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601 comments

ep (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492483)

This early post for Ida. I love you!

Arse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492484)

Arse!

2nd (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492486)

first [slashdot.org]

You were 3rd (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492496)

Ha ha you suck Vladinator's flabby GWB lovin' cock.

Two reviews? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492490)

That's almost a Beowulf cluster of Debian reviews!!!

'Unbiased'? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492493)

'An Unbiased Review of Debian 3.0' article by debianplanet.org

yea, right.

of course (2, Informative)

waspleg (316038) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492519)

the first AC bitchy nay-sayer didn't even bother to read the article

here is a quote from the first paragraph:

"I really want Debian to succeed. I want to use it daily, and recommend it to my friends. But I can't do that right now and I think it's important people understand why."

maybe you can get someone to read it for you (illiterate fuckwit)

actually (2, Informative)

kingofnopants (600490) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492598)

actully, the article is pretty negative toward the new debian. It actually talks about how other linux versions had better features that he wished were in debian.

Interesting review (5, Insightful)

pope nihil (85414) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492495)

An unflattering review from debianplanet. Nice. Maybe this will actually motivate some of the debian guys to fix the distribution. I really enjoy debian when it works, and when the software is moderately up to date. I used to use the unstable version, but even that started getting where it uses way out of date software.

Re:Interesting review (2)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492527)

I totally agree. I tayed with knoppix and felt the KDE 3.0 goodness, and was like yay. Then I switched to redhat 7.highest number, and liked it, favoring gnome 2.0. Then I went to mandrake nine for I forget why (I think I read that the new compiler made it faster). Even SID was way behind these guys (Though it seemed that gnome 2.0 stuff was slowly moving in).

You cheap fools are the reason we have terrorism! (-1)

L.Torvalds (548450) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492618)

Use a 'paid-for' OS such as solaris, and quit sniffing the toilet seat that is linux.

Re:Interesting review (-1, Insightful)

PhysicsScholar (617526) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492672)

I've also installed Linux a fair number of times and I suppose I tend to do things "right" more often than a new user. I've been using Linux since kernel v0.10, which was back before there were any flavours of Linux. Distributions simply didn't exist, and I had to roll my own tweaked versions of programs.

I've gotten a lot of flack for not liking the Debian dselect installation method, but I stand tall by my opinion. Debian users are the most vocal critters I've encountered, but at least when I complain, the developers see my PhD and know that I mean business and they usually agree with my complaint and say they'll fix it.

But they really haven't, and as such, I've since moved on to Mandrake just for its ease of use. I have it running on probably fourty or fifty machines here in the lab without a hitch.

To be perfectly honest, I'm looking straight and centred to never going back to Debian -- there's simply no reason to. All each flavour of Linux really is is a different set of configuration utilities -- deep down it's all the same Linux code, and doesn't really matter for my experiments.

Thanks for reading.

Re:Interesting review (2)

barawn (25691) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492759)

To be honest, I would imagine that few if any people use dselect - it's horrible. Synaptic, aptitude, etc. are all much better package managers. But still, I don't know why people would use anything except apt-get. Need to know what packages are available? Why? That's what the Web is for. If you know what program you want, you know the name of it, and you can nine times out of ten apt-get install it.

Debian's main strength is the fact that the systems are all the same, regardless of who's actually running them. Debian stable has basically the same set of libraries and program versions as any other Debian stable version, and so if a program runs on one system, it'll run on another as well. You could say this about Red Hat, but Red Hat packages are simply not of the same quality as Debian packages are. Debian packages just work.

Debian is rock solid but the install ... (5, Insightful)

alexandre (53) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492510)

As a long time debian user i must say that i would never want to go back to other packaging system (for now at least)... But when it comes to trying to install a _NEW_ computer for some friends, i usually try debian first and since i can't stay there to tweak everything for hours (which i would do at home since once done your system is constently kept up to date for years), i usually have to throw a redhat or mandrake at them :-/ conclusion: Debian rocks if you can get it installed and know linux well... maybe not the best thing for starters unfortunetaly..(not wanting to scare anyone ... not too fast ;-)

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (2, Offtopic)

espresso_now (219443) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492537)

Check out Gentoo Linux [gentoo.org]. It uses a package system called Portage that is similar to FreeBSD's "Ports" system. Basically, you run "emerge apps-editors/vim" to automatically build Vim for you, it will also download and build any dependancies required too! The only downside is it will take a while to build X, or any other large package(Gnome, KDE, etc).

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (4, Interesting)

alexandre (53) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492548)

thats the main reason why i didn't like the BSD /ports... having to compile a whole batch of file (like when you dist-upgrade) would use the power of your slow machines until the next upgrade :-) I still think that it is probably the second-best way to do it though... i first learned linux on redhat and having to _seek_ upgrade on the web really is a huge p.i.t.a ... i wonder what is happening these days with redhat and mandrake, do they have free-internet-ready (buzzwords! :) upgrades? (like a apt-get dist-upgrade?)

Yup (4, Informative)

systemapex (118750) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492563)

Red Hat's got their Red Hat Network upgrade service. It's a lot like Windows Update with XP - it'll tell you when updates are available, and you'll have the option to download them. It works well. I have personally intalled apt-get (for RPM) and I've fallen in love with it. But it is not an official Red Hat apt-get. You can grab it from FreshRPMS [freshrpms.net].

Re:Yup (2)

alexandre (53) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492582)

So you can actually upgrade from redhat 7 to redhat 8 for free by running this program? I saw this i think at school on our redhat machines but i thought users had to register with redhat?
And about that apt-get for RPM, which repository can be used?

Re:Yup (2)

systemapex (118750) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492651)

I don't think RHN will let you do the same sort of version upgrade a CD upgrade install will do. It'll just maintain your current version. I remember somebody posting in a forum somewhere on the net (I've forgotten where) that they were upgrading from 7.3 to 8.0 with "apt-get dist-upgrade". I've just switched to Red Hat so I've never tried this myself but I believe it is possible. Of course, if a totally new package is introduced in the new version of Red Hat, I'm willing to bet it won't get installed with apt-get dist-upgrade. That probably just upgrades all the packages you have on your system to the newer ones. And as for respositories, I'm using the psyche.freshrpms.net repository. There is a way to choose different repositories but I haven't bothered to look for any other ones.

Re:Yup (3, Informative)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492690)

Yes, you can. You need, though, to manually install the redhat-release RPM for the appropriate distro (eg 8 if you're coming from 7.3). At that point, running up2date -u will pull down all the packages that upgraded in the distro.

Re:Yup (1)

pyros (61399) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492718)

No, up2date does not officially do live distribution upgrades. For each release, they offer a Channel. I haven't tried it, but you may be able to subscirbe your machine to the channel for the release you want to upgrade to (unsubscribing from the channel for the installed release) and then run up2date. I have not tried this, or heard of anyone else trying it, it's just a thought I had. If someone has tried it, please post comments on the experience.

Re:Yup (2, Informative)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492583)

Ximian will also do pretty much the same thing for you as the red hat network and I found that it is very user friendly and works well.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (1)

more fool you (549433) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492720)

what you can do quite easily is compile the port on a fast machine using "make port". Once it's done, scp the .tgz over to the slow machine and install it there. Of course, it helps having a fast machine running freebsd to do it, and you don't mind editing the make.conf file to suit.

I used this method to put sun's jdk on an old 32M ram machine, as it didn't have enough memory to build it itself and it was taking 3 hours to get to the point of being whacked by the kernel. A memory upgrade later, and it turns out 64M is not enough to run tomcat+mysql.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492552)

Basically the Gentoo install still isn't as easy as it could be.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (4, Insightful)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492603)

Never fails. Every time Debian or the coolness therein is mentioned anywhere, some Gentoo user always throws a sales pitch.

I have great respect for your distro and your developers (from your ml's it's painfully obvious that you guys are making a fine distro), but I, and I don't think I'm alone here, find the one-or-two zealots that run around /., web boards, and mls screaming for p.r., really annoying.

We know Gentoo's good. We get the message. We know that you have every reason to be excited. Please, though, stop evangelizing.

I know this is flamebait, but I think a lot of people are sick of this besides me, so I'll take the karma hit if necessary.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (1)

kormoc (122955) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492716)

While I agree that there is too much at times, I don't feel that this is too much. I think that this post was a informative post. If you don't like it, make them a foe. Just what I think...

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (2)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492735)

The parent was merely the straw that broke the camel's back--I hate how *every* opportunity to point out the merits of their distro is taken swiftly. We all know gentoo is cool.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (2)

isdnip (49656) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492706)

I've never installed Debian, though these reviews gave me a good idea of the flavor. (And I did install Yggdrasil on a 386SX back in, oh, 1983 or so. I know my own hardware pretty well.) Debian's sounds tricky and confusing.

But at least it's an installer. I installed Gentoo 1.1a a few months ago to see what the buzz was about. It doesn't even have an installer! Gentoo's installation is, I suppose, based most closely on Linux From Scratch. It was a bunch of instructions about how to fetch this package and have portage install it, then use nano to write this or that configuration file, etc. So by contrast, Debian 3.0 sounds pretty easy.

But in the meantime I'm using Mandrake 9.0, which may mark me as Fat, Dumb and Lazy but it does get an awful lot of software up and running very easily.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (2, Interesting)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492539)

I think there is something to be said for a Distro that if not by design at least by default is geared to those with a little more linux knowledge under their belt. There are still more linux Distros than users and they shouldn't all need to be designed to "steal" MS users. As far as up-to-date software, I have to admit that I have a RH 5.0 box running with some pretty old ftp software on it that is still rock solid.

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (2, Insightful)

kormoc (122955) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492743)

I am sure it is rock solid, but is it secure?

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (3, Interesting)

rizzo420 (136707) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492664)

i find this funny. i'm not primarily a computer geek or linux geek. i come from a strong windows background. a good friend of mine uses linux a lot and i wanted to try something different. so one day he came over and helped me install linux. his first question was "what distribution do you want?" and i was like "uhhhh... what do you use?" and he said "debian, but this other guy thinks you might be better off with red hat because it's easier" and i said "i want debian". he helped a lot with the first install, but didn't completely do it on his own, he taught me. i had it dual-booting win98 and debian for a while, but things got a little crazy and i wanted a larger partition for debian, so i decided to reformat and repartition everything. i installed win98 no problem (i've done that many times before), but i wanted to install debian. i did it on my own this time. ran into a couple problems, but in the end i got the system up and running no problem. i use the network install from teh floppies, i find that to work the best. it's quick and easy. the article says that the installation system and the configuration are difficult. i had no problems whatsoever. i have compiled kernels and stuff no problem. i don't see why people shy away from debian because of the installation system. i think it's great. very simplistic. not every distro has to be for converted windows users. i didn't know linux well, i still don't know all that much, but this is now 3 years later. i guess i have had as much linux experience as the guy that wrote the debian planet review. i learned first on debian. that might be the problem some people have, they don't just throw themselves into it. i think if they were to, they'd find that they could learn more quickly.

