Home > Debian > Will Debian Survive the Rise of Linux? Will Debian Survive the Rise of Linux? Eugenia Loli 2003-06-30 Debian 65 Comments Read the editorial regarding the future of Debian, at Linmagau. On the same web site find an interview with Jeff Waugh, coordinator release manager of Gnome. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 65 Comments 2003-06-30 4:43 pm What that article didn’t mention is Knoppix. The only reason I’m using a Debian based Linux right now is because Knoppix made the install painless and simple enough for me. For those who aren’t familiar with Knoppix, it boots a a live CD. Not only do you get to test drive Linux without doing an actual hard disk install, the autodetection among the best in the Linux distributions I’ve tried (namely SuSE, Mandrake, RedHat). Seeing as Knoppix is getting a lot more popular, I’m inclined to believe that Debian isn’t going away anytime soon. 2003-06-30 5:04 pm I am doing web development on RedHat box, and my Net connection is 56K modem. I am simply not interested in many areas where Debian shines. RedHat is good enough and easier to install. People who benefit from Debian are sysadmins and some solution providers, and I am not one of them. With my Internet connection apt-get does not mean much. As a matter of fact I am recently considering Mandrake and Suse, because they require even less effort. DG 2003-06-30 5:08 pm Debian will exist for as long as the developers care to keep it going. 2003-06-30 5:18 pm I agree with out about apt-get. I’m on regular 56K dialup too. I bought the whole set of Woody CD’s and (IIRC) had problems setting up dialup. I seem to recall problems with wwwolfe or ISDN (?) or some such… well, it was a while ago. Now I’m a happy Redhat9 user. Personally, I like rpm well enough, and having freshrpms.net around is awesome. I don’t mind one bit paying Redhat for each new release — I like to help support the company with my business. They are a *good* presence in the free-software community. 2003-06-30 5:20 pm Whoops. I meant I agree with Drazen, not “out”. Funky typo. 2003-06-30 5:41 pm I think RPM is fine too. urpmi and apt4rpm have fixed all of RPMs deficiencies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does apt-get really offer a compelling reason to go through the pain of installing Debian? 2003-06-30 5:42 pm Along the same lines as the first post, I use Debian, but I got there by using Libranet 2.8. Installation was on par with RedHat (though it isn’t fully graphical). I like to stay bleeding edge on a lot of applications (using a mix of testing and unstable). I tried this under RedHat and quickly ended up in dependency hell (just my personal experience). APT/Synaptic works well for me, but I have broadband. The problem is that most users aren’t willing (or able) to brave unstable. Linux desperately needs an APPLICATION installation system. I almost get this with Debian (using Synaptic), but it isn’t application centric enough for the average user. There are simply too many packages. I would also prefer a less centralized system. 2003-06-30 6:05 pm Apt-get makes upgrading your system very easy. No matter if you use stable, testing or unstable, with two commands (or one if you combine them) you can keep your system up-to-date. And if you use stable, you only need those two commands to upgrade to 3.1 when it becomes available. If you read about apt4rpm, it is not that good about upgrading your system. For the rest, Debian has with Aptitude (unfortunately broken in “unstable), an enhanced apt-get which remembers which packages were installed as a dependency, so when all those libraries are not needed anymore aptitude can remove them. It also has a nice (textmode) interface for selecting packages, based on categories. It is more user-friendly than synaptic. Additionally, Debian does not install gigabytes of nonsense. Only a small basic system is installed by default, you choose what to install on it. That way you can save lots of disk space. For example, where my Debian system was 1.5 GB and fully functional for me, my SuSE 8.2 system quickly became 3.5 GB. There also is a strict policy at Debian that any software in testing and stable should always get less critical bugs, not more, all packages should compile on all platforms and they should strictly follow the Filesystem Hiearchy Standard. Finally, with “tasksel” you can, for example, select “KDE system” or “C++ development” after which all necessary software is installed. These sets are very clear, not as fuzzy as SuSE’s “Graphical system” or “Development”. So Debian does have it’s advantages besides dependency solving. 2003-06-30 6:20 pm I managed to install Debian through Morphix HeavyGUI (gives you Debian with Gnome). The installation was quick and painless, but Debian lacks graphical system configuration utilities. Almost everything needs to be configured manually by editing init or config scripts. Installing new programs and updating system through apt-get/Synaptic is very easy. BTW, I noticed a curious thing: in Debian one cannot shutdown or reboot the system as a normal user (need to login as root first). I guess Debian really isn’t designed for home desktop usage. 2003-06-30 6:20 pm What a bunch of crap. I couldn’t even read the entire article, because it sucks. Have you ever used apt-rpm? You don’t find there all the packages you find with Debian’s apt-get. And all this ‘sorry lament’ is just because Debian is hard to install?? *Come on*… it’s not that hard. Much of what’s heard is just myth. And anyway, i’ve heard they’re gonna make a graphical installer for Debian, to make it easier. As for everyday-using, Debian is just as easy as RedHat. Sometimes i even think it’s easier. What’s so hard about Debian? It is not true that the people who benefits from Debian are only sysadmins… oh, *definitely* not true. Victor. 2003-06-30 6:20 pm Additionally, Debian does not install gigabytes of nonsense. Only a small basic system is installed by default, you choose what to install on it. That way you can save lots of disk space. For example, where my Debian system was 1.5 GB and fully functional for me, my SuSE 8.2 system quickly became 3.5 GB. Right. The main problem with traditional RPM based distros is huge packages. The only RPM based distro getting it right is, AFAIK, Conectiva. They ported apt and they use it as intended. What is apt good for, if you do not have the difference between application packages and meta packages? 2003-06-30 6:26 pm Debian is just as easy as RedHat. Sometimes I think one cannot compare Debian and Redhat anyway. Redhat is not a Linux distro, it’s its own platform. They won’t hasitate a second to move to something completely incompatible for no reason. They did with GCC2.96 and they will do it again on the next opportunity they see. 2003-06-30 6:36 pm And all this ‘sorry lament’ is just because Debian is hard to install?? *Come on*… it’s not that hard. Much of what’s heard is just myth. And anyway, i’ve heard they’re gonna make a graphical installer for Debian, to make it easier. Debian is a PITA to install!!! Sure, the actual setup program is navigable, but once you leave that, you’re left to the wolves without any clue how to configure any of the things you need for a traditional desktop install of Linux. Documentation isn’t good enough to make up for the overall unfriendliness of Debian either. If an experienced Linux/BSD user can’t even setup a mouse under XFree86 (I’ve used Linux since the RedHat 5.2 days and manually configured XFree several times under the BSDs) after spending hours of research on the topic. (I still never actually figured out what I was doing wrong) It just doesn’t seem worth the effort to me. I’ve tried installing Debian three times, and everytime I went back to either FreeBSD or RedHat/Mandrake, depending on what I wanted to use the box for. And yes I have used apt4rpm and it is damn slick. Repositories for all the distro packages, plus some nice extras that give me mp3 and DVD support, among other things. I’ll stick to RedHat, Mandrake, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD for my workstations and servers, thank you very much. 2003-06-30 6:58 pm >Maybe it can continue indefinitely exactly as it is, with the current userbase and developers, neither growing nor shrinking but always coming out with great new ideas that are implemented first in Debian then rapidly propagated through the other distros. Seems to work for BSD. They don’t worry about attracting new users, they worry more about putting out a quality product. Quality is always preferable to quantity. And those new Linux users playing with RedHat, Mandrake, and whatnot will eventually learn about Debian and give it a try. I don’t think every Linux distro has to go after new users to be “sucessful”. 2003-06-30 7:04 pm Lindows Xandros Libranet KNOPPIX Morphix Bonzai Gibraltar Demudi Damn Small LinuxConsole DemoLinux Eagle ESware Kurumin Omoikane Skolelinux LinEx SULIX 2003-06-30 7:15 pm Pain of installing Debian? I thought it was a great installer. It may be a menubased system, but there is nothing wrong with that. I’ve gotten systems up and serving in ~1/2 hour which isn’t bad at all. I even got my desktop up and running, with a mouse, sound, and all that other “Hard” to do things going. Debian is a victim of a myth, the “Myth of the Gui Installer” And I would say Debian did a good job auto configuring a lot of things to boot. 2003-06-30 7:19 pm Debian is a PITA to install!!! Sure, the actual setup program is navigable, but once you leave that, you’re left to the wolves without any clue how to configure any of the things you need for a traditional desktop install of Linux. Documentation isn’t good enough to make up for the overall unfriendliness of Debian either. If an experienced Linux/BSD user can’t even setup a mouse under XFree86 (I’ve used Linux since the RedHat 5.2 days and manually configured XFree several times under the BSDs) after spending hours of research on the topic. (I still never actually figured out what I was doing wrong) I don’t know what ‘PITA’ means, but… you said it yourself, the install is all about pressing “Next”. The “hard” part comes when you have to *configure* XFree. That is the *only* hard part about it, in my opinion. But here’s how you can skip that part: Get a Knoppix CD. After installing Debian, boot from Knoppix. Copy the file ‘/etc/XFree/X11/XF86Config-4’ to the floppy. Boot from Debian. Overwrite the same file on Debian with the one on your floppy. Bingo, now you got all XFree configured! I’m typing this from a Debian system, and i didn’t need to configure *one single* device in it. For the hardware i just did: apt-get install kudzu sndconfig And for XFree i did what i told you. Everything was configured “automagically”. Now what’s so hard about that? Victor. 2003-06-30 7:21 pm I too got into Debian through Libranet. I use both the “testing” and “unstable” branches and find it a lot better than the other distros I have tried. I recently went through rpm hell when I installed XD2 on RH9 (broke my RPM database) and quickly re-installed Libranet soon thereafter. I am not going back. 2003-06-30 7:30 pm Debian is easy to use. Once you are comfortable with Linux I cant think of a easier system to maintain, it makes the perfect server. I just switched a RedHat mail server to a Debian one, the RedHat one took me 3 days to set everything just so.. the Debian one only took about 5 hours. the reason I used RedHat originaly was because Im not the only admin, and the others dont have much *nix experance but so far nobdy has had to touch the Debian one. Debian will still be around.. the sanity of the comunity depends on it. 2003-06-30 7:44 pm So then from what you’re telling me, Knoppix is easy, something I already know. Why hassle with Debian if I have to use Knoppix to set it up? Why not just use Knoppix, which I’ve already used, and it is nice. Ohhh, just so you know PITA = Pain In The Ass 2003-06-30 7:48 pm I only hear good things about debian. Unfortunately though, it’s pathetically poor hardware support will let it down. I’ve tried Debian (woody), Knoppix and Morphix on 3 machines (with completely different specs) and it can’t install on any of them (I know KNoppix doesn’t stricly speaking install, but it doesn’t run from the cd either) – (note: all of which were quite happy with mandrake, suse or redhat) Linux has crap hardware support as it is, (bluetooth, ISDN, Activesync, usb etc?) but Debian’s support seems even worse that that. ON top of that of course is the fact that however much it tries it’s still Linux and comes with all the bloat and problems that linux has (and it has soooo many problems) 2003-06-30 7:49 pm the best thinga bout debian seems to be apt… although for anyone who doesn’t have broadband (or can’t get it)… i.e. most people around the world.. apt over a piss poor 56k line is sort of pointless. 2003-06-30 7:56 pm You just hit two nails on the head 2003-06-30 8:04 pm So then from what you’re telling me, Knoppix is easy, something I already know. Why hassle with Debian if I have to use Knoppix to set it up? Why not just use Knoppix, which I’ve already used, and it is nice. Ohhh, just so you know PITA = Pain In The Ass Yes, you can use Knoppix as well. What i’m saying is that there is no need for this ‘sorry lament’ article, questioning if “Debian will survive”, because the problems pointed already have a solution. It’s just a matter of Debian intergrating Knoppix detection system, something that probably will happen very soon. Therefore *of course* it will survive. Victor. 2003-06-30 8:07 pm Debian’s primary strengths are * Its stability. Debian Stable is exactly that. No unnecessary upgrades. If you want a stable platform that isn’t going to change under your feet just because some random vulnerability has been released, use Debian Stable. * Ease of management. Granted, it’s not the easiest distribution to get used to, but once you have, managing servers doesn’t get much easier. * Security. Debian’s security team is among the best. Security updates are (in my experience) available within an hour or two of the security team being made aware of issue. And by “made available”, that means apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade will pick up the update as swiftly as your bandwidth will allow. No, Debian isn’t great on desktops. If you want a desktop distribution, go get one. For servers, though, Debian shines. 2003-06-30 8:11 pm I only hear good things about debian. Unfortunately though, it’s pathetically poor hardware support will let it down. I’ve tried Debian (woody), Knoppix and Morphix on 3 machines (with completely different specs) and it can’t install on any of them (I know KNoppix doesn’t stricly speaking install, but it doesn’t run from the cd either) – (note: all of which were quite happy with mandrake, suse or redhat) Linux has crap hardware support as it is, (bluetooth, ISDN, Activesync, usb etc?) but Debian’s support seems even worse that that. ON top of that of course is the fact that however much it tries it’s still Linux and comes with all the bloat and problems that linux has (and it has soooo many problems) Wow, you just made me feel good, you know. I mean, you tried to install these 3 systems, and haven’t got any one them working. Well, i’ve tried Debian and Knoppix and it worked fine in every PC i tested (many, much more than 3 different machines)! Either i’m very good (and so is the entire Debian community) or you’re a very bad luck guy! Victor. 2003-06-30 8:12 pm ON top of that of course is the fact that however much it tries it’s still Linux and comes with all the bloat and problems that linux has (and it has soooo many problems) Debian GNU/Linux doesn’t try to be something other than Linux. If you use Linux, you sometimes have to get your hands dirty – especially when it comes to hardware support. Debian just makes it a lot less painful in many cases (see make-kpkg). For what it’s worth, the only machines I’ve seen Debian have trouble with are those with very little RAM (less than 8MB). Everything else worked just fine. Sure, you might need to work out what your hardware is before you try installing it, but what sane sysadmin doesn’t know the spec of his machines? 2003-06-30 8:12 pm good point well made. Debian.. and to a lesser extend most Linux is superb as a server. Unfortunately I’m still hoping there will be real, usable desktop distribution sometime soon. We need a real alternative to Windows 2003-06-30 8:51 pm We need a real alternative to Windows Who us “we” and why do “we” need an alternative to Windows? Especially since Windows is not an alternative in a lot of siutations: it does not run on non x86 Hardware, it does not work very well in Thin Client systems (you need extra, expensive software and user software often shows non-multiuser behaviour) The only domain Windows excells in is Single User Home Computers. People who, for whatever reason want an alternative at home, have already some options. If they don’t work well enough than obviously Windows is. If the need to use something different is not really a need, why kepp others from using the alternatives the way they do? 2003-06-30 9:03 pm I got Libranet 2.8 running, but I sometimes feel that my RH ways of doing things don’t apply on it, so it gets me frustrated sometimes. Yes I know there are documents online, but I feel safer living with books. Any suggestions? I need new ones tho. 2003-06-30 9:27 pm > Debian is a victim of a myth, the “Myth of the Gui Installer” Just for spite, I’d like to see the debian folks improve their menu-based install program to be better than *any* GUI installer. Maybe remove dselect while at the same time increasing the scope of tasksel. Also more clearly separate the installation phase from the configuration phase. Further, make it easier for us simple country folk who have no network connection other than 56K dialup off a serial port (even if our box does indeed contain a ethernet card). 2003-06-30 9:39 pm I’m not going down the “you don’t know how to install and OS” road.. I’ve installed plenty.. but my arguement with knoppix/debian et all. is that it failed on 3 machine.. how many “real” OS (excluding “hobby” oses like Atheos, OpenBeos etc) fail on fairly average modern hardware… none. (one of two bits of hardware, fine I can except that) but when you can’t even install it, then it fails on several levels. It means you can’t run the software, but moreover eats away at any confidence you ever had in the OS platform as a whole (in this case Linux). I desperately want there to be an alternative to windows (for home and business use) but I still can’t find a usable alternative on the x86 platform. 2003-06-30 9:48 pm If it is easy to set up, then I assume that setting up video, sound, networking, printer, scanner, etc is ally pretty straightforward? By comparison, WinXP and most of the user-friendly Linux distros are usually up in under an hour. How long does it take to get up and running with Debian on the first attempt? 2003-06-30 9:55 pm I’ve installed it on a Z800 IBM mainframe to a compaq IPAQ what do you mean you can’t install it on a PC! You have to know your hardware and what modules service that hardware. I believe Debian will strive as long as people want a secure reliable linux that doesn’t have any monetary motives and remains true to the Open Source Community. It is projects like GNU and Debian that keep the spirit of open source alive and Red Hat free to the public. 2003-06-30 9:57 pm Knoppix doesn’t run from CD? Sounds like you have a bad CD. If you downloaded the ISO, you could try checking the md5sum and if it is correct, re-burning the CD. Once you get Knoppix running from CD, it should install OK. 2003-06-30 10:39 pm knoppix cd iso is fine (checked md5 and burnt several times – just to be sure) – Morphix (based on knoppix) and Debian (woody) do the same thing. Boot from bootable cd, then fail to “find” the disc to continue installing. spent hours (literally) on #knoppix, with the (v friendly) guys there offering suggestions. (they were stumped). 2003-06-30 10:41 pm When Solaris for x86 and FreeBSD have better autodetection of hardware and an easier installation than a Linux distro, you know there is something wrong with that Linux distro. To get back in the game, Debian needs to stop supporting so many different architectures. Chances are that people getting an UltraSparc machine do not want to run Linux, Solaris already does a good job. Furtheremore, if people do want to run Linux on that machine, they would definately not want to run all the outdated applications/tools Debian provides. 2003-06-30 10:57 pm um… I don’t agree on that, I think the philosophy we have so many different distros and some alternative OSes is because we all want to have choices. If not, Windows already do a “good” job on x86… 2003-06-30 11:28 pm “um… I don’t agree on that, I think the philosophy we have so many different distros and some alternative OSes is because we all want to have choices. If not, Windows already do a “good” job on x86… ” I disagree with you. Because Debian has focused so strongly on getting Linux to run on all these architectures, they have been forced to write installation/hardware detection software that are able to reliably work on all these architectures. This has proven to be too difficult and they have fallen significantly behind everyone else. This is exactly why almost all the other distro’s (such as RedHat, SuSe) gained such huge leaps over Debian when they dropped support for unnecessary platforms. This is why Lindows, Knoppix, Libranet, etc. are able to do miracles when compared to Debian even though they are based on Debian. Debian needs to get back to basics. If someone wants to write an UltraSparc version of Debian, I give them my blessing, but it shouldn’t be holding back the release for the x86 architecture. Seriously though, how many people are going to be getting a 64 cpu monster Sun Server and putting Linux on it? How many people are going to run Linux on a client UltraSparc station when it is cheaper/faster to run it on x86 clients. 2003-07-01 2:33 am By comparison, WinXP and most of the user-friendly Linux distros are usually up in under an hour. How long does it take to get up and running with Debian on the first attempt? As fast as my bandwidth and CPU will allow me to download the 300megs or so i need, and compile a kernel. It usually takes me about an hour and a half, but that gives me a system which i feel comfortable with. I’ve never seen a windows install take less than an hour, granted i’ve never had to install WinXP, its possible that they made things easier. I disagree with you. Because Debian has focused so strongly on getting Linux to run on all these architectures, they have been forced to write installation/hardware detection software that are able to reliably work on all these architectures. I’m pretty certain that Debian/Alpha uses the same installer as Debian/x86. The boot code needs to be different, naturally, but once booted and the kernel is running, they can both run the same installer. We’re talking portable C code here. Hardware detection?? Debian doesnt “detect” hardware, it gives you a kernel, and you tell it which modules to bring up afterwards. Debian’s hardware support is just as good as Linux’s, why?? cause it uses the SAME kernel. Debian 3.0 ships with a 2.4 kernel as well as a 2.2, you get to choose. Last i checked it was 2.4.18 that it came with. Just because debian doesnt make it work out of the box, doesnt mean it doesnt support it. I’d like to see RedHat support my TV tuner card out of the box, i bet it cant. Yet it’s running just fine on my box running Debian. Debian doesnt need to “get back to basics”. Debian is the only distro that gets teh basics RIGHT. They made a rock solid operating system, which is easy to manage and maintain . It works AWESOMELY as a server, and does a bangup job as a desktop, if you’re willing to learn a bit. 2003-07-01 2:48 am By 56K modem problem I meant low bandwith. I am oriented to CD’s DG 2003-07-01 2:52 am I agree, Debian is not so hard to install, but why bother, when there are easier distros, if you are not in much of a security risk or something. There is hardware detection issue, too. DG 2003-07-01 3:39 am The argument for not supporting a given particular arch assumes that there will then be more resources for their x86 or whatever-arch-is-your-favorite. This isn’t really the case with debian. The reason they support so many archs is that there is interest in the community, if there weren’t any people interested in debian on a particular arch then it simply wouldn’t be done. Debian is totally non-commercial, and a person interested in doing the port to alpha may (probably) not but interested in crafting a gui installer and resolution changer for you. That’s why debian doesn’t have these things, they have no incentive to do it, which is one of the reasons I dont think it’s going anywhere. It’s done just because people like it, the demand is the people that make it, not really potential customers but the existing userbase…more users is just fluff. But definately good fluff 2003-07-01 3:40 am (bluetooth, ISDN, Activesync, usb etc?) I wasn’t aware that Activesync was hardware. I can’t seem to find any reference to it as such. Instead all I find reference to is a Microsoft program. As for debian not allowing normal users to shutdown, reboot, read the man pages for shutdown. Maybe you have to alter the /etc/shutdown.allow file or maybe you have to change permissions elsewhere. It would depend on how debian does it. read man init as well. 2003-07-01 3:53 am Well… it is there… it is getting to the desktop… and I am interested in it… I use Lindows… and I use apt-get… and… well… all I have seen are Debian based distros or Ret Hat based distros… are there any more out there?… I like Debian, and I see it improving… as well as RH, even though I don’t use it… Debian will be around… and the editorial IS not a lament… Read the thing completly… the editorial is intendet to the ones interested in debian and it future… the autor did not say debian is dead. He is making a good point about getting debian to be known… whe he said: “And here’s a hard one: when some government department is considering a switch to Linux, and reps from Red Hat and Mandrake and Suse (and Microsoft!) are in there doing sales pitches, we need someone pitching Debian right alongside them – not necessarily as a sales pitch, more as an advocate.” This is no call to RH fanatics to suport Debian… it is to Debian to suport Debian to expand… to do that… he poited you to some things.. wich you should read… I to, at first, was pozzle at his way of starting with the topic… but if read ALL the article… it will be understud, I see his point… and it matters to me and to anyone interested in seen Debian around for its 20’s aniversary… 2003-07-01 4:27 am The reason they support so many archs is that there is interest in the community, if there weren’t any people interested in debian on a particular arch then it simply wouldn’t be done. However, one of the things slowing Debian’s release cycle down is getting everything to run smoothly on the various architectures. Narrowing the project’s focus to x86, PPC, and maybe Sparc64 would go a long ways towards Debian being able to belt out timely releases with fresh(er) packages. Not meant to be a troll, but I find it amazing that with all the architechtures that NetBSD supports, its packages collection is still relatively up do date, moreso than Debian’s. 2003-07-01 5:02 am However, one of the things slowing Debian’s release cycle down is getting everything to run smoothly on the various architectures. Narrowing the project’s focus to x86, PPC, and maybe Sparc64 would go a long ways towards Debian being able to belt out timely releases with fresh(er) packages. Not meant to be a troll, but I find it amazing that with all the architechtures that NetBSD supports, its packages collection is still relatively up do date, moreso than Debian’s. You dont seem to understand why debian has such “slow” release cycles. It’s not because they dont have the manpower to push them out. It’s because when they stamp “Debian Stable” on it, they want it to BE STABLE (god forbid!). Look at Debian Unstable, its available for all of those architectures, and has modern software. So if they can do it for Unstable, why dont they do it for Stable? Cause solid software is a PLUS. I much rather run software taht i know has been tested to death, than the latest bleeding edge release candidate. AND…if they went with “x86, PPC, and maybe Sparc64”, i’d be a very unhappy man, as i run Debian/alpha. Maybe i have different standards than most people, but i also whine a lot less about how my computer misbehaves, because it DOESNT. I’ve had this alpha for… 6 months now, i havent seen a crash on it yet. It bothers me when people tell me “linux isnt as stable as people say it is, i had *unnamed distro* crash on me many times”. Linux is losing its reputation for being stable. 2003-07-01 6:12 am Debian is possibly the easiest operating system I have ever tried to set up, its the fastest to get installed, and nothing that I don’t want to install gets put on the system. I don’t have to think about what I do and don’t want while going through lists, unlike with Red Hat. Thats the most confusing thing for most newbies, just looking at the long lists, wondering what everything is. With Debian, they only get what they want. Package management is what makes Debian so easy. Debian doesn’t worry about changing the upstream code overly, we simply compile upstream, and fix any bugs that occur during this process. Debian will remain forever because it, as well as Slack, are pure. The people working on Debian do it because they want to. Every package for Debian is maintained by someone that uses and wants that package. Its not like most operating systems where they are paid to develope the packages. Its a true community, in the light of what Stallman beleived. Debian will never die. Lindows, Xandros, Libranet. These are all dependant on Debian. These are the ‘easy’ versions of Debian. Debian will never become easier. 2003-07-01 7:20 am Having read the above posts, I now see a particularly nasty murderer: Complacency. CSI: Debian. 2003-07-01 12:43 pm I have to agree with the article, that Debian is in real danger to be left behind. Debian has to catch up and catch up big time. I have to admit at this point that I have not used testing and unstable so far but without apt get as a major point to distinguish it from other distros it is really falling behind IMHO. I have recently tried to install FreeBSD and except a few problems with the installer (manually loading ISO9660 support to install from CD, now why couldn’t it tell me that outright?) I found it much better thought out than debian so far and Debian is considered one of the most advanced distributions (technical wise). What are my qualms with debian? Well, for one thing, the default and recommended installation frontend is a mess. DSELECT really pisses me off, I haven’t found a way yet to stop it bothering me with all the “recommends” and “suggests” of a package and the package list is plainly too complex, if you could at least collapse the categories. I know, I could use something else (I actually do use aptitude) but this is not about coice, it’s about giving people a good default and that default should at least have some thoughts about usability. Even sysadmins like a good usable tool, we’re not all masochists. Another thing that bugs me (again:I have not used testing) are the dependencies sometimes: Try to set up a graphical system and you will be forced to install MESA (even if the card does not support 3D or any of the applications you installed). Galeon is an even weirder example. I have a small system with a simple window system (fvwm) and wanted to install galeon (mozilla is really a slow moving dinosaur on that thing). I ended up being forced to install a sound daemon and libcdparanoia because the dependencies insisted on it. I know, disk-space is cheap nowadays but it bugs me. (A sidenote about I18N: Ever looked at the german manpage for mcopy? It’s from 1993, at least on my Knoppix). And why does that simple system have to pretend to have 5 different shells? (Actually there are only bash and tcsh) Is there no guideline to standardise shell-scripts on a certain shell type? A thing that I would really like to see in Debian that I think would set it apart a little bit is native devfs support. And for heavens sake, please start to compile big things like KDE and Gnome for Pentium and above. I can’t believe that everything is still compiled for 386. Who’s going to run something like gnome on 386? I know that the performance gain might not be that big, but still. If they don’t want to start optimising for Pentium outright, they might consider keeping the base system still compiled for 386 but all the graphical stuff for Pentium. That way you could still put up a server or similar on a small system. (It’s probably stupid to suggest such a thing as you would need separate guidlines for compiling then. I don’t know how Development under Debian works). 2003-07-01 3:22 pm A replacement for Dselect is already being worked on. FWIW, Dselect is a great tool, just not very intuitive. Aptitude is far, far better. Try it out. Lol – yeah, I18N lags behind. No-one can be arsed to keep the translations up to date. It’s not difficult, but someone has to actually sit down and do it, and no-one has. As far as optimizing “graphical stuff” for Pentium, apt-build allows you to compile any package you like with whatever compiler optimizations you desire. Of course, it’s not in Stable, so you’d have to use Testing or Unstable. It’s unlikely that Debian will supply optimized binaries because a) in most cases the performance gain is small b) it bloats the archive and takes up the buildd’s time c) Debian’s package system doesn’t support sub-architectures very well. A new mechanism for handling sub-architectures is currently in the works, though. I don’t understand why people look at the Stable branch and then say that Debian is static, as some kind of complaint. Well, duh! The Stable branch is *meant* to be static. If you want to see where the progress is being made, check out Unstable. It hardly ever breaks, and apt-listbugs (yeah, make sure to install this) will warn you if you’re about to install a critically broken package, anyway. People who want to use the “caught-up” Debian (mostly dekstop users) should be using Unstable. The name is actually something of a misnomer. For enviornments such as the corporate desktop and the server space, where you want a distro that will “just work” once set up, with no updates but rapid security fixes, Stable is just perfect. Alternatively, you can settle for the happy medium and stick with the Testing branch. Testing is more up-to-date than Stable, with none of the (rare) breakages of Unstable. However, it doesn’t have security updates – they have to filter through from Unstable. That said, there’s a plan afoot to start a security infrastructure for Testing, as well. As far as Devfs is concerned… Devfs is still listed as “experimental” in the kernel tree itself, so conservative Debian is highly unlikely to enable it by default in the standard kernel. And for good reason – it still has race conditions under certain loads, for instance. The most glaring example of where Debian really *is* behind is the installer, but a new one’s being written as we speak. Apart from that, I don’t think the situation’s as bad as all that. As long as you’re focusing on the Unstable branch, of course! 😀 Debian’s holding its own, and it’s still way ahead in terms of the quality of its packages (with rigorous Policy requirements), stability and sheer amount of software on offer (10,000+ packages in the tree). Plus, it’s by far the most prominent and successful volunteer distro, and utterly unique in its dedication to Free Software and the community as embodied in its Constitution and Free Software Guidelines. Try out Testing or Unstable for yourself, they sound better suited for your tastes. Or get backports off of http://www.apt-get.org. 2003-07-01 3:35 pm “The argument for not supporting a given particular arch assumes that there will then be more resources for their x86 or whatever-arch-is-your-favorite.” No, my argument for not supporting so many architectures is that even though many people are working on the x86 architecture and that x86 architecture support is very advanced, the Debian group is holding back these changes because they are not platform neutral (even though hardware detection shouldn’t be) and the other platforms are extremely behind in development. In fact, there isn’t as much interest in supporting the other platforms so these other platforms are becoming bottlenecks for x86 and other architectures people are interested in. 2003-07-01 3:52 pm “the Debian group is holding back these changes” Errr, who on Earth is “the Debian group”? “There isn’t as much interest in supporting the other platforms” User base doesn’t matter, so long as there are developers enough willing to do the work. Besides, for many architectures, Debian is the only distro that supports them, so there’s quite a lot of interest because a massive segment of that community (niche though it may be) is using the Debian port for that particular architecture. Debian ports and supports XFree86 to many more architectures than the official XFree86 project does, just by way of an example. I think it’d be rather unfair to leave these users in the lurch. Besides, the i386 port has just as many show-stopping bugs filed against its packages in Unstable, despite it having by far the largest user base. Also, the bugs that delay passage into Testing for the longest times (usually stuff like C++ ABI transitions from one major version to the next) affect all architectures equally. Besides, all of your arguments are purely anecdotal. Where’s your proof? “The other platforms are extremely behind in development” – concrete examples, please. Besides, developers support their packages across all architectures, they don’t just choose their pet favourite, so in fact, all architectures have the same number of developers working on them. And good code should be portable, anyway, thus, if upstream’s