Debian is one of the rock solid GNU/Linux distribution that rules. But it is not a good choice for newbies to some extent. But if you thoroughly read the installation manual, it will not be a pain.
First of all, I think you got confused. Debian is not just the base system. It's the collection of nearly 9000 packages. It consists of all that a GNU/Linux user wants.
The install CDs of the Debian installer first installs the kernel and device drivers that are need (modules). Then it installs the minimally necessary base system. This includes libc, man, exim, bash, etc. These are the minimal utilities that you should have for running your GNU/Linux system.
Then, the package management tools of Debian (dselect, apt) allows you to install additional packages.
Once you setup your minimal base and run dselect for the first time, it recommends some more packages. Once you installed that, you can directly select the packages for X. It's xserver-xfree86 and dependencies. dselect notifies you of dependencies. Once you installed X server, you can install GNOME, KDE, or anyother window manager like Sawfish. FYI, Sawfish is a window manager. For KDE you don't need Sawfish to be installed.
Does this answered your question?
Last edited by praveenk; 10-16-2003 at 03:34 AM.