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Interview with Debian Project Leader

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the do-you-hurd-what-i-hurd dept.

Debian 287

brunotorres writes "I've interviewed Martin Michlmayr, Debian project leader. In this interview we talked about the upcoming Debian release, Sarge. An excerpt: 'We heard for years that Debian is hard to install and the old installer wasn't very easy to maintain or advance, so we we decided to throw the installer away and start from scratch. The new installer is much more modular, which makes it easier to maintain and extend.'" Reader ron_ivi points out that new Debian/Hurd CDs are available. Newsforge and Slashdot are both part of OSTG.

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First post! (0, Offtopic)

Heftklammerdosierer! (846009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258579)

I claim this post in the name of the lacrosse racket revoltuion!

--<#)

Heh, choice quote, taken out of context, I'm sure (4, Funny)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258596)

We heard for years that Debian is hard to install and the old installer wasn't very easy to maintain or advance, so we we decided to throw the installer away and start from scratch. The new installer is much more modular, which makes it easier to maintain and extend.

heh, so if I'm reading this right, they know the old installer is hard to use, but they really don't care. The new one is easier to extend and maintain, and that's all that's important. :)

My thoughts exactly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258656)

The new one is easier to extend and maintain

So what he's saying is that if the new installer is easy to use, it's now trivial for a developer to make it just as hard as it used to be!

Perhaps they're going for backwards-compatability?

Re:Heh, choice quote, taken out of context, I'm su (4, Informative)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258666)

The quote, in context:
NF: [interviewer] What are the most important features of the new installer?

MM: [interviewee] We heard for years that Debian is hard to install and the old installer wasn't very easy to maintain or advance, so we we decided to throw the installer away and start from scratch. The new installer is much more modular, which makes it easier to maintain and extend. From the user's point of view, the new installer is much easier to use. It asks fewer questions than the old one, does automatic hardware detection, and has several other new features, such as automatic detection of other operating system on your machine. It also supports RAID and LVM.

Re:Heh, choice quote, taken out of context, I'm su (4, Funny)

MikeMacK (788889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258688)

which makes it easier to maintain and extend.

Wouldn't Viagra accomplish the same thing.

Re:Heh, choice quote, taken out of context (1)

rkuris (541364) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259046)

Exactly! It would solve that, and anything else Micro and Soft.

Re:Heh, choice quote, taken out of context, I'm su (1)

nocomment (239368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258757)

I didn't think the old one was all that hard. Quite similar to OpenBSD's dead-simple 2 minute install.

Re:Heh, choice quote, taken out of context, I'm su (1)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258828)

RTFA.

Re:Heh, choice quote, taken out of context, I'm su (1)

bkhl (189311) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259108)

No, he's saying they're changing it so that it will be possible to maintain it and advance it, which will lead to it being easier to use. After using the new installer a couple of times, I can assure you it's true. It's the simplest GNU/Linux install I've seen to date.

Maybe it's just me.. (1)

odyrithm (461343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258597)

but this looks like stormix... I wonder what happened to those guys, stormix was a great deb based distro.

Wait wait wait.... (2, Interesting)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258599)

I've always thought there should be two versions of linux: bleeding edge, and ignorant housewife editions.

Red Hate falls squarely into the ignorant housewife category, where gentoo and LFS are for linux users with balls of steel.

Unless you can do source on the fly, I don't see the gentoo-type crowd getting excited over this.

Just my $.02 (that's $4.00 canadian)

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258627)

Unless you can do source on the fly, I don't see the gentoo-type crowd getting excited over this.
You're right!

Re:Wait wait wait.... (2, Interesting)

odyrithm (461343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258644)

No I'm sorry but running a few scripts(gentoo) does NOT make your a user with "balls of steel". Vanilla LFS maybe, but even that is step by step instructions pretty much.

If you want to have fun try putting HURD together with GNU, useless but something a user with "balls of steel" would do, or far to much time on there hands :P

And what the heck do you mean by "source on the fly"???? to me that says vm language(scripted).. but I'm guessing you ment something clever.

Re:Wait wait wait.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258697)

Give it a rest.

I use RedHat. I use gentoo.

