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Debian

Debian, Past Present & Future 157

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-spell-love-a-p-t dept.
solferino writes "Christoph Lameter, a major guru in the debian project, has put up a very well written talk that he gave earlier this week that addresses debian's past, present and future. He includes a good background history of the project, some interesting sets of figures and projections (30,000 packages by the end of 2004!), a good discussion of the pros/cons of source based distros and his ideas about a new package manager he is developing (uPM). In all a very good read, whether you are just now considering dipping a toe into the debian well-spring or have been drinking from the source for a long time already."
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Debian, Past Present & Future

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  • apt (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    apt-get install first-post
    • Re:apt (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      E: Errors while processing: Not allowed by moderators.
    • Re:apt (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      apt-cache search informative-comments
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "It's not the size of your package that matters, it's how many you have."
    • Windows doesn't need packages, it has DRM.

      Rape victims want their rights, and so does the RIAA.

      <!--hehe, this analogy will get them all to switch back to windows. Master Balmers might let me eat for such a great accomplishment!-->
  • by httpamphibio.us (579491) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:11AM (#4540978)
    I imagine this will be similar to the catastrophic Y2K bug. :)
  • by bovril (260284)
    And 100,000 by 2006!!
    I guess this means that sarge will be released around 2028...
    • by dfeist (615612) <mail@dankradfeist.de> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:24AM (#4541004) Homepage
      640 are plenty for all, I thought...
    • Yes it does!!! That's the year when it will be optimized for i586. Of course, that will be only five years after platforms began to use the i1172.
    • by The J Kid (266953) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:58AM (#4541070) Homepage Journal
      Nope. If you'd read the article you'd've seen that uptill woody they released every year.

      The reasons for Woody taking extra long were:
      - BIG jump in archs...up to 11, with stuf like X-Windows not actually designed for those archs, but they fixed it!
      - Security Patch maintainers where up to there neck in work and it was a bottle neck (remember the planned may release? This was why it was prosponed)
      - They only started fixing the above 2 probs after the freeze so that no new stuf could get in.

      But thankfully these issues are resolved now, so Sarge should release (ahem) on time. And anyway the PM (Project Manager) of Sarge wants to have cds of testing too.
      • There are already CD images of Sarge about (pre-release of course, and at the moment they are not bootable - waiting on the new installer).

        Something else of note to look at Re: Debian is Jigdo.

        Jigdo basically downloads all the individual files from Debian mirrors, and "makes" the CD image. Jigdo can be used on mirrors to avoid having to transfer the whole CD image (and if you run a mirror, you'll probably have all the *.deb's on hand anyway), while still being available for use by end users. As the *.deb's are more likely to be cached, wether in a proxy or via a mirror, this can result in a speed-up for downloading an image. It also supports upgrading only the files that have changed (eg: for keeping up-to-date images of stable), without downloading the whole CD image. Much better than trying to do something silly like rsync against the old image.

        You can find jigdo at http://home.in.tum.de/~atterer/jigdo/ [in.tum.de], and the pointers for .jigdo files for debian at http://www.debian.org/CD/jigdo-cd/ [debian.org].

        PS: I don't believe that Jigdo is limited to use with Debian, but like apt, it's another tool that was produced to address a specific need within the Debian community.
  • I like the comparison with source based distribs, as if they were 'the challenger' to Debian. It looks like Gentoo is putting pressure! And the uPM new stuff is aimed to address it as well. Things keep moving fast!

    For those who need an incentive to try Debian, the keyword is stability; their QA process is what make the distrib lag behind in terms of latest versions, but the benefit is a rock solid platform.
    • Re:source distribs (Score:5, Informative)

      by autechre (121980) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:48AM (#4541055) Homepage

      Keep in mind that you can install from source when you really need it. For example, I was still running potato on my servers a while back when AOL broke Everybuddy. Newer versions were out, but Debian only updates packages for security reasons (which is occasionally annoying). Not a problem:

      apt-get -b source everybuddy

      This will grab the source and Debian modifications, apply the mods, and build a package. You can omit the -b option if you want to customise it.

      Some will say that if you do this, you lose the stability provided by Debian's long release cycle, but I disagree. The rest of the system is not less stable because you installed an IM client (which shouldn't be able to hurt anything else, unless there are severe bugs in it). This is not any different than compiling it from source yourself and installing it into /usr/local (except that when you dist-upgrade, you'll get a newer version if one is available).

      On the other hand, installing packages from testing or unstable may upgrade libraries, and that could affect your system as a whole (especially if it's libc6). You'll have to weigh the benefits of this if it ever comes up.

    • Re:source distribs (Score:4, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:53AM (#4541062) Homepage
      For those who need an incentive to try Debian, the keyword is stability; their QA process is what make the distrib lag behind in terms of latest versions, but the benefit is a rock solid platform.

      Well, I heard this quite a few times now, but my own experience is quite a bit different. Debian stable is at first old, not stable. I have run in quite a few showstopper bugs that were already fixed in upstream and in unstable but which never made it into stable, since the QA process which makes it quite hard for new upstream to ever make it into stable.

      I think the main problem here is that the freeze is globally to all packages instead of local to small package groups, in a lot of cases a package is still heavily under development when the freeze happens and then for month or years it will not get updated, even if the upstream becomes a lot more usable and stable.

      • Re:source distribs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by autechre (121980) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @09:06AM (#4541092) Homepage

        Yes, this is sometimes annoying. One example is Mozilla; for a very long time, we were stuck with M18 in Potato, while new releases were certainly an improvement.

        I understand that there are more variables in Debian with all of its supported architectures, and it wouldn't be as easy to simply release updates of later versions as distributions such as Red Hat do; you can't be sure of the impact it will have everywhere, and backporting security fixes is safer.

        Perhaps a "mostly harmless" package repository could be created. No, "testing" doesn't count, because the packages in there will often be built against new libraries, and you probably don't want to go there. But this could contain binaries for packages such as Mozilla, which gets updated a lot (1.1 really is much better than 1.0) and would be unwieldy to build from source). These binaries would be built on a potato system. Those who wanted this sort of thing could simply add another line to their apt sources file, and accept the small risk.

