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Debian Software Linux

Debian And The Rise of Linux 438

There's an article in this month's LinMagAu that asks a question about how the rise of Linux will impact Debian and what that could mean. Good article, especially interesting if you have been a fan of Debian.
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Debian And The Rise of Linux

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  • "if you have been a fan of Debian"..

    Not only "if", but also "been a fan", implying that most people aren't using Debian any more?

    *ducks for cover*
    • Well, not in a corporate environment I don't see it much.

      Usually, if at all linux....its RH. :(

      sad...but true...
      • by CompWerks ( 684874 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:17AM (#6329722)
        What's wrong with RH? It's made the most headway in developing a true alternative to M$. Anyway you cut it RH helps all linux distro's across the board.
        • What's wrong with RH? It's made the most headway in developing a true alternative to M$.

          I'm sorry, but when did the point of Linux become 'to destroy MS'? I always thought it was about making good software that people want to use, and sharing it with everyone so the people can benefit. Red Hat seems more interested in making a profit - and as a corporation, that is, in fact, the one thing they exist to do. I disapprove of this. It's like totalitarian communism - 'everyone helps everyone (to help me)'.

      • The New Zealand Electoral Department is (apparently) moving all of their desktop machines nationwide to run Debian linux. Now if that goes ahead as planned, that'll be a HUGE victory for Debian.

        This news coming just after the NZ Govt signed some huge Microsoft deal...
      • Debian is better for corp usage then the "corp" distros. I do not like dealing with broken machines and Debian happily achieves it.
      • by Gleef ( 86 ) * on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:35AM (#6330148) Homepage
        It depends on who makes the decision as to what to use in a corporate environment.

        If English-speaking non-technical executives decide to pick a Linux distro, I'd say they overwhelmingly seem to choose Red Hat, since that's the one they're most likely to know / Dell's most likely to pre-install.

        If technical staff is allowed to make the decision, Debian makes a much better showing. In my experience, over half of these installations are Debian, Red Hat being second most popular.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:06AM (#6329672)
    By mid 2004 at the latest Linux will be a serious contender on the average desktop. The downfall of Windows won't be imminent (that will take another couple of years at least) but Linux will begin to take a serious chunk of the market. Kids will be doing their homework with it, Moms and Pops will be doing Internet banking and sending email to Aunt Edna with it, secretaries will be drafting letters with it, accountants will be creating spreadsheets with it.

    But will Debian be there?

    We all know that Debian is technically one of the most advanced operating systems on the planet, but is it ready to ride the coming shockwave of the desktop Linux juggernaught?

    And just as importantly, do we want it to?

    Yes, I know the argument that says Debian is created for the benefit of the people who do the creating, and that we shouldn't care if anyone outside the core developer group uses it or not.

    I think that argument is bunk.

    I say we should want Debian to grow with Linux, because if it doesn't, it's doomed. Doomed to be marginalised in an increasingly Linux-aware market, and doomed to be eclipsed technically by development efforts focused on the high profile commercial distros.

    This point was really driven home to me last week when on two consecutive days I was asked for instructions on setting up Apt-cacher under Red Hat. The requests came from people who manage networks of Red Hat boxes using Apt-rpm, and naturally they wanted to cache packages to save some bandwidth. Apt-rpm and Apt-cacher were exactly the solution they needed.

    So a Debian initiative saved the day for some Red Hat users. Sweet.

    But now the most frequently cited technical advantage of Debian is gone, assimilated by the highest profile commercial distro. Now when people are discussing switching to Linux, there is no longer the argument that Debian is worth the pain of the initial install and the lack of general vendor support in order to reap the benefit of the most advanced package management system in the world. Instead, users can just install Red Hat and still get the benefits of Apt.

    Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not. It's the way things are meant to work in the Open Source world. Good ideas and good software get around, and a fundamental part of the Debian credo is that we don't restrict who can benefit from it, no matter what their application. That's a principle I firmly believe in.

    And of course I'm glossing over the situation a bit here: I can imagine Debian developers all around the world jumping up and down and yelling that Debian is much more than a bunch of packages, or a technical specification for how to create them, or a tool to manage them. But I'm deliberately simplifying things because that's the way the average Joe User is going to see it: Oh, Red Hat has Apt now, cool. I'll use that instead of Debian.

    Joe User doesn't know (or care) about the obsessive backporting of security patches to the stable release, or about the technical and social infrastructure and numerous supporting apps built up around Dpkg and Apt, or Debian's devotion to the purity of truly Open Source licences. As far as Joe User is concerned Redhat has Apt, and that's all there is to it. They don't know enough to make the finer distinctions.

    Without distinguishing features like Apt, the argument for going with Debian is diminished. Sure, there are still arguments to be made, but they are less obvious. Here's an exercise for you: imagine you are standing at the water cooler chatting with workmates, and a non-technical colleague just said they are thinking of trying Linux at home and were going to install Red Hat but they heard Debian is really good, but has a tricky installer. They think they'll just try Red Hat because that's what they've heard of other people using, but are interested in your opinion because you're in computers. You've got exactly 15 seconds to succinctly explain why Debian may be better for them than Red Hat.
    • by Mr2cents ( 323101 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:28AM (#6329769)
      I don't think Debian is going to collapse soon, But I do agree the installer could use some rethinking. Things I would like to see included: System recovery (using distributed backups over the lan), hardware autodetection, an installation blog - or something like that where you can put your installation remarks/choices, etc. Also, I'm looking for a command that would backup all config files that have been changed, or all files not managed by apt.

