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Old 03-18-2006, 06:48 PM   #1
rickh
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Why Debian ... A Sales Pitch


Linux needs 'cutting edge' distros, flashy, eye catching interfaces, and out of the box hardware compatability for the latest and greatest advancements. Unfortunately, an OS with a market share in the single digits is not likely to get the kind of developmental support that insures that kind of experience. That is not to say that Linux is destined to be a second class operating system. What it lacks in numbers is more than recovered by the dedication, support, and loyalty of it's user base. The variety of available distributions (probably hundreds), and the natural competition between them promotes a healthy computing environment. The natural result of that is a world including various levels of stability, maturity, and innovation.

Debian is the model of what a mature GNU Linux system should be. Applications within it's officially sanctioned archives are divided into three areas, Stable, Testing, and Unstable depending on the degree of peer review and acceptance the package has received. One of the qualifications of acceptance into the Debian archives is that the program must be 'free' (as in beer and liberty). The result of that requirement is that a cottage industry supporting Debian technical standards for somewhat less free software, surrounds and supports the official collection. The best of these unofficial repositories receive a 'wink and a nod' from the Debian establishment. In fact, those repositories are probably operated by developers with recognition and/or position within the official Debian community.

In order for an application to get into the official Debian archives, it must have undergone extensive testing and been modified to fit very strict Debian conventions. This testing, and review process make Debian what it is, the most stable and structured distro available ... even at the 'unstable' level. The structure of a Debian (.deb) package is strictly defined to insure that it will not harm any current active Debian installation. It may not smoothly integrate between Stable and Unstable, but it will harm neither.

APT, Debian's package manager is generally considered to be the most mature and dependable application of it's kind, as evidenced by the fact that even much different distributions, such as Fedora & Suse have ported it into their platforms. If a program works on Debian, developers know that they can depend on it to preform well in any Linux environment. Linux users partial to many different platforms are familiar with 'apt-get', but the Debian system has been built around it, and includes scores of related tools and implementations.

Many distributions are direct Debian derivatives, and there is nothing wrong with a person choosing to use one. Basically, they all take Debian unstable, so as to include the most recent available releases ... tested to make sure nothing is seriously wrong with them, and add some element of user friendliness to the installation process. There is some advantage to this process for Debian, as well. If one of the derivatives introduces a particularly satisfactory improvement, it will very likely eventually make its way into Debian proper. But if you want 'Debian' there is only one way to get it; www.debian.org.

The Debian 'Stable' system is just that, rock solid, but perhaps a bit outdated for your home system. Most 'hobby' users should directly install the Testing distro, then upgrade to Unstable if they are particularly adventuresome. This will help provide more recent hardware compatibility, and Desktop enhancements without significantly increasing the exposure to potentially troublesome application failures. The .iso download (probably less than 150 Mb) at the link above is for a 'netinstal' cd. It will install the base system with no desktop applications, then assist you with installing, via an internet connection, whatever other other elements are necessary for a system to fit your needs.

Last edited by rickh; 05-21-2006 at 12:19 AM.
 
Old 03-18-2006, 07:14 PM   #2
hitest
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I've been using a variety of distros over the last 3-4 years, just about everything except Gentoo. I've also run FreeBSD and NetBSD. I've always looked for the perfect distro. Debian may not be perfect but it comes very close in terms of stability, security, hardware detection.
The netinstall iso for Etch beta 2 will allow you as part of the install process (apt) to install a fully functional desktop environment with Gnome and applications, that is, when all is said and done you will boot into a functional desktop with x windows. It takes awhile 1-2 hours depending on the mirror speeds you encounter. (small correction)
Nice layout of the Debian philosophy, rickh, nicely done! I completely agree with your philosophical outlook on FOSS and Linux in general.

Last edited by hitest; 03-18-2006 at 07:16 PM.
 
Old 03-18-2006, 07:19 PM   #3
powadha
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I read about 8% of this post and the only thing that comes to mind is: what's the point??
Only thing I can say is that there is nothing adventurous about unstable. The name just sux that's about it.
 
Old 03-18-2006, 07:52 PM   #4
hitest
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Quote:
Originally Posted by powadha
I read about 8% of this post and the only thing that comes to mind is: what's the point??
Only thing I can say is that there is nothing adventurous about unstable. The name just sux that's about it.
I haven't tried sid, so I can't comment. Etch works for me.
 
