I probably could have fixed it given enough time and inspiration, but my / partition wouldn't mount despite fsck assuring me it was fine and I've been wanting to try Debian Testing as my main desktop for a while.
Back in 2003 I ran Debian 3.0 Stable as a desktop before reverting back to SuSE and I've used Ubuntu for the last 3 years or so, so Debian isn't exactly a stranger to me. More recently, for the last several months I've had a non-gui Debian Testing VirtualBox client server and Testing seems stable enough for my purposes. The reason why I'm interested in using Testing is to avoid the whole upgrade process and simultaneously avoid Debian's release cycles ... For a production server their philosophy is correct, but I really want to play with newer software.
So far I've installed the base system and added KDE to it. As I refer synaptic, I've added in quite a bit of gnome. I'll probably be rebuilding for a couple of nights more before restoring my home directories. Fingers crossed that that goes smoothly.
I've had one incredibly annoying problem where my screen would flicker every 10 seconds or so and at the same rate all consoles received a message "[drm] nouveau 0000:01:00.0: No native mode, forcing panel scaling" A bit of Googling found me the solution to this on a Debian mailing list
edit /etc/default/grub change the Linux command line to read GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet drm_kms_helper.poll=0" sudo update-grub2 rebootI've also got another annoyance that "sudo kate" (or other X program) can't access the display. I'm working around that for now by running root commands through a terminal session that I've sshed back to localhost
ssh -X -l root localhost
Not the world's most elegant solution, but it works for now, I'm sure I'll find the answer when I budget time to look.
I suspect I'll be finding out more little annoyances as I go, but for now I'm quite happy with how things are going