      Also, if there were a central repository for those installation blogs, developers could easily see where most of the problems arise.. Just some random thoughts..
      • System recovery (using distributed backups over the lan), hardware autodetection, an installation blog

        Yes, an installation blog is CRUCIAL. What's the point of installing debian if you can't blog it in excruciating detail right next to your much vaunted movie reviews, and internationally recognized kitten-jokes. Ok, sorry, I had to. -Laxitive
    • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:42AM (#6329825)
      "he way the average Joe User is going to see it: Oh, Red Hat has Apt now, cool. I'll use that instead of Debian. "

      Unfortunately, Jow User doesn't realise that it isn't Apt itself that makes Apt great. It's the effort that goes in to creating the packages correctly that Apt uses. Broken and poorly maintained packages will render Apt as useful as RPM.
      • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:53AM (#6329907) Homepage
        You are probably aware of this, but just to clear some misconceptions:

        rpm deb

        apt up2date Red Carpet

        In other words, rpm (like deb) is a package format. Apt (like up2date, red carpet nad a number of others) is a system for downloading and installing packages, finding and solving dependencies between packages and so on.

        Running apt on redhat still means using rpm - it's just that you use apt as the manager, instead of using the rpm tools directly to do stuff manually. As packages, rpm and deb are pretty much equal; rpm has gotten a bad rap in part because rpm based distros typically did not have a package manager earlier, and foremost, because there was no solid, single repository for them with people dedicated solely to find and fix inconsistencies and conflicts before pushing them out to users.
        • The problem with up2date is the server. You can only use the specified server, which is available on a subscription basis. You can't use anything else. (I'm sure this is realtively easy to solve, but that's the way it's released.)

          RedCarpet updates leave you with a system which can't be upgraded with a later set of Red Hat CDs. This is no big deal if you keep /home, /usr/local, and any specialized directories on separate partitions. Not unless you do a lot of customizing of the system scripts. You can
        • In other words, rpm (like deb) is a package format.

          Not exactly. rpm is also a package installer program, like Debian's dpkg.

          rpm : rpm : up2date
          deb : dpkg : apt

          A statement comparing "apt vs rpm" is valid, if both are interpreted as software applications.

          In fact, that comparison was once very important for Debian evaneglism. Until recently (and maybe still?), rpm was the primary tool for RedHat users to install packages. Before the introduction of RedHat's up2date, comparing "The primary command-li
    • Why care so much about Joe User?
      Let RedHat, ALT Linux and other commercial firms
      care about them. They would get their revenues
      and give their contribution to OpenSource world,
      including Debian.

      Users switch to Debian not from Windows (or complete
      computer illiteracy), but rather from other Linux

      Personally I switched to Debian from RH (four or five years
      ago) when I found out, that when I need some piece
      of software which is not included in my distro,
      I routinely go to and grab orig.tar.gz from there.

      There should be at least one distro in the world,
      which cares about clever people, not stupid ones.

      Debian perfectly fill that niche. It is created
      by clever people and targetted to clever people.

      With apt-get dist-upgrade who need installer
      at all, once he learned how dump/restore work?
      And for first time in the life you better
      to call some more experiencd friend.
  • by Dionysus ( 12737 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:09AM (#6329689) Homepage
    I think for Linux to grow more, it needs a reference implementation so that developers and users know that something will work for sure.

    I think Debian GNU/Linux should be this system for several reasons.
    It's non-commercial, meaning SuSe can't complain that the reference system is partial to RedHat or anyone else.
    It's conservative, which is very important for reference systems. If you write for Debian 3.0, you know it will be around for awhile. This doesn't mean that RedHat can't extend their distribution to add more recent libraries or programs. It just mean that something written for Debian 3.0 will work in the RedHat system that says it follows 3.0.

    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:43AM (#6329832)
      There already is such a system in the form of the LSB.

      The main problems with using Debian as a reference distro are:

      a) Not as popular as some other distros (which is not btw just because the clueless masses are stupid, give people some credit).

      b) They don't have any real problem breaking binary compat with other distros, see their decision over the libdb mess.

      c) The LSB already does it, and is widely accepted, has test cases etc.

    • by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @10:12AM (#6330398) Journal
      Debian as a reference platform? Sure, as soon as they get rid of .deb and start using .rpm packages. RedHat, RedFlag, SuSE, Mandrake use RPM, which constitutes the vast majority of non-uber-geek installs.

      That'll probably be about the time Steve Ballmer gets praised for his dancing abilities and Bill Gates extolls the virtues of the GPL -- with a straight face.

      Hint: "monkey boy" isn't considered praise.
  • Yeah watch out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yuioup ( 452151 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:11AM (#6329699)
    I totally agree with the article. How many times have we seen technically superior technology being totally ignored and people going for 'popular' technology. Remember, the PC itself wasn't a technically superior machine. The intel processors weren't the best at the time, but everybody started buying PC's because they all wanted to play Leasure Suit Larry on it (.. and use Wordperfect).

    So Debian should be more of a VHS than a Betamax if it wants to stand a chance...

    • In a capital market, the junk eventually dies. I know this is hard for some people to believe but it's true. Linux is doing well because some of the biggest players screwed their head on straight and started shooting for ease-of-use.

      "Technically superior" is a BS rationalization for not getting a product right the first time. The PC might not have been technically superior to other machines of the era bot they had the adaptive edge of being an open infrastructure.

      Would you really want to operate in a m
      • they had the adaptive edge of being an open infrastructure.

        Only once Compaq reverse engineered the BIOS to sell PC clones.

        If the IBM PC was released today with DCMA & Software patents then the clones would never see the light of day.

        Some of us can remember Apricot IBM Compatibles that weren't.

        The success of the PC was down to "Runs Lotus 1-2-3" not the ISA bus.

    • So Debian should be more of a VHS than a Betamax if it wants to stand a chance...

      Yeah, I worked for Philips with their technically also superior V2000 system. The story goes that that never made it, because the "family owned" company didn't "encourage" the release of V2000 P0RN movies :-).

      I'm myself pretty happy with using RH in the office and Debian for hacking around at home. Good article, but Joe Doe will never know about apt, because they don't know already about rpm. Stuff like
  • by James_Duncan8181 ( 588316 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:13AM (#6329706) Homepage
    I can see that it is clearly not disgned to have that much polish in GUI areas. Debian has been and will (IMHO) continue to be primarily designed for the technical user/Debian Developer, as these are the guys making the design choices. No walkthroughs, no neat GUI config a la Mangrake, not that much focus on usability as the assumption is that almost all users will be technically proficient.

