30 Things to Do After Installing Debian 10

Debian 10 is a great desktop distro but you need to spend quite some time to configure it for the best desktop experience possible. Luckily, I have collected all the possible things you can do after installing Debian 10.

Content

  1. Fix CD-ROM error
  2. Switch to the fastest repository mirror
  3. Add contrib and non-free repositories
  4. Switch to Xorg
  5. Return minimize button
  6. Install Synaptic
  7. Install microcode
  8. Install build-essential
  9. Install Drivers
  10. Install Restricted-extras packages
  11. Install VLC
  12. Install and configure Firewall
  13. Install backup program
  14. Configure Swappiness
  15. Speed up the boot time
  16. Enable Drive Cache
  17. Xkill shortcut
  18. Ctrl+Alt+T to open Terminal
  19. Enable GNOME extensions
  20. Install Desktop icons extension
  21. Install additional themes
  22. Add user image
  23. Change LibreOffice look
  24. Add Files bookmarks
  25. Rnable Tray icons
  26. Enable Night Light
  27. Firefox settings
  28. Enable Snap and FlatPak Support
  29. Extend the battery life for Laptops
  30. Remove unnecessary apps

Video

1. Fix CD-ROM error

This fix is needed only for those who installed Debian from a DVD. Because after you installed Debian from a DVD, you will get the error “the repository cdrom does not have a release file” every time you try to update your system:

Debian 10 ERROR: the repository cdrom does not have a release file

To fix this error, open the Software and Updates application and in the Other Software tab, disable CDROM repository:

disable CDROM repository in Debian 10

Now, the CDROM error is fixed and you should be able to refresh the repositories and update your system without problems.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

2. Switch to the fastest repository mirror

You can switch to the fastest repository mirror to download the updates from a server that is physically closer to your location. To that end, open the Software and Updates application → Debian SoftwareDownload fromOtherSelected the best server:

Looking for the fastest repository mirror in Debian 10

And Debian will automatically find the fastest server in your location. Select it and close without reloading the repositories.

Now, update the repositories through the terminal:

sudo apt update

If you see the error: The repository XXX doesn’t have a Release file:

Debian 10 ERROR: The repository XXX doesn't have a Release file

It means your local mirror doesn’t have a security repository. To fix this, open the sources list:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

And replace the address in the lines containing buster/updates with the default security repository: http://security.debian.org/debian-security/:

Returning the default security repository of Debian 10

Press Ctrl+O and Enter to save the changes and Ctrl+O and Enter to exit Nano. Update the repositories again to make sure the error has disappeared:

sudo apt update

If everything works fine, you will now receive all the updates from the local mirror and the security updates from the main server.

3. Add contrib and non-free repositories

Contrib and non-free repositories include many useful packages that are not available in the Debian default repositories. For example, Dropbox, some codes, Nvidia drivers and many others. To add contrib and non-free repositories, activate them in Software and Updates application:

Adding contrib and non-free repositories in Debian 10

And reload the information about the available repositories:

Reload the repositories information

Now, you will have access to almost all popular programs on Linux. Just search for them on the Software Center.

4. Switch to Xorg

Wayland is the default display server in Debian. It has many performance benefits but it is still relatively new and some apps do not work in Wayland. For example, in my Debian 10 review, I showed that Synaptic, SimpleScreenRecorder, and Color picker do not work with Wayland. I need these apps and to make them work I switched to Xorg by selecting System X11 default in the login screen:

Selecting Xorg in the login screen of Debian 10

To find out what display server you are running, use this command:

ps -e | grep tty

Linux command to find out what display server you are running

5. Return minimize button

I like minimalism but only until it doesn’t compromise the functionality and comfort. Removing the minimize button does affect my comfort. So, to return it back.

To that end, I open Tweaks, luckily unlike Ubuntu Debian 10 has Tweaks installed by default, and in the Windows Titlebars, enable it:

Returning minimize button in Debian 10

You can also enable the maximize button there, but I prefer to use double click on the titlebar to maximize my windows.

6. Install Synaptic

Synaptic is an old school graphical package manager but it’s proven by time. It is extremely reliable and very powerful. Using Synaptic, you can find and install many libraries and packages that are not visible in the Software Center. For example, you will find microcode packages in Synaptic, but not in the Software Center. Of course, Synaptic is not as pretty as the Software Center but it is user-friendlier than the command line.

Synaptic in Debian 10

You can find and install Synaptic through the Software Center or run:

sudo apt install synaptic

7. Install microcode

Microcode is a CPU firmware that controls how a processor works. It is better to have the latest microcode for stability and security of the system. So, by installing microcode you ensure you receive the microcode updates.

