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Debian

Debian Desktop Subproject Launched 387

Posted by Hemos
from the go-apt-get-go dept.
MrOutlander writes "The Debian Project is now officially addressing its usability on the desktop with the launch of the Debian Desktop subproject. Great to see usability being recognized as a very important part of debian. Other than the sometimes daunting install process, Debian is one of the best linux distributions."
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Debian Desktop Subproject Launched

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  • by jiminim (104910) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:36AM (#4521475) Homepage

    In other news:

    -Lemonade is one of the best beverages

    -Pink is the best color

    -Pi is the best number

  • Required Reading... (Score:5, Informative)

    by toupsie (88295) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:36AM (#4521476) Homepage
    Aqua Human Interface Guidelines [apple.com] and Mac OS 8 Human Interface Guidelines [apple.com]. Don't reinvent the wheel, perfect it.
    • by Bonker (243350) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:46AM (#4521552)
      Personally, I would pay more attention to the OS8 guidelines that the Aqua guidelines. IMHO, Aqua is a little broke. (Quicktime, anybody?) There's way too much emphasis on making computer controls look like real-life objects and not like computer controls.

      As someone who's used OS8, OS9, Linux, and all the video variants, let me tell you that OS8 comes pretty damn close to being *golden*. Apple spent a lot of time making OS7-9 pleasant and easy to use and it shows.
      • Yep. While I do think MacOSX has the best UI of all *nixes, I also think that OS 8 has the best UI of all MacOS*s.
      • were not talking about copying the UI, just using the guidlines for good design...you know...all the extensive research Apple has done on how the human eye moves across the screen so it tells you where to place certain widgets etc.
    • by The J Kid (266953) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:48AM (#4521571) Homepage Journal
      Don't reinvent the wheel, perfect it.

      Yes. Yes. Yes. People..read this line and chant it.

      And in the process, they could also team up with the 'Debian Graphical Installer' group (see this [slashdot.org] /. article) to provide a full & finished desktop experience.
    • by FooBarWidget (556006) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:58AM (#4521657)
      What about the GNOME Human Interface Guide [gnome.org]?
      • by toupsie (88295) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:05AM (#4521720) Homepage
        What about the GNOME Human Interface Guide?

        I'm not interested in interfacing with a fabled race of dwarflike creatures, I'm interested in interfacing through a GUI to a UNIX or UNIX-like system.

      • Mod parent up! Funny!

        Ok, seriously, Gnome, KDE et al have some serious usability issues to deal with. While at first they seem pretty much like Windows (or whatever else they're trying to duplicate), when you start to use them every day you begin to see how disconnected they are from the rest of the OS. No Linux interface that exists today provides unified system usability.
        • That's because of a lack of certain tools. What does the user interface guidelines have anything to do with that?
        • by scrytch (9198) <chuck@myrealbox.com> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:24AM (#4521890)
          No Linux interface that exists today provides unified system usability.

          Or for that matter, windows. KDE has its faults, to be sure, but Konq provides better integration than even Windows. In Windows, I can only see folders on the left pane in explorer. In Konquerer, I can at my option see files, and view all kinds of content, from HTML to text to postscript, in the right hand pane. I can rubberband a bunch of files in ftp and drag them to the desktop. The control center includes system management (to some degree), whereas in windows, you use a completely separate app, MMC. Granted, Windows is carrying along legacy cruft, and would probably make every control panel a MMC snap-in nowadays, but they don't even provide an adaptor.