    This is a self-fullfilling prophecy, and to change this will take quite a major change from the existing Debian (fairly elitist) culture.

    Where Debian will shine is not nessicarily as a mainstream distro itself, but as the basis of systems that are more widely used, such as Xandros and Knoppix. Is this a bad thing?

    It does run the risk that Debian-as-distro/brand become marginalised, but all that needs to happen for the Debian project to stay healthy is that Debian-as-underlying-system is widespread.

    This said, my Ideal World(tm) is every man and his dog running Deb... ;)

    • Of course Debian has walk-throughs. If you've ever installed a few packages, you'll realize that in each case, there's a neat (text) walkthrough of the relevant questions. Moreover, you only see the type of question you're prepared to answer (low priority, medium priority etc.).

      Granted, it's not a GUI wizard, but that wouldn't be difficult to add. Somebody simply needs to write a GUI interpreter for those walkthroughs, which automatically turns multiple choice questions into radio bullet boxes and makes t

      • There is a fully GUI interface for them at the moment - a libgnome frontend that has clicky bits, back and forward etc) The point is that debconf questions are designed for technical users. The way that they are writen reflects this (technical terms without explanation, no nice icons, no suggestions or intelligent guesses/guides).

        This is fine for me/other DDs who know what is going on, but is too technical for the average switcher, and is also limited to inital install.

        Compare this to a proper GUI like

    • Just because Debian is for a niche market doesn't mean it has to die if it doesn't go after the mainstream we-don't-care-how-it-works market. "Turn-key" solutions are not for everyone.

      My current favourite magazine has several debian articles including this one updating debian []
      Unfortunately I cannot find the web link for the July issue workshop article about setting up Debian. I expect they'll make it available in August. They're very enthusiastic, and have included the install files on CD in the July 2
      • I think Debian will survive as long as the guys who are building it now continue to be interested and new programmers take up the quest for the perfect OS, where perfect is defined more in terms of reliabilty, stablility and security than easy good looks.

        What will get the mass market but never the geek market, are cheap (reliable) computers that are more compatible with people.

        Yes. This is an example of where Debian-the-system can do well (preinstalled and modded with a custom GUI). A good thing woul

    • I'm as critical of Debian as anyone, probably because I really, really like their philosophy. Unfortunately, their philosophy causes them to be about 2 years behind the current average Linux distro. On the other hand, Debian stays this far behind because all the work done to the distro must work across, what?, about 9 different architectures. (Maybe it was 11?) This includes the installer. I've given Debian a whirl, but I haven't made the jump yet. However, there's a chance that I might get a dozen old HP a
    • When reformatting an old HP Omnibook 2000 (P-133, 1.3gig HD, no CD-Rom), I decided to give Debian (woody) a go because it had the cleanest, purest install I could find without going the route of Gentoo.

      Three weeks later, I finally had it working properly.

      My first stumblings were because of the installer not liking my PCMCIA card. A purchase of a new card fixed that. But then I got to the package installer and wow... it was one of the most unusable things I had ever encountered. Just when I thought I wa
    • (Disclaimer: I run Debian stable at work, and Debian unstable at home.)

      This is a self-fullfilling prophecy, and to change this will take quite a major change from the existing Debian (fairly elitist) culture.

      No kidding. Fire up your IRC client, connect to one of the Freenode servers, and join #debian. This is, in theory, a user support channel. In reality, the channel is run along the lines of, "if you have to ask a question, any question at all, you're a luser and deserve every flame we can giv

  • by ultrabot ( 200914 )
    Debian should release a stable SERVER subsystem, then build a rapidly improving desktop subsystem that remains compatible with the *stable* server subsystem. Kinda like the UnitedLinux idea, which isn't all that bad. People can tolerate when their desktop apps crash every now and again if their server side is rock solid, as we have come to expect from debian Stable. That server subsystem could also be a basis for various Debian derivatives, commercial and non-commercial.

    An example release could be "Debian
  • by Anonymous Coward
    is the slow release cycle. I'd like to be able to pin the newest KDE/gnome/whatever to stable and do an apt-get upgrade without breaking a million things. Last time I pinned kde 3.1 and updated I spent three days finding broken stuff and fixing it.

    And yes, I am aware of the other debian-based distros that are more up to date, but they're all (to my knowledge) pay distros, and I am looking for something cheap/free.
    • I agree on most of your points.

      I'm a Debian user, not a developer, and I chose Debian for two main reasons: I like to understand what goes on, and many distros try to hide things from me to be "friendly". I don't have anything against RTFM, at least to a great extent. The other reason is that it is the most free distro around. Additionally, I had many good friends using Debian, always somebody I can call up.

      However, I'm not capable of packaging anything myself, and I'm not a hacker. I'm a newbie. Things are hard, even after RTFMing...

      Woody is allready terribly outdated, security packages like snort and nessus are pretty much useless. Then, KDE 3 is a whole lot more stable in my experience than KDE 2.2.2 which is in Woody. SpamAssasin must be kept up-to-date in the arms race with spammers. Exim is so old, people on the Exim-lists can't help you because they don't remember how Exim 3 was configured...

      There are many who cries for an easier install, but I don't. It wasn't that hard, even for a newbie like me. Just had to call up my friends a few times. Debian folks are very helpful.

      It seems like Sarge is following pretty much the same path as Woody did, released when really big things has been done. What I would like to see is Sarge being just an updated Woody. No new installer, no new groundbreaking stuff, just updated packages, Snort, Exim 4, Apache 2.0, KDE 3.1, GNOME 2.0, etc. Up-to-date, tested and out the door...

      That's what I would like to see, but I realize there is very little I can do to help it happen.

