Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The New Debian Server

In our conference call on August 19th Brendan gave me some pointers about the installation that I would be doing of the Debian 'Lenny' Linux software onto the new server. He said it would be fairly straight forward...and parts of it were and other parts of it weren't.

Before I left on vacation I configured the server with a static IP, a single partition, and no printers or email--just the base system. I needed only the first DVD of the 5-DVD set that is the full 'Lenny' package. This was luckily a "bootable" DVD since there was absolutely nothing installed on our new Dell server up to this point. Once the Debian software screen came up I clicked on "Installation" and the procedure was pretty automatic, a standard "installation" routine...answering the questions, selecting options, and entering the requested information. It is a good idea to have this information handy prior to the installation:
  • the IP that is to be used,
  • the name of the domain,
  • a username/password for an alternate login to the default "ROOT" login.
The first "glitch" in the installation was when I received an error message that there were "missing non-free firmware files". I Googled this message and discovered that this version of Debian no longer delivers all the network card drivers bundled into it. I then Googled the file name I needed--bnx2-09-4.0.5.fw--and found a site that offered it "free" and downloaded it to my thumb drive. This allowed me to complete the installation by selecting "load file from external device", which is an option that obviously needed to be included in the installation since it no longer provides everything to do a successful build.

The second "glitch" I came across was after the installation completed successfully when the default monitor resolutions was too high for the desktop display. After the system would load, the monitor would go blank and the message "Can't display in this video mode" would appear. I had to connect the server to our portable projector to see the GUI desktop. After a little research I found that I could break out of the GUI desktop by pressing ALT-CTRL-F1. This started a new shell in the command screen with the command prompt. I reset the display to VT100 terminal emulator and I could see everything on my monitor once again.

Also, I had problems seeing the new server on the network and seeing the rest of the network from the new server. I wasn't able to successfully PING another IP or to PING the IP of this server from my other servers. I discovered that the network cable had been put into the secondary NIC port rather than the primary port. Once I switched the cable to the other port then everything connected and PING-ed and worked very well.

When I returned from vacation I needed to finish my part of the installation and to do that I needed to be at the command prompt to perform the last set of tasks. The first two tasks: "apt-get update" and "apt-get upgrade" instruct the server to access a "mirror" of the software on the Internet and to pull down the latest update and upgrade of the loaded components. The final task was to load "openssh" which would allow BWS to make a secure remote connection to our server. After a little experimenting to discover the exact name of the application I needed, I ran "apt-get install openssh-server" and the software installed successfully.

I installed PuTTY on my Windows workstation so that I also could connect "remotely" to the new server to test it. It is free software, available on the Internet, very easy to install and fairly easy to use. It opens a terminal emulation box very similar to a Windows command box, which is almost the same as being on the server itself.

On September 7 I sent Brendan (ByWater Solutions) the login information for our network and he was able to access our Host server (where the Symphony software resides) and to PING the Debian server. With the installation completed and "openssh" installed he is also able to connect to the Debian server remotely.

So....our server is up and running and ready for ByWater Solutions to log into to complete the configuration of Debian and the installation of Koha.



  1. Hi Cathi

    The reason the driver is not in the installation, is because it is proprietary (like debian says non-free) firmware. Debian is a free software (free as in freedom) operating system, (just like Koha is free software) so doesn't contain non-free things in the main distribution.
    So not really a glitch, more an ethical decision on their part.

    Glad you have your server all up and running now,


  2. You are exactly right and I do understand this distinction, thought I didn't state it as well in my post.

    To further elaborate on the message I received if others should encounter it this is the link I found that best explained it. This is the exact message though the server model isn’t the same...BNX2-09-4.0.5.FW (you may have to copy/paste the URL):

    I did find the firmware file to fix this problem at the Debian site, even though they don't deliver it with the installation package any longer. I downloaded it at (again you'll need to copy/paste the URL):

    Thanks, Chris, for making this point clearer.