        It's possible for someone to do this on their own; Adrian Bunk maintained a repository of several updated packages so that 2.4 series kernels could be used on Potato. But I think it would be nice to have this as an official part of Debian. It doesn't sound so great to say, "Oh, yeah, you can do that; just get the packages from $THIS_GUY".

        • Re:source distribs (Score:2, Insightful)

          by alfaiomega (585948)

          These binaries would be built on a potato system. Those who wanted this sort of thing could simply add another line to their apt sources file, and accept the small risk. (...) Adrian Bunk maintained a repository of several updated packages so that 2.4 series kernels could be used on Potato. But I think it would be nice to have this as an official part of Debian.

          Since the current stable release [debian.org] is Debian 3.0 Woody, I'd suggest you apt-get dist-upgrade [debian.org].

      • Re:source distribs (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tolchz (19162)
        Have you tried adding security.debian.org to your /etc/apt/sources.list ?

        Usually for me it's a case of "Dang, some flaw in was found"
        apt-get update; apt-get dist-upgrade

        And a few minutes later that package is being replaced with a non vulnerable one. The security fixes are very quick for Debian.

        I also run stable on a machine at work. It's beein running stable for about 2 years or so now and I've never had a major showstopping bug with it.
        • I am juuuuust getting underway with my first Debian loads in the last coupla months. One a console-only install and just last night, my first Debian install with X. Did you know apt-get install gnome doesn't work but apt-get install kde does?

          Anyway, is it a bad idea to run cron-apt with sources pointing to testing? I also found that cron-apt installs with the -d download only option. It's a blow box so I removed the option. I want to see if the maintainers will break my box with a nightly update. And IIRC there are no security updates for testing. Not nitpicking against you, just confirming my findings for my personal situation.
      • Re:source distribs (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think the main problem here is that the freeze is globally to all packages instead of local to small package groups..

        This is false, see http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2001 /debian-devel-announce-200106/msg00014.html [debian.org].

        "The freeze will proceed in four phases: first policy will be frozen, followed by the base system, followed by standard installs, and concluding with the remainder of Debian."
    • In terms of packages, I just installed a new gentoo system today and there were a total of just over 20k packages to choose from.
    • Well... maybe. It has seemed to sometimes have package problems in the stable branch. At least apt-get thought so. That was 2 or 3 months ago, right after woody was released, so things may have cleared up by now, but I found it ... disillusioning.

      OTOH, I got there via an upgrade from the Progeny distribution (I hate all the detail work of the standard Debian installer) so I may have started from an unexpected place.
  • by autechre (121980) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:37AM (#4541031) Homepage

    I've been using Debian for a few years now, after using Red Hat for about 1.5 years. I've really gotten to like it; server updates are easy, and running unstable on my desktop allows me to install many recent things with very little trouble (and no, unstable almost never breaks).

    However, I'm not sure that listing absolutely everything should ever be a goal. Having a lot of packages is very good, because it's nice to easily have all of your choices laid out, but it can make it difficult when you're trying to choose software. I can only imagine the horror if they tried to list every CMS or MP3 jukebox (we get _buckets_ of those types of projects submitted to freshmeat, and most are very similar).

    On the other hand, people shouldn't necessarily be restricted from putting new packages in Debian just because there are a lot of similar projects, because everyone has different needs. It's a difficult problem, and I'm not sure how/if the project currently deals with it (though most everything I've seen in there seems to be of reasonable quality).

    • it's really just how the packages are presented to the user.

      maybe somebody could build a tool that would submit the name of every package one user is using into a database, and from database could be assembled a list that could help people looking into what software to get to do a particular job.

      but, of course, popular doesn't mean best...

      anyways, the way i tend to do it, is to look on the web with google/other searches for a tool to do the job i need done, and _then_ look which of those tools are available in stable/testing/unstable or as .debs from elsewhere.

    • I think the only working solution would be something like detailed categories with good names (not php/postnuke/plugins - this should be under php/cms). A voting in this categories should be made possible so you open php/cms and see "must users found postnuke the best, second rank to phpnuke, also avaible: ..." This should be supported in apt-get too. Sometimes it gets really hard to guess the package name. I'm sure many before me had such ideas, but no one has really done it ...

      b4n
  • Short Fuses (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:38AM (#4541036)
    Debian developers are known to have strong convictions and it is easy to get into some old argument when the buttons of one group or another are pressed.

    heh, I didn't know all /. posters were debian developers as well.
  • How ironic.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by joib (70841)
    ..that in an article about debian there is this big ad for, yes you guessed it, Microsoft.

    More seriously though, UPM looks very cool. Hopefully it will be a success. Although I find it hard to believe that debian would adopt it, maybe that's why he seems to be planning another distro.
  • by intnsred (199771) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:45AM (#4541048) Homepage

    I've run Debian for years, and I've always felt that other distros were better. After all, those other distros get much more press, they've got glitzy widgets and eye candy, and it's hard to resist that.

    So about every 6 months I'll hear about a new version or distro and will give them a shot. I'll install them and make an honest effort to use it, rationalizing my choice just like the distro's marketing people want me to. But I always wind up throwing my hands up in disgust and thinking, "How can people use this crap from day to day?!"

    Now, with many distros polluting the ideas of free software and open source -- feeding you a GPL license and then their own proprietary license which prevents you from copying CDs and giving them to all your friends or from installing on multiple computers -- there's more reason than ever to use Debian.

    Debian's geek appeal is legendary. But now, with Debian's Desktop and Education sub-groups, the old idea of being proud of a geeky install is disappearing. Debian's beta installer is on par with every other distro's -- a fact that thousands of Debian users are eagerly awaiting.