This is where Synaptic becomes handy. Search for microcode in Synaptic and install either Intel or AMD microcode depending on the type of your processor:

Intel and AMD microcode in Synaptic

8. Install build-essential

At this step, I recommend installing the packages essential for compilation and installation of some programs. It is better to install them early and forget. You can install them with this command:

sudo apt install build-essential dkms linux-headers-$(uname -r)

9. Install Drivers

Likely, your Debian works fine with the opensource drivers (nouveau for Nvidia, and amdgpu for AMD). If it is the case, you probably even do not need to install proprietary drivers. However, if you experience some graphical problems, installing proprietary drivers, may fix these problems.

Nvidia driver

If you have an Nvidia card, you first need to check what driver is required for your system. To do that, install nvidia-detect:

sudo apt install nvidia-detect

And run it:

sudo nvidia-detect

Most likely, you will see that you need the nvidia-driver package:

nvidia-detect suggests to install nvidia-driver

So, install it:

sudo apt install nvidia-driver

After the reboot, your proprietary Nvidia driver should be activated. You can tweak it through the nvidia-settings:

nvidia-settings

AMD

AMD cards are more likely to work out of the box with the free driver. If it is not the case, you can install a non-free driver. You just need to install the non-free AMD firmware and some Mesa packages:

sudo apt install firmware-linux firmware-linux-nonfree libdrm-amdgpu1 xserver-xorg-video-amdgpu

Hopefully, you will get better AMD performance after this.

If you play games on your Debian machine, it is also worth enabling Vulkan support by installing these packages:

sudo apt install mesa-vulkan-drivers libvulkan1 vulkan-tools vulkan-utils vulkan-validationlayers

Finally, if you are going to use OpenCL, install all Mesa OpenCL:

sudo apt install mesa-opencl-icd

Reboot your system and you should see the improvements in your AMD graphics performance if it was not great before. To tweak your AMD graphics, use the AMD catalyst settings:

amd-catalyst

10. Install Restricted-extras packages

In Ubuntu, you can install all restricted packages such as codes, Microsoft fonts and rar archive support with the ubuntu-restricted-extra package. Unfortunately, this package does not exist in Debian. But you still can install all these restricted-extras packages with this command:

sudo apt install ttf-mscorefonts-installer rar unrar libavcodec-extra gstreamer1.0-libav gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly gstreamer1.0-vaapi

11. Install VLC

To be sure you will be able to play any video format, I recommend installing VLC. It usually supports more video formats and it is also more configurable and powerful than GNOME Videos app. For example, I showed in one of my previous posts how you can use VLC to extract frames from a video.

VLC in Debian 10

12. Install and configure Firewall

I have already talked about why I believe it is better to have a firewall on Linux. So, I won’t go into this discussion again. I usually recommend using UFW as it is the simplest firewall on Linux and yet it is sufficient for most users.

You can also try to run GUFW, which is a graphical interface of ufw and it makes all these operations easier. But it was very slow and was mostly unresponsive on my Debian 10 installation. Let me know if it worked fine for you.

Enable UFW

To enable UFW in Debian 10, you need to install it:

sudo apt install ufw

Activate it:

sudo apt ufw enable

And check its status:

sudo apt ufw status verbose

The default rules - to deny incoming and allow outgoing - works fine for most users.

Edit UFW rules

If you need to open some ports, you can use the application name. To see the available names, run this command:

sudo ufw app list

And then open a port for the desired app. For example, to open an SSH port, run:

sudo ufw allow ssh

You can also use the port number (SSH port number is 22):

sudo ufw allow 22/tcp

If you want to delete some rules. Find out the rule number:

sudo ufw status numbered

And delete it:

sudo ufw delete 1

13. Install backup program

I was surprised to see that Debian doesn’t install any backup program by default. Even rsync is not installed:

no rsync in Debian 10

Luckily, there are several backup programs you can choose from in the Software Center:

backup programs in Software Center

I recommend installing Grsync. It is a simple and yet powerful graphical backup program. I reviewed Grsync and LuckyBackUp in my Linux Backup with Graphical Programs post.

14. Configure Swappiness

Swappiness is 60 by default which is fine in most cases. But if you decrease this number, your system will use RAM more and start writing to Swap much later. Swap is an actual disk space and it is much slower than RAM. If you have 8G or more of RAM, you can force your system to use it at maximum.

First, check your swappiness value:

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Open the /etc/sysctl.conf file with Nano:

sudo nano /etc/sysctl.conf

And add vm.swappiness = 10 at the very end of this file:

Adding vm.swappiness to /etc/sysctl.conf

Press Ctrl+O to save the changed and Ctrl+X to exit Nano.

Reboot your system and you will see swappiness value of 10:

Swappiness = 10

I believe you will also see that your system doesn’t slow down until it almost completely fills the RAM.

