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Re: [vox-tech] YAST equivalent on Debian?
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Re: [vox-tech] YAST equivalent on Debian?

on Thu, Mar 17, 2005 at 02:03:35PM -0800, Jonathan Stickel (jjstickel@sbcglobal.net) wrote:
> Karsten M. Self wrote:

> >Those who fail to understand Debian Policy are forced to reimplement it.
> >Poorly.
> >
> >    http://people.debian.org/~srivasta/talks/why_debian/talk.html
> >    http://twiki.iwethey.org/Main/WhyDebianRocks
> >
> >    Policy - The Special Sauce
> >
> >    This is the crux, the narthex, the throbbing heart of Debian and
> >    what makes it so utterly superior to all other operating systems.
> >    Policy is defined. It is clear. It is enforced through the tools you
> >    use every day. When you issue apt-get install foo, you're not just
> >    installing software. You're enforcing policy - and that policy's
> >    objective is to give you the best possible system.
> >
> In danger of starting a flame war, I am going to give my view of Debian. 

This view is based on not having succeeded in actually used or
maintained a Debian-based system over any period of time?  That's not a
slam, it's a question.

I'll also preempt a lot of your comments with the following observations:

   The core Debian distribution is moderately technically oriented.
   While I probably wouldn't recommend my mother install it, I have few
   concerns of having her _use_ such a system, once installed and
   configured.  Maintenance of the system, particularly remotely, is a
   major win.

   Debian is the basis of a large number of end-user desktop oriented
   systems.  And other systems.

   You fail to understand Debian policy ;-)

Finally:  most of your issues appear to concern installation.  Try a
pre-installed system -- either a vendor-build or through a friend or

> Debian is in fact based on wonderful ideas, but it has horrible 
> implementation.  


Well, it's got several implementations.  It's best described as a
meta-distribution (it's creator, Ian Murdoch, describes it as same).
Debian, its policy, and the resulting packages, are the basis from which
quite a wide range of systems can be developed.  Among the more notable:

  - Knoppix (and related bootable distros:  MEPIS, LNX-BBC, Knoppix-EDU,

  - Ubuntu.  Desktop / end-user system with special emphasis on an
    immediately usable GNOME desktop.

  - Kurumin.  As Ubuntu, but KDE desktop default.

  - Others:  Xandros (formerly Corel GNU/Linux), Lycoris, Lindows, the
    now-defunct Storm.  

  - Embedded systems.  HP's iPaq is Debian-based, though using "uDEBs"
    (micro-debs) rather than the full-sized packages.

Many of these are aimed at desktop of novice users.  The infrastructure
of Policy and packages makes it trivial to customize Debian to specific
needs and applications.

> Its rigid policy and arrogant developers end up making it difficult to
> use for the general user.  

Um.  I'd disagree strongly.

Policy means the system behaves in predicable and useful ways.  If you
want to install your own software, outside the packaging system, you're
guaranteed you won't be interefered with by the system.  

Policy makes possible the creation of systems based on Debian, whether
"distros" in their own right (Ubuntu, Lycoris, Xandros, Knoppix, etc.)
or tuned Debian installs, which _are_ very user friendly.

Most software installs are a matter of starting your package management
tool (synaptic (GUI), aptitude (full-screen console), or command-line
equivalents), and requesting the software be installed.   Any
dependencies or conflicts are noted and handled for you.  Configuration
file changes are tracked and your own settings aren't changed unless
requested.  Verbosity of such notices can be set (high/medium/low),
newbies might want to choose the 'low' setting.

The included software selection is larger than any other distro.
17,300+ in testing/unstable.  Gentoo's portage lists 9,050, Red Hat and
SuSE are in the 3-5k range.

Where Debian (and Debian-based systems) wins in particular is in ongoing
maintenance.  Updates do _not_ require reinstallation.  Adding and
removing packages is (usually) trivial.  The packaging system makes it
difficult to shoot yourself in the foot (installing conflicting
packages, removing something critical).

> It's stable release is nearly 3 years old.  

It's "its".

Um.  Yeah, that's why it's "stable"  It doesn't change.  It is, however,
supported.  For enterprise / server installs, this is a strong plus:
you can install Debian stable and be assured of a 3-5 year horizon
without major system upgrades.

FYI, "unstable" doesn't refer to software quality, but the fact that
your packages _will_ upgrade over time.

> Debian's installation process is difficult and requires intimate
> knowledge of how linux works.  

Fair beef:  the stock Debian installer has worked at a low level,
not performed _any_ hardware autodetection or kernerl module
configuration, and assumes you know what software you want to install on
your system.

As Rick Moen has noted, there are a number of installers.  I've worked
with several of these (and developed methods of my own) starting with
Sid.  I've found them to be pretty clear, if you realize that
"installing" GNU/Linux is largely a matter of:

  - Booting something capable of doing what comes next.
  - Partitioning your storage (if desired).
  - Copying the base system to your host.
  - Configuring basic system settings:  keyboard, hostname, network,
    locale (language/timezone), mount points, root password, user
  - Installing a bootloader.
  - Installing additional software (if desired).

Most of what is generally referred to as "Debian installation" is
actually package selection.  The other part often mentioned is hardware
configuration, which mostly boils down to loading the modules required
by your hardware, and ensuring they're loaded next time the system
starts (/etc/modules is a list of these modules).   This last is now
being addressed by stock installers.

The current sarge (unstable, but to-be-stable) installer is remarkably
straightforward.  It's console mode (as is, say, legacy MS Windows XP's
installer), but clear.  It will autodetect and configure much x86
hardware.  For package selection you have the option to
punt and choose one of several specified configurations ("tasks"),
including "Desktop", which includes a build that's going to be generally
useful.  Tasks include:  Desktop, Web server, Print server, Mail server,
File server, and SQL server.  Multiple tasks can be installed.


The neat thing about tasks is that they're essentially just lists of
packages.  And once you've got a list of packages you like you can use
them to configure multiple systems.  I've got, for example, a firewall
build I've used to build several systems.  I just grab the list of
packages off my website, and use that to drive the package selection of
the box in question.

For automated installs, 'preseed' servers allow you to boot a computer,
enter a one line command, and have install run to completion.  A
friend's preseed server is at:


To utilize this, you'd run:

    linux debian/priority=critical preseed/url=http://interthingy.com/digby/preseed

...at the sarge installer boot prompt.

> In order to have an up-to-date system, you risk instability (with the
> testing or unstable tree), or must resort to 3rd party "backports".

Let's run your copy through the marketing department:

   If you want a stable deployment with five or more years of active
   bugfix and security support, you can install Debian's "stable"
   release.  If you want access to the latest software releases as soon
   as they're available, "unstable" offers this choice, which "testing"
   provides a buffer against installing possibly broken software.
   Packaging tools allow selection of specific versions of software from
   among these releases to suit particular needs.

   Even "stable" systems have access to more current software through
   independently maintained "backports".

It's all in how you spin it, isn't it?

What I like about Debian:  choice.

> Just my view.  Maybe I've never given it a fair chance since every 
> install I've tried has failed.

If you're willing to give the Sarge installer a shot, I'd be interested
in hearing your experience.  And send any bugs to

For a desktop system, if you're open to evaluation, Ubuntu gets raves
from geeks and newbies alike.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we
    will stop telling the truth about them.
    - Adlai Stevenson

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