    Everyone's heard of apt-get and Debian's package management system. Yes, it's as slick as you've heard. But fewer people realize the huge scope of software available in Debian. I run all my desktop machines with Debian's "unstable" (think "unstable" as in changing; Debian's "unstable" release might have bugs, but there are certainly no more bugs in unstable than in the commercial release distros!). With that I have a huge selection of software -- over 10,000 packages. All of those packages are done by registered developers whose first job is to do it right.

    When I read in Linux Journal or somewhere online about a nifty program XYZ123, I just try to install it -- 9 times out of 10 one of Debian's hundreds of developers has already packaged up XYZ123 for Debian. There's a huge advantage of having a distro that is controlled by geeks who like computers and who do this for the fun of it. Debian's developers are into GNU/Linux, and it shows.

    On DebianHELP [debianhelp.org] we call Debian "militantly free software". Yes, that's what it is. That militant attitude permeates Debian and this is Debian's strong point. I like the fact that Debian people worry about little details in the license agreements. I like the fact that Debian segregates non-free software into its own little slum. I like that Debian has a "social contract" and clear guidelines about what it's interested in and what it's not.

    Many times I've often said to myself, "Gee, why are those guys worried about that stupid thing..." (e.g. the old KDE-QT license battles). But time and time again I'm proven wrong as the correct view turns out to be the morally miltant view. Besides turning out a first-rate distro with loads of software, Debian's role as GNU/Linux's moral compass is something we can't afford to lose.


    • I agree. I worked at a company with 14 debian boxes and a huge debian based database server. They where quite easy to manage. It is nice and easy when you need a library to compile someting, or don't to compile something because it's just an apt-get away.

      I guess I can't imagine running anything but debian on the server side.

      The desktop, for me at least, is another story. I guess that I found debian fell short. I do like Gentoo, I get the very latest and greatest.. but, when I am doing a JAVA or Web based product, I find myself using a combination of my (tiBook) .. windows XP and Cygwin using XFree86 X-screening my RedHat server. (Gawd, I know.. it's a sell out from all angles...) Over the years my server/desktop (99% of the time I use remote X server for my work... especially now that I have discovered that -GEM- Eclipse...)

      Now, Redhat hasn't been really a choice for mine since the 6.2 days.... but, now with the BlueCurve interface... I must say.. it's just the level of boring I was praying for. The fonts look great after getting them installed, etc. Now, I know I could do all this on Debian.. Admitantly , some of my issues with debian are not debians fault but my own short-commings on knowledge off things like XFree86 Configuration files (biggest ones), seems I remember having a hard time getting certain things to work, like scroll mouse, sound card, etc. I know it's a geek OS, as is most/all linux os's.. but.. I believe that right now, redhat has the desktop figured out ... for me.

      I would -LOVE- if Debians desktop distro can be everything that to me that Redhats is. For the first time ever, using redhat, I have actually used a file manager.. Never before have I bothered.. just drop to the bash prompt for generally everything. After sitting on OS X for about 1 1/2 years call me spoiled.. I want my GUI.

      anyway, sorry for the rant. I do think you have interesting insight into debian. I am glad you have had such great experiences with it. Your perspective actually inspires me to give it another try... (I have a unused box in the closet).

      Maybe give redhat 8 a try, it might raise your bar with what a linux desktop could be. I haven't tried Lycoris or the other 'desktop' offerings, but Redhat seems to have done things right in my book w/8.0.

      Cheers

      • The desktop, for me at least, is another story. I guess that I found debian fell short.

        Hm. Ok, I know I'm being that annoying Usenet guy who says "It works for me!" but here goes: Debian on the desktop works for me. On my recently-assembled work desktop I had a nice, fresh, system on which to try stuff out. I first tried Mandrake 9.0, because I assumed it would be a better desktop choice. After about a day I started over and loaded Debian Woody instead. I think it took me about 1 hour longer to get Woody up and running to a KDE 3.0 desktop, but that included such things as recompiling the kernel for my hardware! (Few things bring more geeky pleasure than making your own kernel .deb.)

        Yes Debian is geekier. But there is a good reason everyone keeps using this "refreshing drink of water" metaphor for it. It's like you've never had a satisfying computer-using experience and then you "get" Debian and you go "Ahhhhh..."

  • by StarHeart (27290) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @08:55AM (#4541066)
    I think this article points out very well the problems with Debian that cause it's extremely slow release cycle.

    First is it has way too many packages it tries to support. The articles says 9000 packages for 3.0 Woody. RedHat has something like 1800(I am sure this figure it slightly off) packages in RedHat 8.0 Psyche. So Debian has 5 times has many packages to support. I do think RedHat would do better to support more packages, but not that many more. I might add say abother 200 packages to RedHat which would put them at 2000, still 4.5 times less than Debian.

    Second is that Debain tries to support way too many platforms. My personal philisophy is that while it would be nice to have the exact same distribution for every platform it is just impractical. It would help their development greatly if the cut platforms. If they wanted to be logical about it they could probably look at the number of users of each platform and create some minimum number of users to support that platform.

    I do think that simplifying package maintaining is a good move, but they are trying to fix the symptom instead of the problem. I applaud them for delaying to make releases extremely stable, but I think some of their maintainers have the wrong idea. One example that comes to mind is the XFree86 maintainer continuing to maintain XFree86 4.1 months after 4.2 had been released.

    Another point about Debian has been it's horrible installer. I am hoping the Progency installer does take over and is also improved upon.

    I use RedHat and have for years, but I am looking for a new distribution. I am doing so because of bad decesions RedHat has made in my opinion. These include rushing releases to meet a deadline instead of holding back and making it truly stable. They love to talk about their Q/A team, but their touch is very obviously lacking in RedHat 8.0, but at least they aren't as bad as Mandrake Q/A.

    Then there is having Havoc Penington as an employee and on top of that having him as a Gnome Developer. He has a philisophy of simplify the user inferace to make it more usable. I agree with this idea, but he takes it way to far. His definition of simplification is dumbing everything down and removing very useful features and settings. Even worse he has convinced many Gnome developers.

