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Debian

Two Reviews of Debian 3.0 601

Posted by michael
from the you-must-be-smarter-than-this-stick-| dept.
FrankNFurter writes "Debian Planet features a review of Debian 3.0 from a user's perspective. Time for a reality check, debianistas." And twstdr00t writes "Linuxwatch.org has posted their review of Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 Woody. 'The package managment system is nice and easy to use. But the lack of good configuration and installation takes that all away from Debian.'"
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Two Reviews of Debian 3.0

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  • Interesting review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pope nihil (85414) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:08PM (#4492495) Journal
    An unflattering review from debianplanet. Nice. Maybe this will actually motivate some of the debian guys to fix the distribution. I really enjoy debian when it works, and when the software is moderately up to date. I used to use the unstable version, but even that started getting where it uses way out of date software.
    • I totally agree. I tayed with knoppix and felt the KDE 3.0 goodness, and was like yay. Then I switched to redhat 7.highest number, and liked it, favoring gnome 2.0. Then I went to mandrake nine for I forget why (I think I read that the new compiler made it faster). Even SID was way behind these guys (Though it seemed that gnome 2.0 stuff was slowly moving in).
    • by Malcontent (40834) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:55PM (#4492970)
      The problems of debian are obvious and easy to fix. The reason debian packages are old is because there are too many of them. There are thousands of packages in the debian system and there are very strict rules as to when they are declared to be stable. This means that no matter what package you install into a debian stable system you are guranteed all dependent packages are available and more importantly that package will never ever brak your system. This applies no matter what your CPU or architecture is.

      The problem is that this is a herculean task and although debian does a decent job it's a futile task.

      IMHO debian should do the following.

      Trim down the list of "official" packages drastically. Take only the best 100 or so packages and concentrate on them exclusively. The rest of the packaged can be treated as "add on" and should be put on separate servers. The users can choose to add them to their apt.sources or not and if they do there are no guarantees.

      This will allow the debian package mainters to concentrate on a drastically smaller list and make sure the bugs are cleared up rapidly.
      • by reverius (471142) on Monday October 21, 2002 @02:42AM (#4493681) Homepage Journal
        Trimming Debian down to a really small distribution with add-ons would pretty much destroy the usefulness and stability of Debian as it exists now. I love debian and use it every day; I have since I first tried version 2.1. I never use outside packages, and wouldn't even consider it. The way the entire distribution works is phenominal - it is a Zen-like experience just to use a perfectly-running Debian system.

        It would be impossible to trim it down, because as soon as you put something in an "add-on" third party source instead of the core distribution, it loses its credibility. Sure, there's a chance it will function properly with the entire distribution, but it's not thorougly tested the way the current Debian distribution is. Bottom line is, the extreme testing length and size of the distribution are not negative characteristics of Debian - they are intended. For me, it's a perfect distribution. I'd much rather apt-get something from ftp.us.debian.org and know for sure that it's going to work perfectly than apt-get it from a third-party source and have a newer version.

        I went through that once, using Ximian Gnome on Debian 2.2 (yes, it actually is one of the distributions supported by Ximian). Their packages worked... for the most part. But they had their little quirks and bugs, mostly due to interoperability with the rest of the distribution. It turned Debian into what every other distribution already is - a mostly up-to-date buggy and quirky mass of packages. I'll take an infinitely stable and well-working organized system of old packages any day. Choose a distribution. Debian's purpose is to be old and stable. I use it. You don't have to.
      • by Stephen (20676) on Monday October 21, 2002 @04:24AM (#4493953) Homepage
        IMHO debian should do the following. Trim down the list of "official" packages drastically. Take only the best 100 or so packages and concentrate on them exclusively. The rest of the packaged can be treated as "add on" and should be put on separate servers. The users can choose to add them to their apt.sources or not and if they do there are no guarantees.
        I strongly disagree with this. One of the biggest advantages of Debian is that every package is an official package, and has to conform to the same standards as every other package; and all the packages have to work together.

        Compare that with the variable quality of Redhat contrib. The program I'm the author of had a security bug and I still couldn't get Redhat to pull the contrib packages until someone volunteered to package a newer version several months later.

      • by dvdeug (5033) <dvdeug@nOspam.email.ro> on Monday October 21, 2002 @05:18AM (#4494048)
        Trim down the list of "official" packages drastically. Take only the best 100 or so packages and concentrate on them exclusively.

        Go for it. You're more than welcome to make your own group and do so, even starting from Debian if you want. ("Debian is 100% Free software", line one of our social contract.) But that's not what developers are lining up to work on, and I suspect that's not what developers are signing up to use. I have 1300 packages installed, and it's nice to know they're all held to the same level of quality with bug tracking system.
    • by telecaster (468063) on Monday October 21, 2002 @06:51AM (#4494284)
      We've been using Debian for about 2 1/2 years. We currently run about 15 servers on Debian 3.0 at the moment in an LVS situation--very scalable, very stable.

      Prior that we were a Red Hat shop. Since our software is high-performance e-Tailing tools for the Catalog and Mail Order industry we made the "switch" (heh) from Red Hat to Debian because of three words: Stability, Stability, Stability.

      Was Red Hat stable? Yes, was it as stable as Debian, maybe. But it was clearly "apt-get" that really sold us as we're consistantly RPMing the crap on our existing RH 6.2 machines, it became clearly a time suck to keep up with patches/updates enhancements of all the software in RH and all the software that we used in our application.

      I think its fairly clear that people (outside the Debian circle) are souring on Debian because they don't include the latest release of KDE 3.x, or the installer is clunky, or the package management system isn't like XP or Red Hat. But in the REAL WORLD, we could care less about that stuff.

      Hell, I don't think i've ever installed Debian as a desktop as its own beast, if I wanted a distro for a desktop using Debain, I'd go over to Libranet or even Xandro's/Lindows.

      But to me, thats stuffs unimportant for my business, so I'm not intrested in it. Debian 3.0 is perfect for a small to mid-sized busines running Linux as an application server or database server. Trust me, its perfect.

      First of all, our needs seem to be the needs of a typical Linux shop (server based installations, running Apache, PHP and Java). We aren't a company that believes the desktop for Linux is that radically important. Maybe this is why we chose Debian in the first place -- the graphical wiz-bang installers for us sucked because we would throw marginal video cards into our machine -- text mode, thats what we wanted. Sure, some pundits could "ding it" for not including some later packages (i.e. gcc, latest kernel etc.), but thats not really what you'd want for stability, would you? If you really want those packages -- Just point your sources.list over to some mirror and "apt-friggin'-get" it... I don't understand the fuss, but hey, people love to belly ache.

      I believe that Debian fills the holes that other distro's (RH, Mandrake, Suse et. al) seem to leave -- a rock solid distro with a simple text based installation with a great package management system. If your running a large server installation, why would you need anything fancier? I think Red Hat in particular try's to concentrate on the server, but i'm not convinced -- plus, damn to its too expensive, if I wanted to spend that kind of money, I'd run XP Server... Mandrake's cute, and Suse' looks interesting -- again all desktop stuff... Not really where Debian fits in.

      Hey look Debian is not a Ferrari, but hell, to me its like that old 1980 Mercedes 300D that you can't stop running and you can STILL get new parts for... ;-) Its a workhorse -- its "Diesel babe". Thats what Debian is... we need these distro's out there folks. The flashy, shrink wrapped glizty ones are good to keep Linux chasing Windows in the hopes of catching it, but in the REAL WORLD we need the distro's you can pull of the net' install, and have it work... whats wrong with that?

    • by Pii (1955) <jedi@NOspam.lightsaber.org> on Monday October 21, 2002 @09:53AM (#4495394) Journal
      Jumping in late, I know...

      I'm not entirely comfortable with the premise of this review. Thi author prefaces the review with this:

      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.

      The Redhats and Mandrakes of the world are dependant upon user adoption because they have a financial interest at stake. User adoption means increased revenue, and with that, provided they run their business well, financial success.

      In courting users, Corporate Linux vendors have to appeal to as broad a cross-section as they can, in an effort to become all things to all people. There's nothing wrong with this, and I applaud their efforts, but there's no reason to hold Debian to the same standard as distributions with mass-market appeal.

      The Debian project does not cater to the same people, nor are it's goals in line with these other Linux distributions. Those of us that choose to run Debian tend to look at issues other than "ease of installation," or "latest and greatest" software packages.

