Setting up Debian for desktop use

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Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby debiantu » 2017-03-19 19:53

Hello all!

Still reading lots and enjoying Debian 8.

I just finished reading Distrowatch's review of Debian 8:
https://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20150504#debian
The only quibble in the review that I'm concerned with is in the first paragraph of his conclusion. He states the following:
However, I think the Debian project's focus is more geared toward server environments. I think this point was driven home for me when I noticed Debian, by default, runs an e-mail server in the background, but no update notification service.


I would like to use Debian as a desktop and get rid of the email server in the background. I'm unable to find any email servers running - the only thing I found and it's in a sleeping state as per the following command:
Code: Select all
ps aux | grep exim
Debian-+   861  0.0  0.0  55312   412 ?        Ss   08:55   0:00 /usr/sbin/exim4 -bd -q30m

Can I simply uninstall exim4? Is this the email server in question that was mentioned in the review?

I'm ok with using Firefox ESR and older software - so with that.. what else can I do for a secure desktop experience?

thanks!
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby Hallvor » 2017-03-19 20:04

Yes, just uninstall exim4.

If you want security, read this: https://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/secu ... ian-howto/
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby dasein » 2017-03-19 20:12

debiantu wrote:Can I simply uninstall exim4?

I'm one version behind, so I can't speak to Jessie, but on Wheezy, the answer is basically no, IIRC. Attempting to uninstall exim meant being prompted to specify a replacement.

I've always assumed that exim is there to support local email notifications (something that some utilities may expect). If you're really all that concerned, you could try creating a startup script that kills the dormant exim process. (I've never actually tried this, so use at your own risk. But if the process is truly inert, then killing it shouldn't have a detectable effect.)

debiantu wrote:Is this the email server in question that was mentioned in the review?

Yes.

debiantu wrote:what else can I do for a secure desktop experience?

Insanely broad question with a whole bunch of candidate answers.

https://lmsptfy.com/?q=securing%20desktop%20linux
Last edited by dasein on 2017-03-19 20:36, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2017-03-19 20:33

debiantu wrote:what else can I do for a secure desktop experience?

https://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/secu ... ian-howto/

That one wasn't in dasein's link for some reason...

To list all enabled services (under systemd), use:
Code: Select all
systemctl list-unit-files | grep enabled

However, because Debian also uses /etc/init.d some programs will not show up, use this to list everything:
Code: Select all
systemd-analyze blame
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby No_windows » 2017-03-19 20:57

My Jessie/Xfce desktop is running exim4, but neither of my Bunsenlabs VMs, or MX16 VM have it. Both share the Jessie repositories. I believe reportbug uses exim4, so it's not useless if you think you might report a bug one day. I like to eliminate stuff I don't use from my systems, but in this case I'd leave it alone. Putting it in physical terms it's not like you're carrying around a full size scanner with your laptop, it's more like carrying an extra usb drive, or pen with with you.
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby debiantu » 2017-03-19 23:40

Thank you all!
It's very clear that there's so much to know in about Linux.

To dasein - I know I asked a very broad question.. was hoping for tips in setting up Debian for general desktop that involves in using a web browser and Office suite software - nothing fancy like creating a server or remotely connecting to the machine. I've tried googling.. I think I'll use the guides mentioned in this thread as well.

To Head_on_a_stick - thanks for the info! So it appears that Debian uses two init system - the old SysV (if I have the name right) and Systemd. Lots to learn.

Cheers!
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby dasein » 2017-03-20 00:35

debiantu wrote:So it appears that Debian uses two init system - the old SysV (if I have the name right) and Systemd.

Not exactly. Older versions use sysV, while the current Stable uses systemd.
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2017-03-20 07:00

debiantu wrote:So it appears that Debian uses two init system - the old SysV (if I have the name right) and Systemd.

Just to add to dasein's clarification: Debian 8 (jessie) and newer releases use systemd as the init system but they also provide backwards compatibility with the old sysvinit service scripts and some of the packages use these rather than the systemd equivalent.
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Re: Setting up Debian for desktop use

Postby ruffwoof » 2017-03-20 14:10

debiantu wrote:I'm ok with using Firefox ESR and older software - so with that.. what else can I do for a secure desktop experience?

Older well tried and tested stable software is fine IME. Does all I want, well.

I've just been trying out Debian 9 (Stretch) installed the way I like ... where I can boot read only (frugally) or as full read/write (which I only do to apply updates). Pristine factory fresh (exact same (updated) image booted each and every time). Unknowingly catch a virus and after a reboot its gone. Cross between Puppy Linux and Debian.

The way I set that up is to create a single HDD primary partition and format that ext3, giving it a partition label of 'persistence' and install grub4dos to that. I then grab a copy of the 'unofficial' LiveCD (I prefer LXDE for the desktop) and extract that CD's /live and /boot folders to that partition. I then extract all of the /live/filesystem.squashfs to the / folder and recreate a empty filesystem.squashfs in /live. Add a persistence.conf file to the root folder that contains / union ... and with the appropriate menu.lst entries and a few other tweaks such as setting up grub in the /boot folder you can boot either frugally or have the gru4dos menu.lst chain to the Debian standard menu.lst.

Similar to as though booting a livecd that's stored on HDD, but with persistence set up so changes can (with the appropriate script) be made persistent and where the same partition is used as being the boot partition, the liveCD partition and the save partition (and where the entire operating system is in that save partition - such that it can also be booted as though a full install). I don't bother with swap however when I do do something heavy such as video editing then I create and activate a swap file also within that partition during that session.

I ran that LXDE Jessie through updating to Stretch and with a few other tweaks (setting it up to use aufs instead of overlay for instance as my current script to flush changes during a frugally booted session to disk is based on aufs) - and its running great. I've been a convert to running Debian frugally (read only Puppy style) since Windows XP withdrew support and love it. Boot, play around, mess things up and a reboot has you back to clean again. But easy enough to update (boot as though full install, apply updates, reboot back to frugal again). As a desktop choice that's great IMO.

Very secure. For instance prior to doing online banking I just reboot to the factory-fresh image before going to the banks web site (nowhere else before or after) and then reboot again.

The only downside is that when you mostly boot frugally (read-only) you have to store documents/diary etc. outside of that i.e. on another partition/disk so that changes are preserved across reboots. And import/export firefox bookmarks if you regularly change those (I tend to just lock in my most common bookmarks into the 'factory fresh' version and store others in a document file).

Provided you only stick to the Debian repositories and update regularly (stay with the current stable i.e. security patches etc) ... that's incredibly stable and combined with Puppy style frugal running ... incredibly safe (best of both worlds).

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