MiniLaz [lazbox.org], my linux box...

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (1)

L1nuxGuy (588760) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492689)

Of course Debian's installation isn't as refined as the up-and-running system.

That's only because it's so stable and simple to do live upgrades that the Debian developers hardly spend any time in that portion of the subsystem!

Re:Debian is rock solid but the install ... (2)

Otter (3800) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492756)

As a long time debian user i must say that i would never want to go back to other packaging system (for now at least)...

On the other hand, as a Yellow Dog and MacOS X user, I get the benefits of apt-get without having to deal with Debian. It's a great system, no question, but Debian is no longer the only way to enjoy it. I'm looking forward to giving Conectiva a try...

First Frot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492513)

frot! [heroichomosex.com]

install system (5, Informative)

reverse flow reactor (316530) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492521)

The article does discuss the Progeny Graphical Installer, which is being included in the next release. The last time I used this installer was roughly a year and a half ago. I could install a progeny 1.0 system in 25 minutes flat with this installer.

Yes, the current installer stinks, and it needs much work to catch up to Mandrake, Red Hat and SuSE. But to move from the progeny to potato to woody releases was as simple as changing my /etc/apt/sources.list to reflect the new base and downloading the updated packages.

However, I have not had to reinstall my primary system in a year and a half. I cannot say that for any other operating system. The stable archives work well together.

Debian: not for newbies. Higher learning curve than others. Worth learning if you want more control over your system.

Re:install system (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492576)

The article does discuss the Progeny Graphical Installer, which is being included in the next release.

..and I look forward to using it, Fall 2006.

Re:install system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492622)

Debian: not for newbies. Higher learning curve than others. Worth learning if you want more control over your system.

Yes, because RedHat, Mandrake, et. al., don't let me install software on my own, tweak the configuration files by hand, recompile the kernel, or anything else along those lines. Those distributions lock me out of controlling my own system, but Debian, o' wonderous Debian, unlocks all of these configuration files, kernel parameters, etc. that others won't allow me to touch.

This is not a knock against Debian -- I generally like it, and many of my company's servers run it (and I don't complain). But you do nothing to advance your argument by choosing incredibly weak straw men such as the one quoted above.

Re:install system (4, Insightful)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492628)

I would agree to a certian extent. When I first started using debian is was all confusing, but after a while everything made sense. I fell into a kind of geek zen - now I know the system better then I did any redhat machine. There are things that make it easy - for instance all config files are in /etc

Now Redhat is hard to use.

Re:install system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492730)

i would tend to disagree, i used to use debian exclusively, but that AMD/AGP bug last spring hit me hard and i stayed out of linux for a while. then got back into it with gentoo.

gentoo gives you complete control.
atleast for package management.

i was always soo iritated by the debian developers that included vim or emacs for dozens of packages that in NO way needed them. you dont need a 20 meg editor for a 500k application.

several apps did need some lisp or emacs files, but the ones i am refering DID NOT.

its not a big deal to install those editors, but seriousely why should i have, its the principle of the matter.

I've used tons of distros (2)

RestiffBard (110729) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492535)

but I like debian the most. I don't knwo but I feel more comfortable with debian than I ever have with any other distro. Its just feels solid and reliable. I likes it. It just tastes good.

and we've had this discussion before about debian not being for everyone. well linux isn't for everyone either. OS X isn't for everyone, windows isn't for everyone, AmigaOS isn't for everyone. use what you like. I likes debian.

Who besides me thinks Michael is a smelly twat? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492536)

Reply and be heard!

Lets face facts (2, Insightful)

mfos.org (471768) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492538)

Debian isn't really ment to be the distro for the masses. It is a bitch to set up, and doesn't come with all the bells and whistles Jane Somebody will be looking for in their OS. However, I feel it is the truest to Linux's roots and it is an incredible system, if you have the necesarry skill set.

Re:Lets face facts (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492643)

Along, those lines, the linuxwatch review deserves some credit for this statement:
Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 is a good choice for technical users and/or those who have plenty of Linux experience. Those who have a lot of spare time and patience might also take a shot at "Woody". We wouldn't recommend those who use dial-up for Internet access use Debian due to it's high use of the 'net during installation. We would not recommend Debian to a new user, instead we would point them more in the direction of Red Hat or Lycoris. We would recommend Debian for either experienced users workstations or in a server environment.
This is all true. However, the rest of the review talked about things I don't care about, and frankly failed to criticize debian's drawbacks that I DO find bothersome:

1) Scarcity of .deb's. On one hand, it's amazing how many packages are available, considering the debian project has to make them all. And having them centralized is largely good because they're more likely to work together. But on the other hand, you're somewhat out of luck if nobody wants to maintain a .deb for the software you want. Alien sometimes works, but more often the binary will be compiled for the wrong libc, or have lots of dependencies that also aren't in Debian.

2) Out of date packages. Again, the issue is that Debian is the source of .deb's, whereas most developers will release rpm's on their own. This means lag time.

3) Broken packages. This doesn't apply to debian stable. Debian stable is great for servers, but lags too far behind for a desktop. And Debian testing or unstable are actually fairly stable, but do live up to their names more than I'd like.

Can't think of much else. I really like debian, and it amazes me that they do it all for free. It's a great distro, and I realize this evaluation is one-sided because I haven't mentioned all the great things about Debian that keep me away from Slackware, RedHat, and even Gentoo. (Actually I do use RedHat at work because they standardized on it, but after Debian anything not network-based feels prehistoric).

Re:Lets face facts (2)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492698)

I know people who are professional admins who dislike Debian's install because it makes it hard for them to do their jobs - no unattended install, no kickstart (a la RedHat) is a pain in the arse for a server farm.

Re:Lets face facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492740)

Yes, more ridiculous elitism. Except for that you didn't spell "necessary" properly.

Did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, the lack of an easy GUI installer does -not- equate to a more functional, advanced product? Did you ever stop to think that the creators of Debian are trying to create an operating system for the general public, "Jane Somebody" included, and thus should be at least considering her needs when creating said operating system? I don't know what they're trying to make, if it isn't a distribution for the masses. Maybe just a means to an end for their own needs, but that sounds a little selfish to me.

I'd pick apart your "truest to Linux's roots" statement as well, for pages on end, but suffice it to say that it's a ridiculous remark to make. Truest to Linux's roots. You know, giving someone a shot of whisky or two before yanking their teeth out with rusty pliers would be truest to the roots of dental surgery in the Western world. Does that mean it's a good idea? Does that mean the world should be forced to down a glass of Jack Daniels and probably die of an infection, just because someone else waxes nostalgic over it? Give me a break. Linux is a kernel, no distribution is "true" to its roots.

I wish you and all like you would take your elitism somewhere else.

I would have to agree, but... (4, Interesting)

UnidentifiedCoward (606296) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492545)

I have never thought Debian was a typical OS for the typical user. Consider for a moment what Redhat has done for to their distribution. They want it to be as easy to install as windows. And to their credit they have come close, but Debian has, IMHO, and always will be the an atypical OS for the atypical user.

That is not to say a bit of spit and polish on UI/configuration side wouldn't hurt, but then again I know that GeForce is an Nvidia product and no amount of rebranding by Creative Labs is going to change that (with regards to my X config). The same is true for a lot of hardware.

When you think about it the only difference between linux (and particularly Debian) and windows is that windows presumes (and Redhat is trying to emulate) that the user is an idiot (especially with regards to hardware) and Debian does not.

Re:I would have to agree, but... (5, Insightful)

Sanity (1431) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492691)

When you think about it the only difference between linux (and particularly Debian) and windows is that windows presumes (and Redhat is trying to emulate) that the user is an idiot (especially with regards to hardware) and Debian does not.
That is exactly the wrong attitude. I am not an idiot because I want a fully working and configured system in 20 minutes, rather than after hours or days of tinkering. I am not an idiot because I expect the installer to avoid asking me things that it could find out itself or which I have already told it.

Debian's installation is totally unpolished, inconvenient, and it basically sucks. That argument that it is only inconvenient if you are a newbie is bunk - it is inconvenient for anyone that doesn't have time to burn configuring every tiny little detail. Yes, apt-get might be wonderful, but it will be much easier for Redhat and co to incorporate Debian's advantages than it will be for Debian to incorporate Redhat's. That is simply a fact.

Debian will never succeed until it takes the installation process seriously.

Re:I would have to agree, but... (2)

dvdeug (5033) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492729)

Debian will never succeed until it takes the installation process seriously.

You miss the point. Debian has succeeded. It is the distribution that its developers want to make. In any case, I've only had to install Debian twice on my computer, first four years ago when I bought it, and then again one year ago, after I fragged the partition table. Whether it took an hour or a day, it was a long time ago, and I've been happily upgrading since.
A lot of people do get past the installation process, and once you have, it's not an important part of any distribution comparison.

NEWSFLASH: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492556)

Debian isn't for pussies! It is for people who understand how
to use their computer.

It is meant to be installed on all sorts of hardware, even
that which cannot, or should not, run X, hence the text
based installer.

It isn't some Mandrake hand holding distro for weenies.

An option (1)

Farang (552254) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492566)

The considerable benefits of Woody plus a lot of current stuff not in Woody, and without the install problems that frustrate newbies: Libranet 2.7. Smooth, very easy install, stable; may install more apps than many veterans want.

Bad Metaphor Time (2, Funny)

xxSOUL_EATERxx (549142) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492567)

From the article:
Just look at Gentoo, a hideous installation process, but a system equivalent to a Honda Civic with added spoiler, exhausts, alloy wheels and, of course, go-fast stripes.
You mean it's ugly, noisy, and you have to tune it up every 200 miles?

Clearly he has never install OpenBSD (5, Funny)

Tester (591) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492568)

Reading how people think that the debian installer is the worst. Those people clearly have not installed OpenBSD... But hey, for them its a security feature, only an expert can install it!

Re:Clearly he has never install OpenBSD (2)

alexandre (53) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492615)

hehe the only hard part actually is the partionning since BSD has their own way to do it :) but i agree that making an installer harder almost on purpose is not a good idea ...

Re:Clearly he has never install OpenBSD (1)

pyite (140350) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492761)

I did a network install of OpenBSD recently on a 486 in an hour or so. I suppose it's because all the hardware is old and thus there's drivers built in for it all. People's biggest hangup with OpenBSD (BSD as a whole for that matter) tends to be the partitioning. It took a little time to get it when I first installed it, a good three years ago.

Debian used to be my favorite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492569)

And I still use it. But it's really annoying now that common non-free applications (pine, elm) aren't even in the distribution anymore.