      • If you know what you want, you can run stable plus a few packages from unstable. It's a total and unecessary pain to set up, and then works like a charm forever ("the Debian Way"). Edit your /etc/apt/preferences file to have

        Package: *
        Pin: release a=stable
        Pin-Priority: 500

        Package: *
        Pin: release a=unstable
        Pin-Priority: 495

        Now you can say apt-get -t unstable install foo and the foo package will be installed from unstable and will be maintained. Have fun!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:23AM (#6329745)
    ... to much people around comming from Windows.

    Debian was always about doing "The Right thing", about not only making things work, but make them work like they should work.

    But you cannot build a good distribution on software getting worse and worse. Think about more and more software unable to do basic things, because people did not thought about them as they are not feasable with one human before one computer. Because people grew up with windows and do not even know how it could work.

    On good example is konqueror and its identification of file type through filename's suffix. Do you have time to tell 300 users of your computers to rename "download.htm" to "bild.gif" to be able to click on it. (Oh, sorry I forgot, you are using your computer alone...)

    Even Debian, which was formerly known to be usable by admins, is now working on abolishing its old working menu system to one build up on KDE's
    menus. (Instead that someone would finaly get a menu-method for KDE and the old one.)
    It's a shame, the old system capable of creating a menu looking the same under all window-managers (except KDE, because the KDE people do not want to integrate) making life for an admin really easy, is dropped for a thing not nearly capable of it.
    (No possibility to specify a menu-hirachy. And the proposed format for icons is png. absurd.)
    • On good example is konqueror and its identification of file type through filename's suffix. Do you have time to tell 300 users of your computers to rename "download.htm" to "bild.gif" to be able to click on it. (Oh, sorry I forgot, you are using your computer alone...)

      This is an example of copying a design flaw from Windows. When doing things the "unix way", use /etc/magic and take no notice of the file name, would work far better.
    • Dude, hold on a second.

      Debian is not planning to switch to KDE's menu system nor they're planning to dump their menu policy and all the beautiful thoughts behind it. It's just about the format of the menu entries.

      Namely they're planning [] to switch their own, though working and widely used (withing their distribution), menu format to use the same standard as described in's Desktop Menu Specification []. Or at the moment it's still just a proposal, I haven't been following the discussion, so ple

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:23AM (#6329746)

    I started using Linux with SlackWare when it was the only distro available out there. I used to love them tarballs, but then at the time systems still had manageable sizes, so one really could compile everything in a reasonable time.

    Then I had the (mis?)fortune of being hired by a certain Caldera spinoff and was forced to use OpenLinux 1.2. That was my first contact with RPM, and that was a painful contact. Part of my work also involved writing and maintaining specfiles for various cross-platform packages. That's when I learned that (1) RPM was better than tarballs because it had dependencies, (2) RPM dependencies are not powerful enough and (3) RPM isn't backward-compatible. In short, RPM is not good but it's better than nothing.

    At that company, I also had the misfortune of meeting a Debian fanatic. Note that I say he's a fanatic of Debian, not that Debian made him a fanatic. Having tried Debian long ago myself, when it wasn't ready for prime-time, and having found it complicated and messy at the time, I was conforted in this idea by the truly detestable way this guy was patronizing everybody who didn't use Debian, and was turned off Debian for another 2 years.

    Then, several months ago, it was a sunday afternoon, my local computer shop was closed, and I couldn't find my RH CD to reinstall my box. I though : what the hell, I'm no more stupid than the average Debian user and I have nothing to do, let's try the Debian network-install. Well, I went through a little pain (it's not quite totally polished yet), but I've never looked back. dpkg and apt-get are just a godsend, and I too am now a convert today.

    Moral of the story : I avoided using Debian for several years entirely due to the advocacy of one (well, several actually) Debian bigot. You can always say that I should have been more intelligent and I should have made my own opinion, but I never had time and the experience you get from other users do count for me.

    In conclusion : what's the biggest good that could happen to Debian ? that other distros' package management got better so Debian bigots wouldn't have such an powerful incentive to behave like asses and disgust other people of Debian before they even try it. Or better still, that the Debian bigots start realizing that they won't win anybody to Debian by being patronizing.
    • Every distro has it's fanatics, hell, I've run into several RedHat bigots myself. It does make advocacy more difficult when the water has been tainted by people who use thier OS choice as a political statement or use advocacy as an outlet for thier personal axe grinding.

      Debian's choice to be all DFSG [] distro is actually the only practical choice for a non-comercial org producing an OS. The battles in the past over the Troll Tech license had more to do with avoiding future troubles that a vaguely worded or
  • What could possibly be a reason for writing such an amzingly content-free article? Either the author is completely bored out of his mind or its what we call in Russia "black PR", could it be coming from Redhat that he seems to be whoring in the "article"? RedHat has apt now Debian is dead? WTF? Does Redhta also provide over 4K packages in stable testing and unstable forms? Or is it just a measely freshrpms depository that is only useful for upgrading standard packages that come with Redhat? Debian will co
  • Oh Dear God No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saint Stephen ( 19450 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:26AM (#6329758) Homepage Journal
    Why I like Debian:

    (1) Serious philosophical principles. The only people to say GNU/Linux with a straight face. People concerned with my liberty above all else.

    (2) No Prepackaged Experience. I run Fluxbox, Gnome-Terminal, Mozilla, and Konqueror, and have a proper GTK/KDE library environment. It all works the way I want it.

    (3) The system state is transactional. Glitz is antithetical to transactionality. Glitz hides transactions. I like transactions.

    (4) No waiting forever to compile stuff pointlessly.

    #1 is the crucial element. Liberty is paramount.
    • "(4) No waiting forever to compile stuff pointlessly.

