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Debian GNU is Not Unix

Interview with Debian Project Leader 287

Posted by michael
from the do-you-hurd-what-i-hurd dept.
brunotorres writes "I've interviewed Martin Michlmayr, Debian project leader. In this interview we talked about the upcoming Debian release, Sarge. An excerpt: 'We heard for years that Debian is hard to install and the old installer wasn't very easy to maintain or advance, so we we decided to throw the installer away and start from scratch. The new installer is much more modular, which makes it easier to maintain and extend.'" Reader ron_ivi points out that new Debian/Hurd CDs are available. Newsforge and Slashdot are both part of OSTG.
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Interview with Debian Project Leader

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  • We heard for years that Debian is hard to install and the old installer wasn't very easy to maintain or advance, so we we decided to throw the installer away and start from scratch. The new installer is much more modular, which makes it easier to maintain and extend.

    heh, so if I'm reading this right, they know the old installer is hard to use, but they really don't care. The new one is easier to extend and maintain, and that's all that's important. :)
  • Wait wait wait.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JoeLinux (20366) <[joelinux] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:39PM (#11258599) Homepage
    I've always thought there should be two versions of linux: bleeding edge, and ignorant housewife editions.

    Red Hate falls squarely into the ignorant housewife category, where gentoo and LFS are for linux users with balls of steel.

    Unless you can do source on the fly, I don't see the gentoo-type crowd getting excited over this.

    Just my $.02 (that's $4.00 canadian)
    • by odyrithm (461343)
      No I'm sorry but running a few scripts(gentoo) does NOT make your a user with "balls of steel". Vanilla LFS maybe, but even that is step by step instructions pretty much.

      If you want to have fun try putting HURD together with GNU, useless but something a user with "balls of steel" would do, or far to much time on there hands :P

      And what the heck do you mean by "source on the fly"???? to me that says vm language(scripted).. but I'm guessing you ment something clever.
    • by kneeless (837507) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:54PM (#11258724)
      Unless you can do source on the fly
      apt-get source gnuchess --compile
    • by EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:55PM (#11258744) Homepage Journal
      I've always thought there should be two versions of linux: bleeding edge, and ignorant housewife editions.

      There's a third: A powerful version that is stable. I need to spend my time using Linux to do things for my job, I don't like to spend time debugging the OS.
      • by dn15 (735502)

        There's a third: A powerful version that is stable. I need to spend my time using Linux to do things for my job, I don't like to spend time debugging the OS.

        This is why I love Debian as a server. I could test and install software myself if I had to, but why? The last thing I want to do is spend endless hours figuring out which versions of which software I can use to maintain security without breaking compatibility with my existing data or config files. Life's too short to mess with a server that isn't g

    • by northcat (827059)
      The current debian release (woody) works ABSOLUTELY finely for me. Its very stable. Of course, I can't boast to others about having the latest version of GEyeCandy but I really don't give a shit. If I want the latest version of a particular program I can upgrade it independently (and there are backports from sarge of several important programs available for woody. so you can't complain about X not working). No one is going to need the latest versions of EVERY fucking package in their distro. But in case you
    • Gentoo is as easy as talking a walk in the park with your nanny. I've used Gentoo on several architectures, and even done a networked install of Gentoo on a MIPS-based SGI-box with no problem whatsoever -- and I don't even know a single programming language. Gentoo is perfect for ignorant people. It may even make them feel they're learning something, although they don't.

      Now, configuring GRUB to boot the Hurd, that was a bit more difficult the last time I tried. If you want to harden your balls, you can try
      • Re:Gentoo? (Score:3, Funny)

        by molnarcs (675885)
        Gentoo is perfect for ignorant people. It may even make them feel they're learning something, although they don't.

        Haha, that was funny. And true. A friend of mine who used mandrake for a few days went on to install gentoo, for rumour had it that if you can install it, you'll learn a lot about the system.

        Spent hours and hours installing it, (which doesn't make too much sense - why not have a functioning system in 5 minutes and then rebuild everything?), installation documentation in his lap, and after a w

        • It's true that there isn't much to learn if you're copying commands verbatim
          from the install instructions. However, gentoo makes it very easy to learn
          what your system is doing by reading the scripts. There aren't layers and
          layers of abstraction and indirection like with RedHat and, while emerge
          makes package installation very simple, it doesn't hide anything from you and
          you can manually do exactly what it does with ebuild (the man pages give
          excellent explanations of what's going on).
          • Re:Gentoo? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by molnarcs (675885) <molnarcs AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @09:00PM (#11260215) Homepage Journal
            Well, you might be right in some respects, but gentoo became a gremlin for me during that time. In other words, I'm biased ;)

            He displayed a genuine interest in linux, and I encouraged him to try gentoo (myself already using a ports based "distro"). And later seeing his frustrations, I realized my mistake. I think one of the most important things if you want to get someone on the linux/unix train is documentation. Which is almost there in gentoo, but not quite. The other is: a clear system layout. Debian comes close to it (I might try sarge when it comes out, just to keep my linux skills honed - not long ago I couldn't make usb flash drive work in SuSE, and I felt really embarrassed), but I still didn't know what mplayer.conf does in /etc (or .operarc for that matter).

            So my recent method of getting people trying out linux (or freebsd) is to give them a book. I would say: don't touch anything on your computer. Read this [freebsd.org] or that [gentoo.org], and if you are still interested, and enjoyed your reading (because you'll have to do a lot of reading later as well), than you can go on following installation instruction. One important note: never give docs in electronic format. It is easier to grasp the basic concepts if in book form, and (strange as it may sound) without sitting in the front of a puter. And then I would recommend a kind of distro you mentioned: it might be gentoo or debian or slackware, it doesn't really matter (as long as it's not rh or mandrake)

            Anyway, for nostalgia's sake, I dug up some of my friend's posts [gentoo.org] on gentooforums. Note the growing use-flag paranoia (and I refer back to the above post in a post [slashdot.org] below, just for recursivity's sake. :)

    • Oh, you don't know anything about computers? Try our Ignorant Housewife edition. See, it's for stupid people - like you.
      • I wonder how often something called Ignorent Housewife Edition' would be downloaded?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:45PM (#11259207)
          Change .iso to .avi and it'd get plenty of hits!
        • I wonder how often something called Ignorent Housewife Edition' would be downloaded?

          If they are tired of Windows Operating systems, is should be relabled the Desperate Houswife Edition.

          Then maybe, just maybe, they could make a TV series called "Desperate Houswives" were hot chicks like Terri Hatcher in tight spandex work all day long getting Debian installed, and the adminintering their box.

          One can dream....
          • Then maybe, just maybe, they could make a TV series called "Desperate Houswives" were hot chicks like Terri Hatcher in tight spandex work all day long getting Debian installed, and the adminintering their box.

            Mmmmm...Teri Hatcher!

            I wouldn't mind administering her box!

      • by Mattintosh (758112) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @10:55PM (#11260861)
        Actually, I'd almost classify the Debian installer as "Ignorant Housewife edition".

        Sarge-something-something-x86 and Sarge-something-something-powerpc are the ones I've downloaded so far, and I've actually had a chance to mess with the x86 one. (The old beige powermac g3 is in the process of getting its heavy ass moved into another room.) The install went something like this:
        1) download iso and burn to CD
        2) boot spare x86 machine from CD
        3) wait
        4) let it configure DHCP
        4a) wonder why it didn't work, play with it a bit
        4b) plug the damned ethernet cable in, repeat 4)
        5) give it some network settings (domain name, machine name, etc)
        7) pick some package groups to install
        8) wait
        9) wait
        10) wait
        11) give a root password, create a user
        12) log in and use the damned thing

        So it's not a 3-step-with-no-step-3 iMac. Whoopee. I didn't expect it to be. Then again, this is the first time I've ever used a Linux system. Ever. And I was practically spoonfed a working installation. And within a few hours of use, I was able to install/uninstall packages, mess with basic environment settings, and play a few games. That's a far cry from "not ready for the desktop."

        I declare it... 2004 (I did the installation on 12/30/04) is the year of the Linux desktop. Hey, it passed my test.

        Now to toss MacOS X 10.2.8 (the last release "supported" on the beige g3) out on it's ass... maybe in a few days. I need sleep.
    • "...where gentoo and LFS are for linux users with balls of steel."