What is up with these unprofessional "reviews"? (4, Interesting)

SlashChick (544252) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492581)

I have a feeling someone will mod me as "troll" for this, but so be it...

I do not understand why so many of these so-called "reviewers" cannot take the time to use a simple spelling and grammar checker. The review from LinuxPlanet was written by the webmaster of LinuxPlanet, yet it contained several grammatical gaffes, including use of "it's" instead of "its" and some misspellings (one of which, "managment", made its way to the front page of Slashdot.)

This seems to be a growing trend in certain review sites. It really bothers me that some of the foremost open-source sites seem to have such a problem with grammar and spelling. This reflects badly not only on those sites, but on open-source and free software itself.

Proper spelling and grammar may be unimportant to you personally, but it makes a lot of people view your site as unprofessional. If you want respect, you need to focus on good grammar and spelling -- or, at the very least, running your articles through a grammar and spelling checker before they are posted. (With that respect comes several bonuses, as well: great goodies such as advertising dollars, free software and hardware to review, and more.)

The fact that most of these sites don't bother to check spelling and grammar before posting "reviews" is one more reason for me to not feel any sympathy when they need those advertising/subscription dollars to stay alive. If you make the effort to use proper grammar and spelling, I'll reward you with visits and subscription money. If you don't, I won't, and neither will most corporations looking for a place to advertise.

That should be "The review from LinuxWatch"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492592)

Sorry about that.

Simple explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492621)

Anyone can run/maintain a website. You don't have to be a professional writer to post a review of anything these days. Therefore, it's not essential to have good spelling or grammatical skills. I'm not saying that I could do any better, but then I'm not passing myself off as a professional writer.

It's it's, with an apostrophe dammit! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492702)

The damn apostophe denotes POSSESSSION, you creatin! 'it' can possess something, ala:

"Look at Jack's foot!"

"Look at it's foot!"

People who use 'its' need to get a life. The moron who created the 'its is the exception to the possession rule' needs to be drug out into the street and shot.

Re:It's it's, with an apostrophe dammit! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492713)

It's = It is.

"Look at it is foot" makes no sense. Thus, "it's" is incorrect in your second example.

Re:It's it's, with an apostrophe dammit! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492737)

Ok then idiot, if "it's" = "it is", then "Jack's" must mean "Jack is", which makes no sense either...

But wait! "Jack's" doesn't HAVE to mean "Jack is" (as in "Jack's going to the store"), which means that "it's" doesn't HAVE to mean "it is" (As in "It's going to the store").

So? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492584)

Debian stable is old but it's STABLE. I stick with testing and go hunting for updated packages if I need them, but rarely do I need to do something "cutting-edge". I've had unstable create SERIOUS problems, particularly with glibc versions, but that's unstable for you.

As for unusability, I definitely agree that there are more user-friendly OSes out there than Debian. I don't believe Linux is desktop-ready for the masses right now, and I don't believe Debian will ever be. However, I really like it for running servers. And I believe servers should eschew fancy user interfaces and put the power towards the services instead -- why on earth do we need a fancy graphical UI to run a web server?

Debian's free. Debian does what I want it to do. Debian ain't perfect, but it's pretty damn good at some things. And I never have to worry about it going away.

woody is worth it (3, Interesting)

jalippo (601080) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492597)

i switched back to linux this month after 4 years of windows development and decided to try with Woody based on reviews of no frills, stability & the packaging system. - installation took 1 night - configuring X and installing KDE 1 night - getting sound working 1 night. i love it. configuring X & sound was not intuitive but some heavy IRC sessions on #debian got me through the tough times. I have about 5 years IRIX admin experience from a long time ago and I find the package system very reminscent of the IRIX package system. And now I have a DVD player more stable than my crappy Windows 98 software. Well worth the effort

The problem with those reviews... (5, Interesting)

Tester (591) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492600)

is that debian is NOT a desktop distribution. Even if the debian people would like to think that it is. The default configuration of "desktop software" is soo bad its just unusable.. Even Gentoo, which is even more hardcore than debian seems to be have a nicer default desktop setup.. And I never had on Gentoo the kind of problem that I have with debian...

But, I use debian on ALL of my servers. Debian on the server just rocks. Especially being able to upgrade it without ever going to the console.. Why do you have to reboot a RedHat system to upgrade it?? I never understood that.. Upgrading debian is a breeze...

Re:The problem with those reviews... (5, Insightful)

yokem_55 (575428) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492679)

The reason that Gentoo can get away with having such an incredibly "hard core" install, and yet still gain a substantial following, even from non "hard core" users (typically refugees from RPM-hell distro's), is because of the incredibly well written, strait-forward documentation that Gentoo provides. The install documentation clearly spells out how the whole installation and post-install configuration is to be done, without overwhelming the user.

Re:The problem with those reviews... (2)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492707)

The inability to do unattended installs, and the lack of a kickstart equivalent, makes Debian suck on servers, IMO.

Maybe they were expecting Windows XP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492607)

But the lack
of good configuration and installation takes that all away from Debian.



Is Debian not shipping with vi anymore?

I agree entirely (0)

sneakybilly (537969) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492612)

I am no newbie linux user and after using Redhat,Mandrake and SUSE for years tried out the Debian Woody. After going through 10000+ packages deciding what to install. The installer crashed half way through......twice. Not only that every single package on the distro is sooooo outdated. The installer doesn't even support ext3 out of the box and installs a 2.2 kernel by default. Yuck....Sure I know what you uber elite debian diehards are thinking. But I don't really care...you aren't using it cause it installs easy or has all the nice tools, new packages and support and stuff...you just use it because its cool :)

My thoughts (5, Informative)

EdMcMan (70171) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492614)

Unfortunately, debian planet is /.d already. That was fast! Only 22 comments :) Anyway, here are my thoughts on what they said.

Debian is NOT for first time linux users! Unfortunately, the reviewer(s) definitely sounded like they were anyway. Aside from dselect being a little daunting the first time you use it, the install is very easy. Dselect is very easy to use, after you hit ? and read the help page. Otherwise, don't bother.

I'm not really sure why the people at Linuxwatch need a Debian config generator.. XFree86 4 has included two generators that work fine for me. Oh, and I have a rather odd dual head system. Geforce2 and a Voodoo 3. XFree86 -configure, and xf86cfg. Is it really so hard to type those out?

For anyone with a clue, Debian is great! There are so many things that just *make sense* and are missing from other distros. For instance, the reason KDE's application menu was so hard to use as the review stated is because applications from DEB packages are automagically shared between window managers.

Debian is something that you either love or hate. I love it. Everything from the directory structure to the logs to the default application settings are wonderful. How many distros ship sendmail with smtp auth and TLS enabled? :) If you are an advanced user don't let the review fool you. Give it a chance!

not hard to type out at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492692)

Is it really so hard to type those out?
With me and many others it really has to do with a simple (and CONSISTENT) set of instructions for what exactly the preferred tool is. By preferred I am referring to the many comments on various boards that say that in Debian especially you should use "the Debian Xfree86 config tool" that while in the past has not been followed up with a statement along the lines of "oh yeah, that was for pre ver 4."

Like with languages, it does little good to speak if those around you cannot understand. In order to properly configure the system it would be helpful to include a CONSISTENT instruction set. Knowing what is preferred (i.e. will result in less bugs and instabilities, heartaches and days worth of tweaking) for the Debian packages helps alot. Some say use the apt config, others say use this, or that or that other one there. So... what is it?

article contents just for you (1)

Froze (398171) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492725)

This is a critical review of Debian 3.0, but I want to say right from the start that I'm not trying to bait anyone. However I feel that reviewers often root for Debian as the open-source underdog, and give it marks which it doesn't deserve. If RedHat 8.0 came out with installation software like Debian 3.0 it would be savaged. I think it's time for an honest review, to spur the Debian developers into making the best possible distribution. I really want Debian to succeed. I want to use it daily, and recommend it to my friends. But I can't do that right now and I think it's important people understand why.

Installation
My first experience of Linux came with a boxed version of SuSE 6.0, back in the middle of 1999 when Linux was starting to get noticed in a big way. The entire thing was a text-mode affair, powered by the venerable YaST version 1. I spent days just poring through the manual, trying to wrap my head around fdisk, and hoping it would all turn out okay. It did, and I never looked back. Six months later a version of RedHat (five point something or the other I think) was shipped with a magazine I bought, and I gave it a whirl. This too was backed with a text-based installer, but it was a lot easier to use than YaST. I didn't even bother with the documentation, I just slipped it in the CD drive and winged it. Shortly thereafter I tried the first version of Mandrake, which had pretty much the exact same installation process..

The point of all this reminiscing is to show that I'm not a complete neophyte (though I'm nowhere near being a guru for that matter). Since then I've tried the RedHat and Mandrake graphical installs, and while RedHat is the one I like best, Mandrake has been the distribution I've stuck with solely because of drakconf and it's associated tools, which make configuring a Linux system a breeze. However lately I've been aspiring to ascend to guru status, or at the very least PFY, so I gave Debian a whirl. I have to admit I was disappointed both with the installation procedure and the finished system. In all my time with Linux, Debian's is the worst installer I've ever had to use.

Setup

There is a lot wrong with it, but mainly the fact is that it's an awfully stupid piece of software. And I don't mean stupid as in bad, I mean as in not clever. It expects the user to know everything. So, for example, even though XFree86 has fully documented the branded names that each driver supports, Debian simply supplies a list of the driver names themselves. People with, say, a GeForce card packaged by Creative will have a hard time picking the "nv" driver. However they should be glad that they have a choice at all - a lot of screens only give highly technical examples and refer the users to documentation that hasn't even been installed yet! For example why couldn't a list of keyboards, e.g. "Irish Keyboard", "US Keyboard", "Sun US Keyboard" etc. be given instead of expecting the user to type in "xfree86", "pc105", "ie" with "uk" as alternative.

This is simple fundamental stuff, the kind of thing most other distros had sorted out back in '99 when everything was via textmode and the Linux GUI was new and exciting. However, in this day and age, I would expect far more from a distribution. There should be no need for me to enter in the same locale based settings over and over again. Once I'd selected Europe->Western->Dublin as the timezone, the system should have realised that the appropriate locale was en_IE@euro, that the keyboard should be set up with proper Euro support (it doesn't seem to be, AltGr is mapped as Alt so I can't easily print bars, the Euro symbol, or accents for stuff I write in Irish), that the Euro packages should be installed by default (they weren't) and a whole raft of other tiny stuff like KDE and Gnome localisation. Certainly people should be presented with the chance to confirm these options, but it should be a simple matter of hitting Enter most of the way. If they want to change the default, they should first be presented with a list of preconfigured settings for, e.g. keyboards, out of which they can then opt into the sort of technical "xfree86", "pc105", etc. settings.