      Just waiting forever for somebody else to compile it for you and a dozen other platforms you don't use ;)

      I love Debian. I find it so much easier to maintain server side than our Red Hat boxes. Everything just works. The wait for the development cycle is worth it - everything just works. Don't talk to me about doing a Woody 3.0 net install with / and /boot on Linux RAID though. That's twisted.
    • All the reasons you just stated is what keeps a Joe User away.. They NEED prepackaged fluff.. they don't care about politics.. they dont even know what compiling is.. They just need to stick in a disk and it 'work'.. and to have someone to call when it doesn't.....
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "By mid 2004 at the latest Linux will be a serious contender on the average desktop. The downfall of Windows won't be imminent (that will take another couple of years at least) but Linux will begin to take a serious chunk of the market. Kids will be doing their homework with it, Moms and Pops will be doing Internet banking and sending email to Aunt Edna with it, secretaries will be drafting letters with it, accountants will be creating spreadsheets with it."

    Would you like to bet some money on that?

    "But wi
  • So the guy wrote about apt, and how it's been adapted to run on other distros, but he didn't at all mention one strength which is unparalleled by any other distro: platform independence. Debian runs on what, ten different architectures (from memory, too lazy to look it up). No other operating system in the world runs on more hardware than Debian. That's extremely sellable to large companies.
  • Segments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rf0 ( 159958 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:36AM (#6329808) Homepage
    IHMO I really feel that Debian is aimed at the server and techincal user market and not the sort of people who run windows. Debian is very very powerful but not that intuative. For example to setup networking you have to /etc/network/interfaces. In RH you click on the pretty networking panel.

    However as mentioned in that article apt-get is a saviour. Security problem on RH. Download RPM, check deps, install. Fix broken config

    Debian: apt-get update && apt-get install

    Walk away

    Just MHO

  • by Soothh ( 473349 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:37AM (#6329811)
    The company i work for uses a good deal of redhat for workstations and high end servers. Even our NT admin converted to redhat and uses vmware for when he needs to run NT. I personally now run debian at work, and am trying to get them to change to deb.
    After using redhat for many months here, then changing to debian, ill never go back to RH. It can be a pain to get installed, but once there, its solid. where as on redhat I had lots of dep issues because I was always installing cutting edge crap. I have done the same on debian, but with alot less issues. With in a few weeks ill have the chance to change over our DNS server to debian. And onward from there...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:37AM (#6329813)
    For those turned off or scared away by the debian install process (which still seems stuck in the 90's. Jesus, did I just say that?), grab a Knoppix CD.

    No, seriously. I don't run debian primarily because I don't want to go through the install process. I don't know what chipset my nic has, and I really don't care to know, know what I mean? Ditto with everything else.

    I've been using flavors of RedHat, culminating with Redhat9 that's currently my Linux of "choice", mainly because Redhat offered superior hardware detection/setup. But, I've always had to tweak a bit here and there to get it working nicely.

    However, with the advent of Knoppix, I think that's about to change. I popped in Knoppix 3.2 today for the first time to see what it was all about. The hardware detection on this LIVE CD is absolutely.. superb. It recognized and setup my Orinoco Wireless card. It found and mounted my Sony Cybershot Camera. Jesus, it even found and setup my Wacom! The only thing it didn't do was give me dual-head support OOB, but I don't think I know any distro that does that. But that's okay, fortunately I know how to set that up myself. It comes with KDE, it looks great, it just WORKS. And because it "just works" I'm really tempted to wipe RedHat off and do the HD install of this.

    Some notes that I've come across, though: As Knoppix uses a special blend of testing/unstable (or something like that), it's really hard to do dist-upgrade and what not without downgrading your desktop. I heartily recommend reading through the docs at the Knoppix website and finding out what issues may remain. As a desktop Debian based distro, though, I think Knoppix just plain rules.
    • For those turned off or scared away by the debian install process (which still seems stuck in the 90's. Jesus, did I just say that?), grab a Knoppix CD.

      Tell me about it - I just downloaded the latest testing official installer CD, and the thing is absolutely shocking - much worse user interface than even the Woody installer. It writes (default) at the end of the command which it's currently expecting to run, which takes ages to find amongst 20 lines with random lengths and various text in them if you're
    • deja vu (Score:4, Informative)

      by illsorted ( 12593 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @11:41AM (#6331199)
      I thought this looked familiar:

      Exhibit A []
  • So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rknop ( 240417 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:39AM (#6329818) Homepage

    If Linux gets a lot bigger, but Debian doesn't get bigger with it-- so what?

    The Debian developers seem to be happy to work on Debian for their own use and for the use of the people who use it now. As long as that audience doesn't shrink too much-- and I doubt it will, for though many slashdot posters love to scoff at this, there are some people who use Debian for philosophical and other reasons-- then the same number of people will continue to use Debian.

    Yeah, I agree that Debian needs to move forward and needs to make sure it stays as close to the "cutting edge" as possible. But I don't understand why other Linux distributions exploding into extreme popularity among people not currently using Linux at all must detract from Debian. That sort of "must be the market leader to survive" mentality may work for commerical entities (be they open or closed source companies), but Debian isn't one such beast.

    Indeed, I suspect what will happen is that the "mainstream" distros will become more attached to proprietary offerings. Red Hat's made amazing contributions to the open source community, but if their users are demanding crossover office sorts of things bundled with Microsoft Office, and M$ agrees to licence that, I'd be surprised if Red Hat didn't go for it. There will be those who will stick with Debian for philosophical reasons-- and so long as there are enough of them to provide a core of Debian maintainers, why not? It doesn't hurt anybody else.

    That's the great thing about free software. Anybody who wants to do their own thing can do their own thing, without being beholden to what somebody else is doing, and without requiring anybody else to be beholden to them.


  • This seems to work a little faster: e=Sections&file=index&req=printpage&artid= 212
  • up2date vs apt (Score:3, Informative)

    by mapnjd ( 92353 ) * <nic@world o f> on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:42AM (#6329827) Homepage Journal
    The author raises many valid points, but it should be noted that not many Red Hat users could give a stuff about 'apt'.

    Red Hat Linux comes with one free basic RHN/up2date licence. For enterprise customers (like us) 'RHN Enterprise' with central package management, server grouping etc. is a fantastic product and superior to using apt.

