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Refracta 7 (Wheezy) release notes

This is Refracta-7.00. It is based on Debian 7 (Wheezy) and uses Debian repositories for packages. The installed packages and the desktop environment (xfce-4.8) are relatively unchanged from the previous few versions of Refracta.



The root password is root.

The user password is user.

You can use the 'su' command to become root, or use 'sudo <command>' for root permissions or use 'sudo -i' to get a root terminal.

You can also use 'gksu <command>' or 'gksudo <command>' to run a graphical application with root privileges.

Change language/locale and keyboard layout

To change only the keyboard layout on the desktop, click on the "us" next to the date on the panel, and select the layout you want. Preconfigured choices are U.S. English, U.K. (gb) English, and German (de). To add another layout, right-click on the "us" and select Properties. Click on Add, and select the one you want. The maximum number of layouts you can have is four. You can also use the keyboard shortcut, Alt-Shift to toggle through the choices.

To change the locale at the boot screen, press TAB and append the boot options at the bottom of the screen with the appropriate locale. This information is also available in the Help section at the boot screen.


boot: config=refracta-lang,tzdata lang=de_DE

boot: live config=locales,keyboard-configuration 
locales=de_DE.UTF-8 keyboard-layouts=de

To change the locale after booting the system, and to add locales, open a terminal and give the command:

sudo /etc/init.d/lightdm stop

You will be dropped to console, where you can log in as root (or log in as user and prepend the next commands with 'sudo'.) To change the default locale or to add locales:

dpkg-reconfigure locales

To change the console keyboard layout and the language used in the system messages:

dpkg-reconfigure console-data

Be sure to make a sane choice, most likely one that begins with "pc". You'll need to log out of the console and log in again to see the change. To return to the desktop:

/etc/init.d/lightdm start

You can also select the language at the graphical login screen. Any locales that have been added will show up as a choice. You'll still need to change the keyboard layout from the panel applet once you're on the desktop.

System and network information

For System Information, look in the menu under System --> System Profiler and Benchmark, or use one of the command-line utilities (lshw or hwinfo).

To get the current IP and MAC addresses, run 'netinfo' as user. The network manager can be found in the menu under Network --> Wicd. For wired ethernet, you shouldn't need to use it. For wireless, see below. If you like to configure static IP in /etc/network/interfaces, then you may want to disable or remove wicd.

To disable wicd: Run sysv-rc-conf and un-check all boxes for wicd. To remove wicd: 'apt-get remove wicd' or 'aptitude remove wicd'

Wireless configuration

Menu: Network --> Wicd Network Manager --> select the right network if you see any. You might need to go into Preferences and add the name of your wireless interface. (Example: wlan0) Then hit Refresh to see nearby wireless networks.

(Note: If this doesn't work, see below for manual network configuration, or use a wire - eth0 is set for dhcp.)

Anti-virus software

ClamAV is included in case you need to scan a Windows hard drive for viruses. The virus database is in /home/clamav, so you might be able to update the database if you run refracta from a live-usb and use a persistent /home partition on the usb stick.

Example (Scan a mounted Windows partition):

clamscan -vir /mnt/windows


If you need to configure xorg.conf from the console, run display-savior (/usr/local/bin/display-savior). It will create /etc/X11/xorg.conf according to the options you select.

Web browser

Iceweasel can be started with the globe icon on the panel or from the menu. Cookies are allowed for all sites. To change this, go to Edit --> Preferences --> Privacy --> "Use custom settings for history".

NoScript is installed and allowed globally. Use the "S" icon in the upper left (near the address bar) to enable it and to whitelist sites.

Watching flash video

No flash video plugin is installed at this time, but it may be in a future release. You can install browser-plugin-gnash from the main debian repository, or you can enable the non-free repository and install flashplugin-nonfree. See the Pagckages and Sources section below for enabling non-free.

You can convert youtube or other video files to avi, mkv, mp4, and OggTheora video files, or to mp3 or flac audio files using youtube2what from the command line, or from the file manager, you can right-click on the video file and select 'youtube2what'. An alternate method to convert audio or video files is to use WinFF (in the Multimedia menu).

You can search and watch youtube videos using gtk-youtube-viewer (found in the Multimedia menu.) If you go to youtube with your web browser, and you find a video you want to watch, copy and paste the link into the youtube-viewer search box.


This build includes flashfire version 7, which runs in automatic mode with the -a option or manual mode (asks before deleting) with -m.

The script deletes flash cookies hidden in $HOME/.adobe/ and $HOME/.macromedia. You can run it from a terminal or create a panel button for it and check the box that says, "Run in terminal." (/usr/local/bin/flashfire)


Printer Setup - Select "Printers" from the menu, or start the cups print manager manually by opening a web browser and going to http://localhost:631 then go into Administration Give the root password when you're asked for one.


Plug in scanner and open XSane. Scan.