This willfull stupidity of the installer extends to other aspects of the setup also - with so many kernels available, Debian should pick the most appropriate one to use for my system. It's not that hard to open up /proc/cpuinfo. Instead I was confronted with a maze of kernels once I got to the software selection stage, installed 2.4.18, and then belatedly realised that only 2.4.16 had the ALSA drivers I wanted. Why not offer two defaults in the final base install screen Kernel-2.2.20-$arch and Kernel-2.4.16-$arch (where $arch is the probed value of the most suitable CPU) with a third option to select the kernel yourself. And for the record, I have no idea what the point of the modules page was - was I meant to manually install each and every module?!

Package Selection
This brings me nicely along to package selection. Tasksel wasn't too bad, though I'd expect more options. For example, instead of X11 have "X11", "Typical Desktop (Gnome & KDE)" and "Esoteric Desktop (WindowMaker and Enlightenment)" and so on. I was mystified to see I could select Fortran and Tcl/Tk support, but not Perl, PHP, or Java - some of the most popular languages today. However nothing, not in all my 22 years on this Earth, could prepare me for the horrors of dselect. Sweet merciful divine!

Firstly the developers should check out Eugenia's comments on osnews.com about the new Yast2 package manager, as many of the same things apply. In the end it all boils down to the old KISS clich, keep it simple! Instead of giving a load of choices for dependency resolution with half a million optional packages thrown in, just give n + 1 choices, one for each of the n package/package-combinations that fixes the dependency, and one to install without resolving it. Similarly with conflict resolution it should be remove selected, remove conflicting or ignore.

Worse yet are the help screens that pop up at every opportunity, yet which don't actually explain everything (like the meaning of those EIOM headers at the top of the screen). At the end of the day, it should be fairly obvious what's going on. Leave complex package selection tools for the post install, at this stage people just want to get the damn thing working. It drove me nuts having to pass through that stupid help screen every time a dependency arose.

What's worst of all is that if, for example, dselect fails to download a package from the Internet, it prompts the user with a basic text mode question asking them if they want to cancel. I assumed this meant just cancel that particular package. It didn't, and I found myself dumped into the console on a base system. I knew enough to extricate myself, but this is hardly something the average newbie is going to be able to cope with.

The Installation Overall
I want to make sure people realise I'm not trying to advocate a graphical installer. It would be a good move ahead, and should be available for Debian 4.0, but all the stuff I've mentioned here could be easily implemented in a text-mode installer written using ncurses. In fact, I would recommend a Model-View-Controller approach, with the Model, the bit that does all the actual work, being packed into a library, and two Views being created with, say, ncurses and Qt, each of which uses the Model library to do what's needed.

Debian's installer does have some redeeming features. For one thing it is rock solid. With several versions of Mandrake I have had problems setting up the mouse and getting the package selector to install all the selected packages. This didn't happen in Debian. Downloading updates from the web during the install is also a great idea (though I was a little aghast to find my 56K modem facing into 100M of updates). The provision of non-free sites is a great help, given the conflict between Debian's all-free stance and the wants of the average user.

The crucial factor is that the installer should be made as intelligent as possible, and to hide the actual details behind "Advanced" buttons. Guess as much as possible from initial locale data. Use branded names instead of driver names for hardware, be it keyboards, mice, graphics cards or soundcards. I hadn't mentioned this but Debian should aim to have sound working as a default in every new installation, prompting users for their soundcard make from a list in a similar in fashion to the XFree one. In this day and age, every OS should have sound support. By all means, let one of the brands on the list be "No Soundcard", but offer to install and configure it at any rate.

Dselect needs to be totally re-designed. I can appreciate its power, but it's far to complex and hard to use. Aim to replicate the way things work in graphical GUIs - have drop down lists and checkboxes which can be ticked to install items, even if said boxes are represented by [ ] and [X]. There is a case to be made for complex package installation software, but half way through an OS install isn't really the place.

The Configured System
Having finally got everything installed, I was, I confess, pretty disappointed with the results. Bugs started appearing. Firstly, when selecting the Irish locale in KDE 2.2.2, I found KDE trying to tell me that the Irish currency was the pound, something which hasn't been the case since the Euro was introduced in 2000, two and a half years ago. Then kwrite decided it wouldn't display documents it opened and konqueror decided all pages should be 2000 pixels wide, even though the window was about 800.

Sound didn't work, and consequently the KDE bootup screen stalled for ages at the window manager stage while arts slowly died, then popped up a No Sound message box. None of the PPP connection tools worked when not used by root. None of the hard disk partitions were configured (even though they had been recognised by the piece of code that set up LILO). My CDRW at /dev/hdd wasn't set up, not even as a plain CD-ROM. The menus were all over the place. The fonts in GTK apps were hideously big. XftConfig wasn't set up to disable antialiasing for standard size fonts, nor were the workarounds for symbol and console fonts (mentioned here) included. Another bug.

It was a mess.

Firstly the menus. In Enlightenment and Gnome you have a special Debian menu included with the rest in the app launchers. These menus contain everything. Thus, when you're looking for a program, you just go to the Debian menu and it's all gravy. However the Debian menu wan't included in KDE, instead there were a load of Debian submenus, which didn't seem to include everything. What made this especially heinous was that if a Debian menu had been included in KDE, I could have made a launcher out of it. At this stage, though, I don't believe that's enough. Debian should follow the lead of every other major distro and offer the exact same menu layout throughout. All you need is for graphical packages to install an information file in, e.g. /etc/debmenus, and in the post-install stage run a script which creates from it the necessary menu entries in all the window managers and environments.

I've got most of the sound and KDE stuff off my chest, though frankly its deeply disappointing. It's the first time I've experienced functional bugs in any KDE version, and I started with 0.99. The only other time I've seen a major bug was a cosmetic issue with KDE 2.1 (?) in SuSE 7.3 which caused vertical stripes to appear on widget backgrounds.

Again I've dealt with the appalling foul up of Euro-support. The support packages should have been installed by default when I selected en_IE@euro. The AltGr-4 keymap should have been set up. As far as I'm concerned these are functional bugs.

The PPP tools could definitely have been set up better. The default setting is only an invitation to newbies to use root for web-browsing. They could be set up using sudo, or else set up them with rwsr-sr-- permissions and root.pppusers ownership. That way, at the user creation screen you could ask if people should have permission to connect to the net, and make them members of the pppaccess group if permission was granted.

GTK, and consequently Mozilla, looked atrocious due to the oversized fonts (look at Windows, MacOS, BeOS, other Linux distros - they all have fonts around 11px), and changing the default font in GTK is a bit of a struggle for newbies (how obvious is Theme Selector after all). I changed it to Helvetica at 12, and now things look okay.

The fact is, I'm going to have to invest a considerable amount of time just to get things to the same level that Mandrake and RedHat give straight out of the default install. This is not something that will attract new people. Otherwise the system seems reasonable. I'll have to wait a while before I can make any pronouncements with regard to stability. Anecdotal evidence is extremely positive, but my initial experience hasn't matched. I was a little disappointed with the way files were arranged. I had hoped Debian would lead the world away from RedHat's madness and stick KDE and Gnome in their own subdirectories, e.g. /usr/kde2 -> /usr/kde-2.2.2 and /usr/gnome1 -> /usr/gnome-1.4.1. The fact is, that given what I've had, and will probably get when RedHat 8.0 inevitably starts going around the magazines, it's hard to be upbeat about the Debian desktop.

Conclusions
I'm sure you're aware that this isn't going to be glowing. Debian's installer is several years out of date, and needs a serious overhaul. It's not fit for commercial consumption, and is only good enough for established Debian users and poor wannabe PFYs like myself. This is not a sustainable situation. Apt-get is good, but RPM has caught up with it for the most part thanks to apt-rpm and urpmi. I'll take everyone's word for it and say that Debian is, for the most part, stable. I like the fact that the packagers are willing to hold back and patch existing stable software to get a decent system, and not one that seems to be in permanent beta. This is why I went for it in the first place.

But people who chose Debian aren't rewarded. Installation and post-install configuration is a bit of a nightmare. Debian should organise people to collect code from the Webmin, Linuxconf and Mandrake configuration programs and create Debian's own configuration framework. At this stage of Linux development it's compulsory, even RedHat has finally copped on to this. Indeed, I would recommend following RedHat in several arenas. I believe Bluecurve is free, Debian should package it - it gives everything a nice polished look. People can then change things if they want to. Having worked in MIS a bit, I know that people will always find a way to muck about with display settings, even if word-processors give them palpitations.

I think people should get together and form a DebianDesktop group, committed to creating a package which will install several different themes, configurations and menus. People can be asked near the end of the install if they would like their desktop customised - if they answer yes, this package could be installed. Similarly work should be done on intelligent installers and hardware auto-detection (though the latter is obviously going to be especially difficult for a multi-platform system). The priority should be the simple installer though, hardware detection can wait.

The inspiration for this article was an article I saw on this site a while back bemoaning Debian's loss of mindshare, attributing it in part due to the lack of attention in the media. Most of the pertinent points were made in the article and accompanying comments. An open-source distribution needs mindshare to survive, but the media won't cover distros which don't have the latest whiz-bang desktop software. If Debian formally released a distribution based on the Test tree compiled with GCC 3.2 for 686mmx, its marketshare would explode. Just look at Gentoo, a hideous installation process, but a system equivalent to a Honda Civic with added spoiler, exhausts, alloy wheels and, of course, go-fast stripes. In other words, something for the lads to show off.

Such a system would have the benefit of bringing a lot more bug-reports into the system, giving a better stable distro. Mandrake are sucking a lot of the talent Debian needs through cooker. They've openly thought about making the distribution packaging process totally open and building a value-added distro around it like Progeny. If this were to happen it would place Debian into a very tough place.

The new Debian needs to blow people away. It needs to be Granny-proof. It needs an installer that people can bluff their way through, with an attractive, well configured desktop on the other side. Debian maintainers should check out the competition now and again, to see where they can improve. Because if they don't, Debian will lose developers, and become less and less of a force in the Linux world.

Whatever (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492619)

I'm pretty sure the response from the Debian hierarchy will be "whatever."

Debian isn't for newbies, it isn't for people who need their hand held, it isn't for your mom. And it will never be. Never. It's not a goal of the project to make Debian easy to use for your grandmother. That's just the way it is.

Now, maybe a la Debian Junior, a Debian-based project will develop whose goals are to make Debian easy to use for your Boss' secretary, but Debian per se is NOT that project.

Debian isn't easy for noobs to use. Debian also doesn't help me decorate my home!! Guess what? Both comparisons are invalid.