    Obsessing with apt and the (internal) superiority of dpkg is typical of the Debian bigot. Those of us in the real world have more important fish to fry.
    • Re:up2date vs apt (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Alkarismi ( 48631 )
      There are a few of us who also operate in the 'real world' who may not quite share your view ;)

      I am by no means a Debian 'bigot', I don't us it as my personal desktop for instance, but I strongly assert it has a place, not least in the enterprise, an area we're no slouches in ourselves 8^)

      I'm glad you like using Red Hat. I find your experience of the superiority of up2date over apt interesting, but not really backed up by my own experience.

      In my experience, 'enterprise customers' are more least as likely
  • by DaStoned ( 639930 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:43AM (#6329833)
    APT is a tool, not an idol so quit the crap. Being a very useful tool indeed it should be, has been and will be ported everywhere it is needed. Go ahead, port it to Apple, the users will only benefit from it.

    Calling APT the main and only advantage of Debian is plain ignorance.

    Debian's strength lies in maturity which results from well-defined development policies, experienced & dedicated developers and large quantities of common sense :)

    Apart from raving over APT for the first 1/3 of it's length, the article is, of course, right. Average Joe cannot tackle Debian.

    Still, I wouldn't worry so much. The server market is huge. Debian simply kicks ass there.
  • by Alkarismi ( 48631 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:45AM (#6329843) Homepage
    Debian is not only the distribution of choice for the technically savvy, it is in most cases the best choice for deployment in Business.

    The inevitable rise of GNU/Linux is one thing, Debian's place in the world is another. The two are not connected!

    We deploy GNU/Linux and Free Software, every day, in an Enterprise setting. The opinion-du-jour on 'Linux on the Desktop' has almost nothing to do with distribution selection for any particular business. To the extent that Debian sticks to its long tradition of quality, stability, security and attention to detail it will remain right at the top of the shortlist (certainly for us at the very least).

    Any increase in GNU/Linux usage is good for the community. Home users will be swayed by what they have always been swayed by - ease of use, getting their stuff done, and eye-candy. Decisions on Distributions used in business will continue to be made using a differenct set of criteria.
  • by WanderingGhost ( 535445 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:47AM (#6329858)
    Well, it's sad that people say that now that apt has been ported to other distributions, Debian has no advantages anymore. The development process in Debian is the real advantage, with some nice consequences:

    • Eleven hardware architectures supported.
    • Support for other kernels (Hurd and BSD) is almost there (experimental versions do work already).
    • A solid and intelligent policy, which will yield uniformness among packages, their directories and configuration files, etc, besides other nice things.
    • An excellent bug-tracking system.
    • More software than any other Linux distribution.
    • Respect for upstream software (like, Debian doesn't call Apache "httpd", they call it "apache").
    • Usually, there are scripts to automate everything: compare kernel compilation in RedHat to kernel compilation in Debian, for example.
    • Stability. Debian is famous for not releasing buggy software, no matter how long it takes to release.
    • Respect for suggestions and request from users: Debian will listen to users (via the bug tracking system), and if what you say makes sense, it will be included. No marketing department will filter anything.

    Well, ther are other advantages, but these are the ones I remember now. By the way, I've been using APT for Conectiva, and I can tell you it's really not as good as the original (lacks stability, and is slower).
    • Oh. I forgot: upgrade between major versions, without the need to reinstall. You can upgrade a server from 2.x to 3.0 with APT.
  • by Adam Warner ( 205156 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:48AM (#6329869)
    ``Any sufficiently complicated software distribution contains an ad hoc, informally specified bug-ridden implementation of half of Debian GNU/Linux.''
  • Knoppix (Score:2, Informative)

    by kronsrepus ( 52625 )
    A couple of other people mentioned Knoppix as the wonderful work of Debian, with better usability.

    Knoppix has a wonderful hardware detection wizard, a simple script to install to the hard drive, and is also mentioned in the same edition of LinMagAu, surprisingly the writer didn't include a reference to it.

    Personally I'm starting to hand friends a copy of Knoppix, if they like it I'll point them to the hdd install script.

    Debian is a great base for Knoppix, and once a user becomes competent they can take a
  • by bazongis ( 654674 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:51AM (#6329890)

    Here is why I am likely to stick to debian in the foreseeable future:

    • it's not because of the philosophy (I love the philosophy, but it wouldn't keep me from switching to a better distro if that makes my life in front of the computer better)
    • it's not just because of apt
    • it's because the packages have an extremely high quality, and because of a long term hassle-free upgrade procedure

    Let me explain this in a bit more detail:

    I started using debian roughly 4 years ago, after having tried various other distributions for different amounts of time (admittedly I was a complete clueless newbie then and had only limited abilites to stray too far from the default install).

    Since then I have been running exactly the same debian installation.

    I have started with stable, then went to testing, then went to unstable. In this time, I've upgraded my cpu and mobo twice, replaced various hardware, and have upgraded my desktop environment through various fairly incompatible KDE versions, and painlessly went through the c++ ABI changes.

    And all I've done in all that time is simply 'apt-get upgrade' or 'apt-get dist-upgrade'. Nothing else.

    The package quality of debian packages is usually extremely high, and most package maintainers go to great lengths to make complicated upgrade procedures virtually invisible. And it works.

    In the mean time, I have seen many of my friends repeatedly re-install their linux system from scratch, because upgrading simply didn't work out quite as expected. And I felt reminded of those good old windows times, where you just re-installed your system every half a year or so.

    I don't want that. I want to install my system and keep it up-to-date and want to never have to re-install it (unless the box was compromised of course).

    That's why I love debian, because it makes the daily package-juggling and -upgrading easy, and thus improves my quality-of-life-in-front-of-the-box considerably.

    I can't say I'm up-to-date with other distributions any more, and I've got nothing against other distributions at all. I am fairly sure the installation procedure of most other distros is far superior to the current debian installer, and probably many have more user-friendly configuration tools as well.