      It is far closer to a server-class distribution than these others can claim to be, in my opinion.

      When I'm looking to play Quake III, I don't install it on my server. I install it on my desktop system, where I run Mandrake.

      When I want to ensure that my infrastructure is sound and stable, I run Debian. I want my upgrades to come off without a hitch. I want to upgrade in place, with little to no downtime. I don't want to worry about dependencies that need to be satisfied. I want it all to happen cleanly, and efficiently.

      Debian is unmatched when viewed from that perspective. If the Developers decide to allocate their time and resources toward a fancy installation routine, that's fine, but it's not what concerns me most. I hope they never sacrifice the things they do well so that they can chase after the userbase. It's a niche distribution that suits me just fine the way it is.

  • by alexandre (53) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:10PM (#4492510) Homepage Journal
    As a long time debian user i must say that i would never want to go back to other packaging system (for now at least)... But when it comes to trying to install a _NEW_ computer for some friends, i usually try debian first and since i can't stay there to tweak everything for hours (which i would do at home since once done your system is constently kept up to date for years), i usually have to throw a redhat or mandrake at them :-/ conclusion: Debian rocks if you can get it installed and know linux well... maybe not the best thing for starters unfortunetaly..(not wanting to scare anyone ... not too fast ;-)
    • Check out Gentoo Linux [gentoo.org]. It uses a package system called Portage that is similar to FreeBSD's "Ports" system. Basically, you run "emerge apps-editors/vim" to automatically build Vim for you, it will also download and build any dependancies required too! The only downside is it will take a while to build X, or any other large package(Gnome, KDE, etc).
      • by alexandre (53) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:18PM (#4492548) Homepage Journal
        thats the main reason why i didn't like the BSD /ports... having to compile a whole batch of file (like when you dist-upgrade) would use the power of your slow machines until the next upgrade :-) I still think that it is probably the second-best way to do it though... i first learned linux on redhat and having to _seek_ upgrade on the web really is a huge p.i.t.a ... i wonder what is happening these days with redhat and mandrake, do they have free-internet-ready (buzzwords! :) upgrades? (like a apt-get dist-upgrade?)
        • Yup (Score:4, Informative)

          by systemapex (118750) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:22PM (#4492563)
          Red Hat's got their Red Hat Network upgrade service. It's a lot like Windows Update with XP - it'll tell you when updates are available, and you'll have the option to download them. It works well. I have personally intalled apt-get (for RPM) and I've fallen in love with it. But it is not an official Red Hat apt-get. You can grab it from FreshRPMS [freshrpms.net].
          • by alexandre (53)
            So you can actually upgrade from redhat 7 to redhat 8 for free by running this program? I saw this i think at school on our redhat machines but i thought users had to register with redhat?
            And about that apt-get for RPM, which repository can be used?
            • I don't think RHN will let you do the same sort of version upgrade a CD upgrade install will do. It'll just maintain your current version. I remember somebody posting in a forum somewhere on the net (I've forgotten where) that they were upgrading from 7.3 to 8.0 with "apt-get dist-upgrade". I've just switched to Red Hat so I've never tried this myself but I believe it is possible. Of course, if a totally new package is introduced in the new version of Red Hat, I'm willing to bet it won't get installed with apt-get dist-upgrade. That probably just upgrades all the packages you have on your system to the newer ones. And as for respositories, I'm using the psyche.freshrpms.net repository. There is a way to choose different repositories but I haven't bothered to look for any other ones.
            • Re:Yup (Score:3, Informative)

              by rodgerd (402)
              Yes, you can. You need, though, to manually install the redhat-release RPM for the appropriate distro (eg 8 if you're coming from 7.3). At that point, running up2date -u will pull down all the packages that upgraded in the distro.
          • Re:Yup (Score:2, Informative)

            Ximian will also do pretty much the same thing for you as the red hat network and I found that it is very user friendly and works well.
          • Re:Yup (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ryanvm (247662)
            I've looked at Red Hat and the RHN, but my understanding is that it costs money. If so, then I don't think you can really compare RHN to Debian's free apt servers or even Microsoft's "free" Windows Update.

            Sure, Red Hat 8.0 is polished as hell. But unless it's got a free method as simple as Debian's "apt-get update; apt-get upgrade", I won't be switching anytime soon.
        • the main reason why i didn't like the BSD /ports... having to compile a whole batch of file

          It is indeed a pain sometimes. If it's only a few ports, you can create a binary installation thing (sort of like an rpm or a deb) like this:

          pkg_create -b zsh-4.0.4 /tmp/zsh.pkg

          Idea is, you download and install your ports on a big fast machine and then you can just install the binaries on the slower machines by copying over the package and doing something like this:

          pkg_add zsh.pkg.tgz

          You can, of course, script this if it's a larger number of packages (another trick: export /usr/obj via NFS). Theoretically, you could just distribute the pkg.tgz files to FreeBSD and do away with cvsup and ports, as these pkg files know about dependencies and whatnot. The reason nobody does that is because it's useful to always have the source code and it's useful to build all your software from source (so you can control compilation flags).

          I still prefer ports and build world to all the linux "package management" stuff because I actually use the source: if there's a really nasty bug that I need to trace down into libc, just cd /usr/src/sys/lib/libc. If I want to add a switch to "find" cd /usr/src/usr.bin/find. If I don't like the compilation flags for mutt, cd /usr/ports/mail/mutt/work. This happens often enough that I don't want to have to deal with searching the web for srpms and whatnot (I always want the source right there with the binary).

      • by GreyWolf3000 (468618) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:30PM (#4492603) Journal
        Never fails. Every time Debian or the coolness therein is mentioned anywhere, some Gentoo user always throws a sales pitch.

        I have great respect for your distro and your developers (from your ml's it's painfully obvious that you guys are making a fine distro), but I, and I don't think I'm alone here, find the one-or-two zealots that run around /., web boards, and mls screaming for p.r., really annoying.

        We know Gentoo's good. We get the message. We know that you have every reason to be excited. Please, though, stop evangelizing.

        I know this is flamebait, but I think a lot of people are sick of this besides me, so I'll take the karma hit if necessary.

        • Gentoo Evangelist (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:10PM (#4492793) Homepage
          Now hold on a second there. Whenever someone mentions RPM, somebody throws up an apt-get comment. Whenever KDE is mentioned, Gnome is also in the discussion. Emacs and Vi, linux and gnu/hurd, Intel and AMD.

          You cannot have a discussion about a thing without mentioning the competitors/alternatives. Apt brings a lot to the table, so does emerge and rpm. A discussion about Debian IS a discussion about apt. And belive you, me, we Mandrake folk had to put up with a lot of apt-get comments over the years, so you Debian types can bite the bullet and listen to what the Gentoo evangelists have to say.

          Now, in all seriousness, in a Debian discussion, any comment that is not about Debian should be modded down as off-topic. Likewise, all comments should be about the core story. But the truth of the matter is this: The moderators have spoken. They (me included) want different points of view in every story. Listening to and being around people who disagree is what makes sites like this popular.
      • by heretic108 (454817) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:11PM (#4492795)

        Check out Gentoo Linux [gentoo.org].

        I tried it, went back to Debian

        The only downside is it will take a while to build X, or any other large package(Gnome, KDE, etc).

        You can say that again. On average, a package takes about twice as long to download in source form than in binary form. Also, source takes about as much time again to build. So all up, you're looking at about 4 times as long to install a given Gentoo package as the same package on Debian.

        While Gentoo takes you close to the bleeding edge, and while its build system is well put together, it is a far more complicated process to set up a system to your tastes than it is with Debian. You need to know a lot of esoteric internals with some key packages, and are left in a position of often having to beg for help on the #gentoo irc channel.

        After going back to Debian sid, I was surprised to find that Debian goes from power-up to usable desktop in 2/3 of the time Gentoo takes (which is 1/2 the time Mandrake takes).

        In conclusion, there is no bliss which compares to an installed and working Debian desktop. The installer might not be pretty, but once you're up, you can trust apt-get to add anything you want, to a state which actually works.