Re:Whatever (2)

pivo (11957) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492758)

RedHat, having one of the best X installers, has a good text mode option too. It lets you instal only what you want, doesn't force you to use or install X, etc. I use it for workstations as well as servers, it's a great installer because it doesn't waste my time.

It's irritating that so much of the debian crowd takes this "whatever" attitude, or worse, the attitue that if you don't like arcane hardware information you must be a beginner. In fact this attitude is contradictory since debians' own package management system is probably the easiest to use. For consistency, shouldn't it be difficult too? Or perhaps debians' package management system is for "grandma."

What's the problem with computers performing tedious tasks on behalf of humans? Isn't that why they exist? It's good to know your way around your hardware, but it's dehumanizing to repeatedly perform tedious work that computers can do automatically.

Long live the alpha archtecture! (2, Interesting)

UpLateDrinkingCoffee (605179) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492626)

I've been using Debian for a while on an old (circa 1998) Digital alpha workstation and it is rock solid and was not *that* hard to install. The magic that 'apt-get dist-upgrade' does more than makes up for the holes in the installation process. My biggest wish is that debian could keep up with redhat as far as versions go... I had to build my own KDE 3.0 and mozilla 1.0 from source.

No ipchains/iptables in the default install (1)

banbeans (122547) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492636)

grrrrr
Having to put the box behind a firewall when it is spose to be the firewall just to update it and snag the kernel source and compile sux!.

My Debian experiance. (2)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492637)

Debian has a 'social contract' and an ethos that is a mirror of linux itself. Sometimes I think that means it'll never get a wickedly polished install, because hackers know how to install it and don't want to spend time on something trivial.

But then I look at the package install system, and hope springs anew.

Regardless, my Debian install is a linux-mips, root on nfs, SGI Indy, installed via netboot. Obviously not something the 'average user' is going to be doing. But the fact that I was able to do it with only a few hickups in the install impressed the hell out of me.

Like Standard Transmission (2, Funny)

cyber_rigger (527103) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492638)

Debian is for people who like to shift the gears themselves (and occasionally pop the clutch). :^)

Re:Like pervo transgressions (-1, Troll)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492708)

Debian is for 6-finger webtoed dweezles got one thumb up their azzholes the other wiping twinkie wizz off steel-pin eyeballs ... fsck'em

Debian Reasoning... (2, Interesting)

TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492639)

...at least from my perspective: I came from Slackware. I loved slackware, except that little part about keeping it updated. I still have slackware machines, and it's a headache, having to update 20 or so different libraries and utilities in order to go from Sawfish .38 to Sawfish 1.0.1. Debian doesn't remove the hand-configuration, but gives me an easy way to keep current.

Agree (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492640)

Nice articles. I installed Debian back in the day, my third linux flavor following slackware and redhat. I wasn't very impressed with it at the time. I installed it again several months back (and several, several, several levels higher of linux experiece) but still found it lacking. I didn't find the install very hard but did find it frusterating on the lack of configuration tools.

Love aptget though and I'll be trying out the new release on one of my boxes for sure.

And as a side note to those who don't pronounce it correctly (MEKTARUIN) The man who brought us the Debian package is Ian and his girl is Deb, hence DebIan.

package installment exercises (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492646)

If eating was like the packaging system then here is what it would be like:

First, the food is great, smells delicious and looks very good. However that is in the kitchen and you are outside the restaurant. Getting inside will be a long, drawn out process of finding dependency problems within the "walk" module that requires an updated version of leg_ver_2, specifically from leg_i386_2_4.23.02.042-2 to leg_i386_2_4.23.02.042-3 as well as similar requirements for "central_nervious_system", "balance", "coordination" and more. Then opening the door is going to really blow your mind.

If you think any of this is on one site you are dead wrong. Furthermore, this stuff is 2 years old and yet is still flaky. Once inside (after pulling your hair out... 16 packages for that one) you must interface with the host/hostess. Since the interface is in a very specific language you must now install the interpreters and associated libs for that (25 packages... all about 0.00.00.000-00.0001 difference). Skipping another 50 or so packages that oddly enough create a paradoxical interdependency loop that baffles the mind, you must attempt to read the menu, order your food, eat the food and don't forget to pay before leaving. You are looking at hundreds of megs of packages that basically enumerate numbers, while avoiding a logical method of separating implementation from lib change abstraction. Gee, I hear there is a newer lib for blah_lib out today, that is a 00.000.000.00.00000.00.0000001 difference so I will require that now! Yay!

Hardware Recognition (3, Insightful)

omnirealm (244599) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492648)

I consider myself to be a seasoned Linux user. I have been using various distributions of Linux exclusively on my desktop for two years now.

My school's Unix Users Group [byu.edu] runs a periodic Install Fest, where people bring in their desktops, and UUG members load Linux onto them.

Having settled in Debian myself, I figured I would be able to easily install it for someone else. While all my buddies were zipping through the RedHat 8.0 installation for others, I tenatiously stuck with Debian 3.0 for the guy who came to my station.

Things were complicated by the fact that his network card would not play nice with our switch, so I had to use the CD installation (I always prefer the net install with Debian). It took me about twice as long as the RedHat guys just to get a basic system installed and a command prompt. Then his USB mouse wasn't being recognized by the kernel at all.

Well, the guy went home, and then installed Mandrake over the Debian installation I had worked so hard to start up, because he couldn't figure out how to configure his network or his USB mouse, and he didn't want to go through the time or trouble to get it working. Mandrake just did it for him, and he was on his way with his classwork.

It wasn't until I replaced my own motherboard that I realized that you have to use UHCI for some USB chipsets and OHCI for other USB chipsets (he probably had a chipset that was different than that which came with the Debian kernel image). Mandrake and RedHat just figure all that out for you. I wish Debian would do the same.

Some of the guys on the UUG mailing list are claiming that since RedHat now has apt-get, there is no longer any good reason to keep using Debian. I argue that some of Debian's strongest points are that its developers are not blown about by every whim of the market, and when they say "stable," they mean it. Also, the unstable branch provides ample opportunity to keep up-to-date with the latest and greatest packages, if that's what floats your boat.

Well, to make a long story short, for now, I tend to encourage newbies to just use RedHat or Mandrake ... but to keep their /home directories on a separate partition for the day that they will wipe their root partition and install Debian ;-)

Wow. Already slashdotted. Here it is for ya... (1)

Shippy (123643) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492649)

An Unbiased Review of Debian 3.0

This is a critical review of Debian 3.0, but I want to say right from the start that I'm not trying to bait anyone. However I feel that reviewers often root for Debian as the open-source underdog, and give it marks which it doesn't deserve. If RedHat 8.0 came out with installation software like Debian 3.0 it would be savaged. I think it's time for an honest review, to spur the Debian developers into making the best possible distribution. I really want Debian to succeed. I want to use it daily, and recommend it to my friends. But I can't do that right now and I think it's important people understand why.

Installation
My first experience of Linux came with a boxed version of SuSE 6.0, back in the middle of 1999 when Linux was starting to get noticed in a big way. The entire thing was a text-mode affair, powered by the venerable YaST version 1. I spent days just poring through the manual, trying to wrap my head around fdisk, and hoping it would all turn out okay. It did, and I never looked back. Six months later a version of RedHat (five point something or the other I think) was shipped with a magazine I bought, and I gave it a whirl. This too was backed with a text-based installer, but it was a lot easier to use than YaST. I didn't even bother with the documentation, I just slipped it in the CD drive and winged it. Shortly thereafter I tried the first version of Mandrake, which had pretty much the exact same installation process..

The point of all this reminiscing is to show that I'm not a complete neophyte (though I'm nowhere near being a guru for that matter). Since then I've tried the RedHat and Mandrake graphical installs, and while RedHat is the one I like best, Mandrake has been the distribution I've stuck with solely because of drakconf and it's associated tools, which make configuring a Linux system a breeze. However lately I've been aspiring to ascend to guru status, or at the very least PFY [tuxedo.org], so I gave Debian a whirl. I have to admit I was disappointed both with the installation procedure and the finished system. In all my time with Linux, Debian's is the worst installer I've ever had to use.

Setup
There is a lot wrong with it, but mainly the fact is that it's an awfully stupid piece of software. And I don't mean stupid as in bad, I mean as in not clever. It expects the user to know everything. So, for example, even though XFree86 has fully documented the branded names that each driver supports, Debian simply supplies a list of the driver names themselves. People with, say, a GeForce card packaged by Creative will have a hard time picking the nv driver. However they should be glad that they have a choice at all - a lot of screens only give highly technical examples and refer the users to documentation that hasn't even been installed yet! For example why couldn't a list of keyboards, e.g. Irish Keyboard, US Keyboard, Sun US Keyboard etc. be given instead of expecting the user to type in xfree86, pc105, ie with uk as alternative.

This is simple fundamental stuff, the kind of thing most other distros had sorted out back in '99 when everything was via textmode and the Linux GUI was new and exciting. However, in this day and age, I would expect far more from a distribution. There should be no need for me to enter in the same locale based settings over and over again. Once I'd selected Europe->Western->Dublin as the timezone, the system should have realised that the appropriate locale was en_IE@euro, that the keyboard should be set up with proper Euro support (it doesn't seem to be, AltGr is mapped as Alt so I can't easily print bars, the Euro symbol, or accents for stuff I write in Irish), that the Euro packages should be installed by default (they weren't) and a whole raft of other tiny stuff like KDE and Gnome localisation. Certainly people should be presented with the chance to confirm these options, but it should be a simple matter of hitting Enter most of the way. If they want to change the default, they should first be presented with a list of preconfigured settings for, e.g. keyboards, out of which they can then opt into the sort of technical xfree86, pc105, etc. settings.

This willfull stupidity of the installer extends to other aspects of the setup also - with so many kernels available, Debian should pick the most appropriate one to use for my system. It's not that hard to open up /proc/cpuinfo. Instead I was confronted with a maze of kernels once I got to the software selection stage, installed 2.4.18, and then belatedly realised that only 2.4.16 had the ALSA drivers I wanted. Why not offer two defaults in the final base install screen Kernel-2.2.20-$arch and Kernel-2.4.16-$arch (where $arch is the probed value of the most suitable CPU) with a third option to select the kernel yourself. And for the record, I have no idea what the point of the modules page was - was I meant to manually install each and every module?!

Package Selection
This brings me nicely along to package selection. Tasksel wasn't too bad, though I'd expect more options. For example, instead of X11 have X11, Typical Desktop (Gnome & KDE) and Esoteric Desktop (WindowMaker and Enlightenment) and so on. I was mystified to see I could select Fortran and Tcl/Tk support, but not Perl, PHP, or Java - some of the most popular languages today. However nothing, not in all my 22 years on this Earth, could prepare me for the horrors of dselect. Sweet merciful divine!

