How to setup a workstation computer with Debian Wheezy and XFCE4

Debian is an ideal solution for servers. Stability is the main advantage of Debian. At the same time the stable Debian version doesn’t contain the most recent packages. So, Debian is not one of first choices for someone who wants to use Linux for Desktop. Probably he/she will choose Ubuntu or Linux Mint or Fedora.

I use Archlinux on my desktop PC. Even if Archlinux is not suitable for the novice Linux user, it is rock solid, it contains cutting edge software and you can find any package you want in its repositories (official or AUR).

But, recently, I setup my old laptop, Fujitsu Siemens AMILO Notebook Xi 3650 with Debian 7 Wheezy and XFCE4. I was surprised with the final result! Not a super cool and fancy desktop, but a nice environment with great support for sound, Flash, Nvidia and any kind of networking “out of the box”.

Why Xfce? Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment, fast, simple and user friendly. Personally, I am not a fan of latest versions of Gnome, KDE or Ubuntu Unity.

Of course, it’s a matter of choice, but I don’t like graphical wizards and I can not stand unstable systems. I want to have to control of what I install on my computer and how.

Some little hacks

Default Debian 7 installation comes with XFCE 4.8 and LibreOffice 3.5 As latest XFCE 4.10 is much more better than the previous version (the same with LibreOffice), I use some hacks to setup these versions on Debian stable. It is not required, but it worths the try. This is possible by using repositories of Testing version (Debian Jessie). More information is available here and here.


In the following tutorial, I present all steps I followed, but some of them are not required for a common desktop PC. So, I marked them as “optional”. I use nano text editor, but you can use vi or other graphical editor e.g. geany. I also use systemd, so to restart apache (for example), I use systemd restart apache2.service instead of the equivalent service apache2 restart on systems with initscripts.

Base system

Download small Debian image from here.

I don’t use the graphic installation mode and I don’t setup graphical environment in this phase. I will do it later

Detailed information with screenshots is available in this post.

Disk partitions:

Disk 1 – 300 GB

patritionsize (GB)
/boot 44

Disk 2 – 300 GB

patritionsize (GB)

Software selection:

  • SSH server
  • Laptop
  • Standard system utilities

The base system has been installed.

At this time your package sources (/etc/apt/sources.list) will look like:


# deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 7.6.0 _Wheezy_ - Official amd64 NETINST Binary-1 20140712-14:09]/ wheezy main

#deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 7.6.0 _Wheezy_ - Official amd64 NETINST Binary-1 20140712-14:09]/ wheezy main

deb wheezy main
deb-src wheezy main

deb wheezy/updates main
deb-src wheezy/updates main

# wheezy-updates, previously known as 'volatile'
deb wheezy-updates main
deb-src wheezy-updates main

Systemd (optional)

(optional but highly recommended)

apt-get install systemd
nano /etc/default/grub
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet init=/bin/systemd"
update-grub && reboot

Network setup

You can keep default DHCP settings. But if you want a static IP, try the following:

nano /etc/network/interfaces

# The primary network interface
#allow-hotplug eth0
#iface eth0 inet dhcp

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static


systemctl reboot

After setup of graphical environment (XFCE), I will setup a graphical Network manager.


Always setup NTP (Network Time Protocol) to keep your computer time synced with time servers:

apt-get install ntp


One of the most important tasks is to keep your system updated.

apt-get install apticron
apt-get install update-notifier-common
apt-get install debian-goodies

For details read this post: Simple Steps to Update a Debian System.


Exim4 is the default Debian MTA (Message transfer agent). It will cover most of your needs in a server or desktop system:

See details on this post.

Forward root mail

First add the root alias

nano /etc/aliases

Then, rebuild aliases:



Webmin is an awesome control panel, with which you can perfom many administration tasks.

Modify your packages sources:

nano /etc/apt/sources.list


deb sarge contrib
deb sarge contrib

Add the necessary key

cd /root
apt-key add jcameron-key.asc

and update package sources

apt-get update


apt-get install webmin


Probably, the most useful tool for backup operations

apt-get install rsync


If you need a VPN, you can try OpenVPN, a really great Open Source VPN solution

apt-get install openvpn

See details on this post.