    • I think there is something to be said for a Distro that if not by design at least by default is geared to those with a little more linux knowledge under their belt. There are still more linux Distros than users and they shouldn't all need to be designed to "steal" MS users. As far as up-to-date software, I have to admit that I have a RH 5.0 box running with some pretty old ftp software on it that is still rock solid.
    • i find this funny. i'm not primarily a computer geek or linux geek. i come from a strong windows background. a good friend of mine uses linux a lot and i wanted to try something different. so one day he came over and helped me install linux. his first question was "what distribution do you want?" and i was like "uhhhh... what do you use?" and he said "debian, but this other guy thinks you might be better off with red hat because it's easier" and i said "i want debian". he helped a lot with the first install, but didn't completely do it on his own, he taught me. i had it dual-booting win98 and debian for a while, but things got a little crazy and i wanted a larger partition for debian, so i decided to reformat and repartition everything. i installed win98 no problem (i've done that many times before), but i wanted to install debian. i did it on my own this time. ran into a couple problems, but in the end i got the system up and running no problem. i use the network install from teh floppies, i find that to work the best. it's quick and easy. the article says that the installation system and the configuration are difficult. i had no problems whatsoever. i have compiled kernels and stuff no problem. i don't see why people shy away from debian because of the installation system. i think it's great. very simplistic. not every distro has to be for converted windows users. i didn't know linux well, i still don't know all that much, but this is now 3 years later. i guess i have had as much linux experience as the guy that wrote the debian planet review. i learned first on debian. that might be the problem some people have, they don't just throw themselves into it. i think if they were to, they'd find that they could learn more quickly.

      MiniLaz [lazbox.org], my linux box...
  • install system (Score:5, Informative)

    by reverse flow reactor (316530) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:12PM (#4492521)
    The article does discuss the Progeny Graphical Installer, which is being included in the next release. The last time I used this installer was roughly a year and a half ago. I could install a progeny 1.0 system in 25 minutes flat with this installer.

    Yes, the current installer stinks, and it needs much work to catch up to Mandrake, Red Hat and SuSE. But to move from the progeny to potato to woody releases was as simple as changing my /etc/apt/sources.list to reflect the new base and downloading the updated packages.

    However, I have not had to reinstall my primary system in a year and a half. I cannot say that for any other operating system. The stable archives work well together.

    Debian: not for newbies. Higher learning curve than others. Worth learning if you want more control over your system.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:25PM (#4492576)
      The article does discuss the Progeny Graphical Installer, which is being included in the next release.

      ..and I look forward to using it, Fall 2006.
    • Re:install system (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:34PM (#4492628)
      I would agree to a certian extent. When I first started using debian is was all confusing, but after a while everything made sense. I fell into a kind of geek zen - now I know the system better then I did any redhat machine. There are things that make it easy - for instance all config files are in /etc

      Now Redhat is hard to use.
    • by MegaFur (79453) <wyrd0@komy . z z n . c om> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:20PM (#4492830) Journal
      Debian: not for newbies. Higher learning curve than others. Worth learning if you want more control over your system.

      I do want more control over my system. But how the hell am I supposed to learn Debian if I can't install Debian?

      I guess the only viable solution would be to to find a Debian expert and rip off their head and eat out their brain, there-by gaining their knowledge and experience.
      ...

      Oh wait, that was the comic book solution. In the real one I have to substitute "ask them lots of questions" for "rip off...their brain". Much less exciting and much slower. Oh well.

    • Lack of RAID Tools (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:20PM (#4492831) Homepage
      My first distro was Debian. I love the apt system. I cannot, however, live without software RAID.

      After booting the Woody CD, I tried "modprobe md", only to discover that it isn't supported. I went on the assumption that it was compiled in, but alas, "mkraid" was nowhere to be found. The only real option was to install to a /dev/hda1, then move that to /dev/md0. Too much work for too little return. If your distro doesn't support my needs, there are hundreds more that do.

      I'd also like to see a source compile option added. If apt was combined with Gentoo's emerge, Debian would be almost unstopable.

      • by rmull (26174)
        > I'd also like to see a source compile option
        > added. If apt was combined with Gentoo's
        > emerge, Debian would be almost unstopable.

        Check out apt-build. It does exactly what you think it does.

      • by WWWWolf (2428) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Monday October 21, 2002 @04:29AM (#4493962) Homepage
        I'd also like to see a source compile option added. If apt was combined with Gentoo's emerge, Debian would be almost unstopable.

        Back when I was a newbie, them old beards told me that Pre-Packaged Kernels are Satan's Work. So I have compiled my kernels by hand.

        And Debian does support rolling your own kernel. There's nothing to stop you from downloading a kernel source and building it.

        In fact, it already comes with the kernel source and header packages, AND in package kernel-package, you'll find the real gem: the make-kpkg tool.

        With make-kpkg, you can configure and build the kernel, and it makes it a perfectly ordinary Debian package that also manages the /vmlinuz and /vmlinuz.old symlinks in root directory - AND also optionally the bootloader menu list (at least in case of GRUB). It also does this for all debianized kernel module source packages! ALSA? You got it. Crushed by the vicious tyranny of NVIDIA binary drivers? You got them. Make-kpkg rules. It rules.

  • but I like debian the most. I don't knwo but I feel more comfortable with debian than I ever have with any other distro. Its just feels solid and reliable. I likes it. It just tastes good.

    and we've had this discussion before about debian not being for everyone. well linux isn't for everyone either. OS X isn't for everyone, windows isn't for everyone, AmigaOS isn't for everyone. use what you like. I likes debian.
  • Lets face facts (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mfos.org (471768)
    Debian isn't really ment to be the distro for the masses. It is a bitch to set up, and doesn't come with all the bells and whistles Jane Somebody will be looking for in their OS. However, I feel it is the truest to Linux's roots and it is an incredible system, if you have the necesarry skill set.
    • Re:Lets face facts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:36PM (#4492643)
      Along, those lines, the linuxwatch review deserves some credit for this statement:
      Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 is a good choice for technical users and/or those who have plenty of Linux experience. Those who have a lot of spare time and patience might also take a shot at "Woody". We wouldn't recommend those who use dial-up for Internet access use Debian due to it's high use of the 'net during installation. We would not recommend Debian to a new user, instead we would point them more in the direction of Red Hat or Lycoris. We would recommend Debian for either experienced users workstations or in a server environment.
      This is all true. However, the rest of the review talked about things I don't care about, and frankly failed to criticize debian's drawbacks that I DO find bothersome:

      1) Scarcity of .deb's. On one hand, it's amazing how many packages are available, considering the debian project has to make them all. And having them centralized is largely good because they're more likely to work together. But on the other hand, you're somewhat out of luck if nobody wants to maintain a .deb for the software you want. Alien sometimes works, but more often the binary will be compiled for the wrong libc, or have lots of dependencies that also aren't in Debian.

      2) Out of date packages. Again, the issue is that Debian is the source of .deb's, whereas most developers will release rpm's on their own. This means lag time.

      3) Broken packages. This doesn't apply to debian stable. Debian stable is great for servers, but lags too far behind for a desktop. And Debian testing or unstable are actually fairly stable, but do live up to their names more than I'd like.

      Can't think of much else. I really like debian, and it amazes me that they do it all for free. It's a great distro, and I realize this evaluation is one-sided because I haven't mentioned all the great things about Debian that keep me away from Slackware, RedHat, and even Gentoo. (Actually I do use RedHat at work because they standardized on it, but after Debian anything not network-based feels prehistoric).

    • I know people who are professional admins who dislike Debian's install because it makes it hard for them to do their jobs - no unattended install, no kickstart (a la RedHat) is a pain in the arse for a server farm.
  • by UnidentifiedCoward (606296) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:17PM (#4492545)
    I have never thought Debian was a typical OS for the typical user. Consider for a moment what Redhat has done for to their distribution. They want it to be as easy to install as windows. And to their credit they have come close, but Debian has, IMHO, and always will be the an atypical OS for the atypical user.

    That is not to say a bit of spit and polish on UI/configuration side wouldn't hurt, but then again I know that GeForce is an Nvidia product and no amount of rebranding by Creative Labs is going to change that (with regards to my X config). The same is true for a lot of hardware.

    When you think about it the only difference between linux (and particularly Debian) and windows is that windows presumes (and Redhat is trying to emulate) that the user is an idiot (especially with regards to hardware) and Debian does not.
    • by Sanity (1431) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:44PM (#4492691) Homepage Journal
      When you think about it the only difference between linux (and particularly Debian) and windows is that windows presumes (and Redhat is trying to emulate) that the user is an idiot (especially with regards to hardware) and Debian does not.
      That is exactly the wrong attitude. I am not an idiot because I want a fully working and configured system in 20 minutes, rather than after hours or days of tinkering. I am not an idiot because I expect the installer to avoid asking me things that it could find out itself or which I have already told it.