    I just watch all my friends doing things I don't want to do. And that makes me a happy debian user.

    And for the same reason I would immediately decide for debian when it comes to setting up a linux box at work (partly of course because I know he system better).

    Anyway, thanks for reading :-)

  • Screw average Joe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 1gor ( 314505 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:51AM (#6329893)
    I'm sick of this argument: "Average Joe doesn't care... It's too difficult for average Joe... The product has no future... Let's make the product easier for the brain-dead and dumb it down".

    For the record, there exist such thing as market niches and they can be lucrative enough. Not everything should be mass-produced. Maybe millions of average Joes do not care about single vendor and forced upgrade risk. Let RH make money servicing them. There will be a limited number of sophisticated and influential users who will always need (and support) Debian.

  • by xdroop ( 4039 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:53AM (#6329910) Homepage Journal
    ...pretty amazing.

    More to the point: Debian is already marginalized to a certain extent. In the semiconductor industry, if a simulation or regression tool runs on linux, it runs on RedHat linux. A specific version of RedHat linux.

    It is one of the first questions that technical support will ask: what version of linux is the tool running on? And if you answer incorrectly, you get a free trip to the sorry but that is not a supported configuration hang up. I am responsible for about a hundred linux boxes and none of them are Debian, for precisely this reason.

    The real question is: so what? If the Debian developers are really as keen as everyone says they are, then it really doesn't matter -- they will keep coming up with technical innovations which will get tried, proven, and then absorbed into "more popular" distributions. Let Debian users be on the cutting edge, while those of us with real work to do can use the distilled and canned solutions to get on with our lives.

  • Joe User and Debian (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gleef ( 86 ) * on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:08AM (#6329988) Homepage
    The article claims that since Debian's technical advantages can (and to some extent have been) be "borrowed" by other distributions, and since Joe User doesn't care about the policy advantages of Debian, then Debian is doomed to be marginalized as the Linux market grows with unprecidented numbers of Joe Users. I strongly disagree.

    Debian has always had a strong following with Systems Administrators who want a strong, stable, supportable platform for their GNU/Linux based services that can be centrally administered without waisting a lot of time. The same forces will make Debian significant as a corporate desktop. This is a huge market, and while Joe User might be on some of those computers, he's not the one making the decision.

    Red Hat wins its share of this market through marketing, Debian wins its share through precisely the same policy superiority that the author discounts. Sure, Joe User doesn't understand the policy advantages, but Joe User doesn't play in this field. Sure, Red Hat and other corporate marketted distros will mean Debian will probably never even get a majority share of this field, as long as there are systems people who are allowed to make systems decisions, Debian will be a player here.

    The other two markets are Small/Home Businesses, and Home Users. These are the fields Joe User plays. And no, he's not necessarily likely to gravitate towards Debian (actually, from my experience he is, but all my evidence is anecdotal, and it's irrelevant for my point). What the author misses is a key differentiation distros that borrow from Debian.

    Some distros, like the example of Red Hat borrowing apt-rpm/apt-cacher, are alien distros borrowing a tool that was developed by Debian. While they probably will contribute to development of the tool, these don't do much for Debian as a whole.

    Other distros are derivative of Debian. They put their own installation and look and feel, do their own marketing and often usability testing. They might not even mention their relation to Debian, but, at their core, they're Debian, and developers developing for these Distros are directly helping Debian development. Some significant distros in this category are: LindowsOS [], Progeny [] and Libranet []. They're not Red Hat, but they're growing, and growing strong [].

    I feel Debian's chances of being marginalized are slim.
  • Let me preface this stating I know very little about Debian so please be gentle. I am more a web developer than a sys-admin, though I wear both hats. I don't like babysitting the server I have a few sites running on therefore I chose RH for the RH Network and up2date. I prefer RH 7.3 but recently I got a little worried when I read something here about RH cutting 7.3 off. I tried 8 once and it just wasn't stable. I havn't tried 9 yet but I guess I'm not all that optimistic after my 8 experience.

    Anyhow, this
    • If your RedHat installation doesn't give you what you need from a server operating system, it's a good time to think about switching. I would not rush it, since there is always the chance something is screwed and restoring an entire system back is not easily done even if you keep full backups. You should at least familiarize yourself with Debian before you start running servers with it.

      The Debian install is not much different from the rest of the distros. If you know how Linux works, the text-based instal

    • As far as installation time goes, well, that varies ;-)

      One of the earlier articles covers running the basic installer, but you may have trouble getting to it right now since the linmagau server is slashdotted: e=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=46&pag e=1 []

      As for time to invest in updating security patches etc, that depends which distro (Stable, Testing, Unstable) you go with. For a server, use Stable. Then as long as you ha
  • I feel a bit weird commenting as a Debian user, 'passing judgement', as it were, on a developer's thoughts. Then again, I was a marketroid in a previous life.

    But clearly, he's worried about marketing aspects of the distro. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's misplaced, in my view. Why?

    Debian's Social Contract states that they're trying to release an OS for everyone. Part and parcel of that is the idea that a) it costs nothing and b) is free to modify as needed, which in fact is the more important of
  • by Xouba ( 456926 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:41AM (#6330181) Homepage

    I found very funny the messages that start like this. It seems no one dares to complain about Debian, because they've somewhat accepted that it's "superior" (note the quotes; I'm not saying it is, just quoting). Anyway, the "I love Debian, but I use <distro> because <reason>" is quite standard. Usually <reason> has been it's hard to install, and it seems that it's still the number one complaint. I agree to a point with that: it's hard if you know nothing about computers. I wouldn't ask my fashion designer fellow to install Debian only by himself (though, thanks to his friends, he's quite computer savvy now, and he's the "computer expert" in his own department :-)), but I won't ask him to install Mandrake or RH either. If you don't know what a partition is, you won't understand that you need to partition a HDD even if it's said in big, red and blinking letters, with a nice dancing HDD that sings aloud.

