The Perfect Desktop - Debian Squeeze

This tutorial shows how you can set up a Debian Squeeze desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Debian Squeeze desktop to have the following software installed:


  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • F-Spot - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos


  • Firefox/Iceweasel
  • Opera
  • Google Chrome
  • Flash Player 10
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Thunderbird/Icedove - email and news client
  • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule - P2P file sharing application
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client - BitTorrent client
  • Azureus/Vuze - Java Bittorrent client
  • Empathy IM Client - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype (available only for Debian Squeeze i386, not x86_64)
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client


  • OpenOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • OpenOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok - audio player
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player - media player (video/audio)
  • Real Player (available only for Debian Squeeze i386, not x86_64)
  • Totem - media player (video/audio)
  • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Brasero - CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia Codecs


  • KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Eclipse - Extensible Tool Platform and Java IDE


  • VirtualBox OSE - lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions

Lots of our desired applications are available in the Debian repositories.

As you might have noticed, a few applications are redundant, for example there are two CD/DVD burning applications in my list (Brasero, K3B). If you know which one you like best, you obviously don't need to install the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install both. The same goes for music players like Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, XMMS or browsers (Firefox/Iceweasel, Opera, Google Chrome).

I will use the username falko in this tutorial, and I will download all necessary files to falko's Downloads directory which is equivalent to the directory /home/falko/Downloads. If you use another username (which you most probably do ;-)), please replace falko with your own username. So when I use a command like

cd /home/falko/Downloads

you must replace falko.


2 Installing The Base System

Download the Debian Squeeze netinstall iso image (available here: (i386) or (x86_64)) , burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it. Select Graphical install:

Choose your language:

Then select your location:

If you've selected an uncommon combination of language and location (like English as the language and Germany as the location, as in my case), the installer might tell you that there is no locale defined for this combination; in this case you have to select the locale manually. I select en_US.UTF-8 here:

Choose a keyboard layout:

The installer checks the installation CD, your hardware, and configures the network with DHCP if there is a DHCP server in the network:

Since this is a desktop, you can accept the default hostname...

... and domain:

Afterwards, give the root user a password:

Create a normal user account:

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10 Comment(s)

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By: kurtdriver

"a Debian Squeeze desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop"

If I wanted to use Windows, I'd buy a CD of it. Linux is valid in it's own right and, correctly, different from Windows and Macs. Why not a guide showing how to do a certain thing, introducing a couple of programs for that purpose? Rather that a guide to replacing Windows.

By: Jan

I think many people could profit from this. I suggested a Linux desktop for a business that still has Windows 2000 which needs replacement badly. Since they could do everything on Linux (and more) what they now do on Windows I think this is a good tutorial.

Granted, if one is comfortable with Linux, this tutorial doesn't reveal anything new, but if you need a Linux that behaves more or less like Windows it's good to know that there is something like a template. It makes the learning curve for the user less steep and if it looks and behaves "right", the user will adapt quicker.

Especially a rolling distro like Debian is useful for a relatively small business like I mentioned - more secure, still happy users, less administration tasks.

By: Ferre

Debian a ROLLING distro ?

By: William M. Barr

It is a rolling distribution if you use Debian testing, or sid.

If your repositories are set to "testing" and not a name like "wheezy" then the distribution will always be testing and never becomes stable.  Some prefer not to use stable since the applications they use the most are not the latest version, but there are also backports to make stable have applications that are more up to date without sacrificing the stability.

By: Anonymous

This is silly man, stop wasting your time. This has been said zillion times. The software ecosystem around Windows is so vast that there is simply no chance for Linux to catch up on the desktop. Tell me, which large publishing house uses Scribus? Which large graphic design company uses Gimp, Xara, etc? Or a CAD company using FreeCad?

 NB. I'm not a Windows fanboy. I've been using Linux for more than a decade now full time on my desktop.

By: Alexius Diakogiannis

If you dont like it, dont read it!

This is a very good tutorial along with all the other ones and keep in mind that you are referring to an industry solution. I will reverse your query, can you tell why a typical home pc or workstation would need for ex. photoshop instead of Gimp?

By: Anonymous

Hey cool - can I play Rift or CoD4 on it?

By: Sam

Why the hell would i like to downgrade a wonderful system like debian to the level of windows.. I switched from windows because i didn't want to go through hell for the sins of microsoft.

;) kidding.. nice stuff.. but please never compare linux with windows, it brings horrible memories to haunt you..



Thinkpad - debian squeeze. 

By: Talissa

If it suits YOUR needs then its doing fine as your desktop, if not - find something else.  I find its perfect for my media/work/home useage, so i'm perfectly happy with linux.  If you play a crapload of games or use a certain program that only runs in windows - then what on earth were you thinking?

By: Meir


If you looking for the best desktop just turn to Windows 10.

If you looking for the best server, you need Debian. No doubt.