Old 03-18-2006, 09:15 PM   #5
vharishankar
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I had written an article extolling the virtues of Debian as well. I agree that this is a pretty subjective area, but I think Debian has too many innate strengths to ignore. I think the success of Debian-based distros is a proof of the pudding...
 
Old 03-18-2006, 09:30 PM   #6
rickh
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Nice article, Hari. Glad you linked it from here.
 
Old 03-18-2006, 09:43 PM   #7
hitest
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by rickh
Nice article, Hari. Glad you linked it from here.
Agreed! Well-said, Hari! I particularly enjoyed your observations about Slackware. Slack is the distro I love to hate what with configuring your CD ROM drive to be used by a regular user, to configuring alsa, xorg, etc., etc.
Perhaps that's why I'm really becoming fond of Debian. It takes a middle view, it isn't completely n00btastic like Fedora, Mandriva and it isn't as annoying as Slack. I like Slack and still use it on an old Pll 266, but, Debian is now my main distro.
Debian comes close to being perfect.
 
Old 03-19-2006, 12:34 AM   #8
JackieBrown
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Quote:
Originally Posted by powadha
I read about 8% of this post and the only thing that comes to mind is: what's the point??
Gee are you having a bad day?

Good article.
 
Old 03-19-2006, 09:16 AM   #9
reddazz
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Truly a sales pitch.

Whilst Debian is a very good distro and has brought us really good technology e.g. apt, there are a few problems that result in me never considering it as my main OS. Being someone who likes bleeding edge features, using Stable is a non starter. Testing is not too bad, but it usually has older packages than what other distros are shipping in their main releases. Unstable has the features I need, but then again there are lots of broken packages so I can't always install the packages I want (yeah I know its to be expected because its unstable).

So the above got me thinking: Is it really necessary to have 3 concurrent versions? The stable version always ends up with more or less outdated software and features for desktop users (not a problem for those running it on servers or corporate environments). Why not have a stable version and an unstable version much like rawhide or cooker? This in my opinion would increase the number of developers who can work on stabilising a release and thus the release cycle would be more frequent instead of the 3 years it took to get sarge out.

Ubuntu doesn't really have much to offer when compared to Debian, but why is it more popular than Debian itself. Its because it was refreshing when it came out, a Debian based desktop OS with the latest packages. People know that they can get releases every 6 months, but with Debian, the its ready when its ready philosophy can drive away users especially with what happened with Sarge. I am not saying that Debian should drop to a 6 monthly release cycle but it definitely needs some sort of fixed but flexible release cycle. Some sort of target is always essential so that people work hard to get things done.

I also have a problem with most Debian based derivatives. Personally I think there is a lot of duplication of effort. Almost every Debian based distro I have seen is simply a repackaging of Debian Testing, Unstable or Knoppix without much to differentiate it from other Debian based distros. Such wasted labour would be better spent working on Debian itself because they are always clamouring for developers, packagers etc.

This is not a flame against Debian or its derivatives. Its simply my personal opinions and observations to stimulate some sort of discussion since the thread is trying to sell Debian to the masses .

Last edited by reddazz; 03-19-2006 at 10:24 AM.
 
Old 03-19-2006, 10:13 AM   #10
vharishankar
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Yes, Debian is crying out for volunteers. Many packages are lying out there without maintainers. It's a great achievement to have as many volunteers as we have at present, but we cannot have enough of these wonderful people around...

I would like to contribute myself, but my studies take away too much time to do much useful, productive work on the computer. I also need to do a lot of learning on the system itself and its underlying components... I'm just a humble user at present.

Quote:
Nice article, Hari. Glad you linked it from here.
Quote:
Agreed! Well-said, Hari!
Thanks a lot. It's always nice to hear words of appreciation from other Linux users!

Last edited by vharishankar; 03-19-2006 at 10:14 AM.
 
Old 03-19-2006, 10:22 AM   #11
hitest
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by reddazz
Truly a sales pitch.

Whilst Debian is a very good distro and has brought us really good technology e.g. apt, there are a few problems that result in me never considering it as my main OS. Being someone who likes bleeding edge features, using Stable is a non starter. Testing is not too bad usually has older packages than what other distros are shipping in their main releases. Unstable has the features I need, but then again there are lots of broken packages so I can't always install the packages I want (yeah I know its to be expected because its unstable).

