This documents my maintenance routines and personal configurations of Debian and other software on this laptop. Useful web documents are listed in each section, and additional information is available in the main reference and other support documents.

Debian references


Currently tracking testing. Not using the name (jessie)

Other entries in sources.list:

# The liquorix kernel
deb sid main - for liquorix kernel

# The experimental debian repo - used for a few packages
deb experimental main contrib non-free

REMEMBER: After updating sources.list, run apt-get update


Excellent resources for Debian Kernels:

The kernel installed by default in the netinst installation is a somewhat generic(not optimized) kernel, so it may be useful to replace it. Though the debian installer installed the correct kernel for my architecture, in some cases one may want to look at other options in the repositiories.

apt-cache search linux-image (or -headers) should list the available kernels for your achitecture, as well as additional kernels with special featuresets. Install both the linux-headers and the linux-image package you desire.

The Debian kernel was replaced with the "high performance" liquorix kernel package. Liquorix is a Debian repository for Zen-kernel builds.

See: &

  1. Place deb sid mainin sources.list
  2. Run apt-get update and install liquorix-keyrings package.
  3. Look at current kernel version: uname -r
  4. To find newer liquorix kernel: apt-cache search liquorix
  5. Install headers and image for 2.6.xx-0.dmz-liquorix-amd64 (should take a while).

The first time I did this binutils, gcc, and a couple of libs were pulled in.

Liquorix kernels can also be installed and upgraded with the smxi script (

Kernels from Debian or other repos can be customised using the kernel-package program. See

VPN configuration

OpenConnect is the open source project allowing connection to Cisco AnyConnect networks, but there are other vpn options. Installing the package below installes the openconnect package and should make it available in the NetworkManager plugin applet.

apt-get install network-manager-openconnect-gnome

You can also use openconnect on the commandline, for example:



Upon startup, UDEV detects hardware and loads needed modules into the kernel. These loaded modules can be viewed with lsmod and loaded manually (removed) with "modprobe (-r)"

It is possible to force or prevent the loading of a module by listing the name of these modules in one of these files:

  • /etc/modules-version (version is the kernel version)
  • /etc/modules-major (major is the major kernel version - 2.6)
  • /etc/modules

Modules can also have parameters and arguments passed to them with these files. The SMXI script also has a procedure for adding and removing particular modules.


hdaps - advanced harddrive protection for thinkpads. (tp-smapi no longer supported by new thinkpads, see:

  1. Liquorix kernels come with tp_smapi and hdaps modules compiled

  2. Load now with modprobe -a tp_smapi hdaps, OR

    $echo 'tp_smapi' >> /etc/modules
    $echo 'hdaps' >> /etc/modules
  3. Add these lines to /etc/modprobe.conf/local.conf

    options thinkpad_ec force_io=1
    options hdaps invert=1
  4. Set charging threshholds, tp_smapi needs sysfsutils

    $ apt-get install sysfsutils
  5. AND add these lines to sysfs.conf:

    devices/platform/smapi/BAT0/start_charge_thresh = 30
    devices/platform/smapi/BAT0/stop_charge_thresh = 85
  6. Also install hdapsd to run HDAPS from userspace. This will pull in tp-smapi-dkms and dkms (debian versions of these modules), but I subsequently removed tp-smapi-dkms.


Generally, use apt:

apt update
apt upgrade  # OR dist-upgrade (same as full-upgrade)

The reference suggests that apt dist-upgrade may be more suited to major upgrades (between releases, stable to testing, etc)

Google Drive

Use the drive package here:

Someone has made a Debian package for this, see: MAINTENANCE SCRIPTS

See and

Install scripts using:

cd /usr/local/bin && wget -Nc && unzip && smxi

Upon installing and running the script it asks a bunch of configuration questions. Add these options:

  1. Use liquorix kernel
  2. Use apt-get
  3. Set distribution to testing
  4. Use full-upgrade instead of safe

These options can be reset by erasing /etc/smxi.conf

Upon reaching the main menu (after upgrades), there are several options:

  1. Install packages (non-free stuff, large packages, etc)
  2. Remove packages (remove unneeded packages - bluetooth, gnomemeeting, etc)
  3. Clean up stuff
  4. Miscellaneous tweaks (tweaks to mozilla, change script config, etc)
  5. Virtual machine installer
  6. Kernel options (install new kernels, add/remove modules)
  7. Continue to graphics installer
  8. Restart X/desktop
  9. Stop Script

So far have done these actions:

  • apt cleanups
  • removed unneeded xorg modules
  • installed google-earth


Sudo is installed by default. Privileges are granted through the /etc/sudoers file, which must be edited with visudo. I added these lines to the sudoers file:

User_Alias  ADMINS = greg   # Under 'User alias specification'
ADMINS ALL = ALL            # Under 'User privilege specification'

To create a list of administrator accounts and grant myself sudo access to all commands.

