How I did it: Volume 1

Or more accurately, how to make a minimalist Fluxbox installation using Debian 6.0 (which is currently in testing).

I don't have all of the kinks sorted yet, which is why this is Volume 1. In addition, this is just how I did it; part of minimalism is that your perfect desktop is not my perfect desktop. It's about what we find important is individuals.

So, first off, make a mental or physical list of the stuff you'll need. Mine for example: Firefox, some sort of Wi-fi manager, a graphical file manager, links2 (web browser), nethack, some sort of image viewer (I like mirage), (for school), Synaptic and some sort of music player. If you're not sure what you want, do research and find out now rather than later. Google what you're looking for with the words "linux" and "fluxbox " on the end.

So, go ahead over to and get a recent Debian Testing CD (link). You could make do with the net one if you wanted to, but that disc downloads everything it doesn't have, which is all of it. Still, it keeps your installation current.

I was on a laptop, so I plugged into power and ethernet and booted from the CD. The installation is straightforward; just make sure that when you get to the package selection, deselect the "desktop environment" check box (that box gives you Gnome, aka what Ubuntu has).

You should boot to a command line. You can log in as your user and then type su, and then your root password. Then:

apt-get install xorg fluxbox

Which installs the X graphical system and Fluxbox, our Window Manager. And anything you're going to want as well.

apt-get install nethack-console links2 pcmanfm file-roller axel audacious2 wicd mirage xpdfview conky-all synaptic leafpad rxvt-unicode

And let it run. Then become your user and use a text editor to make a file called .xinitrc in your home folder.

nano .xinitrc

Add the line exec startfluxbox to the file, save and quit.

Then type startx and see if X runs. It should, and you should get a Fluxbox desktop.

If you're like me and you have a laptop, the next priority is making wi-fi work. I like Wicd as a client for this, which I already installed. The daemon starts up automatically, but the client does not. Run it by typing wicd-client into a terminal.

If your wireless is not detected automatically, you will need a driver or extra software package. The best way to do this, I've found, is to use a Linux Live CD that your Wi-fi card is definitely working on, right click on Network Manager, and find out what driver it's running. Go back to your Fluxbox, crank out Synaptic, and search for that driver. Install and voila.

(Note: I had to add "wlan0" to the wireless connection box in wcid to get this to work. Your results may vary.)

To make Wicd start up when your Fluxbox starts, go into your home directory, find the .fluxbox folder (the period indicates that it's hidden - get your file manager to reveal all), and open up the startup file in a text editor. As the file indicates, add the command you want to execute followed by a space and an ampersand (&). "wicd-client &" would be a good line to add before the final line. I also added conky here because that was my next step.

I made a file in my home directory called .conkyrc and opened it up. I used these examples and example configuration files to make a nice looking conky with a little bit of information.

Then I used Synaptic to install my nVidia drivers. I used the normal nvidia-glx package, along with nvidia-settings and nvidia-xconfig. When the computer rebooted, I ran nvidia-xconfig, rebooted and then nivida-settings to make sure the driver was working properly.

Then I used links2 in the console, navigated to the Firefox website, downloaded it, and used file roller to decompress it (I could have used the console, but I'm lazy). Then I put it in a programs folder, ran it and set my bookmarks, and then went back into .fluxbox.

There's a text file called menu that detects the layout of the right click Fluxbox menu. This is a good tutorial on how to make menus work in Fluxbox. I made a line that said "[exec] (Firefox) {/home/user/Programs/firefox/firefox}" and it worked fine.

Then I installed Adblock Plus, Ghostery and Flashblock to Firefox, and that's where I am today.

To do list for volume 2: (Checks added in edit)
-better fonts (check)
-wallpaper (check)
-prettier Fluxbox and GTK2+ theme (check)
-mounting things (like my external hard drive) (check)
-does my sound work? I don't actually know. (yes it does, check)
-play with conky some more
-get cpufreq under control so that the fans stop whirring


Charles Roth said...

Did you consider the Linux Mint Debian Edition at all?

aberinkulas said...

I did, but I decided to do it the plain Debian way because I wanted Fluxbox and I wanted to learn something new!