So the above got me thinking: Is it really necessary to have 3 concurrent versions? The stable version always ends up with more or less outdated software and features for desktop users (not a problem for those running it on servers or corporate environments). Why not have a stable version and an unstable version much like rawhide or cooker? This in my opinion would increase the number of developers who can work on stabilising a release and thus the release cycle would be more frequent instead of the 3 years it took to get sarge out.

Ubuntu doesn't really have much to offer when compared to Debian, but why is it more popular than Debian itself. Its because it was refreshing when it came out, a Debian based desktop OS with the latest packages. People know that they can get releases every 6 months, but with Debian, the its ready when its ready philosophy can drive away users especially with what happened with Sarge. I am not saying that Debian should drop to a 6 monthly release cycle but it definitely needs some sort of fixed but flexible release cycle. Some sort of target is always essential so that people work hard to get things done.

I also have a problem with most Debian based derivatives. Personally I think there is a lot of duplication of effort. Almost every Debian based distro I have seen is simply a repackaging of Debian Testing, Unstable or Knoppix and calling it a distro without much to differentiate it from other Debian based distros. Such wasted labour would be better spent working on Debian itself because they are always clamouring for developers, packagers etc.

This is not a flame against Debian or its derivatives. Its simply my personal opinions and observations to stimulate some sort of discussion since the thread is trying to sell Debian to the masses .
Nicely said, reddazz,

True, the very long release cycle of the stable branch is annoying, but, users who get impatient will naturally gravitate to testing or unstable and then tinker with the OS or live with any bugs they encounter. Interesting to note, I've got Debian Etch running on two boxes and have yet to encounter any bugs, it is a solid OS, imho!
I've used a l33t distro for a long time (slack), but, I'm growing tired of constantly tinkering with it to get the most basic things working properly. Don't get me wrong, I love slack, but, I'd like to have a system that just works. I know how to hack my inittab, alsaconf, xorgconfig files, I'm just bored with that I guess. I'll always have one slack box in my house:-)
Ubuntu is popular and a bit easier to set-up than Debian. However, I've noticed one happy advantage that Debian has over Ubuntu. Ubuntu 5.10 uses more system resources than Debian Etch. My Debian boxes always went into swap when I had Ubuntu running on them.
For the time being Debian is my main disto........this month,heh-heh.
Long live the penguin!!
 
Old 03-19-2006, 10:31 AM   #12
rickh
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Quote:
...with Debian, the its ready when its ready philosophy can drive away users especially with what happened with Sarge.
Debian took a lot of heat over that delayed release, and has apparently taken some of it to heart. They seem to be working in a fairly directed fashion to release Etch as Stable by the end of 2006. Once a year is often enough.
 
Old 03-19-2006, 07:07 PM   #13
porschemad911
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Well I reckon I have at last found my OS home. Here is my OS trail so far:
DR-DOS, GEM, MSDOS 1.2 - 6.22, Win 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 98SE, ME, 2000 and XP, Suse 9.3 & 10.0, FC4, Mandrake, (K)Ubuntu Breezy & Dapper, DSL, Slackware, LFS, Sarge, Etch (not necessarily in that order), and finally Sarge again.

Yes, I'm a shocker at making up my mind, but I've finally come to enjoy the stability and ease of use of Sarge. It does everything I want it do to (like Windows), but without making a mess of itself (unlike Windows).

Although I haven't tried Gentoo yet ... hmmm ... I wonder ...
 
Old 03-25-2006, 10:34 PM   #14
powadha
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Well written article. For once not the never ending story about the differences between stable, testing and unstable and why those names are so wrong. I can agree on a lot of points about Slack. It's still one of my favorites and is running on another box. A good point is: 'One thing I found on using Slackware is that you find yourself working much more to get the software you need rather than actually using that software to do something useful.' It's one of the reasons I use Slack since it's good practice to learn (and have fun with) linux. But true, if you're only learning linux there is little time left to actually use it
 
Old 03-26-2006, 04:31 PM   #15
Refinersfire
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As I am new to Linux and am just starting to learn the who, what and where's.. can one get this OS as a LiveCD.. Thanks...
 
  


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