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Debian GNU is Not Unix Linux

Happy Birthday, Debian! 172

Posted by timothy
from the impossibly-worthwhile dept.
An anonymous reader writes with word that as of today, the Debian project — one of the first distros, and still going strong, not to mention parent or grandparent of many other distros — is 19 years old. "Quoting from the official project history: 'The Debian Project was officially founded by Ian Murdock on August 16th, 1993. At that time, the whole concept of a 'distribution' of Linux was new. Ian intended Debian to be a distribution which would be made openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU.' Send an appreciation message: http://thanks.debian.net/."
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Happy Birthday, Debian!

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  • Re:Better than Arch? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:08PM (#41017445)

    I greatly prefer apt over yum, but that might just be what I'm used to.

    Everything just feels wrong when I'm stuck with arch.

  • by jemenake (595948) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:09PM (#41017451)
    There were others before it: RedHat, Slackware, etc. But I remember when I first tried to install some packages after initially installing it.
    I had been used to RedHat, where you'd try to install a package, it would complain about dependencies, and then you'd have to surf the web for someone who had an RPM for that dependency... hopefully a suitable version. FTP it. Try to install that. Of course, that would fail because it, too, had unmet dependencies. So, you'd write down all the stuff that needed and start searching for those... and their dependencies.

    When it was all over, you had blown about 3-4 hours and you had about 2 pages of scribbled notes of package names, indented by their order of dependence, crossed out as you installed them.

    I think I heard angels singing when I first tried to install something with Debian. It found all of the dependencies (recursing through the entire dependency tree), told me that it was going to go download them all in one shot, and then *did* it. I have not (voluntarily) used anything other than Debian/Ubuntu since.

    This kind of package management is taken for granted today, just like so many features in the first iPhone are considered standard on any smartphone. We forget how all of the stuff before it now looks like the stone age.

    Debian, we all owe a huge debt to your parents for conceiving you.
  • Re:Better than Arch? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KazW (1136177) * on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:14PM (#41017511)
    I use Arch on simple/embedded systems only, when using it for something more complex like a desktop, updates tend to break it quite frequently. I used Arch for 12 months on my desktop and for 9 of those months I had to live with bugs that I just didn't have the time to fix. Arch is great, but there's no QC, whereas with Debian you may not get the latest version, but at least your system will be stable.

    To summarize, it's a trade off between stability and having the latest version of packages.
  • Re:Better than Arch? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sipper (462582) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:48PM (#41017817)

    I suppose that it's long past time that I installed Debian. I've fought through Gentoo army of config files, gone through RPM hell with Red Hat and Mandrake, hacked at the jungle thicket of Fedora and swam in the cool waters of Arch. I've tried two Debian-based distributions, but never install Debian. Does it offer any real advantage over Arch?

    Just recently I tried the top 25 free software distributions [as measured by distrowatch.com], one of which was Arch. I have to say Arch was one of the distros I found fun to play with -- the only thing I think is missing is a simple graphical installer. The first set of instructions I found on the Arch website weren't complete concerning the Grub2 install, leading to install and bootup failures, but the "Beginner's Guide" has complete instrcutions for the install. Package installation under arch is super fast. I couldn't get audio working in the VM I was installing it in, but other than that I really liked it.

    And I tried Gentoo as well, and I found it just as hateful as I found it in 2003, if not more so. The "install", or shoud I say the compile, took three solid days to install a base system + a base install of KDE 4.8. The 'emerge' command often ran into dependency hell, forcing the use of several switches like 'emerge --newuser --update --deep (package)'. Anytime the USE flags get updated Gentoo wants you to 'emerge @world' to recompile the whole system again, and of course the instructions for intalling KDE4 has you modify the USE flags. I really do love a lot of the documentation I can get from the Gentoo project, but in terms of running it as a distro I want to keep it as far away from me as I can, because frankly I think it's insane.

    Debian has a graphical installer, and you can choose several Desktop Environments right at the very start of the install menu. I think it's the only distro (or one of very few) that shows all of the choices of languages in their own native written language rather than the list being all in English. Debian is also the basis for a long list of other distros -- out of the top 25, 12 are Debian derivatives. IMHO the best feature Debian has is the ability to upgrade-in-place -- so you never have to do a reinstall to keep it up-to-date unless you want to. Debian has a lot of developer support behind the project, most of whom are free software purists -- which is generally a good thing. It's one of the very few distros that are based solely on donations and have no private corporation behind them. If you want to know more about Debian, my first suggestion is to watch an intro video given by Bdale Garbee from DebConf11 which I think was well spoken and informative:
            http://penta.debconf.org/dc11_schedule/events/804.en.html [debconf.org]

    I don't know enough about Arch to give a fair comparison between it and Debian; all I can say for the moment is that I've been running Debian for 13 years, and that in the very limited time I've spent with Arch I've been impressed with it.

    The distributions I liked in testing them: Linux Mint Debian, Fedora 17, openSuSE, Debian, Arch, Pear Linux 5 (appearance of Mac OS X), SnowLinux 2 "Ice", and the DVD version of Knoppix 7.03. Distros I did not like: Ubuntu 12.04 (3D, Unity GUI), Mageia 2, PCLinuxOS (only "rpm" lines in /etc/apt/sources.list), Ultimate 3.4 (3D), Gentoo (insane long compiles), Fuduntu (yucky package installer), SolusOS (yucky package installer).

  • Thanks Debian! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattsday (909414) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @07:00PM (#41017947)

    In 1998 my mother bought me a 'Linux' book with Red Hat 5.2 attached. Being a geek I installed it and loved it. I dabbled with upgrading it and using the Ximian beta Gnome 2. It always felt clunky though.

    Then I discovered Debian. Not only did it have an AWESOME package manager, but it taught me about free software. It showed me that people can collaborate across the globe to make an integrated, high quality operating system for free. Around this time, I was finding my place in the world and I honestly think the spirit of Debian helped me discover Humanism and a concept of greater, moral good.

    To this day I am in awe of this effort. Looking across its entire collection, the social structure and the individual elements (kernel, GNU toolchain, X, OpenSSH etc) I think free software is one of humanities greatest achievements. Whether you use it or not, take reflection in how awesome this completely free project is and how much it's brought us.

    Thanks Debian!

  • by Sipper (462582) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @08:14PM (#41018697)

    It's one of the very few distros that are based solely on donations and have no private corporation behind them.

    I see no problem with some corporation being associated with the project. If there are reasonable rules, and if the project has a reasonably open governance, corporate help is welcome.

    To an extent it's fine, but the corporation usually ends up steering the project to some extent. For instance is Ubuntu more community-driven or Cononical driven? Is Fedora community-driven, or is it a platform for developing RHEL? What about Oracle? For instance when I think of Ubuntu, I ask the question "Who made the choice of the 3D Unity interface? Was it the community or was it Cononical?"

    Corporations often have different needs than a home user does. Debian, for instance, contains a bunch of niche packages like those used by Amateur Radio operators. These are things you're not likely to see in an "Enterprise" distribution. So what you get as a user does differ depending on who is directing the distribution development. This doesn't make choosing an "Enterprise" distribution wrong of course -- it might be what you need.

Some people have a great ambition: to build something that will last, at least until they've finished building it.

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