[lug] RFI Debian vs. Slackware

Michael J. Pedersen marvin at keepthetouch.org
Thu Oct 5 11:26:51 MDT 2000

On Thu, Oct 05, 2000 at 03:18:17AM -0600, J. Wayde Allen wrote:
> Hi ... I'm Wayde and I'm a Debian user ...

Hi, Wayde! (add lots of echoes to that for proper effect)

> Actually let's see, I've used SLS, Slackware, Debian, KRUD, and
> SuSE.  Like most distributions each has its good and bad points.

Oh no! You dared to mention that a distro could have bad points! Let the
flamings begin! :)

> Probably the biggest difference between most of these systems is the way
> that they treat software installation and management (package management).  

Ah, so sadly true. If only they all used the same tools for package
management, what a good world this would be :)

> Slackware is based on the traditional gziped and tar'ed approach.  If you
> want to install a package you find the package.tgz source, uncompress it
> and install it yourself.  That gives you the ultimate control over the
> location of each package in your system.  It is also up to you to install
> any software or libraries that the program you want to use depends on.  

It's worth noting that Slackware DOES have some tools for package management,
including one named (surprisingly enough) pkgtool. However, unless it has
changed drastically since I last saw it (four or so years ago, admittedly), it
is not a very impressive tool, requiring you to manage the packages manually

> Basically, beyond the very base installation, the rest is completely up to
> you.

Slackware is, admittedly, one of the best at providing trimmed down systems
for your use, that much is true.

>     dpkg/dselect - Debian Package

Actually, Wayde, you're leaving out 'apt', which is one of the nicest package
management tools out there (with dselect being the most atrocious thing I have
ever seen). Ahh, now to engage the rant gun on dselect:

dselect is an incredibly powerful package management tool. Unfortunately, it
takes the complexity of any variety of unix, squares it, and then throws in
the line noise user interface of sendmail. For instance, to mark a package as
being 'held' (a state where the package will be ignored for upgrade purposes),
you use the '_' key. dselect is a user interface nightmare.

However, apt is a user interface thing of beauty. Configure it once (specify
where you wish to get packages from), and then you can, with almost every
program out there, issue something like this: 'apt-get install program' and
actually expect to see the program installed and configured correctly for your
setup by the time it's done.

> based systems.  Perhaps simply because I'm more familiar with it.  You do
> need to keep in mind though, that there are probably more packages that
> are created in .rpm format than .deb.  Getting a Red Hat CD also seems

On this point, I think I have to disagree. I have only seen a VERY few
programs which were not packaged in .deb format in the main Debian
repositories. And of those, the authors either a) had done so on their site or
b) not done any packaging at all.

> easier to me than getting a good Debian CD.  For this reason, I tend to

Amen to that! Fortunately, I usually keep a local mirror, and install from
that. I find it much easier than bothering with bad CDs or slow networks.

Anyway, my two cents on the whole comparison?

1) Debian has the WORST installer out of the lot. With 2.2, it's finally where
Slackware was several years ago.

2) Debian has the best package management I've ever seen. I can easily get rid
of, install, and configure any package in the system. Those that have system
wide configuration will put their configs in /etc by default, making it very
easy to find a given config file.

3) Debian's stable is just that. My main server has been up and running for 46
days now. It would be closer to 106 if not for two planned outages (kernel
upgrades, and hardware upgrades) spaced almost a month apart. System issues, I
find, are caused by me tinkering with settings more than anything else.

4) Comparisons to RedHat? I prefer Debian over RedHat any day of the week for
technical reasons (see #3 above), and for philosophical reasons. I like their
desire to make a totally free OS, quite a lot. And I really enjoy using it
because it is so internally consistent. Redhat's x.0 releases are generally
regarded as being the way to destroy a system. x.1 is considered good for
non-production servers, and x.2 is considered the one to work with. Any of
Debian's stable releases are considered good for production.

5) Comparisons to others? I've been on Debian for well over a year now.
Everything I've got at this point is nothing more than hearsay about the
others. And I have no intention of correcting that. Considering I used to
change distros like some people changed underwear, that says a lot for Debian.

Final note: I'm not flaming any of the current work done by others on their
distributions. In fact, anybody that can put together a working distro gets my
respect. I just happen to prefer the Debian distro above all others.

Michael J. Pedersen
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