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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 21 Oct 2014

The Debian Jessie installer: first impressions -- desktop choice (yay), encryption fail (boo)

I did a Debian Jessie install last week. This was a traditional install on "real" hardware, more specifically a different drive on my daily (HP Pavilion g6) laptop.

As much as I've praised the Debian installer in the past, and I'll praise it a little bit right now, I will also drop it in a hole and throw a shallow layer of dirt over it just because.

First of all, the Debian installer experience seem much the same in Jessie as it was in Wheezy and Squeeze before it. I don't remember it being much different in Etch. That was my first Debian installation, so my memory, hazy as it is, ends there.

One thing I did notice -- and very much appreciated -- about the Jessie installer was the opportunity to select a desktop environment other than GNOME in the course of the installation dialogs. Before Jessie, this choice was only available in a hidden menu you entered before the installation began (and you had to know it was there).

Letting a user easily choose a desktop environment during the installation is huge. I applaud. Loudly.

But ... I've done plenty of fully encrypted Debian installations over the years, and I appreciate having the ability to do so without a whole lot of technical knowledge.

I remember, in the distant past, being able to encrypt just /swapand /home (and also remember having to type in separate passphrases for each), with the result being the the abiltity to install Debian in a dual-boot situation with some if not full encryption (the latter requiring the whole disk to be successful).

Well, I tried that -- encrypting just /swap and /home -- and couldn't do it.

I guess I'll go back to the documentation and see if there's something I missed.

But this should be dead easy.

I've said it until I was blue in the face, then recovered and said it again: Fedora's Anaconda installer today is probably easier to use than Debian's installer. Especially if you want to encrypt partitions or even the whole installtion.

Anaconda's -- and by extension Fedora/RHEL's -- killer app, for me anyway, is the ability to easily install a fully encrypted Fedora/RHEL/CentOS system in a dual-boot with Windows that even a Linux newbie could figure out.

And even if I can't have a fully encrypted Debian alongside Windows without a whole lot of heavy fu, could I at least have the option of an encrypted /home and /swap without some obscure mystery-meat recipe?

Don't get me wrong. I love Debian. But I also love flexible, easy-to-implement encryption. Go figure.