      I was with Gentoo from the first release and found the old Debian install a 'balls of titanium' task. It wasn't worth the bother with so many worthy and more comprehensible competitors. The new installer, along with Debian's robustness and apparent equivalent speed, convinced me Gentoo wasn't worth the etc-update pain for every minor update. It's one downside is the rigorous adherence to packaging only open software complicates things like N

    • "Just my $.02 (that's $4.00 canadian)"

      Who's dollars are those then? You can't be referring to USD$ as the USD is so shit these days that it could be USD$1:CAD$1 before we know it. I'm glad that I don't have a government that relies on third world countries buying all our debt (e.g. China who remarkably still buys USD$40 billion of it each month to prop up the USD$).
  • by Uptown Joe (819388) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:41PM (#11258609)
    http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ They will mail (snail) you 10 copies for free... The installer is nice and the desktop looks pretty damn good... Uptown (not an Ubuntu salesman) Joe
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:42PM (#11258620)
    The only system out of about a dozen (including about 2/3 headless systems, with no monitor) that I've installed Debian, the only one that didn't work was VirtualPC-with-over-500MB-of-Ram.

    All the other architectures I tried (Suns, _old_ x86s, _new_ x86s) worked great.

    I really reall really like the fact that the minimal install and the installer itself doesn't require the X-windows bloat.

  • by ypoint (551981) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:44PM (#11258639)
    Is Your Development Project a Sinking Ship?
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by northcat (827059) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:44PM (#11258640) Journal
    So now, is HURD so unimportant to slashdot that news related to it is just grouped under some other news? The same slashdot that carries a front page story about even release candidates of the Linux kernel?
    • Why do you think the HURD is more important right now then a footnote in a Debian story? That said I don't think that every rc and minor point release of Linux needs to be front page either.
    • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When has HURD ever been important to _anyone_ except HURD developers?
    • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MemoryDragon (544441)
      Sorry to rant here, but hurd is a nice ongoing research project doomed to fail in the long run.... The reasons, to few developers, not to much interest by the people who initiated the project in the first run as it seems, almost no moving forward, critical things after 10 years not implemented (a decent filesystem etc...) hurd is a nice concept with a partial implementation after 10 years, the time it will reach the finally usable status, Stallman and others will have died of age.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by hayden (9724) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:45PM (#11259205)
      So now, is HURD so unimportant to slashdot that news related to it is just grouped under some other news?
      Yes.
    • So now, is HURD so unimportant to slashdot that news related to it is just grouped under some other news?

      I'd seriously like to know what purpose HURD serves. As a matter of fact, what advantage does Mach-0 serve on OS X? What's the payoff?

    • Now? What do you mean now? Hasn't it always been this way? The HURD is useless for doing actual work and it's not even a fun toy. Unless you want a limited and mostly broken environment for playing with a microkernel-based Unix clone, what exactly does HURD offer?
  • Hurd CDs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jdowland (764773)
    I'm looking forward to a Hurd LiveCD - I understand this is technically pretty complex but when it happens, trying out hurd will be simplified massively.
    • Umm... I don't follow. What possible purpose could this serve? Unless there was some sort of user-visible advantage to Hurd over the other choices it's sort of a waste of time. You can't even do any real development work on it.
  • by Tsiangkun (746511) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:48PM (#11258667) Homepage
    The only time it gave me headaches was when I banged my head on the desk trying to seewhat type of chipset my ethernet card had, and what type of graphics card was inside the box.

    As long as you know what type of hardware you have, debian is simple to install, and very easy to keep updated. I think most people just don't like to read the text on screen detailing exactly what's going on during the install.

  • by bonch (38532) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:50PM (#11258687)
    Well, I wondered the same thing until I tried out Debian and realized you could do interesting things like downgrade packages to previous versions. In general, the install system had features Portage doesn't, until the next version of Portage anyway.

    That didn't stop me from happily moving to FreeBSD, however. :)
    • I've always thought that the Debian and FreeBSD installers where closer in wording and usage than Mandrake/Suse/Redhat installers.

      But as installers go, I always thought OS and package installers should be 2 programs. You create your boot system, then install software. That way, its secure, boots, and you can add/remove software after a stable secure install.

      The unified install system seems to complicate issues for new users. You boot, login, then type "setup". (Or at least symlink config/yast/netconf/what
    • Uh oh! Someone didn't do their homework!

      Gentoo has always allowed you to downgrade packages to any previous version. The revdep-rebuild script will even attempt to fix any broken dynamic linkage that might result.

      emerge =packagename-old.version && revdep-rebuild

      will do the trick, and then you'll need to edit

      /etc/portage/package.mask

      to mask versions newer than the old one you installed.

      I bet you're having fun with BSD if you missed such an obvious feature of Portage :D

    • Debian also has the little advantage that a basic install doesn't take three days to install like Gentoo does.
    • you could do interesting things like downgrade packages to previous versions

      is there an easy way to do this in Debian? I've seen some instructions, but they were all much more complicated than Gentoo's way which is a one liner.

      I'm not asking this to argue, I use Debian now and really want to know. Sometimes I want to try something in experimental, but am pretty sure I'll want to go back
      • Downgrading can be done (I've downgraded entire systems from unstable to testing) but the automatic tools won't do it for you and you absolutely have to know what you're doing.

        There's no particular effort made to ensure that direct downgrades work smoothly. Of course, you can always remove (or preferably purge) the current version of a program, then install the older version. That's pretty much guaranteed to work.

        Daniel
      • by Dwonis (52652) *
        The quick way to install a particular version of a package is to run:

        apt-get install wmbiff=0.3.8-3

        Of course, the package will be upgraded next time you do an upgrade, so to stop that, you can "hold" the package:

        echo 'wmbiff hold' | dpkg --set-selections

        To undo that, you'd run:

        echo 'wmbiff install' | dpkg --set-selections

        Of course, fullscreen package management utilities like aptitude and Synaptic let you do the above with fewer keystrokes.

        Alternatively, you can put something like the following i

  • by RealAlaskan (576404) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:52PM (#11258710) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:
    NF: [interviewer] When will we be able to celebrate Sarge's release?

    MM: [interviewee] There's currently no date for the release. There are a number of show-stoppers related to our infrastructure which we have to sort out before we can make a release. We hope Sarge will come out near the beginning of the year.

    Clever Martin! He doesn't say which year.

    Sarge is great. When it becomes the new Stable, I may just switch from Testing to Stable.

    • For how long though? 3 months? 1 year? 2 years?

      I'm a testing user myself (even on my servers, which are non-mission-critical friend-and-family web server).
    • "Sarge is great. When it becomes the new Stable, I may just switch from Testing to Stable."

      Some time in 2006?

      ;)

      There was a /. article the other week "Top tech news stories you *won't* read in 2005"

      I thought "Sarge goes stable!" should have been on that list...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:53PM (#11258721)
    Why does each and every distribution need to reinvent the installer and the package management tools and the portage system and the system layout?

    Can't we have just one installer, one package management tool and one portage system that is shared by all the linux distributions, the bsd variants, OS X fink, windows cygwin, the comercial vendors, and all the rest?

    I mean really, reinventing a new tool to do something that people have been doing for 30 years is the height of arrogance. And even if they do invent their own package management system, does it only have to run with their own custom portage system? Can we have multiple interfaces to just one portage system that works across all posix systems?

    Ideally I should be able to pop in a DVD, and have a single installer come up that lets me mix and match my kernel with my package management system and select what packages I want to install and then have it install them in a known location that is the same as everyone elses in the world.

    I should be able to deploy a software package one time and just have it compile and install itself on any unix like system. And work.

    All you separate distributions and operating systems need to get off your high horses and share the labor for things that are common between all of you. This is why we don't have unix on every desktop right now. The fragmentation is killing adoption of unix on the desktop.
    • ... because the old square wheels weren't good enough. And the newer triangular wheels weren't much better.

      Why does it matter if the wheel is constantly re-invented? No one is forcing you to do the reinvention and you don't have to use the new wheels.

      Freedom to tinker is a major part of the driving force behind free software at the moment. As for fragmentation "killing adoption of unix on the desktop" (assuming that you are including GNU/Linux with unix), there are more *nix systems on desktops now than

    • by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:10PM (#11258865) Homepage
      Can't we have just one installer, one package management tool and one portage system that is shared by all the linux distributions, the bsd variants, OS X fink, windows cygwin, the comercial vendors, and all the rest?