15. Speed up the boot time

When you start Debian 10, you see this GRUB screen:

GRUB screen in Debian 10

It may be useful if you multi-boot with other systems but if Debian is the only system on your computer, you can disable this delay and start booting Debian right away without waiting for 5 seconds.

To that end, you need to edit the GRUB configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

And set GRUB_TIMEOUT to 0:

Setting GRUB timeout to 0

Then update GRUB:

sudo update-grub

Reboot and your Debian 10 will boot without the 5 seconds delay.

16. Enable Drive Cache

Another way to gain some performance boost for your system is to enable Drive cache. Usually, the program waits until the data is written to the disk before it goes to the next step. You can disable this delay.

Open the Disks application → Select the drive where you have your Debian 10 system installed → Open the Drive Settings from the Disks menu → in the Write cache tab, enable Drive Cache.

Enabling Drive Cache

You will also see the warning that there is a small risk of losing data if your computer experiences a power outage. But it never happened to me and I believe the performance improvement is worth taking the risk especially if you use a slow hard drive.

17. Xkill shortcut

This is a must-have on any system. When some application is not responding, you can kill it with the Ctrl+Alt+Esc shortcut. Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Esc will turn your cursor into a cross and when you click with it in on any application, it will be killed:

Xkill in action

To enable this shortcut, open the Settings → Devices → Keyboard → Add new shortcut. Type xkill in the name and command and set Ctrl+Alt+Esc as a shortcut.

setting xkill shortcut

Now, whenever some application misbehaves, you can quickly kill it with Ctrl+Alt+Esc.

18. Ctrl+Alt+T to open Terminal

I also advise setting the Ctrl+Alt+T shortcut to open the Terminal Emulator. Similarly, to how you set xkill shortcut, add a new shortcut in Settings → Devices → Keyboard → Add new shortcut. Name it Open Terminal and type gnome-terminal as a command. To set the shortcut, press Ctrl+Alt+T.

setting Terminal shortcut

Now, accessing the terminal is only a matter of pressing these three keys - Ctrl+Alt+T.

19. Enable GNOME extensions

GNOME is a minimal and limited in functionality desktop. But it can be improved and changed to an unrecognizable state with GNOME extensions. So, let’s enable them.

You can access some GNOME Extensions through the Software Center. But it is better to configure direct installation from the GNOME website as there are more extensions.

To that end, make sure you have the chrome-gnome-shell package installed:

sudo apt install chrome-gnome-shell

Then, go to the GNOME Extension website and you will be offered to install the GNOME Shell integration add-on. Do that.

Installing GNOME Shell integration add-on

After the installation, open the page of any GNOME Shell extension and you will see the on/off button. You can use it to install the GNOME Shell extensions right from the browser.

Installing GNOME Shell extension

There are many extensions you can try. Just do not make a Christmas tree from your system.

20. Install Desktop icons extension

Speaking about extensions, I believe many of you will find useful the Desktop icons extension. By default, the Debian 10 desktop is empty and you cannot add any icons, create folders or links here. After you install the Desktop icons extension, such functionality will be available.

Desktop icons Shell extension is enabled

Install the Desktop icons extension from the GNOME Extension website.

21. Install additional themes

You won’t find many themes in Debian 10 by default but most likely you would like to customize your desktop. To look, for example, like in these screenshots:

Customized GNOME desktop

To install additional themes in Debian 10, you first need to fix the issue “Shell user-theme extension not enabled”:

Shell user-theme extension not enabled

To fix it, installing the User Themes extension from the Software Center:

Installing the User Theme extension

Now, you should be able to install custom themes in your Debian 10 system.

Search for the theme you like on gnome-look.org and install it. For example, let’s install the Orchis gtk theme:

You need to download it from the File tab. Then extract the archive with the right mouse click and move the extracted folder to .themes folder in your home directory. You can use the Ctrl+H shortcut to see the hidden files that start with a dot in your home directory. If you do not have the .themes folder, create it.

the .themes folder

Orchis theme is recommended to install with the Tela icons theme. You can also download it, extract and move the content of the Tela folder to the .icons folder. Again, if you do not find the .icons folder in your home directory, create it.

When your Orchis folder inside the .themes and Tela folders is in .icons. Open Tweaks → Appearance → select Orchis for applications and Shell and Tela in icons. You can also change the wallpaper and your Debian 10 desktop will look like this:

Orchis themes and Tela in icons in Debian 10

Following the same procedure, you can install most of the other themes from gnome-look.org. If you want to learn more about the options to get a custom GNOME theme, read my post on Ubuntu GNOME customization. Everything described in that post will work in Debian 10 GNOME too.

22. Add user image

This is trivial but let’s do it to complete the desktop theming. Go to Account Settings and set your user image. This will make your system more personal and more beautiful.

Adding user image

23. Change LibreOffice look

To complete the theme settings, I also recommend adjusting the look of LibreOffice.