They both suck. RedHat is not always as friendly as you think and when (yes, when) it breaks, there are layers of "friendliness" (read: nonstandard file conventions, &c.) you have to decipher.

Gentoo, last I used it, had goddamned typos in the fsck invocations in /etc/rc.d/... That basically was enough to scare me away from using it for a year or two.

Re:Wait wait wait.... (5, Informative)

kneeless (837507) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258724)

Unless you can do source on the fly
apt-get source gnuchess --compile

Mod parent up and grandparent idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258779)

One of the things I like most about debian is how easy it is to compile stuff from source if you are so inclined. I haven't found anything similar in any other binary distribution.

To answer the grandparents assumption, as someone who is using gentoo now for a long time I can assure you that something like this will appeal to the gentoo crowd. At least to the majority of the gentoo crowd who use gentoo because it's a great system and not because it makes same feel 1337.

Re:Mod parent up and grandparent idiot (1)

selfabuse (681350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259230)

it's not linux, but the FreeBSD ports system is the easiest compile form source system I've ever used. (Not saying anything bad about debian- I actually prefer it. Just saying that other people have the compile-from-source thing down pretty well too)

Re:Wait wait wait.... (3, Insightful)

EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258744)

I've always thought there should be two versions of linux: bleeding edge, and ignorant housewife editions.

There's a third: A powerful version that is stable. I need to spend my time using Linux to do things for my job, I don't like to spend time debugging the OS.

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258759)

I've always thought there should be two versions of linux: bleeding edge, and ignorant housewife editions.

I'd rather have a bleeding housewife version and an ignorant edge version myself...

Re:Wait wait wait.... (2, Informative)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258761)

The current debian release (woody) works ABSOLUTELY finely for me. Its very stable. Of course, I can't boast to others about having the latest version of GEyeCandy but I really don't give a shit. If I want the latest version of a particular program I can upgrade it independently (and there are backports from sarge of several important programs available for woody. so you can't complain about X not working). No one is going to need the latest versions of EVERY fucking package in their distro. But in case you do, you can use testing. Its pretty stable. At least it's as stable as all those distros out there whose version numbers cannot be stored in a 32-bit ints.

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258855)

Yes, please wait.

I can't really tell you how tired I'm getting of people flaming everyone that dares to say that the stable release of debian being so old might be a problem. Read the interview, even the debian project leader is addressing this issue, but you chose to tell everyone that you don't need the latest version of GEyeCandy. Great!

While this is fine, did it ever occur to you that it might really pose a problem for a lot of people that certain hardware nowadays found in servers simply isn't supported in woody? Would you agree that this is a serious problem, or do you prefer to keep on flaming?

Re:Wait wait wait.... (1)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259062)

Read my post again. Especially read the parts about backports and ugrading independent packages. Then, google for the word backport to know its meaning. And then tell me, do you prefer to keep on flaming?

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259091)

Yes, using backports is a great way to deal with these problems on a production system, especially if you can't even get debian installed on the system as the hardware is not supported.

Nice to see that you chose to take the keep on flaming option.

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258777)

You're forgetting server Linux, which is precisely where Debian has its niche today. The only time I won't use it for a server is if I need commercial support.

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258927)

Unfortunately the only servers Debian works on are already obsolete.

Gentoo? (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258795)

Gentoo is as easy as talking a walk in the park with your nanny. I've used Gentoo on several architectures, and even done a networked install of Gentoo on a MIPS-based SGI-box with no problem whatsoever -- and I don't even know a single programming language. Gentoo is perfect for ignorant people. It may even make them feel they're learning something, although they don't.

Now, configuring GRUB to boot the Hurd, that was a bit more difficult the last time I tried. If you want to harden your balls, you can try the Hurd.

Why linux doesn't sell well... (2, Funny)

copponex (13876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258871)

Oh, you don't know anything about computers? Try our Ignorant Housewife edition. See, it's for stupid people - like you.

Re:Why linux doesn't sell well... (2, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258899)

I wonder how often something called Ignorent Housewife Edition' would be downloaded?

Re:Why linux doesn't sell well... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259207)

Change .iso to .avi and it'd get plenty of hits!

