Debian in a box

Installing a custom-tailored Debian system

This documents how you can install a “box” system image by essentially doing the following:

  1. Download a suitable image and load it onto the target computer.
  2. Start the computer, log in and personalize, and maybe include some addons.

Result is a pure Debian system (not a fork nor a fixated snapshot).


You need a supported computer, a microSD card, and an ethernet access.

Choose image

Each image is tailored for a specific computer, and multiple revisions may be available. Choose the newest revision for your computer (or try an older revision if that doesn’t work - and tell us about the problems you experienced).

The images are all freely licensed software, except “nonfree” images which are licensed less freely. Please check that legal risks are acceptable to you before using those!

Download image

Download newest Lime2 image or Teres-I image (or browse through all images).

Recommended approach is to use one of the command-line tools aria, curl, or wget.

With aria, use this command (adapt URL to match your image):


With curl, use this command (adapt URL to match your image):

curl --remote-name

With wget, use this command (adapt URL to match your image):


With rsync, use this command (adapt URL to match your image):

rsync rsync:// .

Store image

You need to transfer the downloaded image onto your install device - i.e. overwrite the whole raw disk device (not a partition on the disk).

NB! Take great care not to accidentally overwrite the wrong disk device!

First identify the path name of the install device by running a command repeatedly - with and without the install device plugged in - to notice which device changes in the output of the command.

On linux, try this command:

lsblk --paths

On macOS, try this command:

ls /dev/rdisk?

The path is listed in the first column - something like /dev/sdf or /dev/rdisk7.

Check also that the disk is not mounted, on linux shown in last column of output of above command. If the device disk has anything mounted then unmount it before preceeding.

Decompress and copy image onto card (adjust image name and device path as needed):

gunzip core-lime2-bullseye-v1.1.14.img.gz
sudo cp core-lime2-bullseye-v1.1.14.img PATH_TO_YOUR_SDCARD

Boot system

Turn off the target computer, plug in the microSD card, turn on power, and log in.


You can log in either directly or via another computer, when login service is ready (20-60 seconds).

With screen and keyboard directly connected, log in at prompt.

From another linux system (requires avahi-utils), look up hostname and login with ssh:

avahi-browse --terminate _ssh._tcp
ssh debian@HOSTNAME_LISTED_ABOVE.local

From a macOS or Windows system, look up hostname (press CTRL+c to stop) and login with ssh:

dns-sd -B _ssh._tcp
ssh debian@HOSTNAME_LISTED_ABOVE.local

Network setup

Ideally the system should have internet access during setup. You can skip this part, but are then recommended to revisit both this section and general setup when system later gets online.

Check network access (status should ideally be routable):

networkctl status

Optionally you can additionally test connectivity towards a common public host:

mtr --displaymode=1

With ethernet (builtin or a USB dongle), just connect cable.

With wifi, do something like this:

iwctl station wlan0 get-networks
iwctl station wlan0 connect SSID_LISTED_ABOVE

If above fails with error message

Operation failed

then try restart iwd:

sudo service iwd restart

…and then repeat the iwctl commands.

static IP

If a network connection requires fixed IP address, first do the appropriate setup above and check the link name of the device:

networkctl list

…and then do something like this (adapt to replace “eth0” with link name in above listing):

cp /etc/systemd/network/ /etc/systemd/network/
nano /etc/systemd/network/
# Replace line "Name=..." with line "Name=eth0"
# Add lines "Address=..." and "Gateway=..." and "DNS=..." as needed
# Remove line "DHCP=..."
# Quit nano with CTRL+x and agree to save changes under proposed name
service systemd-networkd restart

General setup

Finalize setup of the system:

sudo system-setup

System is succesfully finalized when it ends with this message:

Box setup configured succesfully!

Otherwise follow the instructions provided, if any, or please consider report as a bug in the system-setup script.


System is quite minimal, but ships with several optional addons all starting with “box-add-”.

Examples are a (more complete) text-based user interface:

sudo box-add-tui

…and a graphical desktop environment:

sudo box-add-gui


These binary images are built from Debian packages and build routines written by Jonas Smedegaard. The build routines, available at, are licensed under the GNU General Public License, version 3 or newer.

When this text is accompagnied by binary system images, the following applies to satisfy license requirements:

I hereby offer to provide the source code for the relevant Debian binary packages, included in the installer, on request. However, you will probably find it easier to acquire these packages from the official Debian resources, and/or

Jonas Smedegaard Thu, 27 Jun 2019 12:35:09 +0200