Samba is a free implementation of the SMB/CIFS networking protocol. A common use (among many others) is to access your Linux file system from a Microsoft Windows computer:

Install samba

apt-get install samba

Define your shares, for example:

nano /etc/samba/smb.conf




Add a samba user:

pdbedit -a -u your-username

Restart samba:

systemctl restart samba.service

Sample usage:

List the shares of a machine with IP

smbclient -L -U%

Mount and unmount a share:

mount -t cifs // /mnt/test -o user=USERNAME,password=PASSWORD

umount /mnt/test


Sudo allows comkon users to run programs with security privileges of user root.

apt-get install sudo

Add you in sudoers:

usermod -a -G sudo your-username


s3cmd is an open source command line client for Amazon S3 (optional installation)

apt-get install s3cmd


htop is a process viewer for Linux (an alternative of top command)

apt-get install htop

NTFS support

Read and write support for NTFS drives

apt-get install ntfs-3g

NVIDIA drivers

Add contrib non-free to your package sources list. At this step, it will look like:


# deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 7.6.0 _Wheezy_ - Official amd64 NETINST Binary-1 20140712-14:09]/ wheezy main

#deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 7.6.0 _Wheezy_ - Official amd64 NETINST Binary-1 20140712-14:09]/ wheezy main

deb wheezy main contrib non-free
deb-src wheezy main contrib non-free

deb wheezy/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src wheezy/updates main contrib non-free

# wheezy-updates, previously known as 'volatile'
deb wheezy-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src wheezy-updates main contrib non-free

deb sarge contrib
deb sarge contrib

Update package sources:

apt-get update

Install nvidia-detect

apt-get install nvidia-detect

Run nvidia-detect


You will get something like:

Detected NVIDIA GPUs:
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: NVIDIA Corporation G96 [GeForce 9600M GT] [10de:0649] (rev a1)
Your card is supported by the default drivers and version 173.
It is recommended to install the

Now, install the driver:

apt-get install nvidia-kernel-dkms

Here are some useful messages you will get:

┌──────────────────────────────────┤ Configuring libgl1-nvidia-glx:amd64 ├──────────────────────────────────┐
│                                                                                                           │
│ Conflicting nouveau kernel module loaded                                                                  │
│                                                                                                           │
│ The free nouveau kernel module is currently loaded and conflicts with the non-free nvidia kernel module.  │
│                                                                                                           │
│ The easiest way to fix this is to reboot the machine once the installation has finished.                  │
┌──────────────────────────────┤ Configuring xserver-xorg-video-nvidia ├───────────────────────────────┐
│                                                                                                      │
│ Manual configuration required to enable Nvidia driver                                                │
│                                                                                                      │
│ The Nvidia driver is not yet configured; it needs to be enabled in xorg.conf before it can be used.  │
│                                                                                                      │
│ Please see the package documentation for instructions.                                               │
│                                                                                                      │

Install configuration utility nvidia-xconfig:

apt-get install nvidia-xconfig

Run nvidia-xconfig:


At the end you will (probaly) get the message:

WARNING: Unable to locate/open X configuration file.

WARNING: Unable to parse X.Org version string.

New X configuration file written to '/etc/X11/XF86Config'

In this case, copy configuration file created to /etc/X11/xorg.conf

cp /etc/X11/XF86Config /etc/X11/xorg.conf


systemctl reboot

XFCE 4.8

First install XFCE 4.8 which is the XFCE version of Debian Wheezy:

apt-get install xfce4 xfce4-goodies


systemctl reboot

XFCE 4.10

It is worth to try to install XFCE 4.10, which contains much more improvements. 4.10 is the XFCE version of Debian Jessie, which now is Testing Release (it will become Stable after one year or more).

So, add the following line to your package sources:

deb jessie main contrib non-free


…ensure that Wheezy will remain your default release when you are getting updates:

nano /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/30default-release


APT::Default-Release "wheezy";

update (again…) your pachage sources, (as usual):

apt-get update

Finally, install XFCE 4.10 (and reboot):

apt-get -t jessie install xfce4 xfce4-goodies


systemctl reboot

Some of XFCE applications for commnon use are:

  • Terminal: Xfce Terminal
  • File Manager: Thunar (“tabs” supported in 4.10)
  • CD/DVD Burner: Xfburn
  • Image Viewer: Ristretto

XFCE also supports automounting (CD, USB etc).