      Debian's installation is totally unpolished, inconvenient, and it basically sucks. That argument that it is only inconvenient if you are a newbie is bunk - it is inconvenient for anyone that doesn't have time to burn configuring every tiny little detail. Yes, apt-get might be wonderful, but it will be much easier for Redhat and co to incorporate Debian's advantages than it will be for Debian to incorporate Redhat's. That is simply a fact.

      Debian will never succeed until it takes the installation process seriously.

      • by wandernotlost (444769) <slashdotNO@SPAMtrailmagic.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:20PM (#4493076)
        That is exactly the wrong attitude. I am not an idiot because I want a fully working and configured system in 20 minutes, rather than after hours or days of tinkering.

        Debian was not made for you. Debian was made for people like me, who don't want arbitrary installation choices made for them to making installation "easier." Installation is not a frequent process with Debian, because upgrades are practically automatic. So you generally only have to install once, and it's a very small part of the overall experience. Thus, installation is not worth spending excessive development time on, because those of us that use and develop for Debian don't have a commercial agenda driving adoption rates. If Debian works well for you, use it, if it doesn't, use another distribution. That's why there's more than one.

        I recently upgraded my web/cvs/mail/etc. server from RedHat to Debian (finally!), and it was effortless. It didn't take much more than 20 minutes of my time, and at the end I had exactly the packages I wanted, no more, no less. Netinst in particular makes Debian a dream to install. Just insert the CD with the minimum necessary software needed to talk to the network, then select your packages (as simple as copying a file and issuing a single command if you've got a similar system running). Hit apt-get update and it downloads all the software from the network (the most recent version - no installing then upgrading right away), then configures and installs it. The configuration system even lets you select the level of detail you want to have control over. If you want all the default choices, you don't have to do much configuration at all.

        Debian's installation is totally unpolished, inconvenient, and it basically sucks. That argument that it is only inconvenient if you are a newbie is bunk - it is inconvenient for anyone that doesn't have time to burn configuring every tiny little detail.

        That's just uninformed, one-sided bullshit. Debian's installer is simple, easy-to-use (for those that know what they're doing), and gets the job done. My last few installs have been painless and quick. Furhermore, any pain that might have been experienced the first time installing has been rewarded many times over by the effortlessness of upgrading and maintaining a stable system.

        Yes, apt-get might be wonderful, but it will be much easier for Redhat and co to incorporate Debian's advantages than it will be for Debian to incorporate Redhat's. That is simply a fact.

        RedHat doesn't have any advantages for me that I've seen. None. So much for fact.

        Debian will never succeed until it takes the installation process seriously.

        Debian is right now an overwhelming success. It meets my and many other developers' needs to a tee. It is by leaps and bounds the best operating system I have ever used (including Mac OS X, BTW). If you want a system that holds your hands through a "polished" installation (an activity that probably occupies much less that 1% of your time using the system), and guesses how you want your system configured to spare you the trouble, either write a new installer yourself, or use a different distribution. You'll be missing out on a lot of functionality, but that may be appropriate, because you may not have the desire or be willing to spend the time to learn how to use it.

        Don't forget that Debian is not a company. It doesn't have profit motives. It is written by the developers for the developers. And for the developers, it's a pretty damn fine system.

        P.S. Okay, one more thing...I do evangelize a lot about Debian, not because I think that Debian is right for everyone, but because it still happens that every once in a while, Debian makes me break out in an ear-to-ear smile at how easy the system is to use, and how powerful it is (I think this happened when I was installing on my server). I know that other people can experience the same joy if they're willing to put in some effort. But I readily acknowledge that Debian isn't for everyone. If you're not interested enough to put in some effort, then you probably won't appreciate Debian's greatness anyway.

        • by Sanity (1431) on Monday October 21, 2002 @02:33AM (#4493646) Homepage Journal
          Debian was not made for you. Debian was made for people like me, who don't want arbitrary installation choices made for them to making installation "easier."
          Firstly, much of the article wasn't complaining about that, it was complaining about things which are simply dumb or demonstrate carelessness on the part of those responsible for installation.

          Secondly, if you want Debian to only be of interest to "people like you", then you should be prepared for it to continue to decline in market-share relative to Redhat, because people with the time or inclination to spend hours or days tinkering just to get sound or networking working are a dying breed.

  • From the article:
    Just look at Gentoo, a hideous installation process, but a system equivalent to a Honda Civic with added spoiler, exhausts, alloy wheels and, of course, go-fast stripes.
    You mean it's ugly, noisy, and you have to tune it up every 200 miles?
  • Reading how people think that the debian installer is the worst. Those people clearly have not installed OpenBSD... But hey, for them its a security feature, only an expert can install it!
  • I have a feeling someone will mod me as "troll" for this, but so be it...

    I do not understand why so many of these so-called "reviewers" cannot take the time to use a simple spelling and grammar checker. The review from LinuxPlanet was written by the webmaster of LinuxPlanet, yet it contained several grammatical gaffes, including use of "it's" instead of "its" and some misspellings (one of which, "managment", made its way to the front page of Slashdot.)

    This seems to be a growing trend in certain review sites. It really bothers me that some of the foremost open-source sites seem to have such a problem with grammar and spelling. This reflects badly not only on those sites, but on open-source and free software itself.

    Proper spelling and grammar may be unimportant to you personally, but it makes a lot of people view your site as unprofessional. If you want respect, you need to focus on good grammar and spelling -- or, at the very least, running your articles through a grammar and spelling checker before they are posted. (With that respect comes several bonuses, as well: great goodies such as advertising dollars, free software and hardware to review, and more.)

    The fact that most of these sites don't bother to check spelling and grammar before posting "reviews" is one more reason for me to not feel any sympathy when they need those advertising/subscription dollars to stay alive. If you make the effort to use proper grammar and spelling, I'll reward you with visits and subscription money. If you don't, I won't, and neither will most corporations looking for a place to advertise.
    • The spelling is the least of the problems these websites have. Most of them are so badly written in general that they're a real chore to read. The worst are the hardware sites like Anandtech, with pages and pages of stuff that a good writer could express in a couple of paragraphs. Reading these sites is like listening to a 14 year old blab on about his model airplanes or something.
  • So? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Debian stable is old but it's STABLE. I stick with testing and go hunting for updated packages if I need them, but rarely do I need to do something "cutting-edge". I've had unstable create SERIOUS problems, particularly with glibc versions, but that's unstable for you.

    As for unusability, I definitely agree that there are more user-friendly OSes out there than Debian. I don't believe Linux is desktop-ready for the masses right now, and I don't believe Debian will ever be. However, I really like it for running servers. And I believe servers should eschew fancy user interfaces and put the power towards the services instead -- why on earth do we need a fancy graphical UI to run a web server?

    Debian's free. Debian does what I want it to do. Debian ain't perfect, but it's pretty damn good at some things. And I never have to worry about it going away.
  • woody is worth it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jalippo (601080) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:29PM (#4492597)
    i switched back to linux this month after 4 years of windows development and decided to try with Woody based on reviews of no frills, stability & the packaging system. - installation took 1 night - configuring X and installing KDE 1 night - getting sound working 1 night. i love it. configuring X & sound was not intuitive but some heavy IRC sessions on #debian got me through the tough times. I have about 5 years IRIX admin experience from a long time ago and I find the package system very reminscent of the IRIX package system. And now I have a DVD player more stable than my crappy Windows 98 software. Well worth the effort
  • by Tester (591) <olivier.crete@ocrete3.14.ca minus pi> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:29PM (#4492600) Homepage
    is that debian is NOT a desktop distribution. Even if the debian people would like to think that it is. The default configuration of "desktop software" is soo bad its just unusable.. Even Gentoo, which is even more hardcore than debian seems to be have a nicer default desktop setup.. And I never had on Gentoo the kind of problem that I have with debian...