Other options

  • Aliases to individual commands can be added with Cmnd_Alias statements and these can be added to User privilege specifications also (instead of ALL)
  • To maintian syntax highlighting when using sudo from the terminal I used 2 approaches:

    1. Add these to sudoers file (with visudo):

      Defaults        env_keep += "HOME COLORFGBG LS_COLORS"
      Defaults        env_reset
    2. create .bash_aliases file and add alias sudo='sudo ' to it.


Add this line to fstab:

# mount /dev/sda5 as /home/greg/data
UUID=79faee16-4164-4fcc-b19c-499084c3764f /home/greg/data ext4 defaults 0 2


A NAS drive can be browsed and edited a variety of ways. Note that there are a number of users using the share. Mounting the drive with CIFS can be done with these steps:

  1. Create the /media/nas_name/ directory

  2. This command (as root) should mount the drive:

    mount -t cifs //<ip-address>/<share-name> /media/<mntpt-name> -o nounix,user=greg,file_mode=0777,dir_mode=0777
  3. There is a script (~scripts/ that can be run with sudo to mount the drive.

  4. Unmount with:

    sudo umount /<mntpt-name>/
  5. This drive is also available by ssh using:

    ssh -l <username> <ip-address>

Network drives can also be mounted with gvfs, as long as gvfs-backends is installed (this contains a gvfs-smb package).

Rsyncs to this drive can be done through ssh for backups.


See:, cups help screens in http://localhost:631

  1. Install cups, cups-client, and foomatic printer driver packages (these should most likely already be here)
  2. Start cups with /etc/init.d/cups start
  3. Navigate to http://localhost:631/

    There should be a web interface to cups here where it should be possible to add a printer.

    1. Administration(login as root)-->Add Printer-->
    2. HP LaserJets are usually on AppSocket protocol using port 9100, so select this option from the bottom of this list (below network printers).
    3. Enter socket://<ip-address>:9100/ for the URI connection
    4. Name the printer with human readable identifiers.
    5. Select make and driver (HP LaserJet4250 Foomatic/Postscript for BowlingLJ).
    6. Add printer.
    7. Set Default options (two sided, etc)
    8. You can now set this printer as default if desired.


openssh-client should be installed for ssh access to remote hosts. For added security, it is best to use public/private keys during ssh sessions. To do this:

  1. Generate a public/private ssh key pair with ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "email address"

    This will put a public/private key pair in the ~/.ssh directory. You will be asked for a passphrase, which will be needed when sending the public key to a host computer.

  2. Copy the public key to a remote host using ssh-copy-id user@hostid, or by manually appending the public key to the hosts .ssh/authorized_keys file, like:

    cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh user@server 'cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys'

  3. ssh-agent can save the passphrase for your public key, just use ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa. Ive never gotten this to work in XFCE. Needs to be done at the creation of the desktop or bash session, but I'm not sure how this works. Try using keychain, seahorse, etc for this. Or read this -> or the GitHub tutorial.

  4. Make a list of hostnames and ips in /etc/hosts for easier access to frequenly accessed hosts.


  1. Install thunderbird
  2. run icedove -profilemanager, create a profile and point it to the profile in ~/data/thunderbird-profiles/pu3xvoh
    • alternatively, just move the profile folder into ~/.thunderbird and edit the profiles.ini file to point to that folder (pu3xvoh.default)

Python for data analysis

Download miniconda from here: and run with

bash <miniconda-file-name>

Conda is the package manager and conda install <package-name> will install packages. To keep conda install small by cleaning out tarballs and old packages useconda clean -tp`.

The anaconda distribution also includes pandoc, which plays well with the system Tex distribution.


Install with apt. There are other ways, as with conda, but this seems easier. Conda does not have all the packages I need.

sudo apt-get install r-base r-base-dev

To run R in Jupyter notebooks install IRKernel using the linux source method (libzmq3-dev first).

Then use install.packages('xxx') to get packages, and remember that R updates will require package reinstallation.