          The user experience on windows is pretty disjointed too. But I don't think Unix (it's more than Linux, folks) exactly has further to go than Windows. It's just broken in different places.
  • Start Here: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bonker (243350) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:37AM (#4521483)
    The Gnome Usability Report:

    http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gup/ut1_report /participant_mix.html [gnome.org]

    I read this about a year ago. It does an *excellent* job of pointing out many of the inconsistencies and gotchas in any given linux desktop situation.
    • Also (Score:5, Informative)

      by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@kHORSEe ... minus herbivore> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:57AM (#4521644) Homepage
    • Re:Start Here: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pmz (462998)
      The Gnome Usability Report

      On the first page of the report, I noticed something odd. All of the study's (largely non-hacker) participants rated themselves as "expert" Windows users but utterly helpless at UNIX. Interesting thing is, to a pure end user, CDE/GNOME/KDE aren't too far removed from Windows as far as available tools, etc., go--the main difference is that Windows is flashy and expertly marketed. I think that people, in general, perceive UNIX as "hard" regardless whether it actually is. This psychological barrier is artificial, yet it makes up the biggest obstacle to getting through to most people about UNIX and Linux.

      Me thinks Sun and the GNOME foundation need to crank up their respective marketing machines to further dismantle Microsoft's dominance in the global perception about computers and software. Whenever Sun is ready with their GNOME/Linux business PCs, they should get full page ads in the major PHB-oriented and business-oriented periodicals. The word really needs to get out there.
  • Daunting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ksw2 (520093) <obeyeater@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:40AM (#4521499) Homepage
    Debian's installer isn't any more difficult than any other distribution, IMHO. Why do people freeze up as soon as they see a text-based installer?
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by marko123 (131635)
      Because people born after about 1980 freak out when they move a mouse and nothing happens.

      Sheesh.
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ace Rimmer (179561)
      Bah, maybe if you use it for a server. I installed it on a workstation and besides sound, 3d graphics, i18n everything was quite fine (I've chosen minimal instalation and then used apt instead that pigdoggish green spit dselect ;). After a day or two I had everything working fine but mdk or redhat is another story.

      Just try to replace a videocard - what will Debian with default xdm do?
      • Re:Daunting? (Score:2, Informative)

        by v1z (126905)

        Just try to replace a videocard - what will Debian with default xdm do?

        Flash x five times, and then start up a text-mode dialog telling you that X seems to be crashing, and politly ask you if you want to reconfigure.

        If you select no, it will kindly disable xdm for you, and ask you to enable it, once you've worked out what the problem is.

        Maybe redhat copes with this now, but it certainly didn't use to.

        • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by batkiwi (137781)
          Redhat (and mandrake) have Kudzu.

          Shut down, swap network cards, boot up. On init, it says something like "Your network card has changed, do you you want to copy your old settings to the new card?"

          Then it does it, and you boot up.
          Same thing with video cards/etc.
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Informative)

      by jmu1 (183541)
      I was a Slack user for several years, but the Debian installer was just so darned screwy. I should be able to select a few categories of programs, then edit the contents _if_ i want to. I shouldn't have to pick from some two-thousand package names with terrible(if any) descriptions. I installed Deb once. The system didn't work very well, because I didn't install some of the things I was supposed to. Sure, I could have just started apt-getting. Problem was, I didn't know half of the stuff I needed. Now days, I might be able to cope. Then again, why would I want to cope when I can install Slack or RedHat?
      • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by schon (31600)
        I was a Slack user for several years, but the Debian installer was just so darned screwy. I should be able to select a few categories of programs, then edit the contents _if_ i want to.

        BINGO!

        Why is it that whenever you say you hate the Debian installer, Debheads always assume it's just because you're not accustomed to text interfaces?

        I, too, am a Slack user (in the past I've used Mandrake and Caldera for my desktop, but switched once Slack hit 7.1), and I've tried Debian once - with pretty much the same results as you.. I find the installer completely non-intuitive, almost like it was made difficult on purpose.

        Why can't the Debian people make an installer that's easy?
      • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Informative)

        by dasunt (249686)

        In debian stable (woody), when you are done setting up the base system, tasksel has a few broad catagories.

        Afterwords, you can run dselect to individually select or deselect packages, but you aren't required to.

        I think debian stable{-1} (potato) was the same way. Never had to install anything older then that.

    • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Demona (7994)
      My first thought is usually, "Maybe they don't know how to read." After all, illiteracy is a growing problem...
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sepper (524857) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:08AM (#4521753) Journal
      The problem is not the "Text-base install" as much as "No hardware detection" and "too technical centric". The install sometimes looks cryptic to some (have to know that a geforce use the "nv" driver, etc.).

      It took me a while to figure out the exact driver for my sparcstation, and in the end, i had to open the box and do a search on google to know.

      This new incentive to push debian into the desktop is "a good thing". Even if it doesnt turn out perfect, it's still a step in the right direction.
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:2, Informative)

      by marcelC (592689)
      It's not the text-based idea that's the problem, usability and ease. With slackware or an old suse text based install I was quite happy, I could select every package I wanted, and knew what it did without getting lost in numerous tabs and windows, when I tried Debian I was amazed at how needlesly complicated it was, I knew what I wanted to install, but after 45 minutes I was lost in the maze. I'm back with slack now...:)
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DickBreath (207180) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:41AM (#4522017) Homepage
      Debian's installer isn't any more difficult than any other distribution, IMHO. Why do people freeze up as soon as they see a text-based installer?

      Why do people freeze up when they are given a telegraph key to communicate?

      Brand-X's difficult to use installer is no more difficult that any other distribution's difficult to use installer.

      This is the whole crux of the problem in Human interface. Programmers are NOT good designers of human interfaces. Apple's Human Interface Guidelines said it best. (Back in 1984!) The general sentiment that Apple expressed was this: We, slashdotters, are willing to put up with the most abysmal interfaces, and have done so for so long that we no longer are even capable recognizing a bad interface.

      In the 1800's there were widespread predictions that eventually there would be a telegraph on every desk!

      But what happened was that a more natural way of communicating (better human interface) came along and appeared on every desk instead.
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tswinzig (210999)
      Why do people freeze up as soon as they see a text-based installer?

      If you have to ask this, you must be a *nix geek.

      What's easier to peruse ... a magazine with lots of pictures, or a magazine with no pictures?

      Which one do you have to sit down and focus on to get an idea of what is going on, and which one can you just skim over and pick up the gist of things?

      Now apply this to an installer.
    • Re:Daunting? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by a3ulafia (600025)

      The Yellow Dog Linux installation has a graphical installer (using the Blackbox WM) and it requires you to click through about 10 screens. If you live in the USA, most of the default settings are accaptable.

      After installing both Mac OS X and Windows 2000 many times, I can honestly say that the YDL installer is the most directly functional and the least obtrusive.

      http://www.yellowdoglinux.com/ydl_home.shtml [yellowdoglinux.com]

  • by Sam the Nemesis (604531) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:41AM (#4521505)
    From the site:

    We will try to ensure that software is configured for the most common desktop use. For instance, the regular user account added by default during installation should have permission to play audio and video, print, and manage the system through sudo.

    I think giving the root privileges to the user using sudo is a security risk. It will be very easy to wreak a havoc on the system, once you break into the user account.

    • Well, let's compare this to other desktops; XP allows me to do all sorts of stuff with the user I created at initialisation, including create other user accounts. What this is probably aiming for is the same sort of user as XP, i.e. one that doesn't want to know about 'root' he wants things to 'just work'. In any event, it's probably more secure than having the user log in as root with a password of 'password'; how long would that take to crack?

      If you're going to deploy this in any kind of serious setting, you'll have admins to set up scripts to remove the glaring security holes in any case.

    • But Joe Average doesn't care about security! Do you have any idea how many Windows users don't have a virusscanner installed, even though they know viruses exist? As far as Joe Average is concerned, security doesn't exist.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:45AM (#4521535)
    It's fantastic that there is so much happening in the Linux desktop area at the moment. But a plea to you guys -- can we have some co-ordination and co-operation please? Everyone seems to be doing their own thing in many areas. Remember, your competitioin is Microsoft, they have 95% of the desktop market (or there abouts). You should be teaming together to fight them, not amongst each other.

    The OSS community can make a desktop that is better than XP. In fact, all of the bits of the puzzle are already there, it's just that they are in different distributions! (Xandros, SUSE, RedHat, Lindows, Debian...)

    When Linux has a reasonable foothold in the desktop market, then go ahead, fight away. But until that day, please share and co-operate. For motivation, imagine Bill Gates giggling to himself and muttering "what a bunch of losers". Works for me.
    • by merz (550238)
      Is Microsoft really the "enemy"? Do the distros need to against this common foe? I don't think so. The OSS movement wasn't started to fight Microsoft, it was started to provide freedom and choice .

      Yes, commericial distros have appeared, and their competition is Microsoft (and Sun, and the BSDs, and Apple), but that doesn't mean that the non-comercial distros (a la Debian) need to join in the fight also. They don't have a competition per se because they have no real financial stake in the product. Debian is developed by volunteers and hobbyist who enjoy the work they do. If they didn't get satisfaction from it, they wouldn't be doing it. Do most Debian developers think they are competing with Microsoft? Probably not...

      Plus, cooperation between Linux distros is somewhat implicit. Since they are required to provide the source under the GPL, they are already sharing with the community.

      I think that the number of distributions is a good thing for the non-comercial distros. As for the commericial distros, well they are already decided to join forces. [unitedlinux.com]
      • by pubjames (468013) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:20AM (#4521843)
        Is Microsoft really the "enemy"?

        Well, it depends what you want. If you are happy with Linux having less than 1% of the desktop market, then fine. But there are many people like myself who believe that the world would be a better place if OSS software were much more widely used. And that means the desktop. So, yes, at least from my perspective, Microsoft is the enemy, or if you'd prefer, the competition.

        And no, Sun, the BSDs and Apple are not really the competition because they don't own 95% of the marketplace.

        Plus, cooperation between Linux distros is somewhat implicit.

        Except it doesn't seem to be happening that way. If you look at the kernel, there is a great deal of uniformity between distributions basically because there is a single, widely accepted head-penguin who is doing an excellent job (Linus). I'm sure that there are very few people who would argue that it would be great if we had dozens of incompatible kernals. The desktop space however doesn't have a head-penguin and it really shows.

        It's possible to have a high level of co-ordination and co-operation as well as freedom and choice.
        • The desktop space however doesn't have a head-penguin and it really shows.

          That statement really made me sit up!

          What an interesting idea. The first thing I thought was "Hey, vote for me! I'll be head penguin and really sort all this stuff out." It was just a silly thought of course. But then it got me thinking:

          How could we have a head penguin?

          What if we had an election, via the net, and voted for a Head Penguin?! I'm serious. Give the Head Penguin a term of say, two years... or maybe just one year to start out to see how it all works. And then continue to have new elections ever one or two years. Who knows what the details of all of this would be like, but maybe a little debate about the possibilities would be useful?
          • What if we had an election, via the net, and voted for a Head Penguin?!

            I don't think that would be the best way. For it to work the Head Desktop Penguin would need a) to be known to most people in the desktop field b) to be impartial and fair, and c) to be respected. I think the best way would be for the desktop gurus from all the major distributions to discuss it together, and then choose someone from amongst them who would hopefully agree to being Head Desktop Penguin.

            Give the Head Penguin a term of say, two years...

            I think that due to the nature of the position, the term would be until the Penguin got bored/over-stressed, or given a vote of no confidence by the community.

            We already have a good model of how this might function with the Linux kernal. Unfortunately I don't think it is going to happen for the desktop space, which is a shame.
    • But a plea to you guys -- can we have some co-ordination and co-operation please? Everyone seems to be doing their own thing in many areas.

      It's called the Bazzar. Not the Cathederal. It seems to have worked very well so far to create some really good software. Sorry it might not work as quickly as you or I might like.

      Remember, your competitioin is Microsoft, they have 95% of the desktop market (or there abouts).

      The Bazzar model of development is what will hurt Microsoft. They cannot compete with that.

      Choice is what will undermine Microsoft. They do not offer that.

      Example: hardware vendors should all work together and cooperate. There should be only one single kind of CD drive, one kind of each size of monitor, one kind of CPU, etc.

      The Bazzar seems to work there quite well. Look at hardware prices.

      I agree that it would be bad if the open source world spread its resources too thin. But I don't think it is. Even if it were, there is little you or I can do about it. That is just another condition of the Bazzar.

      You should be teaming together to fight them, not amongst each other.

      I don't think there is any "fighting" going on. I suppose we have seen some bickering amongst KDE and GNOME advocates. (But amongst the developers?)
  • by Selanit (192811) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:47AM (#4521555)
    a processor architecture update would be good too. Currently, all Debian packages are compiled for use on a 386. I can't think of ANYONE who still uses a 386 for ANYTHING. So why do we need to continue supporting it?

    At the least, I'd like to see the Debian compiles updated to i586. (That's the equivalent of a Pentium 1, in non-geek speak.) There are still quite a few of those in use.

    Updating the targetted processor architecture would give a significant performance boost to Debian. I mean seriously, nobody is going to run KDE or Gnome on a 386 -- it'd take DAYS just to start a program.

    It might also be possible to support multiple processor architectures; eg during installation you get a list of i386, i486, i586, and i686 (386, 486, Pentium 1, More Recent Stuff). Then apt would fetch the appropriate package flavor. Of course, this would require non-trivial amounts of storage space, not to mention all the time needed to re-compile everything.
    • by Stephen Williams (23750) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:01AM (#4521674) Journal
      How much of a performance increase is gained by optimizing the "average"[1] application? I don't mean stuff that bangs the CPU, like bzip2, or an MP3 encoder, or whatnot; I mean something interactive like a mail client, which spends most of its time in an idle state, waiting for the user to press a key or click the mouse.

      Optimizing the kernel for a particular CPU model is almost certainly a win (I'm not a kernel hacker and don't know how much of a win); but it seems to me that the costs of producing and storing multiple optimized versions of an "average" app probably outweigh the benefits. And since i386 is the lowest common denominator, Debian may as well just continue building for that.

      -Stephen

      [1]: if indeed there is such a thing as an "average" app.
      • How much of a performance increase is gained by optimizing the "average"[1] application?

        Surprisingly quite a bit. I moved my linux workstation over to Gentoo and it runs a lot snappier than my old debian setup. (no hard numbers, simply the feel from day to day use) I have an Athlon 750 and an ancient ATI PCI Rage Pro card so every drop counts.

      • Optimizing the kernel for a particular CPU model is almost certainly a win (I'm not a kernel hacker and don't know how much of a win); but it seems to me that the costs of producing and storing multiple optimized versions of an "average" app probably outweigh the benefits. And since i386 is the lowest common denominator, Debian may as well just continue building for that.


        I suspect that you're probably right about the costs outweighing the benefits. (Sigh.) It's just that when I tried out Gentoo, the difference in execution time was noticeable, and not just in big applications like KDE. I had used custom compiles of KDE and XFree86 under Debian Woody for some time, but the underlying stuff must have slowed it down. Under Gentoo, it takes my machine about 22 seconds to start KDE, whereas under Debian Woody it took about 45. In my book, a 50% decrease in startup time is significant.

      • Optimizing the kernel for a particular CPU model is almost certainly a win

        glibc, X, and crypto libs would get a benefit from CPU optimization. If nothing else, the order of instructions might be changed to better support a superscalar architecture.

        Mandrake accomplishes the glibc by having a /lib/i686 directory with i686 builds of the most intense glibc components. At runtime, the kernel is queried to determine the CPU and based on that, either the i586 builds in /lib or the i686 builds in /lib/i686 are used.

        Of course, this doesn't work on VIA processors, as they are mistakenly id'd by the kernel as i686-compatible, when they really aren't.

    • Define "significant". Processor architecture optimizations are not all they're cracked up to be.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A) I'm running Debian on old 386's now as routers. Why should I have to throw away that perfectly working hardware?

      B) compiling for 586 is retarded. The only sytems that benefit from 586 optimizations are 586 systems - 686 systems are architectured differently so that good 586 optimizations don't do much for 686's. Optimizing for 686 would actually give a performance benefit. If you want that, go use Arch Linux or Gentoo.