Re:Wait wait wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258894)

Red Hat Enterprise is what fortune 100 companies use on their servers. Gentoo and LFS are for linux users without hair on their balls.

funny (0, Redundant)

the_mpls_guy (844170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258606)

they didnt say that the new one was easier to use from an end user perspective.. wasn't that the first complaint?

Ubuntu Linux is based on Dabian.. (4, Informative)

Uptown Joe (819388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258609)

http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ They will mail (snail) you 10 copies for free... The installer is nice and the desktop looks pretty damn good... Uptown (not an Ubuntu salesman) Joe

Re:Ubuntu Linux is based on Dabian.. (3, Informative)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258778)

IIRC, ubuntu uses the new debian-installer.

First Post. (-1, Offtopic)

pdangel (812046) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258613)

First Post

Wow - that's pretty cool... (1)

Uptown Joe (819388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258631)

only, what about all the other posts.

Re:Wow - that's pretty cool... (1)

pdangel (812046) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259081)

Well shit. I am on a CDMA wireless card that getting me 33kps....I swear I was first post. Just everyone posted while I was sending my 9 alpha character post.

I like the debian installer. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258620)

The only system out of about a dozen (including about 2/3 headless systems, with no monitor) that I've installed Debian, the only one that didn't work was VirtualPC-with-over-500MB-of-Ram.

All the other architectures I tried (Suns, _old_ x86s, _new_ x86s) worked great.

I really reall really like the fact that the minimal install and the installer itself doesn't require the X-windows bloat.

Re:I like the debian installer. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258678)

Oh, and oddly, VirtualPC with under 500MB of ram worked fine.

And in case anyone wonders, the reason we're installing Debian under VirtualPC is that the application runs on Linux, but the salesguys run around with Windows laptops. The combination actually works very well for letting non-techie salesguys demo and sell Linux products.

Missing Question: (5, Funny)

ypoint (551981) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258639)

Is Your Development Project a Sinking Ship?

Re:Missing Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258990)

Don't be cruel... Debian is relevant, as always:
They've almost finished their 2.4 release.

What? (5, Insightful)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258640)

So now, is HURD so unimportant to slashdot that news related to it is just grouped under some other news? The same slashdot that carries a front page story about even release candidates of the Linux kernel?

Re:What? (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258660)

Why do you think the HURD is more important right now then a footnote in a Debian story? That said I don't think that every rc and minor point release of Linux needs to be front page either.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258719)

I'll tell you what, when Hurd gets ppp, that will be news.

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258732)

When has HURD ever been important to _anyone_ except HURD developers?

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258743)

Sorry to rant here, but hurd is a nice ongoing research project doomed to fail in the long run.... The reasons, to few developers, not to much interest by the people who initiated the project in the first run as it seems, almost no moving forward, critical things after 10 years not implemented (a decent filesystem etc...) hurd is a nice concept with a partial implementation after 10 years, the time it will reach the finally usable status, Stallman and others will have died of age.

Re:What? (1)

lederhosen (612610) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259024)

What is wrong with ext2? ext3 is comming.

What is lacking is soundcard support and pcmcia.

Re:What? (4, Funny)

hayden (9724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259205)

So now, is HURD so unimportant to slashdot that news related to it is just grouped under some other news?
Yes.

Hurd CDs (2, Interesting)

jdowland (764773) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258650)

I'm looking forward to a Hurd LiveCD - I understand this is technically pretty complex but when it happens, trying out hurd will be simplified massively.

Damn installer (4, Funny)

Tsiangkun (746511) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258667)

The only time it gave me headaches was when I banged my head on the desk trying to seewhat type of chipset my ethernet card had, and what type of graphics card was inside the box.

As long as you know what type of hardware you have, debian is simple to install, and very easy to keep updated. I think most people just don't like to read the text on screen detailing exactly what's going on during the install.

And even in that case... (4, Informative)

phorm (591458) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259154)

(after you've chosen a boot often such as "vanilla" or "bf24" and then selected a language)

ALT+F2
cat /proc/pci

voila! Hardware devices (well, PCI/AGP anyhow).

Why Debian over Gentoo? (3, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258687)

Well, I wondered the same thing until I tried out Debian and realized you could do interesting things like downgrade packages to previous versions. In general, the install system had features Portage doesn't, until the next version of Portage anyway.