      Well, Debian and OS X Fink do share an install system - apt-get. "All the Linux distributions"? Would be nice, but there are a fair few .deb-based ones out there now. RedHat and Cygwin share a system I believe (I'm prepared to be corrected here), because Cygwin was originally has ties to RedHat.

      Ideally I should be able to pop in a DVD, and have a single installer come up...

      Ah, well you've lost me there already you see. A DVD? I run Debian on a old laptop that hasn't got a CD drive, let alone a DVD. I also run it on a Cobalt RaQ - not even a floppy drive there. A single installer? But on my flashy new hardware I like graphical installs, whereas I would spit blood at anything requiring a graphical install if I was trying to put it onto the Cobalt.

      All you separate distributions and operating systems need to get off your high horses and share the labor for things that are common between all of you.

      OK. So who gets off whose horse first? I know - let's dump RPM, I always hated it. But hold on, it's used with some of the most popular and commercially supported distros right? So I know, let's dump .deb, after all it's only minority. But hang on, some of the most stable distributions there are use .deb so there must be some merit in it. I know, let's dump RPM...and repeat ad nauseam.

      Cheers,
      Ian

      • RedHat and Cygwin share a system I believe (I'm prepared to be corrected here), because Cygwin was originally has ties to RedHat.

        Ok. Cygwin has the *worst* package management ever, but one of the best front-ends. Go figure.

        A package in Cygwin is a tarball, basically run from /. So you can download a Cygwin package with, say, your web browser, cd / in your cygwin install, tar -xzvf *thefile*, and that installs it. It's crap, it's nothing but crap. Dependency resolution? Don't know how they do it, re

    • by Phexro (9814) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:23PM (#11258994)
      "Can't we have just one installer, one package management tool and one portage system that is shared by all the linux distributions, the bsd variants, OS X fink, windows cygwin, the comercial vendors, and all the rest?"

      No.

      You must be new here.
    • by northcat (827059) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:25PM (#11259017) Journal
      Taking what you are saying a step further, why can't we just have a single distro? No we can't. The different free distros cater for different needs. Gentoo is for putting together a distro from the source. Debian is a distro with virtually all the apps out there and with a lot of ways to install the packages and supports many architectures. Fedora is for new users and people who want the latest eye candy apps. The commercial distros like SuSE and Mandrake *can* be unified but they're just in it for the money and they wont do it. Try convincing them.

      Now, why can't we have a single package management system/installation system? Same reasoning - different distros do different things. You can't have a single package management system for both pre-compiled and source code distros without putting extra overhead on one of them. Same thing goes for installation system. And commercial distros just won't do it. Again, try convincing them.
    • Why does each and every distribution need to reinvent the installer and the package management tools and the portage system and the system layout?

      Debian is "reinventing" the installer, because it needed to be. The Debian project needed an installer that could be run on any of the dozen or so architectures it supports. Not only that, but they did an excellent job of separating the installer from the frontend it uses. Now that the installer is near completion, it shouldn't be hard to create a GUI frontend

  • Installers, et al (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:03PM (#11258810) Homepage Journal
    The old installer was a pain. It took me about 3 days to do one install, because of some quirk in the options I'd used. I'm no novice, when it comes to Linux installers, either. I cut my teeth on MCC Linux and SLS, the precursors to Slackware.


    The problem with all installers (Fedora included) is that dependency tracking is extremely difficult and complex, and packages don't always accurately describe their dependencies. They also don't have any good way of handling multiple flavours of (essentially) the same product. They also don't talk with each other, so don't expect apt or rpm to know about anything you installed from CPAN or CPANPLUS, even though there's absolutely no reason why you couldn't have a program to rationalize the contents of different installer databases.


    However, that is not the fault of Debian, but rather the fault of the problem being solved. It is extremely complex, and no good solution currently exists.


    As a distribution, I like Debian a lot. No, that's not just because they included my FOLK patches as an alternative kernel (though that is a factor, because it means Debian is far more capable of including interesting ideas than almost any other distribution). Debian is simply a damn good distribution. It's comprehensive, it's consistant in approach, and it's been able to maintain a very high level of quality, despite having a very large number of contributors. (Or maybe because they do.)