      C) Recompiling all those packages, or keeping both i386 and i686 archives, would be a tremendous amount of work. And, to be honest, 99% of apps don't benefit that much from the optimizations anyways. Recompile your multi-media apps (or use ones that detect the corrent modules at runtime) and install an optimized kernel package, and you should be good.
      • C) Recompiling all those packages, or keeping both i386 and i686 archives, would be a tremendous amount of work. And, to be honest, 99% of apps don't benefit that much from the optimizations anyways. Recompile your multi-media apps (or use ones that detect the corrent modules at runtime) and install an optimized kernel package, and you should be good.

        Not really, do you have any idea of how many platforms Debian is currently autocompiled for? (I've lost count)

        Some of these platforms takes days or weeks to compile some packages so there should be pleanty of time to compile the i386 package twice.

        No the real issue is that dispite how cool processor specific optimizations sounds, the gains are very limited. I think it is supposed to improve when we switch to gcc-3.2, but it has to be ready for all the Debian platforms before that is attempted.

    • One problem is that code optimized for a Pentium might not run as well on a K6 as 386 code.
    • by molo (94384) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:59AM (#4522157) Journal
      Debian unstable is doing this where performance is critical. For example:

      > ls -1 /usr/lib/i686/
      libcrypto.so@
      libcrypto.so.0.9.6
      libssl.so@
      libssl.so.0.9.6

      There were experiments doing custom glibcs a while back, but there were bugs and it was backed out. I'd like to see that working though.
  • Great! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by e8johan (605347) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:47AM (#4521556) Homepage Journal
    This is exactly what is missing if Linux is going to make it to the mainstream desktop.
    As soon as Linux is recognized as a userfriendly, easy-to-use desktop with lots of free (as in beer) software by the average user Windows will get into real problems. Such an opening would generate a *huge* increase in the number of users and thus in the interest in supporting Linux from different companies.

    Two points to avoid flaming: 1) I know that Linux is only the kernel, simply sed 's/Linux/Gnu\\Linux/' and be happy, 2) "as in beer" is how the average user will see it, my mother don't care for open source, she wants to use it as a tool!
    • This is exactly what is missing if Linux is going to make it to the mainstream desktop.
      As soon as Linux is recognized as a userfriendly, easy-to-use desktop with lots of free (as in beer) software by the average user Windows will get into real problems. Such an opening would generate a *huge* increase in the number of users and thus in the interest in supporting Linux from different companies.


      Making Linux easier to install, use, and maintain would be a huge leap forward. However, the VAST majority of end-users do NOT install operating systems. Realize: they can't even install Windows XP, which continues to make installation on x86 easier than previous versions of Windows. How can you expect them to install Linux?

      End-users buy computers with OSes pre-installed. That's the key.
    • I totally agree with this. If GNU/Linux is ever going to make it as a "mainstream" desktop OS then it has to get more user friendly.

      I think it goes a bit deeper though ... it has to get user friendly and mainstream software vendors have to see it be user friendly. If software vendors see it as a viable option then more software should get ported over and then at that point end users will see an alternative to their current desktop that will allow them to still be productive. When this all comes together user will have a system that is rock solid, is user friendly, and has useful mainstream software packages. Now all we (or at least software developers / testers) have to do is go get this all done :)
  • Wrong focus? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by m0i (192134)
    Shouldn't Debian focus on trying to stay up to date on core components instead? We all know that some critical packages are way out of date:
    -XFree, 4.2 just appeared in unstable
    -KDE 3
    -Mozilla 1.1
    And it's even worse for people using woody without 'proposed-updates' package repository!

    The 'testing' distribution is a step in the right direction, but there's a lot more to do that just to focus on Desktop, IMHO.
    • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:5, Informative)

      by PeterClark (324270) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:59AM (#4521660) Journal
      Well, I don't know what the hold-up for Mozilla is (someone else can jump in), but in the case of KDE3, the only reason that it isn't in unstable now is because of the GCC3.2 transition. One the transition is complete, it's ready to go in. (Of course, there are debs maintained now by the official packagers, they just can't be called official packages because they're not in unstable. But they work just fine.) As for XFree, the big hold-up was testing and patching it to be compatible with all the other platforms. As I understand it, XFree develops pretty much exclusively for x86, and then lets the Debian folk port/patch is over to Alpha, Sparc, PPC, etc.