TWeak XFCE 4.10

configure panel

configure Window Manager

Login manager – No Thanks!

I did not setup some login manager (in order to login in graphical mode). I prefer my computer to start in command line mode and when I want the graphical environment I run


But, if you like so, you could try SLiM . See also here.

Next steps

Hopefully, at this time a base Linux system with XFCE graphical interface and Nvidia support is up and running! During next steps, I will setup a graphical network manager, an HP printer and scanner and desktop applications for every day use. Additionally I will setup PHP development tools and my Github projects. Of course, the last step is optional.


During boot, my computer reports MISSING (non free firmware). Its the about wifi. Fortunately it is available on Debian repos:

apt-get install firmware-iwlwifi

Install NetworkManager

apt-get install network-manager-gnome

Check if you are member of group netdev

grep your-username /etc/groups

If not, add yourself to this group

usermod -a -G netdev your-username

Change the setting you made in /etc/network/interfaces, so this file will now look like:

# This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
# and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

# The primary network interface
#allow-hotplug eth0
#iface eth0 inet dhcp

#auto eth0
#    iface eth0 inet static
#    address
#    netmask
#    gateway

In most cases, the following change is required:

nano /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf



If you use OpenVPN and you want to manage VPN connections using Network Manager, install:

apt-get install network-manager-openvpn-gnome

SEE ALSO the screenshot at the end of this post (WIFI detection).


Install Microsoft fonts

apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer

I use terminus font in Terminal:

apt-get install xfonts-terminus

keepassx password manager

KeePassX is an application for people with extremly high demands on secure personal data management. It has a light interface, is cross platform and published under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

apt-get install keepassx


Various tools: Among others, filezilla (FTP manager), fatrat (download manager with Torrent support)

apt-get install filezilla
apt-get install fatrat
apt-get install galculator
apt-get install p7zip p7zip-full p7zip-rar
apt-get install xarchiver

Google Chrome

Add the following line to your package sources (/etc/apt/sources.list)

deb stable main

install the necessary key

wget -q -O - | apt-key add -

update sources

apt-get update

Finally, install Google Chrome

apt-get install google-chrome-stable


Remove Iceweasel. What is Iceweasel?

apt-get remove iceweasel

Add the following line to your package sources (/etc/apt/sources.list)

deb all main

install the necessary key

apt-key adv --recv-keys --keyserver C1289A29

update sources

apt-get update

Finally, install Firefox

apt-get install firefox-mozilla-build


For Flash support

apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

Text editors

Leadpad is a simple text editor

apt-get install leafpad

Geany is an advanced text editor

apt-get install geany

System tools

Partition editor

apt-get install gparted

Hardware info

apt-get install lshw lshw-gtk
apt-get install hardinfo
apt-get install sysinfo

SMART monitor

GSmartControl is a graphical user interface for smartctl (from smartmontools package), which is a tool for querying and controlling SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) data on modern hard disk and solid-state drives. It allows you to inspect the drive’s SMART data to determine its health, as well as run various tests on it.

apt-get install smartmontools
apt-get install gsmartcontrol


VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use.

apt-get install virtualbox


Most JAVA applications require the Oracle JAVA SDK or JRE, so I prefer to download manual the preferred version (as .tar.gz) from

manually uppack to /opt and then to use update-alternatives Debian command to select the default version (if many). So, to declare a version with update-alternatives:

update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java /opt/jdk1.7.0_65/bin/java 20000

To choose the default:

update-alternatives --config java

There are 2 choices for the alternative java (providing /usr/bin/java).

