something you feel would improve our video walk-throughs? Let us know by leaving a comment below, or reach out to us on our Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ page.

This video was made in January of 2016, using the latest available version of Debian’s downloads.  Please note that some of these interfaces may look considerably different in the future.

About the Author:

Andrew is a technical writer for Deep Core Data. He has been writing creatively for 10 years, and has a strong background in graphic design. He enjoys reading blogs about the quirks and foibles of technology, gadgetry, and writing tips.

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