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A little more than a year ago I stuck my toe in the waters of Linux. Before that time I had dabbled with live CD distros like Knoppix and DSL. As they are both Debian based that was why I chose to install Debian.
I have just recently found my way under the hood so to speak. It wasn't all that foreign as I found the command line useful even when I ran Windows. It still amazes me when I ask someone using Windows to get me a command line and I am met with a blank stare.
My current project is to successfully install Cinelerra on my machine, and I am trying to find out how close to the bleeding edge I must go to get it to work (lenny?, sid?). The libraries in Etch are not sufficient to run this app. I hope to find answers on this site.
After a quick look at the Cinelerra site, it seems fairly straightforward. They have their own repository for Debian, which is handy. Lenny should do, if Etch doesn't. Lenny is a good mix between being up to date, and stable. Etch is a little dated at this point.
You may want to try the etch backports repositories for updated libraries if you REALLY want to use etch, but I would (and do) go for lenny.
Anywhere near Los Alamos? I got a pair of "Atomic Socks" from there for Christmas one year from a friend.
I had a feeling that a lenny upgrade was direction I would be heading. I was considering backports for etch even though I didn't know the proper term for that, but it seemed like a piecemeal solution considering where lenny is right now. There is a good post that I have tagged for my use in this next adventure. Setting up repos for Cinelerra introduced me to playing with the etc/apt/sources.list (I had let Synaptic do all the work before that). It sure made me curious about all the various repos that exist and what they would be good for.
BTW my place in the mountains is about three hours drive south of Los Alamos. You might have a collector's item with the socks. I suspect there have been the Atomics, then the Dukes in Albuquerque, and now the current minor-league team is the Isotopes and they are also in Albuquerque.
There are lots of repos out there, many of them with packages MUCH newer/better than the basic Debian ones. All of the extra ones I use are for extra pieces of software, which haven't made it into Debian in a usable form, or where Debian is behind significantly. The ones I use mostly are the debian-multimedia.org, and wine repositories.
My socks just said 'Los Alamos' with a picture of a mushroom cloud on it. It might have been for a baseball team. That would be cool.