    There have been a lot of distributions, over the ages. Some have failed because the maintainers gave up (SLS, for example). Some failed because they appealed to too specialized an audience, so there wasn't a userbase to keep things going (QLinux is an example of that). Some failed because of political reasons (Stampede Linux got busted over a "trademark infringement" that pushed credibility a little far). Some failed because the maintainers went commercial (Red Hat Linux, I'm talking to you!).


    Given that kind of turbulent history, it's impressive that Debian has done as well as it has. Those involved in the project should feel proud of themselves. IIRC, Slackware is the only other distro that has lasted as long, or atracted such a following.

    • Re:Installers, et al (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SanLouBlues (245548)
      Well, the new installer isn't exactly perfect yet either. I had to setup a Debian server (Debian was mandated) and I had a helluva time (operator error, but the installer was an enabler).

      Here's the executive summary (just the parts that didn't go well):

      First, I tried the Debian net-install because it's only a 123MB download and this was going to be the only machine that I installed it on.
      I used a machine that was Mandrake because it was already partitioned and it fit the requirements, but Debian didn't l
      • After messing with aptitude for 90 minutes, I figured out that some packages on the ftp site weren't signed (or something) and wouldn't install.

        Whatever it was, it wasn't a signing problem: you'd have to install apt 0.6 and aptitude 0.3 (from Debian experimental) in order for signatures to be verified.

        Daniel
    • Regarding CPAN and debian's package management, I have but one thing to say: man dh-make-perl.

  • Honesty/Disclaimer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Smiffa2001 (823436)
    "I wouldn't recommend Debian on the desktop for people who are new to Linux, but it's perfectly suited for people who have some experience with Linux or have an admin who takes care of their machine."

    I like the comment, though it's probably been said a thousand times before. I would say though, that it still takes SysAdmin-type powers to be comfortable with most Linux distros, at least in my experience. Everybody that I ever came across that said "use Linux, it's great" turned out to have a decent amoun
  • by twilight30 (84644) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:14PM (#11258903) Homepage
    One of the things I've noticed of late with Debian is that their vaulted upgrade procedure between versions is definitely not working for Woody and Sarge.

    Upgrading from a fresh Woody install -- of 3.0r0, to be precise -- directly to Sarge as it now stands destroys Gnome completely. It will boot, start X11, but then die horribly for reasons I have yet to sort out fully. (I did this three weeks ago, for an old beater that was a gift) And it would die consistently only in that operating any Gnome application in tandem with another would do it.

    The only way I could get the install procedure to update correctly was by using a sarge netinstall CD with a beta from August.

    I believe the kernel versions changing has a lot to do with this. Of course, blaming Debian for this is not fair, but expecting users to suddenly know everything about the kernel version, the module loading/management procedure and the deep changes to the /etc directory is a little much.

    I don't care about a GUI installer. I do care about Debian's stability between versions. I used to think Debian's upgrade process flawed (speed of releases) but essentially fine for those people who didn't want to think about dependency hell when using an online upgrading service. But now I am wondering if they really have it under control; I think they've taken policy as far as they can go.

    They should commit to a regular timeframe for stable/server/stale versions and stick to it. Once a year is plenty of time.

  • by ElektroHolunder (514550) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:14PM (#11258906)
    You know you read too much slashdot when you read sentences like this:
    we're aware that many people are interested in a graphical installer and certain languages like Thai might even require this
    and catch yourself thinking " 'Thai'? Oh no, not another scripting language.."
  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouhaha. c o m> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:16PM (#11258916) Homepage Journal
    What's wrong with Anaconda, which already works in text and graphical modes? Hasn't it been part of Progeny's Debian-based distribution for a long time?

    Though just about anything, including poking one's eyes out with a sharp stick, would be better than the old Debian installer. I've been a hardcore Unix user/developer since 1982, and Linux since 1991, and yet I was completely baffled at some of the questions the old installer asked, and at the sheer number of questions.

    • Anaconda is good, but it isn't available on all 11 architectures which Debian intends to release against.

      Far better to have one installer which works identically across each platform than Anaconda for x86, and other installers for other platforms.

      • by bogie (31020) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @07:45PM (#11259679) Journal
        That is what I was going to answer because its true.Anaconda doesn't run on every arch. But why should x86 users, ie 80%+ of Debian users have to suffer without a great installer like Anaconda just so somebody using some obsure arch has the same aweful install experience(yes I know the installer has improved). Cater to your base which is x86. Let the rest get by with a lesser installer. They have till now and won't go away just because x86 as usual gets all of the goodies.

