Linked by Eugenia Loli on Sun 20th Oct 2002 17:14 UTC
Debian and its clones "This is a critical review of Debian 3.0, but I want to say right from the start that I'm not trying to bait anyone. However I feel that reviewers often root for Debian as the open-source underdog, and give it marks which it doesn't deserve. If RedHat 8.0 came out with installation software like Debian 3.0 it would be savaged. I think it's time for an honest review, to spur the Debian developers into making the best possible distribution. I really want Debian to succeed. I want to use it daily, and recommend it to my friends. But I can't do that right now and I think it's important people understand why." Read the review and its (already long) discussion at DebianPlanet.
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Debian is the second distro you should use
by Xirzon on Sun 20th Oct 2002 18:06 UTC

Debian doesn't work as a first user distro. As the reviewer correctly points out, the installation requires knowledge about configuration details that the user cannot possibly have at that early point, as the documentation is not even installed yet. It's true, Debian developers don't care about end users -- their approach is the "works for me" methodology.

But if you have some Linux experience, Debian is a good distro for everyday usage. Once you have a good idea how Linux works, it should be no big deal to set up a usable Debian system. From "usable" to "optimal" is of course another step, the Debian defaults are good for servers but bad for desktops (you really need to go through the X "deuglification" process, for example).

But why bother with Debian? Mostly because of the packages. There are thousands of Debian software packages that work without any knowledge or tweaking. And these are not just "dumb" packges, they often include clever configuration scripts, which use a standardized front-end (debconf). So no matter whether you install Apache or Tuxracer, the configuration looks the same. Once you have gotten used to apt-get (or one of its various, decent front-ends) you won't want to go back. It's a killer feature.

Also, when it comes to system configuration, doing things on the low level of config files has its advantages. Red Hat & Co. give you nice front-ends for a lot of stuff, but when these fail, you have to get your hands dirty anyway. Understanding how the system works helps you when problems arise.

If you want to save yourself the learning curve Debian requires and still get apt's goodness, Lindows might be a good choice. It's either pay up or learn. But I don't see apt-rpm or urpmi as serious competitors yet -- for one thing, as far as I know there's no standardized package configuration for RPM. As Eugenia points out again and again, dependency hell is a serious long term problem for daily Linux usage, and Debian is the only distro that properly solves it.

Sure, it would be great if Debian was extended to be a good first-time-user desktop distro. But I don't see this happening anytime soon. Someone needs to do the work, and people are just not motivated enough to work on projects that primarily benefit others, not themselves.

My recommendation: Start with SuSE or Red Hat, then move to Debian when you're ready.