That didn't stop me from happily moving to FreeBSD, however. :)

Re:Why Debian over Gentoo? (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258961)

I've always thought that the Debian and FreeBSD installers where closer in wording and usage than Mandrake/Suse/Redhat installers.

But as installers go, I always thought OS and package installers should be 2 programs. You create your boot system, then install software. That way, its secure, boots, and you can add/remove software after a stable secure install.

The unified install system seems to complicate issues for new users. You boot, login, then type "setup". (Or at least symlink config/yast/netconf/whatever)

Re:Why Debian over Gentoo? (2, Informative)

neiras (723124) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258973)

Uh oh! Someone didn't do their homework!

Gentoo has always allowed you to downgrade packages to any previous version. The revdep-rebuild script will even attempt to fix any broken dynamic linkage that might result.

emerge =packagename-old.version && revdep-rebuild
will do the trick, and then you'll need to edit
/etc/portage/package.mask
to mask versions newer than the old one you installed.

I bet you're having fun with BSD if you missed such an obvious feature of Portage :D

Re:Why Debian over Gentoo? (1)

Jon Michaelchuck (845392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259082)

Or perhaps because some people don't like to wait for compiles, and don't see the inherent advantage of compiling all system software. Personally I'd rather have GNOME updated in 5 minutes rather than an hour.

Clever Martin (4, Funny)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258710)

From TFA:
NF: [interviewer] When will we be able to celebrate Sarge's release?

MM: [interviewee] There's currently no date for the release. There are a number of show-stoppers related to our infrastructure which we have to sort out before we can make a release. We hope Sarge will come out near the beginning of the year.

Clever Martin! He doesn't say which year.

Sarge is great. When it becomes the new Stable, I may just switch from Testing to Stable.

Re:Clever Martin (1)

batkiwi (137781) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258884)

For how long though? 3 months? 1 year? 2 years?

I'm a testing user myself (even on my servers, which are non-mission-critical friend-and-family web server).

Yes. Debian on the desktop might become a reality! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258717)

"The desktop is very important for us and we know that our current release cycle is just too slow. We are currently discussing moving to time-based releases (the model which, for example, GNOME follows and in which a release is made every n months according to a very thorough and well-planned schedule). Obviously, the big question is how often we should release, and here we have to take two conflicting requirements into account. The server people don't want to upgrade too often, while many (but certainly not all) desktop users want to see frequent releases. At the moment, a 12- to 18-month cycle is in discussion. We are also working on security support for our testing distribution, which will allow people who want cutting-edge but tested software to use testing."

It's great to see that the debian guys are actually acknowledging this problem (wheras some debian diehard user will tear your head of if you even dare to mention it)
Either having a time based release schedule or adding security support to testing would certainly the step needed to make debian really a great desktop solution.

Way to go debian devs!

Why does every distribution need to reinvent wheel (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258721)

Why does each and every distribution need to reinvent the installer and the package management tools and the portage system and the system layout?

Can't we have just one installer, one package management tool and one portage system that is shared by all the linux distributions, the bsd variants, OS X fink, windows cygwin, the comercial vendors, and all the rest?

I mean really, reinventing a new tool to do something that people have been doing for 30 years is the height of arrogance. And even if they do invent their own package management system, does it only have to run with their own custom portage system? Can we have multiple interfaces to just one portage system that works across all posix systems?

Ideally I should be able to pop in a DVD, and have a single installer come up that lets me mix and match my kernel with my package management system and select what packages I want to install and then have it install them in a known location that is the same as everyone elses in the world.

I should be able to deploy a software package one time and just have it compile and install itself on any unix like system. And work.

All you separate distributions and operating systems need to get off your high horses and share the labor for things that are common between all of you. This is why we don't have unix on every desktop right now. The fragmentation is killing adoption of unix on the desktop.

Re:Why does every distribution reinvent the wheel (2, Insightful)

flossie (135232) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258831)

... because the old square wheels weren't good enough. And the newer triangular wheels weren't much better.

Why does it matter if the wheel is constantly re-invented? No one is forcing you to do the reinvention and you don't have to use the new wheels.