        That or continue to watch as all of your users flee to distros like Ubuntu.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:16PM (#11258917)
    It's nice to read an interview from a distro project member where the problems/limitations of the distro, (such as the long release cycle), are openly admitted. All too often distro maintainers (and users) make excuses for current limitations in their distros and stubbornly refuse to address them in a rational manner.
  • by aralin (107264) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @06:16PM (#11258921)
    I installed my Debian in 1996, almost nine years ago. Since then I exchanged three computers and five harddisks under it and its still running without any need to reinstall. It went smoothly through several major and minor OS updates like a charm.

    As a side note, I'd really like to see someone try to do this with Windows. Upgrading from 95 to 98 to 2k to XP and replacing HDs, CPUs and MBs under that system, while not having to reinstall all your applications and redo all the settings.

  • Getting bigger? (Score:2, Insightful)

    8700 packages for Debian GNU/Linux? Great. New installer? Nice. If I buy a small server, though, I can't even get a stable version that ships with SATA support. Debian may be a wonderful community project, but it is becoming too bloated to move forward like it used to.

    • This is nothing new, and not a real problem. Debian Stable has always been a step or two behind the hardware curve.

      If you want to run a server on Debian you are almost assuredly capible of getting it installed and working with a custom kernel on SATA drives.
  • by mu22le (766735)
    "NF: I think there should be framebuffer options in the installation boot prompt, something like choosing resolution. I had to type linux26 vga=791. Do you plan to put resolution options in the boot menu?

    MM: Debian-installer works very well in the default resolution; putting in too many options would confuse users. You should use the command line option."

    As much as I love Debian this is stupid.
    It took me more than a week to figure out what was wrong with my laptop when I tried Potato! (look, it was my sec
    • They said in the interview that they were doing that becuse it's not currently in the kernel and it sounded like it would be supported when it gets in the kernel.

      So I understand why their 2.4 and 2.6 kernels don't support it (they are both "vanilla" kernels). That said, I think they should have an option (not unlike the bf24 "boot floppies" kernel that they have now on Woody). Offering a special kernel where that was the only change (kernel-image-2.6.xx-arch-reiser4 or some such) seems a little extreme for

  • Number of CDs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by standsolid (619377) <kennyNO@SPAMstandsolid.com> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @07:14PM (#11259436) Homepage
    NF: How many CDs will be needed to install a complete Debian suite, including KDE/GNOME?


    MM: I think most of KDE and GNOME will be on the first CD.

    So... at least two CDs for KDE/GNOME.
  • Not bad, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mock (29603) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @07:46PM (#11259682)
    The new installer is not too bad, but once again it goes for far too much complexity and ambiguity.

    An example:

    For the X Window System graphical user interface to operate correctly, it is necessary to select a video card driver for the X server.

    Drivers are typically named for the video card or chipset manufacturer, or for a specific model or family of chipsets.

    Select the desired X server driver.

    siliconmotion
    sis
    tdfx
    tgz
    trident
    tseng
    v esa


    Here we have the typical video driver selection screen. Can you seriously expect anyone who wasn't weaned with a transistorized soother to understand this screen?

    Who but the eternal geek will know that VESA is only used for ancient systems or vmware, or that trident means the old, ancient trident chipset, and probably not the one that could show up in their laptop? - actually I don't even know myself on this one. I'd just have to try a bunch of installs to see, something a user should not have to do.

    A little description beside each cryptic 4-5 letter identifier would be EXTREMELY helpful here.
    Better yet would be some kind of auto-detection mechanism for the most common modern cards like other distros do.

    Debian is not the only offender in this category.

    Here's my favorite:

    Please choose a method for selecting your monitor characteristics:

    Simple
    Medium
    Advanced


    This is priceless.
    What the hell is Simple, or Medium, or Advanced? Who's going to know what method will get their windowing environment working properly? (and really, that's all the user wants anyway)

    Debian seriously needs a real user-interface designer to do their installer. So long as it's done by geeks, it will continue to be useable only by geeks. The folks at debian are assuming too much arcane knowledge upon their users, and because of that, they will continue to alienate the majority of users right from the outset.

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