Firstly the developers should check out Eugenia's comments on osnews.com [osnews.com] about the new Yast2 package manager, as many of the same things apply. In the end it all boils down to the old KISS clich, keep it simple! Instead of giving a load of choices for dependency resolution with half a million optional packages thrown in, just give n + 1 choices, one for each of the n package/package-combinations that fixes the dependency, and one to install without resolving it. Similarly with conflict resolution it should be remove selected, remove conflicting or ignore.

Worse yet are the help screens that pop up at every opportunity, yet which don't actually explain everything (like the meaning of those EIOM headers at the top of the screen). At the end of the day, it should be fairly obvious what's going on. Leave complex package selection tools for the post install, at this stage people just want to get the damn thing working. It drove me nuts having to pass through that stupid help screen every time a dependency arose.

What's worst of all is that if, for example, dselect fails to download a package from the Internet, it prompts the user with a basic text mode question asking them if they want to cancel. I assumed this meant just cancel that particular package. It didn't, and I found myself dumped into the console on a base system. I knew enough to extricate myself, but this is hardly something the average newbie is going to be able to cope with.

The Installation Overall
I want to make sure people realise I'm not trying to advocate a graphical installer. It would be a good move ahead, and should be available for Debian 4.0, but all the stuff I've mentioned here could be easily implemented in a text-mode installer written using ncurses. In fact, I would recommend a Model-View-Controller approach, with the Model, the bit that does all the actual work, being packed into a library, and two Views being created with, say, ncurses and Qt, each of which uses the Model library to do what's needed.

Debian's installer does have some redeeming features. For one thing it is rock solid. With several versions of Mandrake I have had proble ms setting up the mouse and getting the package selector to install all the selected packages. This didn't happen in Debian. Downloading updates from the web during the install is also a great idea (though I was a little aghast to find my 56K modem facing into 100M of updates). The provision of non-free sites is a great help, given the conflict between Debian's all-free stance and the wants of the average user.

The crucial factor is that the installer should be made as intelligent as possible, and to hide the actual de tails behind Advanced buttons. Guess as much as possible from initial locale data. Use branded names instead of driver names for hardware, be it keyboards, mice, graphics cards or soundcards. I hadn't mentioned this but Debian should aim to have sound working as a default in every new installation, prompting users for their soundcard make from a list in a similar in fashion to the XFree one. In this day and age, every OS should have sound support. By all means, let one of the brands on the list be No Soundcard, but offer to install and configure it at any rate.

Dselect needs to be totally re-designed. I can appreciate its power, but it's far to complex and hard to use. Aim to replicate the way things work in graphical GUIs - have drop down lists and checkboxes which can be ticked to install items, even if said boxes are represented by [ ] and [X]. There is a case to be made for complex package installation software, but half way through an OS install isn't really the place.

The Configured System
Having finally got everything installed, I was, I confess, pretty disappointed with the results. Bugs started appearing. Firstly, when selecting the Irish locale in KDE 2.2.2, I found KDE trying to tell me that the Irish currency was the pound, something which hasn't been the case since the Euro was introduced in 2000, two and a half years ago. Then kwrite decided it wouldn't display documents it opened and konqueror decided all pages should be 2000 pixels wide, even though the window was about 800.

Sound didn't work, and consequently the KDE bootup screen stalled for ages at the window manager stage while arts slowly died, then popped up a No Sound message box. None of the PPP connection tools wor ked when not used by root. None of the hard disk partitions were configured (even though they had been recognised by the piece of code that set up LILO). My CDRW at /dev/hdd wasn't set up, not even as a plain CD-ROM. The menus were all over the place. The fonts in GTK apps were hideously big. XftConfig wasn't set up to disable antialiasing for standard size fonts, nor were the workarounds for symbol and console fonts (mentioned here [kde.org]) included. Another bug.

It was a mess.

Firstly the menus. In Enlightenment and Gnome you have a special Debian menu included with the rest in the app launchers. These menus contain everything. Thus, when you're looking for a program, you just go to the Debian menu and it's all gravy. However the Debian menu wan't included in KDE, instead there were a load of Debian submenus, which didn't seem to include everything. What made this especially heinous was that if a Debian menu had been included in KDE, I could have made a launcher out of it. At this stage, though, I don't believe that's enough. Debian should follow the lead of every other major distro and offer the exact same menu layout throughout. All you need is for graphical packages to install an information file in, e.g. /etc/debmenus, and in the post-install stage run a script which creates from it th e necessary menu entries in all the window managers and environments.

I've got most of the sound and KDE stuff off my chest, though frankly its deeply disappointing. It's the first time I've experienced functional bugs in any KDE version, and I started with 0.99. The only other time I've seen a major bug was a cosmetic issue with KDE 2.1 (?) in SuSE 7.3 which caused vertical stripes to appear on widget background s.

Again I've dealt with the appalling foul up of Euro-support. The support packages should have been installed by default when I selected en_IE@euro. The AltGr-4 keymap should have been set up. As far as I'm concerned these are functional bugs.

The PPP tools could definitely have been set up better. The default setting is only an invitation to newbies to use root for web-browsing. They could be set up using sudo, or else set up them with rwsr-sr-- permissions and root.pppusers ownership. That way, at the user creation screen you could ask if people should have permission to connect to the net, and make them members of the pppaccess group if permission was granted.

GTK, and consequently Mozilla, looked atrocious due to the oversized fonts (look at Windows, MacOS, BeOS, other Linux distros - they all have fonts a round 11px), and changing the default font in GTK is a bit of a struggle for newbies (how obvious is Theme Selector after all). I changed it to Helvetica at 12, and now things look okay.

The fact is, I'm going to have to invest a considerable amount of time just to get things to the same level that Mandrake and RedHat give straight out of the default install. This is not something that will attract new people. Oth erwise the system seems reasonable. I'll have to wait a while before I can make any pronouncements with regard to stability. Anecdotal evidence is extremely positive, but my initial experience hasn't matched. I was a little disappointed with the way files were arranged. I had hoped Debian would lead the world away from RedHat's madness and stick KDE and Gnome in their own subdirectories, e.g. /usr/kde2 -> /usr/kde-2.2.2 and /usr/gnome1 -> /usr/gnome-1.4.1. The fact is, that given what I've had, and will probably get when RedHat 8.0 inevitably starts going around the magazines, it's hard to be upbeat about the Debian desktop.

Conclusions
I'm sure you're aware that this isn't going to be glowing. Debian's installer is several years out of date, and needs a serious overhaul. It's not fit for commercial consumption, and is only good enough for established Debian users and poor wannabe PFYs like myself. This is not a sustainable situation. Apt-get is good, but RPM has caught up with it for the most part thanks to apt-rpm and urpmi. I'll take everyone's word for it and say that Debian is, for the most part, stable. I like the fact that the packagers are willing to hold back and patch existing stable software to get a decent system, and not one that seems to be in permanent beta. This is why I went for it in the first place.

But people who chose Debian aren't rewarded. Installation and post-install configuration is a bit of a nightmare. Debian should organise people to collect code from the Webmin, Linuxconf and Mandrake configuration programs and create Debian's own configuration framework. At this stage of Linux development it's compulsory, even RedHat has finally copped on to this. Indeed, I would recommend following RedHat in several arenas. I believe Bluecurve is free, Debian should package it - it gives everything a nice polished look. People can then change things if they want to. Having worked in MIS a bit, I know that people will always find a way to muck about with display settings, even if word-processors give them palpitations.

I think peopl e should get together and form a DebianDesktop group, committed to creating a package which will install several different themes, configurations and menus. People can be asked near the end of the install if they would like their desktop customised - if they answer yes, this package could be installed. Similarly work should be done on intelligent installers and hardware auto-detection (though the latter is obviously going to be especially difficult for a multi-platform system). The priority should be the simple installer though, hardware detection can wait.

The inspiration for this article was an article [debianplanet.com] I saw on this site a while back bemoaning Debian's loss of mindshare, attributing it in part due to the lack of attention in the media. Most of the pertinent points were made in the article and accompanying comments. An open-source distribution needs mindshare to survive, but the media won't cover distros which don't have the latest whiz-bang desktop software. If Debian formally released a distribution based on the Test tree compiled with GCC 3.2 for 686mmx, its marketshare would explode. Just look at Gentoo, a hideous installation process, but a system equivalent to a Honda Civic with added spoiler, exhausts, alloy wheels and, of course, go-fast stripes. In other words, something for the lads to show off.

Such a system would have the benefit of bringing a lot more bug-reports into the system, g iving a better stable distro. Mandrake are sucking a lot of the talent Debian needs through cooker. They've openly thought about making the distribution packaging process totally open and building a value-added distro around it like Progeny. If this were to happen it would place Debian into a very tough place.

The new Debian needs to blow people away. It needs to be Granny-proof. It needs an installer that people can bluff their way through, with an attractive, well configured desktop on the other side. Debian maintainers should check out the competition now and again, to see where they can improve. Because if they don't, Debian will lose developers, and become less and less of a force in the Linux world

dselect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492658)

However nothing, not in all my 22 years on this Earth, could prepare me for the horrors of dselect. Sweet merciful divine!

I haven't used Debian in 4 years and that's still funny. I just hope I don't have any nightmares tonight from the old memories. Can it still really be as bad as it was in Hamm?

graphical installer is not the way to go (5, Insightful)

g4dget (579145) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492660)

I recently installed Woody, and the text-based nature of the installer wasn't the problem. The problems I had was that the installer was using an outdated kernel by default (2.2), that it couldn't talk to a lot of the hardware I had, and that it was trying to switch the console into some other graphics mode and failing.

Let's not waste time on pretty pictures in the installer; rather, the installer needs to get more robust and support more hardware and installation methods. Installs from USB should be easy (carry Debian on a USB drive key). Installs from RAM disk should be possible (load the entire first stage into RAM using the BIOS, then install from there), and perhaps even the default. Those are the kinds of things that make installs easy, not pretty pictures of penguins.

The Installer (3, Insightful)

Gyorg_Lavode (520114) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492663)

The reason I've always been given for why the installer is so user unfriendly is that the developers and all debian users only run it once ever.

From then on, they just apt-get new versions.

Top 10 reasons why Linux is poor (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4492668)

1. No best browser.
There are lots of browser choices, but there is no one reasonable default choice that can be made available to users. And many of the browsers have something wrong with them.