Freedom to tinker is a major part of the driving force behind free software at the moment. As for fragmentation "killing adoption of unix on the desktop" (assuming that you are including GNU/Linux with unix), there are more *nix systems on desktops now than there ever have been previously. Strength through diversity, etc.

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (4, Insightful)

mccalli (323026) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258865)

Can't we have just one installer, one package management tool and one portage system that is shared by all the linux distributions, the bsd variants, OS X fink, windows cygwin, the comercial vendors, and all the rest?

Well, Debian and OS X Fink do share an install system - apt-get. "All the Linux distributions"? Would be nice, but there are a fair few .deb-based ones out there now. RedHat and Cygwin share a system I believe (I'm prepared to be corrected here), because Cygwin was originally has ties to RedHat.

Ideally I should be able to pop in a DVD, and have a single installer come up...

Ah, well you've lost me there already you see. A DVD? I run Debian on a old laptop that hasn't got a CD drive, let alone a DVD. I also run it on a Cobalt RaQ - not even a floppy drive there. A single installer? But on my flashy new hardware I like graphical installs, whereas I would spit blood at anything requiring a graphical install if I was trying to put it onto the Cobalt.

All you separate distributions and operating systems need to get off your high horses and share the labor for things that are common between all of you.

OK. So who gets off whose horse first? I know - let's dump RPM, I always hated it. But hold on, it's used with some of the most popular and commercially supported distros right? So I know, let's dump .deb, after all it's only minority. But hang on, some of the most stable distributions there are use .deb so there must be some merit in it. I know, let's dump RPM...and repeat ad nauseam.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258931)

I and others have mentioned this before, sometimes with accompanying downmods. The rallying response is that "choice is good," but let's face facts here. At some point there comes a bottleneck where the number of conflicting choices is hindering stable progress.

Just as an example, the CEO of Cakewalk has stated on the Cakewalk forums that they would release a Linux version of Sonar if there was enough demand for it. Which platform do they target? Which kernel, which libraries, and which desktop environment? What if Adobe wanted to port Photoshop--which toolkit do they use? How do they get it easily installed and uninstallable?

There needs to be a universal desktop installation/uninstallation API. Either that, or implement the so-called "xcopy installation" of .NET and OS X programs which let you just copy an app to a folder and delete the folder to remove the program.

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259148)

Numerous commercial apps seem to install fine on just about any distro without a unified package manager or installation API, I have used Oracle on Linux (Mandrake 8, Redhat 7.3 and 8, Slackware 9) and VMWare (Redhat and Slackware) with no problems at all. I don't see that having different install mecanisms for the base distro and related tools prevents Adobe from making a Linux Photoshop port.

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (1)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259185)

They'd do it the same way that opera or vmware do it i suppose.

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258980)

As OpenBSD folks would say, "show me the code or shutup".
Are you going to be a jackass you posts on /. all day and bemoan how innefective others are, like 90% of the other fools?
Let's see what you can do.....

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (5, Funny)

Phexro (9814) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258994)

"Can't we have just one installer, one package management tool and one portage system that is shared by all the linux distributions, the bsd variants, OS X fink, windows cygwin, the comercial vendors, and all the rest?"

No.

You must be new here.

Re:Why does every distribution need to reinvent wh (5, Informative)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259017)

Taking what you are saying a step further, why can't we just have a single distro? No we can't. The different free distros cater for different needs. Gentoo is for putting together a distro from the source. Debian is a distro with virtually all the apps out there and with a lot of ways to install the packages and supports many architectures. Fedora is for new users and people who want the latest eye candy apps. The commercial distros like SuSE and Mandrake *can* be unified but they're just in it for the money and they wont do it. Try convincing them.

Now, why can't we have a single package management system/installation system? Same reasoning - different distros do different things. You can't have a single package management system for both pre-compiled and source code distros without putting extra overhead on one of them. Same thing goes for installation system. And commercial distros just won't do it. Again, try convincing them.

Installer still is really had to use (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258733)

Because it has some inconsistencies during the installation process:
during the first part, Spacebar is used to select Items and Enter to advance in the process.

In Tasksel at the end, its the reverse.

