How to direct-install Debian SID rolling release using mini.iso (w/ screenshots)

Direct install of Debian SID

There’s a video of my Debian SID desktop install at the end of this post.

For desktop, I’ve always preferred rolling release distros such as Arch Linux or recently Kali Linux. However, currently I’m on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, which I rush-installed after an SSD failure last year. Ubuntu recently released 16.04 LTS which means at some point, I’ll need to perform an in-place upgrade or complete re-install to enjoy the newer software packages.

With a bit of free time on my hands today, I’m making the jump from Ubuntu 14.04 LTS straight to the source… Debian Unstable. Debian Unstable (also known by its codename “Sid”) is not strictly a release, but rather a rolling development version of the Debian distribution containing the very latest packages. Debian Unstable is one of the 3 distributions that Debian provides (along with Stable and Testing). If you are a hardcore developer or tester you may opt use this release. The disadvantagesor rather challenges – are well known so I won’t go into those. However, here are some of the highlights of using Debian Sid.

  • Debian Sid contains mostly stable package versions – “Unstable”, does not mean that Debian Sid consists entirely of unstable development versions. No. Most of the packages are stable, however newer development packages are uploaded to unstable first. ( Experimental > Unstable > Testing > Stable ) For best security, if you are running Debian Unstable, it is a good idea to be aware of any new bugs discovered in the installed packages, new bugfixes/features introduced etc. Install the apt-listbugs and apt-listchanges packages in order to be made aware of any grave bugs or important changes when you install new packages or during an upgrade.
  • Ubuntu is based on Debian Sid – Debian is a very mature distro which started back in 1993! There are less than a handful of Linux distros started around that time that are still alive and well today. If you are already on Ubuntu, you can check with this command: cat /etc/debian_version …which will return the version of Debian it’s based on. For example:
    root@ubuntu1604:~# cat /etc/debian_version
  • With Debian Sid you won’t have to perform distro upgrades or re-installs – Since Debian Sid isn’t an actual release but more of a moving target as it were, once installed you will continue to sync/roll with it’s continuously updated system and packages.
  • Bleeding Edge Updates – Debian Sid has all the latest and greatest software, and bugs are usually fixed swiftly.

Note that security for Debian Unstable is primarily handled by package maintainers, not by the Debian Security Team. Although Debian’s security team may upload high-urgency security fixes when maintainers are inactive, support for stable will always have priority. If you want to have a super secure (and stable) server/desktop you are strongly encouraged to stay with stable. Before you install Sid or testing be sure to read this page in it’s entirety. (opens in new tab)

For web servers, Debian is my favorite followed by CentOS. If you are interested in a server install, you can follow this guide but I wouldn’t recommend installing SID on your production server. This post includes a quick guide with corresponding screenshots so that you can direct-install Debian Sid without having to install Jessie or Testing first, no editing of your /etc/apt/sources.list and no need for apt-get dist-upgrade. After this guide your base install will boot directly into Debian Sid on first boot if you so choose.

To begin let’s download Debian’s mini.iso. Direct link here. Once downloaded, install it to your USB then boot with it…
(shout out to Cloudflare’s CDN for caching all these screenshots. ha!)

Direct install of Debian SID

click ‘Advanced options’

Direct install of Debian SID

click ‘Expert install’

Direct install of Debian SID

start with ‘Choose language’ then follow the screenshots below…

skip to keyboard setup

select ‘sid’ if you would like to boot into Debian Unstable

select yes for root login on web server or if it’s your preference

…for desktop install select Gnome or other.

…for web server.

when install is finished… boot!

…that’s it! You either have Debian Stable, Testing or as above screenshots… Debian Unstable installed on your desktop or server. Enjoy! Here’s what my Debian Sid + Gnome:

Now… let me throw this link into the mix. Also check out openSUSE Tumbleweed, Fedora Rawhide and Gentoo Linux. All are rolling release distros. Decisions, decisions. Evil I know. ;)

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