Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

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Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby randomsodadude » 2018-07-20 18:05

In an attempt to regain ownership of my own data I ditched Windows about a year ago. My decision to do so coincided with a hardware failure of my previous notebook. Therefore I aquired a Dell notebook, preinstalled with Ubuntu 16.04 . This saved me the trouble of finding drivers and figuring out hardware compability issues. I would qualify myself as a proficient computer user with certain knowledge in the field of computer science (I actually studied computer science for a year back in University). However I have little experience with the Linux platform and all of it varieties. Beside the Ubuntu installed on my notebook, I did play around with a couple of distributions in Virtual Machines. Unfortunately as of yet I have no experience in installing Linux on bare metal. Before replacing Ubuntu with Debian I would like to figure some things out, because it has to be done straight out right, given the lack of a replacement hardware machine.

Basically I have 3 types of questions:
- disk partitioning questions;
- driver/hardware related questions;
- miscellaneous installation questions.

My notebook was shipped with 4 partitions:
- sda1 - some boot-loader stuff;
- sda2 - a recovery partition;
- sda3 - the actual partition containing Ubuntu and all Documents;
- sda4 - a swap partition.

I am planning to wipe the partition table and partition the drive from scratch. This, however, raises some questions:

- do I really need a swap partition? I have 8 GB of RAM and I am not planning to run memory intensive applications. I would like to use the LXDE desktop environment, for what matters. My main objective against a swap partition is the possibility of information, thought of being volatile, ending up persistent residing somewhere on my hard-drive, (fully) recoverable by some sort of data forensics. Although I do not like the idea of a swap partition I need some advice on this matter, since I am not really experienced in this area;

- by default the Debian installer reserves 5% of a ext4 partition for root usage. I kind of see the objective for such a setting in a multi-user (server) environment. However I am the only one using the notebook and in such a scenario it seems like spillage to me. Do I run in trouble if I set this setting to zero?

Regarding the drivers:

I was initially planning to use the drivers provided by Dell by simply copying over the "debs" folder from the recovery partition, containing all the driver packages and some unnecessary Dell stuff, and running them through dpkg. I figured there could be some incompatibilities between Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian 9, so before doing so on bare metal, I figured that I had to try first in an Virtual Machine. I eventually managed to install the packages (minus some AMD/Nvidea stuff I did not care about, as my notebook is equipped with Intel graphics). Outright some packages would not install because of dependency issues, I managed to figure out a way to install them regardless. However my attempt horribly failed, rendering my Virtual Machine unbootable after restart. Therefore I would like to know, how I could take care of this issue in a more sustainable way. Using the Dell supplied drivers would be fine, equally performing open-source drivers would be okay too, but are not of a special priority to me. The main goal is to get the thing working as stable as possible, after all, with minimal manual configuration efforts.

The last question, as for now:

I am planning to install the LXDE environment. By default the Debian installer ships, among others, Libreoffice and GIMP with it. I do not need those 2 packages. Is there an easy way of not downloading them upon installation of LXDE? I could after the fact remove them and run apt-get autoremove to get rid of their dependencies, although it would be better to not have them in the first place.

A lot of questions. They are really boggling my head. Hope they are less boggling for the more experienced uses. I would really be grateful for some answers and I am looking forward to make the switch.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2018-07-20 18:32

First, do a backup of all your important files. After that, you should figure out which drivers and firmware your notebook uses. Install inxi in Ubuntu and, as a user, do
Code: Select all
inxi -F
in terminal.
Debian has unofficial .iso images containing non-free firmware, so look them up.
You should familiarize yourself with the difference between free and non-free software if you're gonna use Debian. Debian separates most of the non-free stuff into non-free repo, including firmware.