Single Toolbar in LibreOffice

I believe a single toolbar has all essential tools of LibreOffice and you have more vertical space. This is especially helpful on small screens.

To get the Single panel look, go to View → Toolbar Layout → Single Toolbar.

LibreOffice Icons style

I also like a little more a non-default icons style in LibreOffice. To change the icons, open Tools → Options → View → Style. I like Colibre icons.

The final result looks like this:

Colibre icons in LibreOffice

24. Add Files bookmarks

In the Files file manager, you can quickly access some of the folders from your home directory on the left panel. For example, Documents, Downloads, Music, etc. But what if you want to add a custom bookmark there. You can do that!

Navigate to the folder you want to bookmark and press Ctrl+D or select to bookmark it from the folder menu:

bookmark folder in Files

Now, you can bookmark and quickly access your favorite folders from the left panel of File.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find how to reorder these custom bookmarks to place them among the default bookmarks. If you know how to do that, please let me know in the comments.

25. Enable Tray icons

Many of the third-party apps such as Dropbox, Skype, and others, do not show up in the tray by default. I believe it is very convenient to see those icons there. So, to enable such functionality, install TopIcons Plus extension from the GNOME extensions webpage.

Installing TopIcons Plus extension

You should see your tray icons appearing in the top panel. If you do not see them, try log out and log in.

Tray icons in Debian 10

If the third-party icons are located in the center, you can open the settings of TopIcons Plus extension in Tweaks and move them to the right.

TopIcons Plus settings

26. Enable Night Light

Night Light will reduce the amount of blue light on your screen at night time which is better for your eyes and sleep. This is a build-in feature since GNOME 3.24.

To activate it, go to Settings → Devices → Display → and set Night Light on.

Enabling Night Light in Debian 10

27. Firefox settings

Restore previous session

I like my Firefox to open the same tabs which I had open last time when I closed it. It saves a lot of time.

To enable this feature, open the Firefox Preferences and activate Restore previous session:

Restore previous session option in Firefox

To test it, open several tabs and close Firefox. When you open it again, it will start with the same tabs you had last time.

DRM support

You can also enable DRM support in the settings. This will allow you to play DRM-controlled content such as Netflix videos, for example.

DRM support in Firefox

Firefox Shell integration

If you followed the previous things to do after installing Debian 10, you should already have the GNOME Shell integration add-on installed in Firefox. If it is not the case, search for it in the Firefox add-ons web-page and install it.

GNOME Shell integration add-on

Extend the Address/Search bar

I also prefer to remove the empty spaces from the sides of the Address/Search bar. To do that, right-click on the Firefox top-panel and select Customize and drag the empty spaces from the top-panel. This will extend the search/address bar of Firefox:

Extend Firefox Address/Search bar

28. Enable Snap and FlatPak Support

Snap and Flatpak programs are distribution-agnostic, so you can install any version of a Snap or Flatpak programs and do not worry about lack or conflict of dependencies.

To enable Snap and Flatpak support in Debian 10, open the Software Center and search for Gnome Software. Select it and scroll down. You will find Snap and Flatpak in the addons bar. Enable either of them or both.

Enable Snap and FlatPak Support in Debian 10

Restart the Software Center, and test Snap and Flatpak installation by searching for a Snap or Flatpak program and installing it. You use Kdenlive as an example. You will find two versions of Kdenlive and one of them will be a Snap package. The information about the origin of a program is provided in the package properties.

Kdenlive Snap

29. Extend the battery life for Laptops

If you run Debian on a laptop, you can get some extra batter time by installing the TLP power management tools. This tool provides the power settings that are optimized for battery life.

sudo apt install tlp

After the installation reboot and you will find the TLP process active.

sudo systemctl status tlp

TLP power management tool is active

30. Remove unnecessary apps

Luckily, Debian 10 GNOME doesn’t come with too much clutter. However, there are still some programs you may want to remove. There are two ways to do that.

First, open the Software Center and in the Installed tab, you will see all major programs installed on your system . Remove those you are not going to use. I usually removed all the games.

Software Center Installed tab

If you want to go even further, you can open Synaptic, go to the Status section and select to show only Installed programs. And start cleaning.

Be careful not to remove programs that are vital for your system. For example, I do not need a Bluetooth app, because I do not have Bluetooth. But removing it will remove the whole GNOME desktop.

Removing bluez

So, you might damage your system by removing some programs from the Synaptic installed section, if you do not know what you are doing. Be careful!

Your thought?

I hope you find these 30 things to do after installing Debian 10 useful. Let me know if you would add something to this list. The comments section is below. Thank you for reading.

Average Linux User
Average Linux User I am the founder of the Average Linux User project, which is a hobby I work on at night. During the day I am a scientist who uses computers to analyze genetic data.