Often R complains about missing Debian packages (curl, ssl) and may fail if miniconda/anaconda is already installed (may want to change dir name).

Common packages: tidyverse, xts, rgdal, data.table, automap, forecast, ggmap, cowplot, raster, SPEI

Note: you have to put these in a vector ( c('tidyverse', 'xts', ...) )

Sometimes it is easier to install packages from the debian repo than cran. This was the case for rgl (sudo apt install r-cran-rgl).


Matlab installer for linux is pretty straightforward these days. MATLAB can be installed in /usr/local/ unless there is not enough space (3-6 GB depending on toolboxes).

To get a desktop launcher in the menu (with icon), do:

sudo wget -O /usr/share/icons/matlab.png

then make a matlab.desktop file in /usr/share/applications/ that points to the icon and executes matlab -desktop


May be required for rgdal and other stuff (qgis should bring this in I think).

sudo apt-get install libproj-dev libgdal-dev


I install the texlive package from debian repositories. It is smaller than texlive-full, but still very functional. For use with pandoc I also installtexlive-xetex.


See , , and

  1. Need iwlwifi modlule loaded into kernel

This requires firmware (non-free package is firmware-iwlwifi) to be installed

  1. Also install wireless-tools package
  2. Verify device is accessible with iwconfig
  3. Raise interface with ifconfig wlan0 up
  4. Configure wireless interface with network-manager or wicd
  5. Be sure to point wicd to wlan0

Other steps


There are a couple ways to install it - covered here:

I use the oracle ppa, and add it to /etc/apt/sources.list.d/virtualbox.list


  1. Stop console beeps while in X with (as root) xset b off
  2. Stop console beep on gdm login screen using gdmsetup program

    OR uncomment set bell-style none in /etc/inputrc for a permanent solution in consoles.

    OR blacklist the kernel module by adding `blacklist pcspkr" to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf


arandr provides screen management (frontend for `xrandr" commands). VGA 1 is the VGA port on the side of the laptop, LVDS1 is the laptop's screen

URXVT and other X configs

Setting preferences for X and X applications can be done using .Xdefaults and .Xresources files. See After adding something to these files use `xrdb -merge ~/.Xdefaults/Xresources".

urxvt is a nice light terminal to replace xterm, but it pays to configure its default colors:

Create ~/.Xdefaults Add a bunch of lines with color definitions and other URxvt config options I used the wiki at Also see


Installed vim with vim-gtk3 Configured in .vimrc using the Brad Moolenar example from vim website Added `set nobackup" to keep annoying backup files (file.txt~) away.


  1. Download binary from
  2. Extract binary and move to desired folder (probably /usr/local/installed)
  3. Run with './btsync'
  4. Access user interface at http://localhost:8888/gui/

May want to autostart this


I installed Shotwell as a photo organizer This relies on libgphoto2 to communicate with my Canon cameras, it all seems to work as long as this is installed. Gphoto2 can be used to access cameras on the command line.


See here:

There is a skype for linux deb package to download at:

SIGNAL has instructions for the desktop app


Installing .deb files: Debian packages (.deb files) can be downloaded from various sources. They can be unpacked and installed with `dpkg -i ..." If the .deb fails to install read the dependency output and install the required dependencies and then reinstall.

Getting information about packages: apt-cache showpkg ..." gives very detailed info about packages, dependencies, etc.apt-cache policy ..." gives info about the repositories a package is in apt-get show ..." gives general info about packages, good for prior to install"apt-cache search ..." searches for a packageapt-get install -s ..." simulates the install of a package

Viewing logs: All logs are in /var/log/. They can be viewed in a terminal using less, more, etc. `tail /var/log/..." shows the last 10 lines of a log. "tail -f /var/log/... follows the log and updates the display as it is appended.


  • xorg
  • openbox
  • obconf
  • xfce4
  • zotero extension - point to ~/data/literature/zotero in prefs
  • gnumeric
  • abiword
  • libreoffice writer, calc, impress
  • libreoffice-gtk (helps with desktop integration)
  • htop
  • powertop
  • vim-gtk - set prefs with .vimrc (use moolenaar example)
  • google-earth - installed with smxi
  • chromium-browser
  • gimp
  • numpy
  • scipy
  • matplotlib
  • ipython
  • shotwell
  • rdesktop (remote desktop for windows access)
  • mpd (music player daemon)
  • gmpc (client for music player daemon)
  • hpodder (podcatcher)