Installer is not so difficult, it will do most of the things for you automatically. Biggest problem with Debian is the non-free firmware, so again, use the non-free .iso.
My partitioning scheme looks like this:
sda1 - EFI boot partition
sda2 - Root partition
sda3 - swap (8 GB)
sda4 - home partition
I have a 1TB HDD, so drive space isn't a problem.
AS for the DE, you can choose whichever you want. My recommendation, however, is to use something which will be supported and updated for a long time. LXDE is practically dead. MATE is a good choice if you need lightweight DE.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby bw123 » 2018-07-20 18:44

Maybe some web searches would be good.
https://duckduckgo.com/html/?q=linux+do ... +partition

I would not use any foreign debs on my system unless absolutely necessary, I would use the debian repo. Pkgs provided by dell for ubutnu probably aren't what you want to use.
https://wiki.debian.org/DontBreakDebian

My opinion is swap is part of the os for several reasons not just for low memory, and 5% of a drive is not spillage. It's the default setting, and defaults are good unless there is a reason not to use them? You can run without swap awhile and add it later if you need it, but altering the reserve space for root will be a little trickier later if you have issues. don;t think it is a major ordeal either way you decide to go.

There is probably a smaller metapkg for lxde that you can install but I don't think you can do that in tasksel/debian installer? Selecting only "standard utilities" and doing a minimal install and adding lxde-core afterwards or something like that might be what you want, but minimal install has difficulty for some people because you have to configure wireless on your own, and install X and the desktop using cli.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby Dai_trying » 2018-07-20 20:08

One thing I would suggest is to try one of the Debian Live-Cd's in your machine, you can run it before changing anything of your existing set-up (although your backup should likely be the first priority). There are images for many DE's so you can test whichever one you like best.
This way you can see if your machine will run without any non-free firmware, also you could install inxi (in the live-session) and compare the results to what you get from your Ubuntu installation.

One thing to note though, Ubuntu might be using secure boot mode, if that is the case you will need to disable it from your UEFI settings before you can install Debian. I'm not sure if the Live-Cd will run either, last time I tried it didn't.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby cds60601 » 2018-07-20 21:38

In addition to all the great advice given (and in particular to the above post), keep in mind that Ubuntu is much more forgiving when it comes to hardware.
My advice; Grab the non-free firmware ISO of 9.5 and give it a whirl. Chances are that some hardware may not be seen with the standard ISO and may be seen with the firmware. This could save you time in the short term as far as downloading multiple ISO's as you will know almost for certain if you can be up and running sooner rather than later and with or without headaches.

Cheers
Chris
Yeah, 220, 221. Whatever it takes.
Server: Debian 9 (Stretch) Workstation: Archlinux
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby randomsodadude » 2018-07-21 13:27

Thank you all for your replies. Especially the suggestions pointing at inxi and the non-free live image turned out to be really valuable.

At first the wireless adapter seemed to be not working, but this turned out to be due to wicd not being aware of the device "wlp1s0". After pointing wicd to this device, all worked fine, as for the wireless goes. I have run inxi on both systems and did summarize the main characteristics:

Code: Select all
            Ubuntu         Debian
kernel         4.40-130-generic   4.9.0-7-amd64
graphics (intel 5916)   intel            modesetting
audio (intel 9d71)   snd_hda_intel      snd_hda_intel
network (RTL8111)   r8169         r8169
wireless (Atheros)   ath10k_pci         ath10k_pci
bluetooth (????)      Atheros(???)      Atheros(???)


Both systems seem to utilize the same drivers, or those build for a newer kernel in case of Debian, with the exception of the graphics driver. The Debian provided modesetting driver seemed to work fine, outputting graphics at the native resolution of the notebook's screen, however I have no idea, how they compare performance wise or in a multi-monitor setup. I suspect the third network-card to be Bluetooth, although I am not quite sure. Could anybody confirm? I have copied it's information from inxi below:

Code: Select all
Card-3: Atheros
IF: null-if-id state: N/A speed: N/A duplex: N/A mac: N/A

If this indeed is Bluetooth, how to test it's connectivity, given I have no other Bluetooth devices? I might be buying a Bluetooth device in the near future and before doing so, it would be nice to have this configured in the right way and tested.

The most annoying problem I have encountered, however, has to do with the touchpad: Both he buttons act like the left one. I looked at the wiki [https://wiki.debian.org/SynapticsTouchpad#libinput] and it seems Debian 9 has switched from xserver-xorg-input-synaptics to xserver-xorg-input-libinput. Dell provided a deb (oem-touchpad-synaptics-enable-right-button-1584632_2_all.deb) that depends on the former one, so that definitely would not work out with the last one. I am not sure how to configure the correct behavior with the libinput package, so I probably have to make the synaptics driver take precedence over libinput, as described in the wiki. I assume, however that these changes take affect after a reboot, so I am not sure how to test this in a live environment.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby randomsodadude » 2018-07-21 13:38

Wheelerof4te wrote:My partitioning scheme looks like this:
sda1 - EFI boot partition
sda2 - Root partition
sda3 - swap (8 GB)
sda4 - home partition

What is the objective for a separate boot partition, i.e. separate from the root partition? Does your home partition also have 5% reserved for root-usage?
AS for the DE, you can choose whichever you want. My recommendation, however, is to use something which will be supported and updated for a long time. LXDE is practically dead. MATE is a good choice if you need lightweight DE.