There are currently three versions of Refracta Installer. If you select Refracta Installer from the System menu, you'll get one of the gui versions. The preferred script uses Yad for a graphical front end. If yad is not installed, there's a zenity-based script that will run. You can call either script from command line with 'refractainstaller-yad' or 'refractainstaller-gui'.

See comments in /etc/refractainstaller.conf for various options that can be set there.

See /usr/lib/refractainstaller/installer_exclude.list if you want to change the list of files/directories that won't be copied to the installed system.

If you run 'refractainstaller' from a terminal or console, you'll get the non-gui version. Unlike the gui version, the non-gui version does not give you the option to change the username. Instead, you can run change-username (as root) after you boot into the newly-installed system.




A limited number of packages can be added or removed by going to System --> Install Software in the menu. The full Debian repositories are available using any of the normal methods to install packages in Debian. (apt-get, aptitude or Synaptic Package Manager)

Important note: You need to update the package cache before you can install anything. As root, run 'apt-get update' or 'aptitude update' first, or in Synaptic, click on Reload. If you want to use apt-file, then run 'apt-file update' first.

Apt is set not to install recommended packages with the packages you choose to install. This helps to reduce the size of the live-CD image. To change this behavior and revert to the debian default of installing Recommends, edit /etc/apt/apt.conf and comment out the line with double forward slashes, like this:

//APT::Install-Recommends 0;

This build contains a lot of command-line utilities. A partial list follows. For a complete list of installed packages, see package_list.txt on the installation media.

cryptsetup curl htop ddrescue dosfstools  ethtool fdupes fuse-utils 
grub-doctor hardinfo hddtemp hdparm hwinfo iftop irssi lm-sensors 
lshw lvm2 ntfs-3g ntfsprogs openssh-server p7zip-full partimage 
pppconfig pppoeconf read-edid rsync sdparm smartmontools 
squashfs-tools sshfs sysv-rc-conf testdisk unzip w3m whois zenmap zsync

The contrib and non-free repositories are not enabled at this time. They may be enabled in a future release. Until then, you can add the words, "contrib" and/or "non-free" to /etc/apt/sources.list like this:

deb wheezy main contrib non-free

Update the package cache after editing sources.list.

Wireless drivers from the non-free repository are not installed, but there are package files for them in /home/user/wireless_drivers. They can be installed as root with:

dpkg -i <filename>.deb

Refracta github

The refracta github repository can be accessed and updated to get any newer versions of scripts that are specific to refracta. To update files, do the following as unpriveliged user:

cd /home/github/refracta
git pull origin master

Then, either copy the desired file into place or install any new .deb files you want, as root:

dpkg -i <filename>.deb

If you get an error on 'git pull origin master' and it refuses to update, do the following. Select all:

cd /home/github
rm -r refracta
git clone git://

Debian multimedia repo

Uncomment (or add) the deb line for in /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb wheezy main non-free

Then run:

apt-get (or aptitude) install debian-multimedia-keyring
apt-get (or aptitude) update

(or maybe you need to run the update before you install the keyring)

Add backports repo

Uncomment (or add) the deb line for in /etc/apt/sources.list

deb wheezy-backports main.

As root:

apt-get (or aptitude) update

apt-get (or aptitude) -t wheezy-backports install <package>

Note: Useful only after installing to hard drive.




Make your own live-cd

After you install to hard drive and configure the software and desktop the way you want, run Refracta Snapshot (from the System menu) or run refractasnapshot (in a console) to create an iso image that you can burn to CD.

You need a lot of free space on the hard drive to create a snapshot. Run 'df -h' to make sure you're not using more than around 30-35% of the disk. (Less free space is needed if some of the used space is taken up by other snapshots or by a saved copy of the system in the work directory.)

See comments in /etc/refractasnapshot.conf for various options that can be set there.

See /usr/lib/refractasnapshot/snapshot_exclude.list if you want to change the list of files/directories that won't be copied to the live system.

Make your own live-USB

1. refracta2usb (Preferred method)

This script will create a bootable usb device and put the filesystem from your live-CD image into a pre-formatted fat32 partition. You can create a second partition, formatted as ext2 on the stick. The second partition can be used to store files. It can be used in the standard debian-live manner of persistence, or with the use of some custom scripts in Refracta, it can be used as an encrypted /home directory. (see /usr/share/doc/refracta2usb/readme.refracta2usb.txt)

2. iso-hybrid (only if you must)

This is good if you just need to transfer the image to removable media for the purpose of installation to hard drive, or if you just want to check out Refracta without burning a CD. Use the dd command, and be careful!

A usb drive prepared this way will act like a live-CD. It will be a read-only system, and you will not be able to create a second partition on the device. If you later want to use the device for data storage, you'll need to zero the first 2048 KB before re-writing the partition table.