      You also forget that Debian is not a company, but a community. In other words, you cannot dictate what will be done; people will do whatever interests them. It works, it's just that at this point with so many transitions and changes going on, the process has slowed down. Want to sped it up? Fork over some $$$ to a developer. Simple as that.
      :Peter
      • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sab39 (10510)
        Mozilla 1.1 has been in unstable for ages, since pretty soon after 1.1 was released. Mozilla 1.1 is the latest stable Mozilla version. Ergo, Debian (unstable at least) is up to date with the latest Mozilla. When 1.2 is released, I bet Debian will get it pretty darn quickly.

        I suspect that the reason it's not in testing is because someone found a bug in it that's considered release-critical.

        Oh, and GNOME2 (the bits that aren't already in unstable, cf gnome-terminal) is apparently going into unstable this weekend (according to the gtk-gnome list archives). The holdup was transition scripts so that it wouldn't completely throw away all your existing configuration settings from GNOME1 (remember that the two can't coexist cleanly!). They're going to hold it out of testing artificially until these transition scripts have been tested a little more.

        Personally I'm extremely glad of that, because I use GNOME to get real work done and I went so far as to artificially downgrade my sid machine to sarge specifically to avoid gnome-terminal and other GNOME2 packages. If GNOME2 had gone into Debian any sooner, I'd have been terribly unhappy.

        I'd like to see xft/fontconfig make it into Debian, but the X maintainer has made a good case for holding off on that until X 4.3ish. When you're Red Hat and do one release a year, ongoing changes aren't a problem because you can ignore them until your next release. When you're Debian and do one release a day, ongoing changes hurt!

        Stuart.
    • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:2, Informative)

      by dzym (544085)
      Mozilla 1.1 is in unstable.
    • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ray Dassen (3291) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:23AM (#4521874) Homepage
      Shouldn't Debian focus on trying to stay up to date on core components instead?
      Debian focusses on whatever the Debian developers care about. One thing Debian developers tend not to care about at all is armchair experts. If you happen to disagree with what we care about, feel free to learn How you can help [debian.org], or to pay for a developer to scratch your particular itch.

      We all know that some critical packages are way out of date:
      -XFree, 4.2 just appeared in unstable

      And excellent prerelease packages have been available from the X Strike Force [debian.org] for months. Not to mention that Debian supports X on 11 architectures [debian.org] rather than just i386.
      -KDE 3 Unofficial packages are available; official packages will follow after the gcc transition; see the FAQ [davidpashley.com].

      -Mozilla 1.1
      Available [debian.org] in unstable and testing, as are recent CVS snapshots.

      And it's even worse for people using woody without 'proposed-updates' package repository!
      woody is the stable release. Debian takes stability very seriously and the stable release is only updated to fix serious issues (in particular security issues), not to put in new releases of packages. If you want a more up to date system, use testing.

  • I Have No Problems. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by _iris (92554)
    (disclaimer: I have not installed Debian since 2.2)

    Personally I have no problem with Debian's installer. In fact, it is the best I have seen yet. In a desktop situation you can (with the exception of partitioning a disk and one or two other places) just continually hit [ENTER] and come out with a base Debian install.

    Which installer is better?
  • Ximian Setup Tools (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SmileyBen (56580) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:57AM (#4521648) Homepage
    Slightly off-topic, but bear with me: they mention using Ximian Setup Tools, but all mention of this project appears to have dissappeared from Ximian's website. Does anyone know what's happened to it? Are the tools orphaned, abandoned, or just moved (and hidden somewhere)? They were looking very promising, and in terms of achieving what this Debian desktop project is trying to, they seem to fit the bill very well...