The first time i tried to install Sarge, i installed an email-server instead of a Desktop System

Replaced the installer? (1)

SunFan (845761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258747)


Debian's installer was one of the most flexible out there, which was a god-send for things like diskless clients. I hope in responding to people's requests, they don't throw away the the things that made Debian so great.

took a full work day to setup with dselect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258763)

I recall setting up debian machines about five years ago and it took me a bunch of time each time, like a day for each setup (I did about a dozen over the span of a year). I loved the update mechanism expect when I mixed stable and unstable one time and never managed to straighten things out. Debian is so freakin' solid it's a beaut. Looking forward to checking out the installer just for fun. Cheers

Re:took a full work day to setup with dselect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258843)

"Looking forward to checking out the installer just for fun."

How very sad...

Installers, et al (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258810)

The old installer was a pain. It took me about 3 days to do one install, because of some quirk in the options I'd used. I'm no novice, when it comes to Linux installers, either. I cut my teeth on MCC Linux and SLS, the precursors to Slackware.


The problem with all installers (Fedora included) is that dependency tracking is extremely difficult and complex, and packages don't always accurately describe their dependencies. They also don't have any good way of handling multiple flavours of (essentially) the same product. They also don't talk with each other, so don't expect apt or rpm to know about anything you installed from CPAN or CPANPLUS, even though there's absolutely no reason why you couldn't have a program to rationalize the contents of different installer databases.


However, that is not the fault of Debian, but rather the fault of the problem being solved. It is extremely complex, and no good solution currently exists.


As a distribution, I like Debian a lot. No, that's not just because they included my FOLK patches as an alternative kernel (though that is a factor, because it means Debian is far more capable of including interesting ideas than almost any other distribution). Debian is simply a damn good distribution. It's comprehensive, it's consistant in approach, and it's been able to maintain a very high level of quality, despite having a very large number of contributors. (Or maybe because they do.)


There have been a lot of distributions, over the ages. Some have failed because the maintainers gave up (SLS, for example). Some failed because they appealed to too specialized an audience, so there wasn't a userbase to keep things going (QLinux is an example of that). Some failed because of political reasons (Stampede Linux got busted over a "trademark infringement" that pushed credibility a little far). Some failed because the maintainers went commercial (Red Hat Linux, I'm talking to you!).


Given that kind of turbulent history, it's impressive that Debian has done as well as it has. Those involved in the project should feel proud of themselves. IIRC, Slackware is the only other distro that has lasted as long, or atracted such a following.

openoffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258825)

Debian have broken copy/paste in openoffice where it works fine in the OOo applications. No sign of anyone fixing it either.

This unfortunately means you cannot trust Debian for office work, especially when you recall how they broken evolution for several weeks.

This is why commercial distros are the trusted options for serious users who use their machines to achieve tasks, rather than play with 97% complete applications.

Re:openoffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258912)

Blah, blah, blah and that's probably why so many of the commercial distributions are based on debian. Oh, wait, could that mean that you are talking bs?

Re:openoffice (3, Funny)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258918)

That's funny, because I just copied your very words into my KDE Klipper from Firefox then pasted them right into an OpenOffice document. And I'm running Debian Sarge/Sid!

Try the FUD, it's excellent today. May I suggest a full-bodied whine with that?

Re:openoffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259084)

Open calc, in the A column enter 1, 2, 3 and 4 in rows 1-4. Now copy A2 and paste it to A3. You now have 1, 2, 2, 3, 4. Now think of the ramifications when trying this with real data and real formula. And yes, it's broken for complete rows too.

Of course, had you bothered to look at the Debian bugs page for openoffice, you would have seen that the reports are plenty for this bug.

FUD my arse you zealot fanboy virgin.

"FUD my arse you zealot fanboy virgin." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259118)

Oh, you must be from vulgaria.

P.S.: This really helps to establish your credibility. Well done.

DHCP? (1, Insightful)

cxreg (44671) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258829)

Wow, defaulting to DHCP without even asking [brunotorres.net] seems like an awfully annoying idea to me :P

Re:DHCP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258955)

Umm, if you care that much, i recommend you get a Debian installer CD and use the lilo boot option of 'expert'.

It will prompt you through every step, allowing you to skip hardware auto-detection, network auto-detection and more.