Konqueror is great - but it has had showstopping bugs in the last two major versions. 2.2.2 had a horrible bug which caused it to lock up about 1 in 10 times when selecting any text in any of the input boxes. I set up Red Hat boxes for numerous friends and coworkers, and trying to explain why the primary browser locked up so often was quite difficult. I thought 3.0 would save us, but alas - it has an even worse bug whereby forms submit incorrectly about 1 time in 5, causing most functionality-oriented sites (including the TrustCommerce merchant admin site) to be completely unusable. My other major complaint with Konq is its jerky page updates: clicking a link will cause a big white box to suddenly obscure part of the current page - compare to Mozilla which updates the display very cleanly. 3.0 was significantly better on this front, but it's still enough of a problem to hurt the user experience. Finally, it's still slow when you have a lot of browser windows open. The worst is when you middle-click a link to a large PNG image (say, the screenshots on the GNOME site). I minimize the window while the image is loading, but in the meantime my other browser windows become _very_ unresponsive; trying to scroll is jerky and difficult. Very unpleasant.

Mozilla-based browsers are the best. They render most pages correctly and enjoy the commercial support of being the basis for Netscape. However, Mozilla is not integrated with any desktop environment, making tasks such as printing, accessing the file open or save dialogs, and cut-n-paste unpleasant. Galeon is the best browser currently available, to my mind, but the lack of anti-aliased fonts keeps me going back to Konqueror. Opera is good, but it's commercial, and suffers badly from the default fonts being ugly.

Solution? Browser developers need to focus on removing the remaining impediments to user-friendliness. Konq needs to be faster and smoother in its display, and stop shipping with major bugs that make it nearly unusable. Mozilla needs to get better desktop integration (such as being able to specify your mail client, and ditching that lame file dialog for the default GTK dialog) and anti-aliased fonts for rendering. Whichever browser is the first to come to completeness on these points should then be chosen as the default by distributions. It's a tight race, and one that will no doubt be won in the next couple of months. Hopefully it will be a tie - having several 'best' browsers would be awesome!

2. Prompting for a filesystem scan.
If you accidentally cut the power to your desktop at the wrong moment, here's what happens. The system boots, tries to scan the filesystem, can't recover the journal, and panics. You are prompted to enter the root password, and then you're expected to type some cryptic commands like "fsck /dev/rd/c0d0p2", possibly answer a bunch of cryptic questions, and then reboot. Does anyone enjoy going through this process? Does anyone find themselves wanting to answer "no" to the question of whether to fix inode 327? I doubt it. The system should just fix the filesystem, even if it means losing a few recently-written inodes, and get on with booting, without asking the user anything.

Think it's better server-side? No: it's much, much worse. Now when a machine hardlocks (say, due to hardware that is overheating due to heavy load - a common scenario if you're using standard PC hardware and your webserver gets slashdoted), and you call the colocation facility to ask them to reboot the box, the thing doesn't come back online. Now you've got to ask the person in the facility to wheel a monitor over and plug it in, give them your root password, and tell them to type the aforementioned cryptic command. This SUCKS, bad. (Apparently it sucks so much my grammar is starting to suffer!)

3. Printing needs to be easier to configure.
For years I struggled with /etc/printcap; I never could seem to get it to work quite right, especially for sharing printers on the network. I found it easier to write device drivers for the Linux kernel than to set up a stupid printer! (I have written a total of three device drivers for the kernel, but I have yet to construct a working printcap file.) Today things are better: GUI programs such as Red Hat's printconf-gui and Mandrakes PrinterDrake make it possible for mere mortals to set up a printer. But still they remain too difficult. For example, Red Hat does not install the printer on startup: the user needs to know to type "su" and then "printconf-gui" at the command prompt. Both have the problem of prompting you for which driver you would like to use for certain printer types. For example, I have a basic HP Deskjet at home. Mandrake gave me two choices for the driver, while Red Hat give me a whopping five! Asking the user questions they are likely to find irrelevant is very bad UI design. The user doesn't care what driver they use, they just want to be able to print at the maximum speed and quality possible. If you want to hide this choice in an "advanced" tab somewhere, that's fine: but don't force them to make the choice!

Ideally printer install should work like this. You run the printer install program, and it gives you two choices: "Set up a printer attached to my computer", and "Set up a printer from the network." The first choice looks in /proc/sys/dev/parport/parport?/autoprobe and determines the type of printer that is connected and choses a driver for it. It displays the type of printer detected, then asks you one last question: "Do you want to share this printer with people on your local network?" After answering this question, it sets up the printer, and you're done. Snap. Click. Sorted.

4. Make it easy for the user to find out how to do things.
Most Linux distributions come with a ton of applications, development tools, and support for all sorts of fancy devices. But none of this is very obvious when you boot into KDE or GNOME for the first time. The menu contains a few apps but they are scattered about and don't have names that reveal what they do. The vast majority of tools on the system aren't even in the menus. We need to make it easy for a new user to find out how to do stuff with their shiny new OS, without having to do a web search to find out.

This is, IMO, Linux's top strength on the desktop. Windows comes with an email client, a web browser, and Freecell. MacOS has the same, but iTunes in place of Freecell. You really can't do much with a default install of either OS. On the other hand, Linux comes with a wealth of applications and toys that could keep the user busy for years without ever downloading or purchasing any additional software. Let's make this obvious! Here's how.

There should be an "I want to..." dialog (though this can be turned off if you're an advanced user). It should be a large icon on the desktop which is very obvious to any user. Clicking it will open the dialog. At the top is written the text, "I want to..." and below are a long list of things that you can do with your system. These might need to be grouped by expandable categories, as the list could get very long. Here are a few things I suggest:

  • Browse the web
  • Read email
  • Chat (IRC/AOL/Yahoo/Jabber/...)
  • Burn a CD
  • Install a printer
  • Set up a modem
  • Set up a DSL or cable modem
  • Make my computer server web pages
  • Share my files with others on my local network (NFS)
  • Access someone else's shared files (NFS)
  • Download pictures from my digital camera (GPhoto)
  • Paint a picture or touch up a photograph (Gimp)
ELX is the one distro I have seen that tries something like this, but it suffers from the same problem as the KDE & GNOME menus: it gives you a list of programs you can run, instead of tasks that you can do. People use computers to do things, not to run programs.

5. Cleaner redraws.
This has long been a complaint of mine in almost every OS and desktop environment: slow or flickery window updates. I have only ever seen one OS do it right, and that's Mac OS X. This isn't a speed issue, really; it's a how-you-update-the-screen issue. Mac OS X pops a window onto the screen all at once. Presumably it does any drawing that it needs to do on a back buffer and then blits it to the screen when it's all done, just like a video game. Even on a slower system, it still appears very "clean" - the window just takes a little while to appear. But you don't see any ugly drawing artifacts in the meantime. Mac OS X is great.

The latest version of Windows is not bad; mostly I think this is due to the fast speed of modern hardware coupled with the minimal eye candy that the OS offers. Things like the file explorer still don't update all at once, but it's a minor point; they've mostly got it right.

KDE, on the other hand, continues to flicker and pop. Here's a key example: click on the "home" icon in your menu bar. The window pops onscreen, but many of the drawing elements (the files themselves, but many widgets) are temporarily drawn as large white or grey boxes. A split second later the full images appear. Even on a high-end system it looks a little funny; on a slow system it looks terrible.

This is not a functionality issue, so in many ways its not that important. But it is a "user experience" issue; people coming from Mac OS X or even Windows will find their experience a little less pleasant, and that makes them less likely to come back.

6. Die stray processes, die!
In Linux when a process messes up you can exit X, drop to a console, and start running "killall kdeinit", "killall mozilla", etc, but this is lame and for non-technical users it boils down to the same thing. Possible solution: when in X, WM should keep track of processes and the windows they are attached to. When an app has no windows concat(or the main window is not open), the WM should attempt to kill them (first normally, then with -9). This functionality could be configured for debugging whereby instead of killing them, it attaches gdb to the process so that developers could figure out why there are stray processes.

7. Easy way of sharing files.
Ideally a right-click on a directory and chose "share this directory". Be able to pull up a list of all folders you are sharing and change permissions or remove the sharing.

8. Sound support.
OSS was great a few years ago and continues to offer support for modern cards (including professional quality ones such as the Midiman Delta 1010, which is what I have) but it is commercial and it is showing its age. ALSA is a superior solution and has been rolled into the dev kernel. Once it makes its way into the stable kernel and distros start using it uniformly (Mandrake, SuSE, and a few others have offered it for some time now) along with a good configuration tool, audio on Linux will rock.

9. No common editor which supports "soft wrapping."
By which I mean displaying things wordwrapped, even when it's one long line. This means you can go back and edit the line and the rest of the paragraph will reformat itself automatically. Evolution's message editor does this, but that doesn't help me for composing text files (like this one!). Others I've tried - Kate, GEdit, and even vi - only support "hard wrapping", where it inserts a newline when you get to the end of the line. Then when you insert more words into the paragraph later, the formatting gets all screwy.

10. No easy way to configure X - especially change resolution on the fly.
This varies by distribution, but I the resolution issue is a common one. (The only distro I have seen that does it right was Corel 1.0. You could change your resolution from the KDE control panel. However, I believe this is because they were using the commercial X server Metro-X.) It boggles my mind that, after all these years, the best way to configure X is to run Xconfigurator from the console! This is, I believe, the longest running embarrassment of the free software desktop.

RE: The Debian Planet review (5, Interesting)

lewp (95638) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492670)

I just don't think this guy is part of what you would call Debian's "target audience". Part of the reason I like Debian is that it doesn't make me go sorting through a huge list of video cards. I know that I need the nv driver and that I'll probably be quickly switching it to the nvidia driver once the system is up and running.

In fact, I have pre-written and tweaked XFree86 configuration files for each of my different machines available on one box via scp. There's no need to even ask me X questions in a system installer.

You may not have the option to install PHP from the setup menu, but I don't really care. I already know the name of the package to apt-get (not like the name isn't obvious) and I'd rather just type apt-get install php than go digging through potentially thousands of packages in a GUI list to find it. Hell, even if I didn't know it, I could fairly easily just apt-cache search php and find out.

On a different note, Java probably isn't readily available due to legal issues with Sun. FreeBSD is the same way, you have to manually fetch the necessary distribution file from java.sun.com. It's not like this is hard to do.

I'm not trying to troll or be a jerk. I like Debian because, as an experienced user, it gets out of my way most of the time and what it *does* do for me is truly useful. Its package system makes it extremely quick and easy for me to keep my systems up to date without burying me in a mountain of GUI widgets.

I respect the reviewers opinion, and don't necessarily have a problem with the review. I would, however, ask that he understand that there are tons of distributions out there right now. Some are geared towards people who don't want to get some dirt under their fingernails, and a precious few are geared towards those who either do or who have and are fully comfortable with it. Some of the former even have Debian underpinnings with a face he would be more happy with. Maybe there's not a problem with Debian, maybe it's just not for him.

Time spent configuring is time well spent. (5, Interesting)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492677)

Often when you do all things by hand you end up with a much better system than if everything is done automagically. Because only you know what you want its hard for someone else to do it for you. Usually you only configure an application once and since i dont install/uninstall apps all day (isnt fun anymore, i use my apps instead) the time spent tweaking files is very small once you get the system flying.