    I have tried Debian, Sourcer, Mandrake, Gentoo, and even Slackware before RedHat. None were better than RedHat in my opinion. Like when I used Windows, I wish for something better.
    • by autechre (121980) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @09:22AM (#4541148) Homepage

      If you got that reference, I'm really sorry.

      Anyway, please read this:

      http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2002/debian -d evel-200204/msg01343.html

      Maybe this will clear up a few things. Debian is supporting these architectures because no other Linux distribution does. As the message states, XFree doesn't even support as many architectures as Debian; the Debian project is how users of those architectures get XFree86 at all.

      Maybe you feel that they are not important, but I think that the people using them would disagree. Obviously, there are enough people who use each platform to do the work of porting packages to it. What makes you think that they would turn around and do some other, "more important" work instead if support for their architecture was dropped?

      [And isn't this why most hardware manufacturers don't release Linux drivers? Because "most people" use Windows?]

      Debian exists as it is for many reasons, and there is nothing else like it. It is not going to change into your idea of the perfect distribution. However, there are several distributions which are addressing some of the "problems" _you_ (and others) have with Debian. Most of these amount to pretty graphical installers and a few other things, and are only for x86. Since that seems to be what you want, why don't you try one of them? IOW, don't complain that Mozilla doesn't have an integrated AIM client; use Netscape instead.

      • I have read that message before. The gest is he keeps with the old stuff so he can support all the platforms. As I mentioned above I think this is impractical. I am sure the the people using those non-i386 archs would complain, but there has always been specially distributions for each arch, because they take so much extra work. You mention "other distributions" with the features I want, but I gave a list of distributions I had tried and didn't suit me. You have any actual names to give?
        • You mention "other distributions" with the features I want, but I gave a list of distributions I had tried and didn't suit me. You have any actual names to give?

          Presumably, Libranet [libranet.com], Xandros Desktop [xandros.com], and the PGI installer image for Debian 3.0 [progeny.com]. All of those are drool-proof ways to get onto Debian 3.0 i386, providing preconfigured access to many of the desired "desktop" tchotchkes. The first two even prepackage the most-requested proprietary stuff (Acrocrap, Macromedia Flash, MS Core TrueType fonts, etc.).

          Rick Moen
          rick@linuxmafia.com

          • Libranet has serious issues with me in that they charge for the second cd which has all the real differences between Debian and Libranet on it. Their ftp site doesn't accept anonymous ftp. Are they even following GPL?

            With Xandros I don't see where you can freely download anything. Their ftp site again doesn't accept anonymous ftp. How are they following GPL?

            Debian 3.0 with PGI would be nice if Debian 3.0 was as up to date with software as others.
            • Nothing in the GPL says you have to distribute the software free of cost, only that if you distribute binaries, you have to make the source available for no more than you charge for the binaries, and that you can't apply any extra restrictions (So there's nothing stopping you obtaining a copy for free from someone else who already downloaded it, if they want to give it to you)
            • "StarHeart" wrote:

              Debian 3.0 with PGI would be nice if Debian 3.0 was as up to date with software as others.

              The Debian "testing" branch is exactly the right distance from the bleeding edge for my taste, much more so than the "stable" branch (currently 3.0/woody). Of course, the point of using the PGI installer for x86 Debian is not to mindlessly remain with exactly what remains at the conclusion of the installer, but rather to start tracking one of the Debian branches using apt-get.

              Only someone stubbornly ignorant about how Debian works would not ignore the testing branch to promote the obsolete misconception you've cited.

              With Xandros I don't see where you can freely download anything. Their ftp site again doesn't accept anonymous ftp. How are they following GPL?

              (1) Why are you asking me? Presumably, they follow the GPL by providing access to matching source via one of the mechanisms specified in clauses 3a or 3b to those who have lawfully received GPL-covered binaries Xandros redistributed. (2) Does your question mean that you're one of those tiresome people who wave the GPL around without actually reading it?

              Libranet has serious issues with me in that they charge for the second cd which has all the real differences between Debian and Libranet on it. Their ftp site doesn't accept anonymous ftp. Are they even following GPL?

              (1) You're entitled to have all the "serious issues" you want. Doesn't change the fact that they've made their installer available gratis. (2) Why are you asking me? Presumably, they follow the GPL by providing access to matching source via one of the mechanisms specified in clauses 3a or 3b to those who have lawfully received GPL-covered binaries Libra Computer Systems Ltd. redistributed. (3) Does your question mean that you're one of those tiresome people who wave the GPL around without actually reading it?

              Rick Moen
              rick@linuxmafia.com

              • The Debian "testing" branch is exactly the right distance from the bleeding edge for my taste, much more so than the "stable" branch (currently 3.0/woody). Of course, the point of using the PGI installer for x86 Debian is not to mindlessly remain with exactly what remains at the conclusion of the installer, but rather to start tracking one of the Debian branches using apt-get.

                I have tried the testing branch and I found it too behind. Then I tried the unstable since many people said it worked for them. It wouldn't even install. One of these days I may give the testing branch another try.
                • StarHeart wrote:

                  I have tried the testing branch and I found it too behind.

                  That's absurd. The testing branch is newly introduced packages in the "unstable" branch that have passed automated package quarantining. It's as close as you can get to the bleeding edge without figuratively dying of blood loss.

                  Then I tried the unstable since many people said it worked for them. It wouldn't even install.

                  That's even more absurd: If you'd paid any attention whatsoever to the preceding conversation or to basically any Debian documentation at all, or so much as looked at DebianPlanet or asked a Debian user, you'd have known that you get onto the "unstable" branch by using any Debian-compatible installer of your choice, adjusting /etc/apt/sources.list to pull packages from "unstable", and then resynchronise to "unstable" using apt-get.

                  One of these days I may give the testing branch another try.

                  Before you do, read some elementary Debian documentation, or browse my collection of Debian tips: http://linuxmafia.com/debian/tips [linuxmafia.com]. (Note that it's grown in chronological order, so more-current material is closer to the bottom.)