    But, I use debian on ALL of my servers. Debian on the server just rocks. Especially being able to upgrade it without ever going to the console.. Why do you have to reboot a RedHat system to upgrade it?? I never understood that.. Upgrading debian is a breeze...
    • by yokem_55 (575428) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:42PM (#4492679)
      The reason that Gentoo can get away with having such an incredibly "hard core" install, and yet still gain a substantial following, even from non "hard core" users (typically refugees from RPM-hell distro's), is because of the incredibly well written, strait-forward documentation that Gentoo provides. The install documentation clearly spells out how the whole installation and post-install configuration is to be done, without overwhelming the user.
  • My thoughts (Score:5, Informative)

    by EdMcMan (70171) <moo.slashdot2.z.edmcman@xoxy.net> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:32PM (#4492614) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, debian planet is /.d already. That was fast! Only 22 comments :) Anyway, here are my thoughts on what they said.

    Debian is NOT for first time linux users! Unfortunately, the reviewer(s) definitely sounded like they were anyway. Aside from dselect being a little daunting the first time you use it, the install is very easy. Dselect is very easy to use, after you hit ? and read the help page. Otherwise, don't bother.

    I'm not really sure why the people at Linuxwatch need a Debian config generator.. XFree86 4 has included two generators that work fine for me. Oh, and I have a rather odd dual head system. Geforce2 and a Voodoo 3. XFree86 -configure, and xf86cfg. Is it really so hard to type those out?

    For anyone with a clue, Debian is great! There are so many things that just *make sense* and are missing from other distros. For instance, the reason KDE's application menu was so hard to use as the review stated is because applications from DEB packages are automagically shared between window managers.

    Debian is something that you either love or hate. I love it. Everything from the directory structure to the logs to the default application settings are wonderful. How many distros ship sendmail with smtp auth and TLS enabled? :) If you are an advanced user don't let the review fool you. Give it a chance!

  • I've been using Debian for a while on an old (circa 1998) Digital alpha workstation and it is rock solid and was not *that* hard to install. The magic that 'apt-get dist-upgrade' does more than makes up for the holes in the installation process. My biggest wish is that debian could keep up with redhat as far as versions go... I had to build my own KDE 3.0 and mozilla 1.0 from source.
  • Debian has a 'social contract' and an ethos that is a mirror of linux itself. Sometimes I think that means it'll never get a wickedly polished install, because hackers know how to install it and don't want to spend time on something trivial.

    But then I look at the package install system, and hope springs anew.

    Regardless, my Debian install is a linux-mips, root on nfs, SGI Indy, installed via netboot. Obviously not something the 'average user' is going to be doing. But the fact that I was able to do it with only a few hickups in the install impressed the hell out of me.

  • Debian is for people who like to shift the gears themselves (and occasionally pop the clutch). :^)
  • ...at least from my perspective: I came from Slackware. I loved slackware, except that little part about keeping it updated. I still have slackware machines, and it's a headache, having to update 20 or so different libraries and utilities in order to go from Sawfish .38 to Sawfish 1.0.1. Debian doesn't remove the hand-configuration, but gives me an easy way to keep current.
  • by omnirealm (244599) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:37PM (#4492648) Homepage

    I consider myself to be a seasoned Linux user. I have been using various distributions of Linux exclusively on my desktop for two years now.

    My school's Unix Users Group [byu.edu] runs a periodic Install Fest, where people bring in their desktops, and UUG members load Linux onto them.

    Having settled in Debian myself, I figured I would be able to easily install it for someone else. While all my buddies were zipping through the RedHat 8.0 installation for others, I tenatiously stuck with Debian 3.0 for the guy who came to my station.

    Things were complicated by the fact that his network card would not play nice with our switch, so I had to use the CD installation (I always prefer the net install with Debian). It took me about twice as long as the RedHat guys just to get a basic system installed and a command prompt. Then his USB mouse wasn't being recognized by the kernel at all.

    Well, the guy went home, and then installed Mandrake over the Debian installation I had worked so hard to start up, because he couldn't figure out how to configure his network or his USB mouse, and he didn't want to go through the time or trouble to get it working. Mandrake just did it for him, and he was on his way with his classwork.

    It wasn't until I replaced my own motherboard that I realized that you have to use UHCI for some USB chipsets and OHCI for other USB chipsets (he probably had a chipset that was different than that which came with the Debian kernel image). Mandrake and RedHat just figure all that out for you. I wish Debian would do the same.

    Some of the guys on the UUG mailing list are claiming that since RedHat now has apt-get, there is no longer any good reason to keep using Debian. I argue that some of Debian's strongest points are that its developers are not blown about by every whim of the market, and when they say "stable," they mean it. Also, the unstable branch provides ample opportunity to keep up-to-date with the latest and greatest packages, if that's what floats your boat.

    Well, to make a long story short, for now, I tend to encourage newbies to just use RedHat or Mandrake ... but to keep their /home directories on a separate partition for the day that they will wipe their root partition and install Debian ;-)

  • by g4dget (579145) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:39PM (#4492660)
    I recently installed Woody, and the text-based nature of the installer wasn't the problem. The problems I had was that the installer was using an outdated kernel by default (2.2), that it couldn't talk to a lot of the hardware I had, and that it was trying to switch the console into some other graphics mode and failing.

    Let's not waste time on pretty pictures in the installer; rather, the installer needs to get more robust and support more hardware and installation methods. Installs from USB should be easy (carry Debian on a USB drive key). Installs from RAM disk should be possible (load the entire first stage into RAM using the BIOS, then install from there), and perhaps even the default. Those are the kinds of things that make installs easy, not pretty pictures of penguins.

    • by EchelonZero (555776) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:40PM (#4493161)
      After booting up the install cd, instead of hitting enter to proceed with the installer, type "bf24" and Debian will use the 2.4.18 kernel instead.

      Debian really requires you to completely delve into the "Debian world" to make full use of it. It seems that whenever I need the Debian version of a particular utility, it is there, you just have to find it (which I admit, can be daunting).

      Need to search for package, but don't know what the name is, or even what you're looking for? Use "apt-cache search".

      Want to update the services inetd listens for without manually editing a text file? Use "update-inetd".

      How about modifying run levels? Yep, Debian has that too with "update-rc.d". Oh, need to reconfigure that package you just downloaded? Try "dpkg-reconfigure ".

      My point is that like any OS (or linux distribution, for that matter), you need to readup on the documentation. Try reading that Debian Handbook sometime- lots of good stuff!

      I do understand your frustration though; I wish they would just make that the default kernel. :)
  • The Installer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:39PM (#4492663)
    The reason I've always been given for why the installer is so user unfriendly is that the developers and all debian users only run it once ever.

    From then on, they just apt-get new versions.

  • by lewp (95638) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:41PM (#4492670) Journal
    I just don't think this guy is part of what you would call Debian's "target audience". Part of the reason I like Debian is that it doesn't make me go sorting through a huge list of video cards. I know that I need the nv driver and that I'll probably be quickly switching it to the nvidia driver once the system is up and running.

    In fact, I have pre-written and tweaked XFree86 configuration files for each of my different machines available on one box via scp. There's no need to even ask me X questions in a system installer.

    You may not have the option to install PHP from the setup menu, but I don't really care. I already know the name of the package to apt-get (not like the name isn't obvious) and I'd rather just type apt-get install php than go digging through potentially thousands of packages in a GUI list to find it. Hell, even if I didn't know it, I could fairly easily just apt-cache search php and find out.

    On a different note, Java probably isn't readily available due to legal issues with Sun. FreeBSD is the same way, you have to manually fetch the necessary distribution file from java.sun.com. It's not like this is hard to do.

    I'm not trying to troll or be a jerk. I like Debian because, as an experienced user, it gets out of my way most of the time and what it *does* do for me is truly useful. Its package system makes it extremely quick and easy for me to keep my systems up to date without burying me in a mountain of GUI widgets.

    I respect the reviewers opinion, and don't necessarily have a problem with the review. I would, however, ask that he understand that there are tons of distributions out there right now. Some are geared towards people who don't want to get some dirt under their fingernails, and a precious few are geared towards those who either do or who have and are fully comfortable with it. Some of the former even have Debian underpinnings with a face he would be more happy with. Maybe there's not a problem with Debian, maybe it's just not for him.
  • Often when you do all things by hand you end up with a much better system than if everything is done automagically. Because only you know what you want its hard for someone else to do it for you. Usually you only configure an application once and since i dont install/uninstall apps all day (isnt fun anymore, i use my apps instead) the time spent tweaking files is very small once you get the system flying.

    I think there exists space for all variations of linux dists and together they provide an excellent path for some people like me to walk on. Start off with a nice easy dist and as you grow you go towards Debian/Slack/Gentoo etc. One of the many reasons that i left windows was that i felt stuck, squeezed between MS and its developers. The same apply for very userfriendly dists too. I like the control and system-knowledge it gives me when i build my own system from scratch.