SSH into live-cd from remote client

From remote-client:

ssh user@host(or IP number)

The ssh server is turned on and root access with password is allowed on the live-CD. Root access gets disabled upon installation. If you wish to turn off the ssh server during a session, go to the System menu, choose Services and un-check the box for ssh. Or, from the command line:

/etc/init.d/ssh start|stop|restart

Mount a remote share with SSHFS

# mount
sshfs  user@host:/home/user  <mountpoint>

# unmount
fusermount -u <mountpoint>

Mount/unmount encrypted partition

cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdX  label
mount /dev/mapper/label  <mountpoint>

umount <mountpoint>
cryptsetup luksClose /dev/mapper/label

Mount/unmount encrypted LVM

sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdxY label
# then run lvdisplay to get the vg name and lv name
sudo vgchange -a y <volume_group_name>  # (e.g. vol0)
mount /dev/mapper/<vg_name-lv_name>    # (e.g. vol0-datapart)

umount /media/mapper_vgname-lvname
sudo vgchange -a n vol0
sudo cryptsetup luksClose label

To create an encrypted partition

cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sdxY
cryptsetup luksOpen  /dev/sdxY label
mke2fs -j /dev/mapper/label


mke2fs -t ext4 /dev/mapper/label

Then mount/unmount as above.

Mount NTFS partition

mount -t ntfs-3g -o rw,umask=000 /dev/sdxY <mountpoint>

Mount Windows share

# This needs troubleshooting. 
mount.cifs  //windows-host/user  <mountpoint> -o uid=user,gid=user
umount.cifs  <mountpoint>

This works:

Or connect through Thunar (File Manager) -->> Network -->> choose a workgroup

VNC over SSH

(Optional) Add ssh authorization key:

ssh-add /path-to-key/id_rsa

There are several ways to start a vnc session.

1. Use custom scripts: vncssh (on client) and vncserv (on server)

If xserver is running and user is logged in to desktop on remote-host, open a terminal on the client and run vncssh.

vncssh  [user@]<host>[:xdisplay][port]

(user, xdisplay and port are optional)


vncssh fred@homeserver 1234

If user is not logged in on remote host, but xserver is running:

vncssh root@remote-host

2. If the server does not have the vncserv script, but it does have x11vnc installed, you can edit /usr/local/bin/vncssh and change:

cmd="x11vnc -auth /var/run/lightdm/root/:0 -localhost -display :0"

3. Do it manually, without the scripts:

Start remote vnc server over ssh:

ssh -t -L 5900:localhost:5900 user@remote-host 'x11vnc -localhost -display :0'

If user is not logged in on remote host, or if the remote host is using some display manager other than lightdm, do something like the following.

Log into remote host through ssh and get the auth file from 'ps ax | grep auth'. For lightdm, it will probably be /var/run/lightdm/root/:0 and for gdm3, find the line in the output that has gmd3 in it and look to the end for a filename with random characters in it.

Then exit and run:

ssh -t -L 5900:localhost:5900 root@remote-host 'x11vnc -auth /path/to/authfile -localhost -display :0'

Once you've started the remote vnc server, open another terminal, and connect to the remote desktop with:

vncviewer -encodings "copyrect tight hextile" localhost:0

4. If xserver is not running on the remote-host, you won't be able to use x11vnc. You can remedy this on the server by installing xvfb and editing /usr/local/bin/vncserv to uncomment the following lines:

#   x11vnc -create -env FD_PROG=/usr/bin/xfce4-session  \
#      -env X11VNC_CREATE_GEOM=${1:-1024x768x16} \
#      -gone 'killall Xvfb' \
#      -bg -nopw

Yet another way to do VNC

This way is ok on a local network but is not as secure as with ssh.

On the server:

Main menu --> Internet --> X11VNC Server
Click OK (or change the port if you want)
Another window comes up, check the box next to "Accept Connections"
Optionally, you can create a password.
Click Apply or OK

On the client, issue the command:


A small window comes up; enter the name or IP number of the remote server. Click OK.


vncviewer remote-host:0

For more details, see

Sample wireless configuration

Manual configuration (not needed if wicd works)

Edit /etc/network/interfaces

This example is for WPA2 Personal encryption with shared ASCII key. Items marked with ### are only needed for encrypted networks. Use appropriate local IP numbers.

# wireless interface
iface wlan0 inet static
	wpa-driver   wext
	wpa-ssid <ssid>
### wpa-proto is WPA for WPA1 (aka WPA) or RSN for WPA2 
	wpa-proto RSN
### wpa-pairwise and wpa-group is TKIP for WPA1 or CCMP for WPA2
	wpa-pairwise CCMP
	wpa-group CCMP
### use 'wpa_passphrase <ssid> [passphrase]' to generate hex-key
### enter the result below
	wpa-psk <hex-key>
	gateway (maybe)

	auto wlan0

Start/stop the interface with:

ifup wlan0
ifdown wlan0
Add router or dns server address to /etc/resolv.conf


get-edid | parse-edid