                  Rick Moen
                  rick@linuxmafia.com

                  • That's absurd. The testing branch is newly introduced packages in the "unstable" branch that have passed automated package quarantining. It's as close as you can get to the bleeding edge
                    without figuratively dying of blood loss.


                    Think what you like, but it was behind. If I remember right one of the packages that was behind was Mozilla. At the time Debian testing had 0.9.6 while 0.9.9 was out.

                    That's even more absurd: If you'd paid any attention whatsoever to the preceding conversation or to basically any Debian documentation at all, or so much as looked at DebianPlanet or asked a Debian user, you'd have known that you get onto the "unstable" branch by using any Debian-compatible installer of your choice, adjusting /etc/apt/sources.list to pull packages from "unstable", and then resynchronise to "unstable" using apt-get.

                    That is what I did and it barfed during the installer.

                    Before you do, read some elementary Debian documentation, or browse my collection of Debian tips: http://linuxmafia.com/debian/tips [linuxmafia.com]. (Note that it's grown in chronological order, so more-current material is closer to the bottom.)

                    I did get testing installed and had X windows running just fine. I am not a linux newbie. I was using Linux when the only distribution was Slackware and I do Linux consulting.
                    • StarHeart wrote:

                      Think what you like, but it was behind. If I remember right one of the packages that was behind was Mozilla. At the time Debian testing had 0.9.6 while 0.9.9 was out.

                      I do remember getting impatient for Mozilla 0.9.9 and the matching version of Galeon to clear package quarantine, and so just grabbed the .debs out of the "unstable" tree. Doing that was obvious, wasn't difficult, and wasn't a big deal. More to the immediate point, that was soon after the "testing" branch's launch, and there was only a crude quarantine heuristic of two weeks in "unstable" without replacement plus auto-building without error on all platforms. More recently, refinements to those heuristics [linuxmafia.com] have tightened up the unstable-to-testing quarantine propagation delay to typically 1-2 days.

                      Additionally, if you don't want to wait for quarantining and are feeling lucky, the new-ish (late '01?) apt "pinning" feature now lets one selectively grab packages from a more-current branch entirely within apt, without needing to download packages and "dpkg -i" them.

                      That is what I did and it barfed during the installer.

                      Now, you're being both vague and incoherent. Obviously, you don't mean an installer for "unstable", since you say you used an installer-of-your-choice and then adjusted sources.list to track "unstable". But you don't identify which installer -- an experimental prerelease one for 3.0/woody, or what, just that "it" (whatever "it" is) "barfed" (whatever "barfed" means).

                      Enough of that. All sorts of Debian installers, with X11-based front-ends (e.g., PGI), with ncurses-based droolproofing (Libranet) with Reiser/XFS/JFS/software-RAID/kernel-2.4.x/etc., are documented in my Debian tips [linuxmafia.com] collection. Use one in the future, and don't ignorantly complain there isn't one that works for your hardware (if the latter is minimally functional), since that strains credulity past its elasticity limit.

                      Rick Moen
                      rick@linuxmaifa.com

      • by Redline (933) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:23AM (#4541680) Homepage Journal
        Anyway, please read this:
        http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2002/d ebian-d evel-200204/msg01343.html


        A quote from this message sums up exactly in one sentence why debian is worthy of the support and admiration of the community:
        "I refuse to treat non-i386 users like second-class citizens."

        As a linux-using powerbook owner, I thank you. I can't count how many times I have been told that I am not worthy of consideration because my niche is too small. Thank you debian for extending the useful lifespan of my computer several years while everyone else snorts derisively and tells me to buy a new Mac.
        • Hear hear! Debian works *beautifully* on my iBook and my Sun Ultra5 as well as my Athlon! I don't have to do anything different on these different architectures -- it's all Debian, and it just works that way it's supposed to.

          - a happy iBook owner
      • And isn't this why most hardware manufacturers don't release Linux drivers? Because "most people" use Windows?
        That's a great argument in regards to Debian's ports. Thanks for mentioning it.

        I believe that having so many ports in Debian greatly increases software's robustness, since different architectures' peculiarities can point out flaws in a program's logic. At the same time, most software, once it's been ported to a few architectures, will work on any other new architecture with little or no work, so there is a great cost-benefit tradeoff for adding more ports. Stuff like XFree86 can be an exception, since it's so hardware-specific, but the benefits of porting are probably still worth it. Why else would Linux work on 20 different architectures!?

    • ... These include rushing releases to meet a deadline instead of holding back and making it truly stable.

      And yet in the previous paragraph you complain that in Debian X 4.1 is maintained instead of moving to the latest release. Sorry, you can't have both. Either you put up with Debian's delyaed release cycle, with the end result of a stable and well maintained distribution, or you go with Redhat and all the problems that it has.

      • Hmm... i think there has to be a happy medium... not every RedHat release hits that, *cough 7.0*, but they have had fantastic releases that are still in production in our server farm, 6.2.

        I have found 8.0 to be a fantastic release, and have had 0 problems thus far.
      • No, I believe there is middle ground. I was complaining about redhat rushing releases for deadline, which is a certain problem. Then I complained about Debian using old versions, not necessarily becuase they are more stable, but for their own reasons, that is another problem. I think redhat could easily delay each X.0 release another 2-3 months and get the stability they need. Debian takes an extra year or more.
    • First is it has way too many packages it tries to support...
      Second is that Debain tries to support way too many platforms...

      ...and where is your reasoning for your little piece of insight? You ramble a little about numbers, but nothing that you say (or that I've seen) backs up your assertions that Debian has too many packages or too many platforms. Is there too many bugs? Is it unstable? Is the release cycle too slow? What man, what?

      I might point out that you seem to be forgetting that Debian is volunteer-driven. There is no central office that says "we will do this...". If people want to do it, they will do it.
      (Yes, there is a central release manager that has final say over what packages and architectures go into the official release. But the decision is made based on stability and other qualities rather than some corporate goal or some such).

