[nSLUG] Debian 3.1 (sarge) is released

Donald Teed donald.teed at gmail.com
Wed Jun 8 21:03:46 ADT 2005

The more I know about Linux and other distros,
the more I am fond of the way Debian works,
at least for the case of establishing a solid server.

One way of characterizing Debian, is that you never,
or very rarely, see someone say "I just installed Debian
and here is a screenshot of my desktop".  Fellow Debian
users are not impressed with pretty bitmaps,
just as University professors are not impressed
with hair dye jobs, piercings and tatoos.  The thing
that is impressive in Debian is an intangible aspect
of the distro.  That in turn is why so many of
the Linux distros are based on Debian, and why it
is possible for the impressive spin-offs from Debian
to get off the ground so quickly.

But Debian has an unfair burden.  It supports more
architectures (11) than any other Linux distro.  For a 
volunteer project it is amazing they are able
to out-do the commercial efforts on this level.

My ideal Linux distro makes simple things simple
to do, hard things possible to do, and doesn't
waste my time making me jump through hoops.

Take for example configuring XF86Config.  This is
something that is useful to have working at
a nice resolution with DRM rendering, anti-aliased
fonts, and a working mouse without dinkering
around, repeatedly editing the XF86Config file
and testing it.  Knoppix usually can generate 
an XF86Config on the fly that works very well.
Xandros, Suse, Fedora and others I've tested can
also generate a XF86Config that works reasonably
out of the box.  Debian 3.1 couldn't auto probe the
video hardware on my laptop install - it suggested
vesa rather than savage.  Then I had to specify
some scan rates before the screen would do
better than 640x480 with fonts that looked very crude.  
(Eventually got 1024x768 and nice looking fonts.)

This is an example of the sort of thing Debian doesn't
do as well as many other distros, and even
distros that are spin off from Debian have
handled better.

But in the context of setting up a server, where
the desktop, sound, power management, 
oddball device support, etc. doesn't matter,
I'll put up with a little of the required manual 
work (which is mainly done once), for the 
benefits of the lower maintenance level required.
Debian is great in this role - packages well QAed,
no need to reinstall, updates with purely security
related repositories.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the desktop
Linux.  Here I want to save my time configuring the
system and multitudes of hardware I want working,
but I can risk working with cutting edge
software versions, and I don't mind reinstalling the
OS once a year or so, because I don't keep any
services on it, nor much data on it.  Something
like Ubuntu is pretty good in this role.  Others
will have their picks, depending on what they
will and won't tolerate.  It sometimes comes down
to personal preference.  We probably don't all
like the same brand of jeans or beer either.


On 6/8/05, Ben Armstrong <synrg at sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca> wrote:
> On Wed, 2005-06-08 at 12:25 -0300, J. Paul Bissonnette wrote:
> > Also the installer blows
> > the doors off Debian's netinstaller. I used that last night to install
> > sarge.
> By the way, I missed this point in my last note.  Rave reviews are nice
> for warm fuzzy feelings, but to raise the intelligence quotient of this
> thread a bit, it would be nice to know what particular things about the
> installer gave you such joy, in comparison with the Debian install
> experience.
> Ben


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