    I really dont think we should push all dists towards user friendly. There are disadvantages with that too as it tends to empower n00bs at the expence of experienced users. More flawors is better as long as they all follow the Linux Standard Base.
    • by bogie (31020) on Monday October 21, 2002 @01:14AM (#4493444) Journal
      "Start off with a nice easy dist and as you grow you go towards Debian/Slack/Gentoo etc"

      While I am all "grown", I feel no need to migrate to a less polished/harder to use distro. I can install and use literally any distro and I certainly don't need a a GUI to get my work done, but why stay in the stone age?

      Advances in installs and config tools happen for a reason. There is nothing "better" about something being harder to use or master period. All products should be user friendly. Your forgetting that Computers are here to serve us, not make our lives more complicated.

      Real progress is a newbie and an expert being able to accomplish the same task and letting the OS do the work. If I could wave a magic wand and make settings up a safe and solid web or database server as easy as falling off a log, you can bet your ass I would. If the tools you give someone are done correctly there is NO wrong way of doing something, it just works.

      There will always be a place for hardcore users who want to "get under the hood", but real progress comes when you no longer have to do that and using a product becomes as easy as flipping on a light switch.

      That is why I prefer the "easier to use" distros. Currently they may be making some sacificies in order to promote ease of use. But you know what? They are on the right track and I'd rather help them achieve their goal of becoming "light switches", as opposed any distro which requires a user to spend time mastering it as opposed to simply using it.
  • by Froze (398171) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:47PM (#4492701) Homepage
    what they want!

    I have to maintain a dozen RH boxes and a half dozen mandrake boxes, it sucks compared to keeping a Debian system up.

    Further trying to build a dedicated server from RH of Mandrake is terrible. For security reasons a minimal install is best, but its just plain hard to get with "we know what you want" distros.

    debian is also getting a complete overhaul in the installer dept. remade from scratch with a modular interface (you want gui? ok, you want dialog, ok you want webmin that will be there also) that will be able to interface with any installer layout you choose (if the interface module exists, or yo uwrite one ;-).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I know what I want. A GUI installer.

      Seriously, though, know how long it took me to get a relatively secure web-server running under Redhat 7.3? I admit I probably have a bit of a headstart, since I do it for a living, but guess how long? About an hour. That's it. Yes, it's a "dedicated" server. I select the packages manually (you do realize there's an option to do that, don't you?), installed it, booted it up, it ran. Detached the monitor, stopped X from loading, and away it went. Didn't take up too much space either..can't remember the exact figures, but it didn't even make a dent on an 8GB hard drive. So it's not "plain hard to get" unless you're purposely dancing around all the options that make it easy..you know, those ones that aren't present in Debian yet?

      I also find it amusing that you rag on RedHat and Mandrake, then end your reply with a note that Debian is planning on IMPROVING THEIR INSTALLER! I guess someone really does know what they want, now don't they?
  • by Kenneth Stephen (1950) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:49PM (#4492710) Journal

    The point of having a server OS is to get it to do useful work without having it hinder / annoy / frustrate you. The ease of install is important in getting the OS installed. Debian certainly lacks in that area. But only a novice would consider the ease of installation a detraction so severe that it overshadows the other good or excellent properties of the server. And trust me : you do not want a novice to administer a production server.

    I confess that I am a Debian fan. Despite that, I am able to percieve Debian's deficiencies. The install certainly sucks. I had the pleasure of recently installing Redhat v7.3 . After dealing with Debian's install, the Redhat installer simply took my breath away. It was that smooth. However, the time came to put the OS to use. I needed a way to convert postscript files to pdf. For that, I installed ghostscript on Redhat. It did the conversion alright, but the generated document was useless to me because the fonts werent installed on the system. I repeated the same process on Debian : the dependancies took care to install all required fonts. Voila - the document displayed correctly!

    Now would you prefer an OS that works easier over an OS that installs better?

  • Review of Reviews (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twitter (104583) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:57PM (#4492738) Homepage Journal
    Review #1, thanks but no thanks.

    I've stuck with solely because of drakconf and it's associated tools, which make configuring a Linux system a breeze. However lately I've been aspiring to ascend to guru status, or at the very least PFY, so I gave Debian a whirl.

    Here's a three step plan to help you become a guru. First, go to the mountian and climb it. Simply climbing it will help, but from the view on the mountian will make you wise. Second, spend time on the mountian. This will give you time to reflect on it and feel its moods, even modify it to suit your own tastes. Third, master the mountian. Once you have learned all it's quirks, you are encouraged to modify the mountian for the benifit of others. In time, you will learn that the simple text based install saves you much grief and hearache, though I would not compare it to the Red Hat install because I don't work on Red Hat much. Everything can be better.

    Review #2, allas the same thing:

    There are no automatic detection routines for your hardware, no automatic disk partitioning. It took us several attempts to get everything installed and working correctly.

    There is X autodetect which has worked for me in the past. As for auto partition, no thanks. I like to set myself up myself, thank you, and the guidlines are where I learned that.

    Strangely, this review was more unbiased than the first which proported to be so. It correctly noted that Debian's distribution system rocks. Dselect is a great tool that works for more than simple installs. Reading the insturctions that you MUST click out, you learn that simple vi style searches work! Awsome, type a partial name and your package is found. A graphical front end to this might be nice, but nothing is cooler than being able to secure shell into a box and configure it completely with a few keystrokes, without the overhead of pictures of boxes.

    The short of it for me is that Debian easier to keep going once you have it up.

  • by child_of_mercy (168861) <johnboy@ t h e - r i o t a c t.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:58PM (#4492744) Homepage
    Jesus christ, when will people get over the installer???

    The average windows user should never see the installer, ditto the average linux user.

    Debian users don't pay attention to the installer because we see it just the once.

    Linux distro revieers on the other hand never do any real work with a system, just install, install, install.

    Debian runs hard and strong and updates itself.

    Because it doesn't rely on tech support for funding it's set up to minmise questions by newbies, by actually installing software so it'll run.

    I can't program worth a damm, but once i figured out how to edit a config file, that was as far as i had to develop my skill to get debian boxes hard at work on a number of jobs.

    Other distro's look flasher installing (try doing a net install off a pair of floppies tho) but after that you're pretty much on your own.

    A serious review would be comparing using the machines for a year, but thats beyond IT journalism in general, and linux journalism in particular.

  • by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:59PM (#4492745) Homepage Journal
    haha...ok, forgive my little play on words.

    Debian is not for newbies. It is *possible* for a newbie to install Debian, but only if they know their exact hardware specifications and have studied the Debian installation guides thoroughly. I installed Debian as my first Linux distro, and I'll agree with this author -- its a bitch to install. I knew my exact hardware specs and thoroughly pre-read through the install documentation (this was a graphical install guide) before starting. It was still a bitch. Then there's the setting it up so it meets your needs: another big bitch.

    Hence, Debian is not for newbies. Its even confusing for experts. Now that I've used Debian for several years, I know it. But its install process is still unworthy. Do the developers try to make the install as confusing and non-sensical as possible? Is their model for installation, "Debian installer, dumb and daft by default"? A graphical install isn't necessary; in fact, graphical install's don't make it that much easier to install, and are probably a waste of valuable development time. Most users are still smart enough to figure out how to navigate through a text-based install using hte arrow keys if you tell them how to do it with on-screen help (i.e., up to move to previous item, etc).

    Conclusion: Debian is not for dummies ;-). If you're a new user and want the benefits of Debian (i.e., true to the Free Software spirit, stable as a rock, more secure, great package management system, and lots of packages), then get Libranet or Lindows. Personally, I'd recomment Lindows, as it seems to have more momentum and is even being included on dirt-cheap PC's sold at Walmart. Btw, for those misinformed /.ers, Lindows does not violate the GPL [lindows.com]. I assume that their CD also comes with an offer to ship you the source at the cost of shipment.

    Conclusion: Debian for the daring, Lindows & Libranet for learners. You can get Lindows by paying an $99 dollar membership fee [lindows.com], after which you can have Lindows shipped to your house or download it. Don't bitch about the price. And no, they're not offering it for free download off the internet (and NO, that doesn't violate the GPL). These people actually have a business plan which will keep them in business. Personally, I think that $99 is great, since it gives you access future versions of Lindows. After two years, you're click-'n-run deal runs out, and you can purchase click-'n-run service if you still want it.

    The thing I like about Lindows is they have a REAL business plan. They seem to be pursuing Lindows as an OS to be installed on computers off the shelf (refer to Walmart), and seem to be pushing for OEMs to have it on their machines off-the-shelf. They also have ways to make money through their valuable click-'n-run service. Best of all, they aren't offering their entire modified version of Debian GNU/Linux online for free download. This mean's that they're not going to become another dot-bomb. Freeloaders, don't whine; if you want something for free (as in $0), get Debian GNU/Linux.

    Suggestion to Debian developers: don't waste time with a graphical install, but do make the install more intelligent and logical, with auto-detection; have good default setup. Things should be set up to a good default when you boot into Debian; i.e., 12pt fonts, the WM of your choice set up to a reasonable and useable default (I'd recommend them working on a good default for KDE, GNOME, and WindowMaker).

    But don't fret too much over newbie-nicities. Commercial wrap-arounds for Debian like Lindows and Libranet will make a Debian which has great defaults and is easy for the newbies. They will spend their coding time on making reasonable defaults and an easy install. Debian Developers should spend most of their coding time on hard technical details.
  • Debian 3.0 Install (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jhysong (618118) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:02PM (#4492757)
    I recently switched to Debian 3.0 after having used Mandrake from version 7.2 to 9.0.

    While the Debian installation isn't as polished as Mandrake's I did not find it to be, as the Debian Planet review states,"an awfully stupid piece of software". The installation seemed to me to be pretty straightforward and I'm no guru. I did make sure that I knew what each piece of hardware in my computer was before I tried the install. That made module selection fairly simple. I'll admit that I was intimidated a bit by dselect and I only used it for a few packages.

    Overall I'm very impressed with Debian 3.0. I tried 2.2 a while back but it seemed so outdated that I stayed with Mandrake. After using 3.0 for a few days now, I think I'm going to make this change permanent.
  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:10PM (#4492790) Homepage
    First, there is more to a distribution than the install procedure. Both of these reviews review "Installation and first 10 minutes" which, while being a small part of the user experiance of a Linux distribution, isn't anywhere near the whole story.

    In trying to review Debian the same way they review other distributions (which perhaps *only* improve their install system between releases, so as to get better reviews), both of these critics have done Debian a great disservice.

    I've been running Linux for about 4 years now, and I've used the install systems for most of the major Linux distributions (Red Hat, Mandrake, Slackware, SuSE, etc). Over this past weekend, I installed Debian on 5 computers. I can absolutly assure you that I would be completely stalled at 3/5 with any other distribution's install system. It's awfully hard to install from CDROM when a machine has no CD drive.

    Now, for a newbie I can see that some of the options in the install might be intimidating, but it's all pretty easy if you actually printed out the install document like the website told you to...

    Any reviewer of debian that doesn't even manage to notice the fact that Debian can automatically fetch from the internet and install over 8710 different software packages and have virtually any valid combination of them work together perfectly is perhaps not actually interested in reviewing Debian.
  • by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:21PM (#4492836) Homepage
    The biggest problem with reviews of distributions is that they are really reviews of installers. Debian's installer is quite usable, but it is not exactly pretty and streamlined.

    But a Debian box only ever needs to be installed once. After that, apt-get update; apt-get upgrade will be all you need to do. Forever. Sure, there will be the occasional hiccup. But they are very very rare. With RedHat or Mandrake or SuSE you get to install de novo yearly. What fun !

    So that is the largest point missed - the joy of MAINTAINING a Debian box once installed. The other thing distribution reviews always miss are the startup scripts, including hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly cron jobs. Here, again, Debian shines like a thoroughbred compared to the competition. It almost seems like it is created to make administering boxes easy for someone qualified to be an administrator.

    I think that last sentence is probably most descriptive of Debian. It almost seems like it is created to make administering boxes easy for someone qualified to be an administrator. But a review written by someone not so qualified will miss out on many of the finer points that are the distros best attributes.
  • by dilute (74234) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:26PM (#4492859)
    Hope this isn't redundant, but its worth pointing out that Debian goes out of its way to stay free. And it is rock solid stable. These two things mean a lot if you're going to use Linux long term. The "free" part, apart from philosophical issues, means you won't get hit in the future by some software vendor with its hand out demanding to get paid for an "upgrade" of formerly "free" software (this happened too many times with other distros). The stable part means, quite simply, that you can get work done. Debian does not have a monopoly on stability, but it is very stable, especially after being upgraded over a period of time (it STAYS stable).

    I don't know why everyone whines about the install. The install isn't bad if you've installed a few distros before and accept most of the defaults. Oh, yes, be sure to select the 2.4 kernel flavor of installation and a journaling file system (e.g., EXT3). Anyway, they're revamping the install. If it's too much for you, use something else.

    Red Hat is OK, but I was burned one too many times with RPM dependency conflicts. This kind of thing is very rare in Debian, if you take care to maintain your system "the Debian way."

    Yes, I'd like to have xfree 4.2, KDE 3, Gnome 2 and the other latest stuff, and they're all available for Debian if you want to install experimental and unstable packages, but I don't, at least not on a production system. There's nothing missing from the stable and testing distributions that keep me from doing most of what I want to do.

    Guess I sound a bit like a true believer, but damn, I like being able to turn off my entire network, say for a weekend out of town, and then turn it on and have every machine come up the way it's supposed to with no fooling around. And know that the whole thing will remain free for the foreseeable future.
    • "Don't forget, Debian is REALLY FREE "

      So is Redhat, always was, always will be.

      "Red Hat is OK, but I was burned one too many times with RPM dependency conflicts"

      Apt-rpm. Although I certainly can relate to problems that used to occur years ago.

      I am happy Debian is around, but I wish people would stop trying to use Redhat as some sort of scapegoat everytime they need a negative reference to compare their distro to. It's patently unfair considering A)how much they have given back to the community and B) how they continue to put out a Free highquality distro year after year. Someone's got to be number one, no need to begrudge them anything.
  • I like it this way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Uhh_Duh (125375) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:26PM (#4492860) Homepage

    Debian is not for the faint of heart. As a long-time UNIX admin, I'm a big fan of having the fluff removed from the installation. I love FreeBSD for similar rasons.

    I'm glad there's still a linux distribution that doesn't make all the decisions for me.

    Isn't that why linux people hate microsoft?? Have we come full circle here and we need our hand held?

    I understand a newbie wanting a GUI to get Linux up and going. But Debian has NEVER touted itself as the OS for such. It's for people who are serious about using Linux in production environments.
  • Debian's difficult (Score:5, Informative)

    by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:31PM (#4492883) Homepage Journal
    I wonder where this apparent perception that Debian GNU/Linux for newbies (on the part of the reviewers) comes from. Debian is not for newbies. What, do these people think that because Debian sounds friendly, its somehow for newbies?

    No, its not. Debian-based Lindows and Libranix are for newbies.

    Debian is for experts. Anyone *can* install it and get it set up to their liking, but it won't be fun. It will require knowing your exact hardware specs, exactly what you want, and reading alot of manuals. The only people who will easily navigate their way around installing and configuring Debian are people coming from Slackware, Gentoo, OpenBSD, minix, or other hard-core UNIX-like OS' even more hard-core than Debian.
  • by Erskin (1651) <<erskin> <at> <eldritch.org>> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:43PM (#4492926) Homepage

    Lots of views are expressed here, but as I just installed woody, I think many of you have missed some simply points:

    • If you can't get past the installer, the rest of the OS doens't matter. You'll never see it.
    • dselect is insufficient. It may be powerful, but when I have to WADE through 8600+ packages manually, one at a time, something is wrong. It shouldn't take me a DAY to just pick my packages.
    • Grabbing the release via jigdo on my Windows box (all 7 bin CDs) and tyrign to instlal the first time rsultied in SOMETHING causing all my selceted packages to be 'corrupt' in somebody's eyes.. (I suspect the hardening packages). Purchasing someone elese's burnm of the images revealed my CDs were fine, and I had to REPEAT the entire process from scratch ot get the OS to install.

    I love the concept behind Debian. I want to have control over my system and over the TYPE of software I install. Debian will let me, but it punishes me for trying. I expect I'll be installing another distro shortly. I need to use my computer, not spend type getting it ready to be used.


