[lug] new distro

David Morris lists at morris-clan.net
Mon Oct 7 10:51:15 MDT 2002

I think I can answer all of your 'issues' below.

On Mon, Oct 07, 2002 at 10:53:32AM -0600, Peter Hutnick wrote:
> David Morris said:
> > I can only second Timothy's support for Debian....it is a
> > wonderful distribution that is far easier to use in most
> > every way than RedHat.  And for all those that tout the
> > benefits of other package management systems than apt-get, I
> > can only guess they haven't tried apt-get as I have yet to
> > find a single comparison (objective or otherwise) that could
> > truthfully say there is a better package mangement system
> > than apt-get.
> Okay, I'll bite.
> I'm real big on the whole "Free" thing, so naturally I
> installed Debian.
> Complaint number one: they try to strong-arm you into
> installing from a mirror.  That sucks.  It is a cute idea
> and all, but I have an unreliable 56k (yeah, right)
> connection.  I have the patience to suck down an ISO (or
> three) with wget --resume and check MD5s, but I can't hang
> with trying to install via a totally unreliable method.
> Granted, the ISOs are there, but you have to claim to run
> MacOS or some other bullshit to get the links.  Lame.

I have downloaded the ISO images many times and written them
to CDRs using Linux, Windows, Solaris, and MacOS.  They have
all worked perfectly each time....perhaps this was some time

These images I usually create for other people to install
Debian who are on slow internet connections.  Myself, I
actually mirror the packages to the hard disk of one of my
computers (a laptop), and update the packages about once
every week.  That way, I just plug in my laptop wherever
needed, and install from there.

> Two: Debian runs two branches, "Broken" and "Stale."
> Sure, you can install select "Broken" patches on a "Stale"
> install, but our buddy apt is going to go up the
> dependency chain and basically convert your entire box to
> "Broken."  Thanks.  I understand that this is necessary,
> /given/ the pre-condition that there is no branch that is
> both reasonably recent and reasonably tested/stable.  But
> then, that's really the complaint in a nutshell.

This goes back to the basic premise of Debian:  An OS must
be stable.  No ifs, ands, buts, or exceptions.  This means
that sometimes you are not dealing with the latest and
greatest packages if you stick to the "stable"
distribution...on the other hand, if you *are* using the
"stable" distribution, you know it is just that:  stable.
The same thing *cannot* be said about RedHat.

Yes, there are a few exceptions if you want to use one of
the architectures that is less supported for Linux such as
Alpha, or (lately) Sparc (note *Sparc*, not *UltraSparc*).
But if you are using one of these machines, you already know
you are in for less then perfect compatibility with
everything under the sun.

So, do the packages get a bit stale at times as you put it?
Yes.  Most of us using Debian don't really care one whit as
we have stability and reliability.

FYI, at the moment with woody (relatively newly released)
Debian has packages as current as any distribution.

On the other hand, if this is not suitable for you, Debian
has an unstable distribution (sid).  This is roughly
equivalent to the average installation for another
distribution, except that some packages might have actual
bugs because they have not yet received enough testing, or
patches have not been applied, etc.  This is only "broken"
if you expect it to work perfectly, which it was not
designed to do...sid is designed for those who want to stay
on the bleeding edge and are willing to loose a bit of
stability in return.

Half-way inbetween (and the route I use) is to use the
stable distribution, but if you have non-core packages
(don't try upgrading libc ;), compile them yourself, or
download the sid package and use the debian tools to compile

> Finally, apt: Okay, it is pretty good.  But I don't
> believe that it is substantively better than RPM*.  If
> anything I think that the Debian package maintainers do a
> better job . . . but that just takes us full circle to the
> "Broken"/"Stale" debate.  IOW, the selection of packages
> is really good, and all the dependency stuff works pretty
> well (not as well as the Debinistas would have you
> believe) but you are stuck with a choice between a system
> that is (generally) less tested/stable than, say, the
> current Red Hat release, or one that is rock-solid, and
> roughly up to speed with the previous Red Hat /major/ rev,
> or older.  Not much of a choice IMO.

I don't really want to go into details, but in summary:

Debian package mangement is preferred first of all because
it eliminates even the mere possibility of dependancy
problems.  That is in the package format itself.  Apt-get
then gives the simplest possible interface for managing the
packages.  Many people have tried to one-up apt-get, and so
far nobody has succeeded.

The package maintainers don't really have a say in how well
the packages work together, it is the requriements of the
package format that dicate they have no choice...which
eliminates a huge potential place for trouble that exists
with the RPM system.  Is this perfect?  As close as you can
expect for a completely free, open-source project maintained
by *volunteers*.  RedHat, with its paid professionals,
cannot come even close to the quality of the debian system
at any point along the way...in the end, it relies on the
fact that most users will basically never try anything even
a bit unusual.  This makes RPM package management unusable
for me as once you *do* try anything out of the ordinary, it
has a tendancy to break....worse yet, it often breaks
*without telling you anything*.

This is one of those religious wars that cannot be
won...there are many people dead-set against Debian, or just
firmly believe RedHat is better.  For this reason, I will
not continue this thread...I merely put forth the facts as
they exist for consideration in the hopes that Debian gets a
more fair look then it traditionally has.


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