    • I can see how it, from a x86 user's perspective, would seem reasonable to drop support for most architectures. 95% of all computers are x86:s, right? But when you're one of those people who use more architectures, it's wonderful to be able to use the same distro on several systems.
      I run debian on my TiBook and on my P-III at work (as does everyone there, except for management). It really is a blessing to have the same environment everywhere and that everything works (almost) the same way, whatever computer you're using. Not that I use the more exotic archs, but I definately can understand why it is desirable to support other platforms as long as people are using them.
      It definately would be nice if the university (that I go to) would replace their aging Solaris 2.6 installation on their sparcs with woody. But that probably won't happen...
      • Yes, this is from a x86 user perspective. Yes, I know it can be great to have it on every system. I also know what it is like to be in that small percentage that does things differently. Mostly I was ranting, but overall I am was trying to point out Debian could probably be a Wonderful x86 linux distribution that everyone would flock to give the managed the project better. Maybe this could be done while supporting all the current platforms. That would still leave dumping over half the packages which I am sure would improve release speed.
        • The 9000 packages are one of the main reasons I use debian. Whatever open source program you need, you can be quite sure that it is in debian. Installing the program with all of its dependencies is a zillion times more convenient with apt-get than to hunt around the net for the packages (and possibly compile them).

          But undoubtedly you are right, this huge number of packages slows down the release cycle. I don't know how this could be solved. Perhaps some kind of splitting into many sub-distributions, eg. debian-core debian-desktop, debian-server etc., would help somewhat. But then things get complicated when you inevitably get dependencies between the different sub-distros, and you have to integrate them for the release. And debian-core, which the other sub-distros would be built on, would inevitably be a bit older than the rest of the stuff.

          Another thing is that everything in debian seems to be happening slow-motion. If you read the mailing-lists, there are endless nitpicking arguments about everything concievable. Democracy isn't about everybody taking part in every single decision. You elect leaders so they can make decision quickly, without everyone having to bother about it, as that doesn't scale. What would happen in society in general if we were to have referendums about every single thing the government decides?
    • Another angle (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alext (29323) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:07AM (#4541591)
      These are really related:

      The problem is the combinatorial explosion of testing effort dictated by the support of a large number of packages on a large number of platforms.

      To this there's no easy answer. However, I do not believe that the 'competition' will really come from source-based distributions such as Gentoo mentioned above - ultimately the amount of testing to be done is the same, by getting you to compile things yourself, Gentoo makes it no more likely that a combination will actually work.

      Ultimately the threat to Linux as a platform is the Dotnet virtual machine - a software platform comprehensive and abstract enough to reduce the n*m testing needed for Linux and Windows today back towards the 'n' of a single platform. Once Dotnet gets established, the relative cost of writing cross-(hardware)-platform applications will plummet and Linux will be unable to catch up.

      The only genuinely equivalent technology available to Linux is Java. Therefore the only viable strategy for a group such as Debian, meaning a group that is serious about having broad hardware support and comprehensive package support and some assurance of quality and comptibility, is to embrace Java, encouraging the development of Java applications and supporting the Java VM as comprehensively as possible.

      These issues have of course been discussed on /. many times before, including the practicalities of building from C source, the relevance of Mono, standardization of the C Sharp language and the ownership of Java technologies.

      To date, the only real counter-arguments that have stood up are those of simple denial, that is, putting off the day where cross-(hardware)-platform compatibility has to be addressed so far into the future that it is likely that Linux will already have become an irrelevance by the time convergence takes place, or the reckless and naive assumption that the open-source community can clone, and will be allowed to clone, the the Dotnet platform in its entirety.

      It will be interesting to watch how key development streams such as Debian, KDE, StarOffice etc. attempt to reconcile these conflicting demands. From the perspective of Java developers like me, it's becoming hard to resist the rather depressing conclusion that at least some of these difficulties are self-imposed.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      about the "horrible installer" - you only install debian once, then you use apt-get to upgrade.

      so, why do you need a cute gui installer?

      text is good, you are supposed to read, not drool over the cute looks of the installer.

      after all, it's just an installer, not a girl.
      • In a sense we are both spliting hairs. I could live with a text installer and debian could make a graphical installer. Yes, me living with the text installer is easier, but when everyone else has managed to get a graphical installer year ago, I wonder. As for the comment about install once and upgrade forever, I question how well that works. When I have tried upgrading with apt-get before I had problems with upgrading everything, relating to too many dependecies. From what I have heard this is a known problem and people suggest you just incremental upgrade you way the whole way.
    • One example that comes to mind is the XFree86 maintainer continuing to maintain XFree86 4.1 months after 4.2 had been released.
      Yes that's because he (Branden) had to port 4.2 to the other platforms that are supported by Debian. As the attached document says, the XFree86 people only produce guaranteed working code for x86 and then it's Debian's job to port it to a huge number of other archetectures. Not only that but there were major bugs in 4.2 that Branden felt he could not release it as-is. Even after all of that he provided experimental debs months before the 4.2 went into unstable. For more info about this past non-issue.
  • by arvindn (542080) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @09:25AM (#4541156) Homepage Journal
    Umm.. I'm not sure about this exponential extrapolation thingy. By the same logic, they would be supporting something like 120 architectures by 2006 :-)
    • Umm.. I'm not sure about this exponential extrapolation thingy. By the same logic, they would be supporting something like 120 architectures by 2006 :-)

      That day will be so sweet.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But... there's something I'm worried about in debian... it's just too simple to apt-update.
    If an user has installed an "unofficial" apt-source (are there any people out there which havn't?), a hack of a popular unofficial-deb FTP site can be disastrous.
    This is not inherently debian's problem, but this distro makes it the easiest for people to update...
    So debian should even stronger encourage the use of signed packages etc.
  • The future (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 27, 2002 @09:40AM (#4541184)
    The future sure does look bright for debian. The way I see it, debian went through a huge backend change during the potato-woody release. The number of architures soared and the number of package become increadible. Essentially the developers where forced to automate the entire build process across all platforms. This was hugh, and puts debian in a really good postision going forward. From what I can tell, debian is the only distribution where scripts control so much of the backend in building, distributing, and bug tracking the system.