    Obligatory claim of competence: I started with slackware on floppies back in the 1.2 kernel days. I installed via floppies to bootstrap. I am not totally clueless.

  • by aquarian (134728) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:38PM (#4493157)
    I'm wondering if Debian was ever really meant to be a finished, polished, complete distribution- instead, maybe we should consider it raw material from which more polished distributions can be built- like Linux itself. Debian just takes Linux a little further- then leaves it for others to finish.

    I say this because there have been some really nice, slick distributions based on Debian. Corel was the first I can remember. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but it had a slick installer that did everything automagically, and some desktop enhancements to make it easier for the average Windows user to handle. Storm Linux was another that was pretty nice- again, a slick installer almost anyone could use, plus some nice system management and configuration tools, similar to Mandrake's. Now, Libranet seems to be doing good things with Debian also. You can read about Libranet here [linuxorbit.com]. Finally, I tried Knoppix [knoppix.com] the other day. It's a neat distribution that runs live from a CD, so one can try Linux without actually installing it. It has all the basics, and a nice KDE desktop. It's incredibly slick- installing, configuring, and loading itself from a CD faster than any of my Linux machines have ever booted. It detected all the hardware and ran perfectly on my laptop, with the nicest KDE desktop I've seen. I've been a Win2k hostage lately, so I've been loading Knoppix to netsurf and use some of my favorite programs, like Lyx. I urge everyone to try it, just for kicks.

    All of these distributions are Debian, with the finish work being done by someone else.

    So maybe we shouldn't think of Debian as a finished distribution, but as a toolkit- raw material for other distibutors to work with. Some have, and have done a good job.
  • by willfe (6537) <willfe@gmail.com> on Monday October 21, 2002 @01:42AM (#4493527) Homepage

    I use Debian's installer approximately once per machine, for approximately twenty to sixty minutes of its operational runtime depending on its network connection. It installs the platform, and is never seen again. From then on, the machine runs Debian. Life becomes good. :)

    I can forgive Debian's installer for being painful and outdated, since there are several versions of it available for download to support features that aren't available out of the box, and because it installs the single most reliable and best-performing Linux distribution in the world.

    Red Hat 8.0 may be easier to install, but try compiling PHP 4.2.x with the compiler suite it ships with. Then try getting a 2.96.x series GCC installed on the box without just building it from scratch.

    Yup, gimme my painful installer. It took all of twenty minutes to learn (simple is good, right? :) and it gives me a wonderful system that just works. Keep your shiny installers and bunk distros until they can produce a working system, not just an "oooh, purdy, it booted into Linux!" install.

    Oh, and those who complain that apt is only a good package manager when you know the name of the package you're after obviously haven't ever tried apt-cache search.

  • PGI! PGI! PGI! PGI! (Score:4, Informative)

    by steveha (103154) on Monday October 21, 2002 @02:04AM (#4493567) Homepage
    If you think Debian is hard to install, you need to know about PGI.

    PGI is the Progeny Graphical Installer. It is slick and easy to use. If you run it, it will set up your computer with a perfectly good Debian system.

    You do not need to run the official Debian installer to get a valid working Debian system.

    The official Debian project does not need to integrate PGI before you can use it. You can use it now.

    Note that Debian supports a huge number of architectures, but PGI is only available for x86 and ia64 (Itanium). I'm sure future versions of PGI will add support for other architectures.

    Now, here is the part where I was planning to tell you how to get PGI. But I'm all confused now and I can't tell you yet.

    It used to be that there was an ISO image of a PGI installer CD-ROM, available for download. You would just download it, burn it to CD, and boot from the CD.

    Now, PGI has released their 1.0 version, and the downloadable ISO image is gone. Instead there are the tools to create your own PGI install disk. While this is totally cool, this makes it hard for me to tell you how to get a working CD image.

    I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that if you take the sample "configlets" from the PGI distribution, and build a PGI disk image using that, you might get the equivalent of the ISO image they used to offer. I'm planning to look into it, but by the time I figure this out, this news story will be long since gone from the Slashdot front page. So it goes.

    It probably won't be long before you will be able to choose from several PGI-based installers (for free). But right now I'm not sure where to send you for an ISO image.

    steveha
  • My experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yogi (3827) on Monday October 21, 2002 @06:58AM (#4494301) Homepage
    I've recently got woody working at home, and had a very easy time of it. What made it easy was an offhand comment about the installation program in a debian newsgroup. Only install the bare minimum at the start ( I installed the base system and X ), and then apt-get everything else when you need it. This is totally unlike other installs I have done, where I just loaded everything I might possibly want at some point.


    I installed potato that way from a CDROM, read the APT howto, and upgraded to woody from the net with no problems. If I need to install something that I want, apt-get will retrieve it in no time.


    X worked right out of the box, and Windowmaker.


    Debian does have a learning curve. There is a "Debian Way", and it is not the Redhat way, or the SuSe way, or the Mandrake Way. Read the website, and understand the thinking behind the distro, and how to maintain it. You need to learn about APT before you can grok Debian. When you do, system maintenance and upgrades become easy.

  • by Lion-O (81320) on Monday October 21, 2002 @08:04AM (#4494600)
    I guess I missed the entire show but what the heck, I'll write something up anyway.

    It is my belief that most people simply do not like Linux anymore. At least not the Linux environment in its true form, instead they rely on extra software to take away all the hassle which comes when you administrate a Linux system (yast, linuxconf, etc.). Allthough I don't claim this to be a bad development (personally I think it is though) it is becoming pretty clear that just because of this development people completely loose track and focus of what Linux really is.

    When taking a closer look at Debian GNU/Linux you will see its a completely free distribution which is composed of Linux software. Software like XFRee86, KDE, but also shells, shell utilities, and so on. Allthough Debian has provided in some installation guide most of it is done the Linux way, apart from compiling your own software that is.

    There is a lot of complaining about the way Debian is installed but I truly wonder if any of these complaining people have actually bothered to, for example, grab a copy of XFree86 directly from the XFree site in order to set that up ? Because that is exactly what you get when you use Debian, you'll get Linux in its purest form. The Linux OS with access to all the major software packages out there. And yes, perhaps the Debian team could have put some more effort in the installation process, perhaps.

    But have we allready forgotten that Linux isn't Windows ? Who cares about the harder / rougher installtion process, once its installed then you'd normally don't have to bother with installing for the next 5 years. And the configuration part... True, it doesn't give you nice hardware detection and all of that. Instead effort and attention has been put in other aspects. For example the option to keep your system running for those 5 years I mentioned above, even when you do want to upgrade to the next release. And I don't mean pop in the CD and select upgrade, I mean keep your server running while the next release is being downloaded and/or installed. Try that with RedHat or SuSE :)

    In conclusion; I think people are losing focus to what Linux really is. Its nice that there are companies out there investing in Linux and developing nice tools to make configuration and installation easier. But this development does not take away the mere fact that Linux itself is still a Unix based environment which is (and should be) configurable using vi at all times.

    And when a certain distribution gives you just that then its a little bit disturbing, IMO ofcourse, when people start complaining about how hard it is to install and configure. Because in the end it seems these people don't realize anymore that they are complaining about Linux itself.

  • by mbourgon (186257) on Monday October 21, 2002 @08:08AM (#4494615) Homepage
    Xandros, based off Debian, ships this week. If it's done correctly, it'll offer all the Debian goodness, with an actual ease-of-use for end-users. I am looking forward to it, to see what they've managed to do with Corel Linux.

    "Xandros Desktop 1.0. The product, due to be released on September 30, 2002 and available for purchase within three weeks after that date, is built upon Linux kernel 2.4.19, XFree86 4.2, Debian 3.0, Corel LINUX 3.0, and enhanced KDE."
  • by _aa_ (63092) <jNO@SPAMuaau.ws> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:11AM (#4495554) Homepage Journal
    It is not impossible to use. No other installation system I've used gives you as many options for data sources as debian does. The network installation alone, in my opinion, makes it my choice distro. When I use bf2.4, I can install the entire system using nothing more than 2 floppies. Alternativly, there are 11mb netinst CD images with all the drivers included. I would rather have debian's installation method than being forced to download 650mb worth of packages I'm not going to use, plus having to own a CD-Burner (which I don't, and have never needed to thanks to debian). Personally, I'd rather not have a graphical installation. And I'd rather have functionality than play tetris while my distro decides what packages i do and don't want.

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

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