I think there exists space for all variations of linux dists and together they provide an excellent path for some people like me to walk on. Start off with a nice easy dist and as you grow you go towards Debian/Slack/Gentoo etc. One of the many reasons that i left windows was that i felt stuck, squeezed between MS and its developers. The same apply for very userfriendly dists too. I like the control and system-knowledge it gives me when i build my own system from scratch.

I really dont think we should push all dists towards user friendly. There are disadvantages with that too as it tends to empower n00bs at the expence of experienced users. More flawors is better as long as they all follow the Linux Standard Base.

Debian is for people that *know* (4, Insightful)

Froze (398171) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492701)

what they want!

I have to maintain a dozen RH boxes and a half dozen mandrake boxes, it sucks compared to keeping a Debian system up.

Further trying to build a dedicated server from RH of Mandrake is terrible. For security reasons a minimal install is best, but its just plain hard to get with "we know what you want" distros.

debian is also getting a complete overhaul in the installer dept. remade from scratch with a modular interface (you want gui? ok, you want dialog, ok you want webmin that will be there also) that will be able to interface with any installer layout you choose (if the interface module exists, or yo uwrite one ;-).

Hmm (2, Insightful)

parkanoid (573952) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492705)

Well, I looked at the reviews and honestly didn't see anything wrong. Yes, it uses a nice, compact, no hand-holding installer. An installation system that does not do anything more than it needs. No autodetection routines that stuff binary drivers into the kernel. No control panels and flashy utilis that do things for you. Yeah, debian is great, what's your point?

The install sucks, but is that the point? (5, Insightful)

Kenneth Stephen (1950) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492710)

The point of having a server OS is to get it to do useful work without having it hinder / annoy / frustrate you. The ease of install is important in getting the OS installed. Debian certainly lacks in that area. But only a novice would consider the ease of installation a detraction so severe that it overshadows the other good or excellent properties of the server. And trust me : you do not want a novice to administer a production server.

I confess that I am a Debian fan. Despite that, I am able to percieve Debian's deficiencies. The install certainly sucks. I had the pleasure of recently installing Redhat v7.3 . After dealing with Debian's install, the Redhat installer simply took my breath away. It was that smooth. However, the time came to put the OS to use. I needed a way to convert postscript files to pdf. For that, I installed ghostscript on Redhat. It did the conversion alright, but the generated document was useless to me because the fonts werent installed on the system. I repeated the same process on Debian : the dependancies took care to install all required fonts. Voila - the document displayed correctly!

Now would you prefer an OS that works easier over an OS that installs better?

My First Distro (2)

Nerant (71826) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492714)

Back in 1999, when I first switched to Linux, (slashdot being one of the places that had informed me about it), the first boxed distro I picked up at the local stores was Debian GNU/Linux, with the free
"Learning Debian GNU/Linux" book from O'Reilly. I did things the old fashioned way: I did websearches for my hardware to make sure they were supported, and dove right into the install.
It took me around 10 mins to setup X. Sound was a bit more problematic, but #debian proved helpful.
Unfortunately, that box died, and I had to get a replacement earlier this year, but my point is : the installer isn't really hard, but Debian expects more from the user in terms of knowledge. And honestly, reliable hardware autodetection should be one of them by now.

well (1)

waspleg (316038) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492719)

i built a k6-2 450 out of spare parts a few days ago (192 mb ram/ 4gb scsi 2 harddrive pirated from an old mac/ 32mb tnt 2 ultra)

i wasted a stack of cd's downloading and attempting to install redhat 8 which froze at precisely 13% during the install regardless of what I did (i tried *everything* to make it work, different filesystems/different partitioning schemes/different bootloaders).

i then gave up and made 2 diskettes for a debian install and a couple hours later had a perfectly good working debian install w/ the net install option (a fan of which I had been previously from my extremely positive experiences with OpenBSD), yea the mouse which is a usb trackball -> ps/2 adapter -> 9 pin serial adapter doesn't work and neither does X but at least I have a workable system where RedHat failed miserably for all it's pretty GUI-installer fame

having said that, and being a 7 year *nix veteran, i can say that dselect STILL sucks (as it did when i first tried debian 2.2 on my laptop years ago) but at least most of the library dependency problems seemt o hav ebeen fixed and apt-get is badass (read fuckabunchofrpms)

$.02

Review of Reviews (5, Interesting)

twitter (104583) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492738)

Review #1, thanks but no thanks.

I've stuck with solely because of drakconf and it's associated tools, which make configuring a Linux system a breeze. However lately I've been aspiring to ascend to guru status, or at the very least PFY, so I gave Debian a whirl.

Here's a three step plan to help you become a guru. First, go to the mountian and climb it. Simply climbing it will help, but from the view on the mountian will make you wise. Second, spend time on the mountian. This will give you time to reflect on it and feel its moods, even modify it to suit your own tastes. Third, master the mountian. Once you have learned all it's quirks, you are encouraged to modify the mountian for the benifit of others. In time, you will learn that the simple text based install saves you much grief and hearache, though I would not compare it to the Red Hat install because I don't work on Red Hat much. Everything can be better.

Review #2, allas the same thing:

There are no automatic detection routines for your hardware, no automatic disk partitioning. It took us several attempts to get everything installed and working correctly.

There is X autodetect which has worked for me in the past. As for auto partition, no thanks. I like to set myself up myself, thank you, and the guidlines are where I learned that.

Strangely, this review was more unbiased than the first which proported to be so. It correctly noted that Debian's distribution system rocks. Dselect is a great tool that works for more than simple installs. Reading the insturctions that you MUST click out, you learn that simple vi style searches work! Awsome, type a partial name and your package is found. A graphical front end to this might be nice, but nothing is cooler than being able to secure shell into a box and configure it completely with a few keystrokes, without the overhead of pictures of boxes.

The short of it for me is that Debian easier to keep going once you have it up.

Get over the installer (5, Insightful)

child_of_mercy (168861) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492744)

Jesus christ, when will people get over the installer???

The average windows user should never see the installer, ditto the average linux user.

Debian users don't pay attention to the installer because we see it just the once.

Linux distro revieers on the other hand never do any real work with a system, just install, install, install.

Debian runs hard and strong and updates itself.

Because it doesn't rely on tech support for funding it's set up to minmise questions by newbies, by actually installing software so it'll run.

I can't program worth a damm, but once i figured out how to edit a config file, that was as far as i had to develop my skill to get debian boxes hard at work on a number of jobs.

Other distro's look flasher installing (try doing a net install off a pair of floppies tho) but after that you're pretty much on your own.

A serious review would be comparing using the machines for a year, but thats beyond IT journalism in general, and linux journalism in particular.

Debian not for dummies (5, Insightful)

dh003i (203189) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492745)

haha...ok, forgive my little play on words.

Debian is not for newbies. It is *possible* for a newbie to install Debian, but only if they know their exact hardware specifications and have studied the Debian installation guides thoroughly. I installed Debian as my first Linux distro, and I'll agree with this author -- its a bitch to install. I knew my exact hardware specs and thoroughly pre-read through the install documentation (this was a graphical install guide) before starting. It was still a bitch. Then there's the setting it up so it meets your needs: another big bitch.

Hence, Debian is not for newbies. Its even confusing for experts. Now that I've used Debian for several years, I know it. But its install process is still unworthy. Do the developers try to make the install as confusing and non-sensical as possible? Is their model for installation, "Debian installer, dumb and daft by default"? A graphical install isn't necessary; in fact, graphical install's don't make it that much easier to install, and are probably a waste of valuable development time. Most users are still smart enough to figure out how to navigate through a text-based install using hte arrow keys if you tell them how to do it with on-screen help (i.e., up to move to previous item, etc).

Conclusion: Debian is not for dummies ;-). If you're a new user and want the benefits of Debian (i.e., true to the Free Software spirit, stable as a rock, more secure, great package management system, and lots of packages), then get Libranet or Lindows. Personally, I'd recomment Lindows, as it seems to have more momentum and is even being included on dirt-cheap PC's sold at Walmart. Btw, for those misinformed /.ers, Lindows does not violate the GPL [lindows.com]. I assume that their CD also comes with an offer to ship you the source at the cost of shipment.

Conclusion: Debian for the daring, Lindows & Libranet for learners. You can get Lindows by paying an $99 dollar membership fee [lindows.com], after which you can have Lindows shipped to your house or download it. Don't bitch about the price. And no, they're not offering it for free download off the internet (and NO, that doesn't violate the GPL). These people actually have a business plan which will keep them in business. Personally, I think that $99 is great, since it gives you access future versions of Lindows. After two years, you're click-'n-run deal runs out, and you can purchase click-'n-run service if you still want it.

The thing I like about Lindows is they have a REAL business plan. They seem to be pursuing Lindows as an OS to be installed on computers off the shelf (refer to Walmart), and seem to be pushing for OEMs to have it on their machines off-the-shelf. They also have ways to make money through their valuable click-'n-run service. Best of all, they aren't offering their entire modified version of Debian GNU/Linux online for free download. This mean's that they're not going to become another dot-bomb. Freeloaders, don't whine; if you want something for free (as in $0), get Debian GNU/Linux.

Suggestion to Debian developers: don't waste time with a graphical install, but do make the install more intelligent and logical, with auto-detection; have good default setup. Things should be set up to a good default when you boot into Debian; i.e., 12pt fonts, the WM of your choice set up to a reasonable and useable default (I'd recommend them working on a good default for KDE, GNOME, and WindowMaker).

But don't fret too much over newbie-nicities. Commercial wrap-arounds for Debian like Lindows and Libranet will make a Debian which has great defaults and is easy for the newbies. They will spend their coding time on making reasonable defaults and an easy install. Debian Developers should spend most of their coding time on hard technical details.

News flash... (-1, Flamebait)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492752)

On tonights news... Linux lacks features real human beings need to make it work, so they choose Windows and OSX instead.

Linux: by geeks, for geeks, and only the geeks.

Debian 3.0 Install (3, Insightful)

jhysong (618118) | more than 11 years ago | (#4492757)

I recently switched to Debian 3.0 after having used Mandrake from version 7.2 to 9.0.

While the Debian installation isn't as polished as Mandrake's I did not find it to be, as the Debian Planet review states,"an awfully stupid piece of software". The installation seemed to me to be pretty straightforward and I'm no guru. I did make sure that I knew what each piece of hardware in my computer was before I tried the install. That made module selection fairly simple. I'll admit that I was intimidated a bit by dselect and I only used it for a few packages.

Overall I'm very impressed with Debian 3.0. I tried 2.2 a while back but it seemed so outdated that I stayed with Mandrake. After using 3.0 for a few days now, I think I'm going to make this change permanent.
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