    Now that this change has been accomplished there is alot of "low hanging fuit" for debian to pick.

    The installer has been reworked and is currently in early beta testing. the whole thing is now modular to allow for easy porting to different architures, and to to allow for a very flexable install. Most debian developers want to be able to pop in a cd, have it detect most of the hardware, then automatically install baisc packages. The new installer allows for this, while retaining the power to customize or trouble shoot installations.

    Also there is the new PGI installer. Version 1.0 is out now. This is as simple as redhat/mandrake installers. It has great hardware detection and set up and gnome desktop.

    If you want to try thy hardware detection routines in debian (package discover) then try popping in knoppix 3.0. This is a debian system on a live cd. Pop it in to most PC and the network, x, sound, and usb are all configured.

    The desktop is coming to debian. Both gnome2 and kde3 are about to move from experimental to unstable. They should be in sarge for the next stable release. gnome2 will enter this weekend, and kde3 is awaiting the completion of the transition to gcc-3.2, but its ready to roll.

    There are now many subprojects that will help puch debian onto the desktop: eg the desktop , the education and the music (demundi) sub projects are all starting to take off.

    Debian been my primary desktop for 2.5yrs, since I gave up on redhat. I keep trying other distro, but they are just to inflexable for my needs, and to difficult to maintain. I want something to get my work done, not to continuely tweak the operating system.

    AC-DC
    PhD elec. eng.

    PS for those who think that lindows software warehouse or ximian redcarpet are cool, try kpackage with it confgure to use apt. This is the default in the debian's kde. This combo of kpackage and apt-get is the most powerful and user friendly package installation i''ve ever seen. ( Of couse I personally still use apt from a terminal. :P )

    I
    • Also there is the new PGI installer. Version 1.0 is out now. This is as simple as redhat/mandrake installers. It has great hardware detection and set up and gnome desktop.

      Does PGI have a KDE option, or will it soon?

  • by iiioxx (610652) <iiioxx@gmail.com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @10:02AM (#4541247)
    If you look at that nifty chart provided at the beginning of the paper, you can easily see that the release time for stable is stretching out further and further as more packages and architectures are added to the fold. At 9,000 packages and 11 architectures, it took 2 YEARS to ship a stable release. If they are right, and 2004 will bring 30,000 packages (and probably another arch or two), how long is the release cycle going to stretch out to? And will people tolerate that long between stables? Look at the grumbling and outcry about the delay in getting Woody out the door.

    I find it very interesting that the article would point out several times how difficult it is to maintain all of those packages and the diffs as they are updated, then point out how using a source-based distribution makes that kind of thing much easier. And yet, the author seems to suggest that source-based distros are somehow not as feasible as binary-based distros. He even goes on to call source-based distros "immature". Perhaps in the Linux world, but how long has FreeBSD been around? It's okay to borrow ideas from other groups when those ideas seem to be working. I think that the Gentoo project has done a great job in taking the idea of a "ports" system, addressing the shortcomings, and putting a workable source distribution system on the Linux platform.

    In my mind, if Debian is going to continue scaling to 5-digit package listings, the project might want to look into the possible benefits of switching to a source-based distribution system. Look at what Gentoo has done, address any shortcomings, and develop a better source distribution system. Doing it the current way with 30,000 packages to maintain, we might not see Debian 4.0 until 2010. And there are probably a lot of people who can't or won't wait that long.
    • He even goes on to call source-based distros "immature". Perhaps in the Linux world, but how long has FreeBSD been around? It's okay to borrow ideas from other groups when those ideas seem to be working.
      • I meant to say...
        He even goes on to call source-based distros "immature". Perhaps in the Linux world, but how long has FreeBSD been around? It's okay to borrow ideas from other groups when those ideas seem to be working.
        I'm pretty sure FreeBSD offers a set of binaries alongside the ports tree. Gentoo offers only the binaries required to compile the base system and then proceeds to compile it, and everything else, from scratch. Everything is optimized and whatnot, and it's probably easier to maintain the distro since there's no need for the developers to compile the binaries. The downside is it's slow to install/upgrade pkgs, especially if you've compiled glibc 3 times because it's been updated quickly. Also, occasinally I'll find things that fail to compile in the tree.

        • You are right, FreeBSD does also offer a binary distribution for x86 and Alpha, and they offer the choice of both packages and ports. Most new installations will be done via binary install, but from then on maintained with source-built updates. But I was more referring to FreeBSD as a model of how source-distribution has been proven to work (and isn't all that immature).

          As to Gentoo, I know there was talk at one time of doing a pre-built binary distribution to simplify installation. I don't know if this was ever done, or if it's even still on the agenda.
        • it's probably easier to maintain the distro since there's no need for the developers to compile the binaries.

          No, it's actually harder. The maintainers still have to compile the binaries, since they have to make sure it compiles and runs as expected before they release it. And unlike binary distros, they have to make sure it compiles with different optimizations and options, resulting in even more work.
    • Source based distributions won't solve the numbers problem, that namely you still need someone to package up the software you want in their equivalent of a .deb or .rpm. You still need people to test the building, potential library incompatabilities etc etc.

      • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @12:21PM (#4541962) Journal
        well, the difference is the cost of making a source package (just instructions) is much lower then that of making binary packages. And in the end, instead of being stuck with one package which has dependencies depending on how the maintainer built it, you end up with a recipy where the user can choose whether he wants certain dependencies or not.

        All I know is that making a gentoo package is a piece of cake, while making a debian package and maintaining can be hell on earth.