Debian 9 is released not so long ago and LXDE seems one of the default options. Is it safe to assume that Debian would provide security updates for LXDE during the Debian 9 lifespan. I might be look at MATE in the future (it is actually a GNOME 2 fork, of which I do have some memories from long ago). But for now LXDE seems more appealing.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby randomsodadude » 2018-07-21 13:49

bw123 wrote:Maybe some web searches would be good.
https://duckduckgo.com/html/?q=linux+do ... +partition
My opinion is swap is part of the os for several reasons not just for low memory, and 5% of a drive is not spillage. It's the default setting, and defaults are good unless there is a reason not to use them? You can run without swap awhile and add it later if you need it, but altering the reserve space for root will be a little trickier later if you have issues. don;t think it is a major ordeal either way you decide to go.

Adding swap later (or never) seems like the way to go. Concerning the reserve space for root: a one size fit all proportional setting seems odd to me. Why should I allocate 50 GB of space on a 1TB drive for an event unlikely to happen. I kind of do understand the concept, but 50 GB looks a bit excessive to me. How could one screw up his system so badly he needs 50 GB of free space to fix it?
There is probably a smaller metapkg for lxde that you can install but I don't think you can do that in tasksel/debian installer? Selecting only "standard utilities" and doing a minimal install and adding lxde-core afterwards or something like that might be what you want, but minimal install has difficulty for some people because you have to configure wireless on your own, and install X and the desktop using cli.

I think this is going to be much more time consuming. Initially I started from the minimum install in a virtual machine, adding xorg and than the AWESOME window manager manually. It worked, but I soon found out that you actually need a whole more packages for minor things like auto-mounting portable drives etc. Therefore I decided to stitch with a more conventional desktop environment for the time being. Selecting all those packages manually and configuring them afterwards just takes
too much time.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby randomsodadude » 2018-07-21 13:50

Dai_trying wrote:One thing to note though, Ubuntu might be using secure boot mode, if that is the case you will need to disable it from your UEFI settings before you can install Debian. I'm not sure if the Live-Cd will run either, last time I tried it didn't.

Yeah, I switched to legacy boot to boot the live-USB.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby Wheelerof4te » 2018-07-21 14:22

Separate EFI boot partition is needed for UEFI mode. Swap partition size varies depending on your RAM. Good practice recommends from 50% to 150% of RAM for swap. And yes, my home partition does have 5% reserved space. It is a default, I don't mess with defaults since I don't know everything about HDD space allocation.

I personally don't have problems with libinput, but you can still replace it with synaptics driver, if that supports your touchpad better.
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Re: Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 to Debian 9

Postby Dai_trying » 2018-07-21 15:53

randomsodadude wrote:
Dai_trying wrote:One thing to note though, Ubuntu might be using secure boot mode, if that is the case you will need to disable it from your UEFI settings before you can install Debian. I'm not sure if the Live-Cd will run either, last time I tried it didn't.

Yeah, I switched to legacy boot to boot the live-USB.


Legacy boot might not be what you actually want, I think you would just need to disable secure boot and the live-usb should work in UEFI mode.
If you install via a legacy boot you will likely encounter problems with Ubuntu if you are dual booting, if you are only running the One OS (Debian) then it is not quite so important but I personally prefer to use UEFI boot method but I currently have 5 OS's on this laptop and that is the main reason for my preference (Using UEFI boot menu I have each OS running in complete isolation of the others, they all have their own grub menu and configs, this makes adding/removing any of them a lot less work).

Libinput is configurable via the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/60-libinput.conf see man libinput for details

I always add swap space to match the RAM in the machine, and have noticed it rarely gets used but in the past I have had a few glitches with some packages if swap is not found so I keep it there for those "just in case" moments.
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