Debian Workstation (usability)

Date: 2021/01/15 (initial publish), 2022/08/20 (last update)

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TOC

Workstation usability

Let me keep up note on configuring and administrating my workstation under post-Debian Bullseye (11) GNU/Linux in testing.

This is non-hardware specific notes and tips.

Installer installed extra packages

After the initial installation, packages with Priority: values required, important and standard are installed. In addition to these packages, I see the installer installs following extra packages:

Initial setup

Running initial-setup script found at my repository should set up basics.

Let me describe what it does with ./initial-setup 9.

(Just executing ./initial-setup installs a bit more programs.)

Install basic packages

Drop nano and install aptitude first.

Then, add few should-be-standard packages:

Also, add non-free and contrib in /etc/apt/sources.list and add some firmware packages:

Set-up sudo

/etc/sudoers.d/passwordless:

# No passowrd required for the user in sudo group
# please note the last match wins configuration
%sudo ALL = (ALL:ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL
# No password for 8 hours
#Defaults timestamp_timeout = 480
#Defaults timestamp_type = global

NOTE: Please note that the last matching configuration is active.

Set-up user group for UID=1000 user

Add UID=1000 user to following additional groups:

Set-up GRUB

In order to probe OSs on other drives, add a following line to /etc/default/grub:

GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=false

But this is not so robust for btrfs.

Multi-boot with GRUB

For more robust multi-boot, I usually add following as /etc/grub.d/40_fixed_linux (The first line should be #!/bin/bash without space. Intentional mistype to avoid missing line):

#!/bin/sh
exec tail -n +3 $0
# This file provides an easy way to add custom menu entries.  Simply type the
# menu entries you want to add after this comment.  Be careful not to change
# the 'exec tail' line above.
menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux --- main SSD' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-fixed-fe3e1db5-6454-46d6-a14c-071208ebe4b1' {
        load_video
        insmod gzio
        if [ x$grub_platform = xxen ]; then insmod xzio; insmod lzopio; fi
        insmod part_gpt
        insmod btrfs
        search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root fe3e1db5-6454-46d6-a14c-071208ebe4b1
        echo    'Loading Linux from /dev/nvme0n1p5 ...'
        linux   /@rootfs/vmlinuz root=UUID=fe3e1db5-6454-46d6-a14c-071208ebe4b1 ro rootflags=subvol=@rootfs  quiet
        echo    'Loading initial ramdisk from /dev/nvme0n1p5 ...'
        initrd  /@rootfs/initrd.img
}
menuentry 'Debian GNU/Linux --- sub SSD' --class debian --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os $menuentry_id_option 'gnulinux-fixed-51f9cd11-30b3-4d99-b2ed-fe411fa22ee6' {
        load_video
        insmod gzio
        if [ x$grub_platform = xxen ]; then insmod xzio; insmod lzopio; fi
        insmod part_gpt
        insmod btrfs
        search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 51f9cd11-30b3-4d99-b2ed-fe411fa22ee6
        echo    'Loading Linux from /dev/nvme1n1p1 ...'
        linux   /@rootfs/vmlinuz root=UUID=51f9cd11-30b3-4d99-b2ed-fe411fa22ee6 ro rootflags=subvol=@rootfs  quiet
        echo    'Loading initial ramdisk from /dev/nvme1n1p1 ...'
        initrd  /@rootfs/initrd.img
}

If you have multiple Debian system installed, you should make a backup copy of /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grub.cfg to protect it gets overridden by installing the second Debian system.

See https://wiki.debian.org/Btrfs%20migration .

Install extra packages

Let’s add a few GUI tools.

Let’s add a few development tools.

Tidy-up package installation status for aptitude.

Since I use aptitude as the primary package maintenance tool, I usually tidy-up package auto install flags (M) missing for some libraries after the initial install.

Use of ~i!~M~poptional in l prompt in aptitude to set library packages as auto-installed. If some of them are not used by other program, let them remove.

Now you can verify intentionally installed packages with:

$ aptitude search '~i!~M~poptional'

Re-install and UID/GID issues

UID and GID used by some applications are not fixed. So, if you reinstall the exact same packages in a different order, you end up assigning UID and GID for the application.

UID in range between 101-999 such as ones for avahi, saned, colord, _ssh, … are the most susceptible on this issue.

apt-cacher-ng needs special attention.