    Anyone...?
  • Menus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PeterClark (324270) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:02AM (#4521692) Journal
    One thing I hope that they will do is have better integrated menus for GNOME and KDE programs. I ran KDE in Debian and always hated that by default, there was a "Debian" submenu for non-KDE programs. Ditto under GNOME. Programs ought to be grouped by task, not by desktop.
    :Peter
    • Re:Menus (Score:2, Informative)

      by leviramsey (248057)
      One thing I hope that they will do is have better integrated menus for GNOME and KDE programs. I ran KDE in Debian and always hated that by default, there was a "Debian" submenu for non-KDE programs. Ditto under GNOME. Programs ought to be grouped by task, not by desktop.

      Mandrake has made the Debian menu system do just that. Perhaps the Debian developers may want to take a look?

  • The article says "there are only two classes of users: the novice, and the expert"

    How about all those novices who think they're experts?

  • In other news, it turns out that there already IS a successful Debian desktop project, code named Lindows.
  • by 3t3rn4l (204282) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:23AM (#4521872)
    I just successfully installed Debian on my notebook about a week ago. For the most part, my installation experience was uneventful, but one of the first things I was surprised by is the lack of a graphical installer. ( I flashed back to installing Minix on my A500 and my first install of Slackware back in 1995! :)

    SO WHAT!?! It installed fine.

    Some of my minor complaints include:

    Ease of install of Xwindows

    X installation has always been a bitch for me irregardless of the distribution Linux or BSD. It seems that it's something that always needs tinkering. I did get this going fairly quick after some help from my BSD admin guru--thank the Gods for buddies!

    Ease of install of sound

    I still don't have sound working, but I haven't given it the one two punch!

    Ease of install of APM support

    I probably haven't looked in the right place or good documentation doesn't exist. And I'm lazy? :S

    Up to date install documentation

    Let's face it, I think that once most people get their configuration working they don't think about giving back to the community. Something that should definately be reconsidered.

    Package Manager selection at end of install

    Aggravating. I don't want to sit and select then download and install 200M of software after I get it installed, but I DO want an easy way to get back to package management once I hastily exit out if it. I want my cake and I want to eat it too.

    Overall though, my Debian install was a pleasant experience.

    If I didn't have ~10 years of XP working with *NIX as a user and ~20 years of XP working with computers I certainly wouldn't know where to begin. That's why I think better documentation is certainly in order.

    OVERALL, Debian is everything that I would expect it to be for what I consider to be a non-commercial distribution of Linux.
  • * Work on removing unnecessary debconf prompts from packages, and making the ones that are necessary easy to understand.

    Bravo! Aside from wading through 5 million packages to decide which to install, this has been the worst part of installing Debian for me (which I've done on a number of computers because I LOVE how easy it is to keep my system up to date using dselect). In fact, all the prompts may be even worse.

    Here are a few ideas for reducing prompts without causing problems:

    1) Make a log of all the prompts that WOULD have been shown so that those who want to can go back and see what else they might have customized.

    2) Another reason to make a log of the prompts is in case you accidentally okay one of them and then realize you wish you'd read it more carefully. And it would save you the trouble of writing down anything that it suggests you might want to do later.

    3) Give people the option of seeing more or less prompts. Some people may want to see them all. Others may want to only see prompts for things that could make their computer stop working if configured wrong. Others may want more than that, but not every grizzly little detail about configuration files they've never looked at and never will look at.

    4) If you really want to get zealous, you could add the ability to make a list of packages that you want to see all prompts for (you'd build it over time) so that you can run on minimal prompts for most things, but for packages that seem to get messed up every time you upgrade them because the default isn't right for you, you get all the prompts.

  • by RestiffBard (110729) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @02:05PM (#4523792) Homepage
    often, ok always, it is said that debian is hard to use but the package management is solid as ft knox.

    well, I'd rather have a solid package management (PM) tool than a simple gui for everything. but now that I've got the solid PM sure go for the solid gui or solid config tools.

    I think debian has it right in hitting the important bits first and getting it right before moving on to somthing else. they don't do it half assed.

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