Selection    Path                                            Priority   Status
* 0            /opt/jdk1.7.0_65/bin/java                        20000     auto mode
1            /opt/jdk1.7.0_65/bin/java                        20000     manual mode
2            /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-openjdk-amd64/jre/bin/java   1061      manual mode


First install Libreoffice 3, which is the Debian Wheezy version

apt-get install libreoffice

Then add this line to your package sources (/etc/apt/sources.list)

deb wheezy-backports main

update package sources

apt-get update

Install Libreoffice 4

apt-get -t wheezy-backports install libreoffice

You may change Libreoffice java SDK from Options

PDF viewer

Evince is a document viewer for multiple document formats. The goal of evince is to replace the multiple document viewers that exist on the GNOME Desktop with a single simple application. Evince is specifically designed to support the file following formats: PDF, Postscript, djvu, tiff, dvi, XPS, SyncTex support with gedit, comics books (cbr,cbz,cb7 and cbt).

apt-get install evince

Screenshot tool

Shutter is a feature-rich screenshot program for Linux based operating systems such as Ubuntu. You can take a screenshot of a specific area, window, your whole screen, or even of a website – apply different effects to it, draw on it to highlight points, and then upload to an image hosting site, all within one window. Shutter is free, open-source, and licensed under GPL v3.

apt-get install shutter

Photo editing

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages.

apt-get install gimp

Media player

VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

apt-get install vlc

Printer and Scanner

An HP printer, HP Officejet 4500 will be installed. A static IP ( has been assigned to this printer.

First install CUPS (Common Unix Printing System)

apt-get install cups cups-client

In case of HP printer, install drivers from HP Linux Imaging and Printing.

apt-get install hplip

Start CUPS service

systemctl start cups.service

In most cases, the following change is required:

usermod -a -G lpadmin your-username

Important: create URL for your device:


you will get something like

HP Linux Imaging and Printing System (ver. 3.12.6)
Device URI Creation Utility ver. 5.0

Copyright (c) 2001-14 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, LP
This software comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
This is free software, and you are welcome to distribute it
under certain conditions. See COPYING file for more details.

CUPS URI: hp:/net/Officejet_4500_G510g-m?ip=
SANE URI: hpaio:/net/Officejet_4500_G510g-m?ip=
HP Fax URI: hpfax:/net/Officejet_4500_G510g-m?ip=


Run the diagnostic utility to ensure your device is recognized (optional but useful).


Finally, add printer using CUPS web interface

Use http://localhost:631

Select http protocol and set the above hp url. Then select a driver with cups.

More info here.

Test your scanner:

scanimage -L

Install scanning software:

apt-get install libsane sane-utils
apt-get install xsane

A GUI to produce PDFs from scanned documents

apt-get install gscan2pdf

More info here.

Web develpoment software

Install memcached. More details in this post: Memcached Installation and Configuration with PHP on Debian.

apt-get install memcached
apt-get install poedit

Install gettext. More details in this post: PHP and Javascript Internationalization using Gettext and Poedit.

apt-get install gettext

MySQL database server

apt-get install mysql-server

Apache web server

apt-get install apache2 apache2-mpm-prefork

a2enmod rewrite
nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/default
#Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
#AllowOverride None

Options -Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
AllowOverride All

a2enmod deflate

systemctl restart apache2.service


apt-get install php5

Install PHP modules you need. In my case:

apt-get install php5-mysqlnd php5-pgsql php5-intl php5-gd php5-memcached php-gettext php5-mcrypt php-gd php-curl

More details in this post: Debian 7 Wheezy Dedicated Web Server Setup Step by Step.

Install git

apt-get install git

Diff tools

apt-get install meld
apt-get install diffuse

Other development tools

apt-get install doxygen doxygen-gui

mkdir /var/www/adminer
cd /var/www/adminer
mv adminer-4.1.0-en.php index.php

apt-get install pgadmin3

mkdir /var/www/phpMemcachedAdmin
cd /var/www/phpMemcachedAdmin
tar -xvzf phpMemcachedAdmin-1.2.2-r262.tar.gz
chmod +r *
chmod 0777 Config/Memcache.php


I use PhpStorm (manual installation).

Deploy projects (from Github)

If you have Github projects, you can easily deploy them in your development workstation:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -C ""
cat .ssh/

Add key to Github. See how.

chown your-username:your-username /var/www

cd /var/www
git clone

Desktop screenshot