I don't know of any distro with that much installer flexibility. On one computer, I let it do 'stupid-user' install mode, and it was dead easy. On another computer, my hardware was causing conflicts, and without 'expert' mode, I never would have made it anywhere. Any other distro would have just tried to auto-detect my hardware and locked up.

That's the best part of this new installer: It doesn't actually take away your power, it just turns it off by default, as it confuses more people than it helps.

Re:DHCP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258960)

Yes, it's terrible. I lost about 20 seconds of my preciouse life time while it tried to find a dhcp server.

Re:DHCP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258971)

The failure mode isn't bad, though.

I have no DHCP on some of the networks where I used this installer.

If DHCP doesn't give you an address, it makes it easy to set a static one.

Re:DHCP? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258986)

It you wait for DHCP to fail, 30 seconds or so, you can tell it a static IP number.

Re:DHCP? (1)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259077)

So? It tries DHCP first. You don't have to wait very long until DHCP times out. Then you can put in your static IP address if that's how you have your network configured. That's how I do it here at Catseye Labs.

A lot of people have little broadband routers that have DHCP servers inside them and use them to hand out IPs. Some people even run local DHCP servers. If that's what you're doing, defaulting to DHCP is so much nicer than forgoing configuration entirely, then running dhclient in an xterm after everything else is installed.

Really, cxreg...it times out after ten freakin' seconds. It's no big deal.

Re:DHCP? (1)

cxreg (44671) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259087)

Yeah, and what if you _don't want DHCP_ even if there's a DHCP server responding? It's just the wrong thing to do.

Re:"DirectSound" equivalent is already on Linux (1)

andreyw (798182) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259125)

Press Ctrl-C to kill ISC's DHCP client, I have to do that everytime I forget to plug the TP cable into my Debian PowerMac-clone.

Cable detection (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259190)

I've been thinking about this. Ever notice that when you insert an ethernet cable, you'll get a notice like "Link changed, 100MBps Full duplex" or something similar.

I wonder if there is something one could set somewhere to check if the cable is plugged, then go for DHCP.

Re:DHCP? (1)

idiotnot (302133) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259139)

If you choose expert, or expert26 at boot, it'll let you skip dhcp. Even so, the normal way, it doesn't take very long.

It also does a lookup from your DHCP server when you manually input your IP and DNS addresses....and it correctly sets the hostname.

Honesty/Disclaimer (2, Interesting)

Smiffa2001 (823436) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258841)

"I wouldn't recommend Debian on the desktop for people who are new to Linux, but it's perfectly suited for people who have some experience with Linux or have an admin who takes care of their machine."

I like the comment, though it's probably been said a thousand times before. I would say though, that it still takes SysAdmin-type powers to be comfortable with most Linux distros, at least in my experience. Everybody that I ever came across that said "use Linux, it's great" turned out to have a decent amount of tech knowledge and (it later turned out) had climbed the sometimes steep learning curve that goes with it. I went through/still am going through that same curve and finding it immensely enjoyable and rewarding - I'm even seeing people that would benefit from using Linux but the hoops you sometimes have to go through to even get a printer to work would fox these people. If I'd let it loose on em, it'd mean constant calls every day/week.

The comment made me think about this again, thats all. We're close I reckon, but not quite there...

The new stable (1)

dotslashdot (694478) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258892)

How fashionable! Sarge: it's the new Stable.

Get your distro upgrade procedures sorted out!! (3, Interesting)

twilight30 (84644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258903)

One of the things I've noticed of late with Debian is that their vaulted upgrade procedure between versions is definitely not working for Woody and Sarge.

Upgrading from a fresh Woody install -- of 3.0r0, to be precise -- directly to Sarge as it now stands destroys Gnome completely. It will boot, start X11, but then die horribly for reasons I have yet to sort out fully. (I did this three weeks ago, for an old beater that was a gift) And it would die consistently only in that operating any Gnome application in tandem with another would do it.

The only way I could get the install procedure to update correctly was by using a sarge netinstall CD with a beta from August.

I believe the kernel versions changing has a lot to do with this. Of course, blaming Debian for this is not fair, but expecting users to suddenly know everything about the kernel version, the module loading/management procedure and the deep changes to the /etc directory is a little much.