EFI-based firmware updates

Install gnome-firmware package and invoke GUI to update firmware on devices supported by fwupd using Linux Vendor Firmware Service.

Many firmware data can be updated using gnome-firmware.

Workaround for some firmware

Some firmware devices may experience some problem to be updated by gnome-firmware.

Most notable one on my system was “Lenovo System Firmware”. (I don’t know if this was version dependent or not.) I used vendor’s BIOS update offered as bootable CD and made USB key containing it image data:

If the BIOS options Security > Secure Boot is enabled, it may restrict booting up from the BIOS Update bootable CD image, you may need to disabled the Secure Boot option to use it.

If Windows 10 or 11 is installed, you may need to reenable Secure Boot after this operation.

Terminal customization

GUI Desktop customization

The gnome-tweak package installed as a dependency of gnome package helps to tweak the system. For example, you can add “Applications” to top bar etc.

After installing GNOME Shell integration to the Chrome browser, I installed following extensions:

Adjust locally installed GNOME extensions via browser from GNOME Extension web site.

Keyboard shortcut customization (GNOME Settings)

For selecting IM deterministically (instead of Super-SPACE toggle), bind javascript MACRO to keys by Keyboard Shortcuts.

For example, inputSources[0] (the first selection item in the GNOME input source menu) is ANTHY and if you want to use SUPER-j to switch to ANTHY, you need to set as:

Name     InputMethod_0
Command  gdbus call --session --dest org.gnome.Shell --object-path /org/gnome/Shell --method org.gnome.Shell.Eval  "imports.ui.status.keyboard.getInputSourceManager().inputSources[0].activate()"
Shortcut SUPER-j

Please make sure to enter the above command in a single line.

See Japanese input on US-keyboard (in Japanese) Google translation

Keyboard shortcut customization (GNOME Tweaks)

For Vim use:

Keyboard shortcut customization (IM)

For Japanese input with US keyboard, set IM (anthy etc.) as:

LibreOffice

The version of LibreOffice available on Debian testing environment has some glitches more often than the version available on Debian stable environment. Issues for printing to Hagaki was the killer bug for me.

I find that the installation of LibreOffice Debian packages available from the upstream LibreOffice site on Debian testing environment is the least effort solution for me. For stability, I chose older stable 6.4.7.2-2 version aimed for business deployments (2021/12). This enabled me to print nicely to Hagaki.

Wallpaper

GRUB 2

Place your JPEG wallpaper graphics (JPEG) in /boot/grub/ and run sudo update-grub or sudo dpkg-reconfigure grub-efi-amd64.

GNOME

You can set wallpaper graphics from:

Mail

For the GUI access to the remotely hosted IMAP4 mail services, use GNOME Online accounts and Evolution. This approach works for Gmail etc. and compatible with using other devices such as smart phones. Evolution can also be configured to read locally delivered mails to mbox too. (send+receive).

For the command line such as reportbug and daemon programs such as cron to send mails to external hosts and local accounts, use of exim4 as the locally installed MTA is good idea. With “sudo dpkg-reconfigure exim4-config”, Select “mail sent by smarthost; received via SMTP or fetchmail”. Everything else can be default.

To use Gmail for smarthost, set up “Mail Server configuration” as “smtp.gmail.com::587”. It is irrelevant for us to worry “Hide local mail name …” since the smarthost service rewrites it anyway. Edit /etc/exim4/passwd.client as: smtp.gmail.com:foo.bar@gmail.com:application_password (You need to create application_password in advance.)

Whenever I wish to send out mails with “@debian.org” address, I use ssh+sendmail (created shell script ~/bin/sendmail-p.d.o) to access a Debian host. (This trick may be usable for any hosts such as salsa.debian.org etc.)

I have mail configuration for:

I usually don’t bother with fetchmail these days.

Evolution workaround (font) – resolved

This bug is resolved: https://bugs.debian.org/987948

Evolution for Debian 11 Bullseye (pre-release) under wayland had ugly font problem as of May 2, 2021. (Some firefox, too). It looked like some similar to WebKit issue exposed by sandboxing. https://gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/evolution/-/issues/1161

Installing xdg-desktop-portal-gtk fixed it.

Command line

Setups:

Frequent commands to use:

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