any good, arch-specific problems should be pretty rare. Even for the new installer, nothing’s stopping anyone from taking the i386 code which is already written and making it available themselves, without waiting for Debian to make an official release of the cross-platform version. What’s the “bottle-neck”, aside from no-one being willing to actually do the work? 2003-07-01 4:23 pm “Besides, all of your arguments are purely anecdotal. Where’s your proof? “The other platforms are extremely behind in development” – concrete examples, please.” My proof is Lindows, Bonzai, Knoppix, and Libranet. All have very advanced hardware detection. All have a much better installation routine. All have a much smaller development team. 2003-07-01 4:30 pm LOL You obviously didn’t even read my post, because I already dealt with the installer. The code’s available, but no-one’s been bothered to do anything with it. Debian’s not holding anything back – all it takes is for someone to pop up and be willing to do the work. Obviously, that’s not you. Besides, Progeny’s graphical Debian installer, which features great hardware detection, has been available for yonks. Get it at your leisure from http://hackers.progeny.com/pgi/. Anyway, I asked you to prove to me that the “other platforms”, i.e. the non-i386 Debian ports, are “extremely behind in development” compared to the i386 port – your words, not mine. Instead, you seem to have gone off on some kind of tangent about commercial Debian-based distributions. 2003-07-01 5:51 pm “dselect replacement in the works” Maybe the should just adopt aptitude and collaborate on improving that instead of creating another front-end. But diversity has it’s merits, especially in the OSS world, so I won’t complain. “optimised binaries/compiling” Well, of course I could compile a package specifically for my platform but that takes considerable more time than just installing a package. Other distros are already much more advanced in that respect I think (gentoo). And after all the question remains: who’s going to run KDE/Gnome/Mozilla on a 386? Wouldn’t creating a sub-architecure mean that instead of just bigger binaries you would have the bigger _and_ the smaller binaries then? I think sooner or later they will have to make a break and raise the requirements for the distro. You mentioned apt-build. Is it possible to generate a whole optimised distribution with it just by blasting all the source packages at it? (I mean a redistributable distro, does it spit out .DEBs?) “new installer” As far as I’ve seen the new installer seems to be CD based. If that’s really true I think it’s a bold step, after all many small installations don’t have a cd-burner but certainly a disk-drive. (A note on installation: I recently _did_ install “testing” and they still have this weird thing like in previous distros where I’m asked how to set up xfree twice. I get asked where is your mouse, what server etc.. and immediately in the next dialog I get asked “would you like to autodetect you mouse” “would you like to autodetect your server?” Weird.) “devfs” Well, I know it’s not stable but I certainly think it will be an important things to come. (It even is in one of the standard debian kernels on one of my machines but was not mounted at boot time and therefore not used). I think there should definitively be steps undertaken to make a later transition easier. I don’t know how far commercial distros are in this field but I think it could be very prestigous if Debian could claim to be one of the first distros to natively support it and support it well. Good support takes steps in advance not hectic actionism when it’s finally declared “stable”. As with many new things: you can be spearhead or late-commer. 2003-07-01 6:23 pm Hi. I have been tired a fair while now of all the negative articles that seem to be plotting Debians death. Let us exist, man. Jim 2003-07-01 8:00 pm …my Net connection is 56K modem…With my Internet connection apt-get does not mean much. As a matter of fact I am recently considering Mandrake and Suse, because they require even less effort. Of the geek distros, I think Slack has the edge for desktop users on dialup connections, since it’s installed from CD. Gentoo and Debian users are heavily dependent on their broadband connections. Yeah sure, you can order a set of Debian stable CD’s from CheapBytes, but if you want to run anything recent on your desktop you’re going to be doing an awful lot of downloading. 2003-07-01 8:02 pm Please, debian aint going nowhere, let us be, and we will bring more innovation to linux, just like we have done in the past. 2003-07-01 10:36 pm “Maybe the should just adopt aptitude and collaborate on improving that instead of creating another front-end.” It’ll be adopted officially in the next release. They can’t adopt it before then, because, of course, nothing gets into Stable other than security updates. Even come the next release, I suspect, however, that dselect will continue to be maintained, for the benefit of those who are already used to its interface. “Well, of course I could compile a package specifically for my platform but that takes considerable more time than just installing a package. Other distros are already much more advanced in that respect I think (gentoo).” Not really… rather than compile the entire distribution from source, it makes more sense to just optimize the packages where you’ll actually see some noticeable performance gain. As far as taking longer to compile goes, if you can’t be bothered, you can just settle for the i386 version. No problem. You can’t do this with Gentoo. “You mentioned apt-build. Is it possible to generate a whole optimised distribution with it just by blasting all the source packages at it?” Nope. You can get 99.999% of the benefits by just selectively optimizing the major packages, though, so this is no biggie. “As far as I’ve seen the new installer seems to be CD based.” You could be right, but I’d be very surprised if this is the case, especially given Debian’s conservatism. PGI is, but that’s completely unrelated to the official installer. “Wouldn’t creating a sub-architecure mean that instead of just bigger binaries you would have the bigger _and_ the smaller binaries then?” No, because they’d only do it when optimization would yield a significant performance gain, or in other select cases such as where certain packages wouldn’t work on one specific sub-architecture but work on all the others. They’d also only do it for the most major packages, I imagine. “I recently _did_ install “testing” and they still have this weird thing like in previous distros where I’m asked how to set up xfree twice.” Yeah, weird. Try asking about it on the -user mailing list, and then when you’ve got more info, please file a bug so that the relevant maintainer has it brought to his attention. “Good support takes steps in advance not hectic actionism when it’s finally declared “stable”. As with many new things: you can be spearhead or late-commer.” Personally, I’d rather they *not* enable something considered unstable by the kernel developers themselves in the default kernel. Offering it as an option is well and good, but not as default, please, until it’s no longer broken. 