    But anyway, on to the trolling:


    As other have said, Debian is not just apt. One of the reasons given, and something that I think most people don't value enough, is the ability to upgrade fully the distribution with 0 downtime. Ever tried to upgrade a rpm-based distro? I did only a few times, so correct me if I'm wrong; but usually it means inserting the CD with the new distro and upgrading. I'm not sure if that means that you have to reboot, but I'd dare to say that you have. And that is what a corporate environment needs? My ass.

    There's a trend that I've always seen in Linux, since I started: people start with "flashy" distros (RH, SuSE, Mandrake, etc.), because they're easier to install. As they know more about Linux, they gradually change to Debian. This may be not true anymore; there are always the wanna-try-coolest-distro types that will install anything that is perceived as new and cool; I think that they're mostly into Gentoo now. But it has been true in my experience.

    I know people that sysadmin RH boxes, and they usually like Debian once they've worked a bit with it. Debian may be hard to install, but in the long run is the easiest to maintain; and that's not only because of apt, but because it's very well thought off, and not driven just because marketing.


    C'mon, -1 Redundant or Troll. I've earned it :-)

    • I found very funny the messages that start like this. It seems no one dares to complain about Debian, because they've somewhat accepted that it's "superior" (note the quotes; I'm not saying it is, just quoting). ...

      Okay, I'll say it. I don't use nor recommend Debian. Nor do I consider it superior. Sorry.

      Why? Debian is a religion, not an Operating System. (Okay, GNU/Debian-Linux...whatever.)

      The original article was talking a great deal about Linux for "Joe User" and on the desktop.
      Joe User is NOT i
  • It's my understanding that Corel Linux was based on Debian. Rumor has it that Microsoft was so afraid that they bought up a bunch of Corel shares and made the company cease and desist. More recent rumor has it that Microsoft has now dumped Corel, not unlike rats leaving a sinking ship. BUT-- Corel still has Name Recognition. Without Microsoft to say them nay, why shouldn't Corel distribute Debian Linux once again?
  • Useability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stephenpeters ( 576955 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:50AM (#6330237) Homepage
    In articles like this much is made of the inevitable decline of Windows desktops in favour of GNU/Linux. Journalists like to predict when Microsoft will die and which distribution will be the new OS star. This however may all be irrelevant to average users, as neither Microsoft nor Open Source Software have yet produced an operating system that the average computer illiterate user considers useable.

    Microsoft is driven by its marketing machine to produce more and more features in a relentless treadmill of unecessary upgrades. So providing a horrific mess of options and menus to the user.

    Development of Open Source operating systems have been driven by the needs of its developers. While many of the packages are indeed excellent they do not provide an easy to use system for the end user. No one has yet produced a free distribution that the average user would find easy to use. Each desktop has its own quirks and way of doing things.

    I belive that the next few years will see GNU/Linux or ****BSD becoming the dominant server operating system. This is something that Debian excels at. The desktop market is up for grabs as Microsoft seem to be faltering. Apple seem to understand the useability angle as their current systems are eminently user friendly. If Apple keep the costs of their hardware down they are well placed to own the desktop market for a while.

    Only when a distribution such as Debian tries to produce a distribution with usability as the overiding priority will users switch to GNU/Linux.

    In the long term though Open Source Software will inevitably be the only choice for the majority of software worldwide, not just the desktop.

  • The thing that makes APT, and in turn Debian, work so well is not thearch itself, but the people who maintain it. I myself have used apt-rpm on Redhat about a month ago, and within 2 hours of installing it it had fully hosed my system, downloading and installing conflicting packages or somesuch when I tried to do a dist upgrade. Nothing like that has ever happened to me in the 2 years of using debian and updating daily.

    APT is great because it is miantained by thousands of individuals responsible for only

  • by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @10:04AM (#6330344)
    ... if his experience with WinModems is anything like mine.

    Is there any simple (as in Joe User simple, not simple as in run this script, patch this file, compile this kernal simple) way to get WinModem support under Linux?

    I always said that the user interface needed to be slicker to get people using it. With Redhat 9 (and Gnome) I think it's there - but the absolute killer for me is that i've wasted far too much time so far farting around with trying to get a WinModem to work.

    If Joe User can't dial up to check his hotmail - Linux will be off the PC before you know it.

  • by shplorb ( 24647 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @10:24AM (#6330493) Homepage Journal
    To me, Debian is simple and elegant. I don't use Linux for a desktop system at all anymore, I use OS X and Windows. Why do I use OS X? Because it's simple and elegant. Windows isn't exactly that, but it's a lot more so than your average Linux desktop. (I'm talking Win2K, not XP here.)

    I do, however, use Debian on a couple of servers. I used to use RedHat because you could pretty much install it and use it, but when I needed to modify something - like add a new module to Apache - it would all turn to shit. Eventually I tried out Debian because I'd heard ravings about apt. There was no going back.

    After I purchased an iBook I came to appreciate form and functionality more than the intricacies of how things work. Sure, it's not as powerful as my friends Toshiba, but it does the job whilst being smaller, quieter, lighter and longer-lasting on a battery charge than his. I'm sick to death of fucking with drivers in Windows, etc. I just want things to work, and to work simply so I can get on with being productive. Microsoft try to do it, but it just doesn't work. (Look at XP or MSN Messenger 6 - meant to look simple and nice, but horribly cluttered and confusing.) Apple know how to do it. Same with Debian.

    I see Debain being to Linux distributions as Apple is to PC's and Ferrari is to cars - a small, niche player, producing quality products for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

  • by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Monday June 30, 2003 @12:53PM (#6331779)
    When you've got the fastest growing desktop OS built on your Linux distribution, you're in no danger of becoming irrelevant. Lindows (if marketed properly, and I believe is has been/will be), has the potential to become the second largest graphical OS, beating the Mac. I believe that Lindows will soon be free, because they're clearly moving towards using Click n Run subscriptions for revenue. That's good for all of us, because Debian is already one of the easiest distrbutions to download and add programs to.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev