Installing Debian on a laptop

After replacing another hard disk on a Lenovo ThinkPad X130e I decided to use some of my new space for Debian. As before I used the debian-11.0.0-amd64-netinst.iso. This time the process was not so smooth.

This was a laptop so I planned to use its wifi during the installation. Unfortunately, netinst iso could not use the wifi. It gave an error message about not having the required firmware, leading me to Loading Missing Firmware. Finding the right firmware on the fly seemed like a daunting process, so instead I tried the installation again with an ethernet connection, which had worked before. It worked again. Then having read to the end of Loading Missing Firmware, I noticed that with Debian 11 the necessary “enabling the non-free section of the package archive” is done automatically by isenkram-autoinstall-firmware. So when I rebooted after the installation, again connecting by ethernet, I ran

su -
apt install isenkram-cli
isenkram-autoinstall-firmware
exit

The explicit change to the root login was required because of the Fix `Username Is Not In The Sudoers File…. , which I dealt with as before:

su -
usermod -aG sudo gmcdavid
exit

I then unplugged the ethernet cable and rebooted, getting a functional laptop with working wifi. All of this trouble seems to come from Debian’s strict commitment to free software. This is great in the abstract, but can be a real pain at times in the real world. I have more appreciation of what Ubuntu has done: They started with Debian, but when Debian’s rules got in the way of usability, they compromised.

Next time I install Debian I will follow How to Easily Install Debian Linux. I have learned the hard way why Abhishek Prakash wrote it.

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