2003-07-02 12:07 am Having toyed a little with testing/unstable this evening I think I have to take back some of the things I said earlier. There seem to be serious steps towards adopting devfs but I agree with you that it should not be relied on before reaching STABLE status and it doesn’t seem like it is. My last comment in my last post might have been misleading in that respect. So far I can say that devfs has been included into the newer kernels (without mounting it). As far as I can tell this most notably results in a different /proc/partitions (this is also already true for the STABLE distribution I noticed). On my “testing” system Lilo already notices this and issues a warning but as /dev has not changed this is not a problem. Thanks for the apt-get.org link btw. That was really helpful. Backported apps can’t get into the current stable branch later, hmm? Pity. Sometimes I just want to have a certain software for my system (new browser for example) but do not want to upgrade too much of the rest of the system. Especially for people on dialup this sucks I would think. — A Useful link for everybody who works with more than one unix-like OS: http://bhami.com/rosetta.html -A link for a link.- 2003-07-02 12:48 am “My proof is Lindows, Bonzai, Knoppix, and Libranet. All have very advanced hardware detection. All have a much better installation routine. All have a much smaller development team.” Without Debian, none of these are even possible. They don’t even use there own packages half the time. They may have a few added backports etc, but for the most part, these are Debian for dummies. I have never had a problem with hardware detection with Debian for what its worth, but then I never stick with the install kernel anyways, so I end up changing needing to add modules. Its not a hard process if you know your system. I feel sorry for anyone that says they find Debian hard to set up, I beleive its mainly because of ignorance though. There are hardware detection packages, one that comes to mind is ‘discover’, but people don’t look around, they don’t use the tools provided to them, and thats a shame. Debian will never die though, its needed by to many other distro’s, and its loved by most of its users, myself included. I have seen people looking to be developers for Debian, and the most common reason is ‘I want to give back for all the hard work people have done for me’. This is an example of why Debian is never going to die. How can something die when almost 1,000 people world wide feel a debt to each other. Thats why people develope Debian, to help out others and themselves. Like I said in my last post, Debian is a true community. We help each other. We help newbies so maybe someday they will turn out to be an asset to our community, and we help old users by providing each other with packages. We work for each other, unselfishly, and together have put together arguable the best pure system possible. Most of us don’t need graphic installers, most don’t need hardware detection, these things are provided, there just a part of the base system so noone ever looks. Debian has for a long time prided itself on having one of the most technically savy userbase of any OS, others have tried to fix that, but its not needed as part of our system. 2003-07-02 7:15 am emerge -C Debian 2003-07-02 11:17 am Well, guess I can just as well cancel my project too then Anyway, this is rubbish. OSNews often has pretty good articles, but this one just doesn’t make any sense. Yes, Debian isn’t for people that can’t handle the installer, but thats what projects like Libranet, Lindows, Xandros, Pg, Bonzai, <insert your fav .deb-distro> and indeed Morphix are all about. Debian isn’t made for people wanting a RedHat-replacement: Debian is for people wanting a stable community-based distribution that just works. The Debian project itself is huge and thus suffers from inertia: it’s slow-moving. But thats fine, the people that want to use Debian for something other than that what all those hundreds of maintainers want can just knock themselfs out with all the packages available. Lindows is a fine (well, from a commercial pov) example of what can happen when you combine Debian and efforts to make it more desktop-orientated. We’re busy to do the same, but making it free & easier. And like us, there are dozens of people working on using Debian to make it more desktop-orientated. Eventually, only a few will make it, but all the changes can be merged back into Debian (see Knopper’s packages, or Pg’s for example). Thats the beauty of Open Source and Debian. In the end, there will be only Debian. (spoken like a true believer FYI, here is a post from around 2001, stating some of the goals that Morphix is built around: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm=1003878723…. Sometimes, you just have to do things yourself 2003-07-03 1:57 am People are complaining about Debian’s auto-hardware detection. I’ve come across a very interesting situation at collage. Try this: Install Win98/Win2000/WinXP on one computer, and then move that hard drive to a computer that has the same processor, but different motherboard manufacturer, sound card and video card to the computer you orgionally installed the Windows operating systems on, and tell me what you get. also try it with linux with the auto hardware detection turned on. All but windows 98 and linux will fail to boot. I know its an unusual situation, but could potentially happen. I think Debian is pretty good actually. Also, has anyone downloaded all the service packs of 98/2000/XP on a dialup commection ?