I don't care about a GUI installer. I do care about Debian's stability between versions. I used to think Debian's upgrade process flawed (speed of releases) but essentially fine for those people who didn't want to think about dependency hell when using an online upgrading service. But now I am wondering if they really have it under control; I think they've taken policy as far as they can go.

They should commit to a regular timeframe for stable/server/stale versions and stick to it. Once a year is plenty of time.

Re:Get your distro upgrade procedures sorted out!! (3, Insightful)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258962)

1) Sarge hasn't been released yet, so upgraded from Woody to Sarge is not guaranteed to work *yet*
2) Gnome 2.8 was just recently moved into Sarge, so some unstability was to be expected.

You just chose a really unfortunate time to do the upgrade (when I went from Woody to Sarge, Sarge had been relatively stable for a couple of weeks, as in no major packages had been moved into Sarge for awhile)

Re:Get your distro upgrade procedures sorted out!! (1)

twilight30 (84644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259073)

I wish that were true ... it's just that I did multiple upgrades from whatever Debian stable was called to Woody ... they broke too.

Debian itself as a distribution is still my Linux of choice, but after experimenting with the greater ease of use of Mandrake and Fedora Core, I go back to it only with the upgrade path as my reason to sticking with it.

Re:Get your distro upgrade procedures sorted out!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259036)

I had a similar problem going to "unstable" recently (which is less surprising).

It wasn't hard to fix. Did you try an

apt-get remove gnome-core libgnome2-0

(or libgnome32, or whichver you had installed)

I had a similar problem; and after the apt-get remove; an manual deletion of config files (yuck, but it was unstable) and a subsequent apt-get install, everything worked again.

It is a bit disapointing if this failed moving to testing instead of to sid, though.

You know you read too much slashdot .. (5, Funny)

ElektroHolunder (514550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258906)

You know you read too much slashdot when you read sentences like this:
we're aware that many people are interested in a graphical installer and certain languages like Thai might even require this
and catch yourself thinking " 'Thai'? Oh no, not another scripting language.."

Why yet another new installer? (2, Interesting)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258916)

What's wrong with Anaconda, which already works in text and graphical modes? Hasn't it been part of Progeny's Debian-based distribution for a long time?

Though just about anything, including poking one's eyes out with a sharp stick, would be better than the old Debian installer. I've been a hardcore Unix user/developer since 1982, and Linux since 1991, and yet I was completely baffled at some of the questions the old installer asked, and at the sheer number of questions.

Refreshing interview (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11258917)

It's nice to read an interview from a distro project member where the problems/limitations of the distro, (such as the long release cycle), are openly admitted. All too often distro maintainers (and users) make excuses for current limitations in their distros and stubbornly refuse to address them in a rational manner.

Re:Refreshing interview (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259045)

In my experience it's mostly the users that are so religious about their distribution that they would rather kill you than acknowledge that there might be a problem.

Try to talk with some gentoo users about an installer or with debian users about the long release cycle and you'll see what I mean.

On the other hand, I think developers are much more rational about their distribution. Case in point, gentoo is going to get an installer and debian will address the long release cycle.

Nah! Who needs an installer? (5, Interesting)

aralin (107264) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258921)

I installed my Debian in 1996, almost nine years ago. Since then I exchanged three computers and five harddisks under it and its still running without any need to reinstall. It went smoothly through several major and minor OS updates like a charm.

As a side note, I'd really like to see someone try to do this with Windows. Upgrading from 95 to 98 to 2k to XP and replacing HDs, CPUs and MBs under that system, while not having to reinstall all your applications and redo all the settings.

Which linux for a newb? (1)

Nightspirit (846159) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259059)

I'm building a new PC and finally decided to dedicate a partition to and install linux; I have no prior experience with linux. Which is a good linux for a newb? Debian? Mandrake? Redhat? Something else?

Getting bigger? (2, Insightful)

plasticsquirrel (637166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11259095)

8700 packages for Debian GNU/Linux? Great. New installer? Nice. If I buy a small server, though, I can't even get a stable version that ships with SATA support. Debian may be a wonderful community project, but it is becoming too bloated to move forward like it used to.

Suse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11259219)

Why didn't they took Suse's Gpled Install tool Yast and modief it to their needs?
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