    • The biggest problem is that they have a central repository, where all packages are held. This is great for all important packages, but there's a lot of stuff that could be split off into auxillary repositories and maintained separately. Things like bash, ssh, and apache should be in the central repository. Games, IM clients, and media players are examples of extra stuff that can be updated at any time. A good division is whether or not you might use it on a server. I don't think this would overly complicate things; this kind of division would only be needed for Stable.
    • "if Debian is going to continue scaling to 5-digit package listings, the project might want to look into the possible benefits of switching to a source-based distribution system."

      I'm not convinced about that; as someone's already said, the whole reason for doing it this binary way is to have traceable versions of packages so Manglement can be happy - and of course you lose out on ./configure-ability as well, which is unfortunate. (I *want* to be able to enable ipv6 across the board; or to choose to build teapop with/out mysql hooks... not to be dependent on debian's package choices!)

      "Doing it the current way with 30,000 packages to maintain, we might not see Debian 4.0 until 2010. And there are probably a lot of people who can't or won't wait that long."

      The options seem simple to me. Either sit it out and wait, or track Testing daily, or contribute time and expertise to helping the cause (it's not forbidden, y'know!), or go elsewhere. I'm not very inclined to agree with the position that debian should somehow change a very flexible working system just for the impatient.

      • by iiioxx (610652) <iiioxx@gmail.com> on Sunday October 27, 2002 @03:36PM (#4543009)
        I'm not very inclined to agree with the position that debian should somehow change a very flexible working system just for the impatient.

        I guess it all depends on one's definition of a "working" system then. As you said, if a system works for you, then use it. If not, fix it, or find a better system. I was just suggesting ideas regarding something I personally see as a shortcoming, which is ever-growing release cycles, and a possible solution to fix it.

        One of the major complaints regarding Woody was that it took so long to release, and then had rather outdated software. Between the time the distro was frozen, and the time it was released, so much software was updated, including some pretty significant packages.

        Personally, I think Debian should change their release focus. I think a good strategy would be that of having a regular, six month release cycle that focuses on moving packages from testing to stable in a concise manner. Rather than trying to put out a mammoth update which takes two years to ship and is obsolete the day it is released, I think the needs of the users would be better addressed with two annual releases spaced six months apart, but of more of a minor nature than a major. This kind of "rolling update" would make sure that reasonably recent packages are steadily making their way into stable. It would also shorten the freeze to release period, since less packages would be updating (usually) with these minor releases.

        Some people have proposed splitting the distribution into subdivisions (core, desktop apps, games, development) and this might not be a bad idea, either. Provided of course, that certain inter-division dependencies were properly managed. The Debian core team could focus on the base system and server packages, while letting the desktop team handle UI's and applications, and the games team handle.. well, games. Each group could release updates independently of each other, perhaps with core as the baseline to which the others must adhere for library versions, etc.

        As for impatience, I personally think that two years is too long to wait for a stable release, especially in the open source world where software is such a moving target. And yes, I know testing is more frequently updated and mostly stable, but try telling that to an IT manager. IT managers want "stable", not "testing". It's a political thing and it's stupid, but it's reality. Which is why I come across more and more Red Hat shops every day.
        • "As for impatience, I personally think that two years is too long to wait for a stable release, especially in the open source world where software is such a moving target. And yes, I know testing is more frequently updated and mostly stable, but try telling that to an IT manager. IT managers want "stable", not "testing". It's a political thing and it's stupid, but it's reality. Which is why I come across more and more Red Hat shops every day." Then the fix is easy -- just rename "Unstable" to "Pro". :) I've had a lot fewer problems running Debian unstable in the last two years than I ever had running what Red Hat claimed was stable. (Remember when they put a beta version of gcc in their "stable" distribution?) phil
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...since figures have been done in M$ Excel... ;)
  • by ahornby (1734) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @11:44AM (#4541771) Homepage

    Its a really handy tool ported from debian. See http://apt.freshrpms.net [freshrpms.net]

    Now if only Red Hat would adopt it instead of up2date...

    • Tought, it's not the apt program that makes apt so good. its the package maintainers.
  • Data fraud (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epukinsk (120536) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @01:19PM (#4542245) Homepage Journal
    I like how he makes utterly false claims about his data based on his misleading graphs.

    Look at his debian growth [telemetrybox.org] graph. He conveniently skips the year 2001, making it look like the growth in recent years is something other than linear. He even states "Note that the number of packages seems to be growing exponentially."

    The truth is, he's crammed two years of growth into a one year slot on the graph, making it appear to be accellerating. In actuality, if you imagine that growth spread over two years (as it actually is) it looks damn linear.

    I guess even volunteers without corporate agendas are subject to fradulent data analysis.

    Erik

    • Yes that graph is totally bogus, why on earth has he done that?
      Besides that I think the whole basis of the discussion is faulty - I dont care when debian hits 4 or 8 or 10, only that it stays as good as it is.
    • Right under the graph that you show, they say

      (Note that the X-Axis of the diagram are the years of Debian releases. Diagrams with proper scaling of years can be found in chapter 4).

      And, in chapter four, the show this image which has the correct scaling [telemetrybox.org]. Guess what. It looks exponential to me.

  • by yasa (228596) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @01:41PM (#4542320)
    There is an article [linux-magazin.de] in the german Linux Magazin [linux-magazin.de]that gives some explanation about new 'version mixing', 'downgrading' possibilities in the new apt software under 'woody' (sorry only german language). So you can keep your base system stable and add some additional software from 'testing' or 'unstable', or you can try the 'testing/unstable' release, and if those releases are too buggy, you can downgrade to 'woody' again.

    - Yasa
  • by PSC (107496) on Sunday October 27, 2002 @02:35PM (#4542672)
    The plots in chapter 2, The Past, are somewhat misleading in that they suggest a steeper growth rate lately that is actually true:

    The time scale (x axis) is nonlinear!

    The year 1996 is listed twice (thus making 1996 a particulary long year :-), while the year 2001 is missing (making the latest growth seem exponential).

    Debian does grow rapidly, but not *that* rapidly.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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