Booting into Debian

When the installation finishes, and your computer reboots, a GRUB screen will greet you, where you can choose what to do next.

GRUB Screen

Naturally, the first option will be to start Debian itself. There are also some advanced options, like probably loading different kernels, and doing a memory test, but we will not worry a lot about these now. If you are dual booting with Window$, you will also find an entry for it at the bottom of the list (where it belongs). If you want to access your Window$ system, you should choose that option, but for now just press Enter on the first entry, or wait for the 5 seconds countdown to finish, after which the standard option (Debian) will be automatically loaded.

The system will then load. It should be fairly fast, and a splash screen might or might not appear. Soon you will find yourself at the display manager's login screen. If you've read the installation instructions carefully, you might remember that there are more than one available display managers, and that depending on your chosen Desktop environment(s) at least one of these should be installed.

What your login screen looks like will depend on your DM. Assuming you only have one Desktop Environment installed, the login screen should look as below. (If you have more than one and have chosen a specific DM, your experience might vary.)

Using the command line

Not only will you need to access to the command line for one of the fixes listed in the next chapter, but learning to use a terminal will allow you to do things faster and more efficiently in your new Linux system. With that in mind, the only task you'll learn to perform from this article is how to open a terminal emulator from each one of the three major DEs.

The first thing you'll see when the boot process finishes, is your username specified at install time, presented as a card. Later on, if you add more users you can pick one of the available names here. There's a password field on the user card.

Choose user

  • Type your password, and press Enter.

You will be greeted by a rather empty desktop. No icons, just the wallpaper featuring the latest Debian artwork, and the bottom-bar that seems universal across operating systems. Unless you use Linux with Gnome, or XFCE, or Mate, or a lot other DEs, that don't use this layout. Or macO$. Anyway, if you're coming from Window$, there should be nothing new about this.

KDE desktop

  • Click on the icon that looks like the letter "K" at the lower right corner to open the application menu.

App menu

  • In the menu, start typing the word konsole. With a "k". (KDE applications tend to start their names with the letter "k". Words starting with "c" are usually changed (in application names) to start with "k" too. It's a branding thing.) This should find the application named Konsole, which is a terminal emulator.

App menu search

  • Click on it, and the terminal will open.

Konsole terminal emulator open

The first thing you'll see when the boot process finishes, is your username specified at install time. Later on, if you add more users you will be able to pick any one of the available names here.

Choose user

  • For now, just click on the username. It will prompt for the user's password, and press Enter, or click Sign In.

Enter password

A weird, empty looking screen will greet you. That is your desktop. It has nothing on it, no icons, no bottom bar, only that thin black line at the top with some writing. Is that it? Yes, it is.

GNOME standard Desktop

To access your applications, you will need to click on Activities in the upper left corner. It will bring up a fully touch-optimised dashboard

GNOME Activities menu

  • Start typing "Terminal" into the search box. You don't have to select the box. When you start typing, it will be automatically treated as a search. The only search result, the application named Terminal will be displayed at the top, with more application suggestions below, which you can optionally install. For now, just click on Terminal

Search for terminal

  • A window with a white background and some coloured text in it will appear. This will be your terminal emulator. Whenever you need to do something in the terminal, this is what you want to use.

Gnome terminal

When the computer finished booting, you will be greeted with a login screen. Unlike some other desktop managers, LightDM (The DM which XFCE uses by default) wants you to actually type in your username. If you've forgotten your username, you're in trouble now...

XFCE Login

  • Type in your username, and your password below, then press Enter

When XFCE first starts, it will ask you how you'd like to use the panel. As a quite customisable DE, it will allow you to have things your way from the start. Choosing the One Empty Panel option will allow you do just that, while Use Default Config will bring up the most typical setup.

Choose panel style

  • Click Use Default Config to load up the XFCE panel

XFCE loaded

Now you actually have two panels. One at the top has the usual things while the bottom one has application icons and stuff. A bit like macO$, only a lot uglier. Yes, standard XFCE setup is as aesthetically pleasing as a rusty toolbox. Yes, I know that some people find rusty toolboxes aesthetically pleasing. (Believe it or not, some also find the default XFCE looks nice. People can have strange tastes sometimes.) The default looks can be changed rather easily, but that will not be covered until the next chapter, sorry.

If you've selected the wrong option here, you might not find it all that easy to set things up. ("The one empty panel" is really just that.) In that case, you can right-click the desktop, open a terminal from the context menu, and type (or copy/paste) the following command to start over from the chooser:

xfce4-panel --quit ; pkill xfconfd ; rm -rf ~/.config/xfce4/panel ~/.config/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml/xfce4-panel.xml ; xfce4-panel;

(Credit for this simplified solution goes to this Ubuntu forum answer.)

You can open a terminal in one of three ways. (Oh, the choices!):

  • Click on the application menu in the upper-left corner (you will recognise it, as the one that says "Applications" on the cover), then click Terminal Emulator

XFCE app menu

  • Click the second icon on the bottom panel

XFCE bottom panel crop

  • Right-click on the desktop, and choose Open terminal here from the context menu

XFCE right-click context menu

A terminal will be the fruit of your efforts

XFCE terminal

Have you noticed how the last option says "Open terminal here", not just e.g. "Open terminal"? That is because it will open a terminal in the Desktop folder (/home/username/Desktop). This would be great if you could actually set up XFCE to show any folder of your choice as the desktop, and when you say "Open Terminal Here", it would open a terminal and put you in that folder. That would be quite useful if you have a working folder and you regularly perform terminal-based operations on its contents. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Whatever you do, it will just open the terminal in the Desktop folder, which makes it pretty much useless.

Of course, there is a lot more to your new Debian system, and you might be curious to learn more, but to complete the following really important post-installation tasks, this is all you really need now. A more detailed introduction to your preferred DE will come in the next part, Get to know your new Debian System