[lug] new distro

Nate Duehr nate at natetech.com
Thu Oct 10 01:34:48 MDT 2002

> 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.

The source to the "unreliable" installation method is wide-open for your
modifications -- feel free to jump in and help anytime.

> Granted, the ISOs are there, but you have to claim to run MacOS or some
> other bullshit to get the links.  Lame.

But you did find the ISO's.  They're not 100% hidden.

Running a multi-national volunteer organization with borrowed bandwidth has
its limitations.  Most other distributions pay for their bandwidth, Debian
gives away the OS and doesn't have much of a "revenue stream" to speak of to
pay for server farms, bandwidth, power, etc.

Since you're kindly volunteering a machine on at least a 100Mb/s multi-homed
pipe for their use, I'm sure they'll point iso9660.debian.org to your
machine right away!  (GRIN)

C'mon, cut them a break here... the reasons why Debian pushes you to
download from FTP mirrors is that there are many many many more of those
than there are ISO mirrors, and the ISO mirrors are always under scrutiny by
higher-ups who wonder why they're paying for Debian to use their bandwidth.

Luckily, many large companies and organizations who "made the switch" to
Debian for servers and realized how darn stable it is, eventually offer up
some space and bandwidth and maybe even machines to host from.  Don't knock
it unless you have a better solution.

Also, if you're willing to restart wget over and over again to get an ISO
(meaning your download FAILED just as badly as this "unreliable" other
installation method), why not "teach" the scripts that jigdo or whatever use
to build the ISO's from FTP to "do it right" and not be so unstable, as you
put it.

Leeching off free software is okay.  Leeching off free software and
COMPLAINING about it, isn't very cool.

> 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.

Hmmm... last I looked there were THREE branches.  Stable, testing, and
unstable.  Stable is exactly that.  Stable.  Period.  With updates from
security.debian.org, it'll also be secure.  Testing is an area where
packages from unstable that last a while and have no outstanding serious
bugs against them in the bug tracking system end up, and unstable is just
that... unstable.

> 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.

The reason the Debian maintainers are producing better packages is that the
package content and layout and everything are defined and ENFORCED by the
other maintainers and users via bug submissions.

I'm sure that RedHat does similar work on the RPM's they release as part of
the "official" RPM's, but RPM's downloaded from any other source run the
risk of putting things all over the place on your hard disk, making major
changes, etc... and I've seen it happen.  If a Debian package does this to
me, I can file a bug report and KNOW that it will get fixed by the

The sheer number of packages vs. RedHat's "official" releases is staggering.
RedHat doesn't even come close, and they probably have a formal QA process
and paid staff as well as bug reports from the world.

> 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.

If you found package dependency issues in "stable" file a bug.  It's
flat-out WRONG and WILL be fixed in a point release of stable so that no one
has your experience again.  If you found dependency issues in "unstable"...
there's only one word that applies:  DUH!  (GRIN)

> *Okay, we all know that apt and RPM aren't diametrically opposed.  But in
> the final analysis Debian's package system is "apt based" and Red Hat's is
> "RPM based."  So when I say "apt" and "RPM" above, I really mean the
> distro's package system on the whole.

There's a number of fundamental similarities and differences.  Reading the
Debian Package Maintainer's Guide and Developer's guides may guide you to a
better understanding of the systems involved.  If you haven't looked over
what goes into a Debian package and the requirements for developers, you
can't really comment on the content of the .deb file very well.

Unstable has over 10000 pre-packaged pieces of software now.  There's bound
to be a few bugs.  Debian does NOT recommend you run unstable unless you are
willing to find, report, and eliminate bugs so those packages can be placed
in testing/stable eventually.  They're a more "true" community Linux effort
in this regard than any other distribution.

I bet if you install ONLY the same system that RedHat gives you in a "Full"
install, you'll find that Debian is quite stable and I highly highly doubt
you'll have dependency issues.  Just a guess.  Maybe even on "unstable".

Other pluses...

GUARANTEED upgrade paths from one release to the next over the network.  If
it doesn't upgrade properly, it's a critical bug, and can be filed as such.

Try upgrading RedHat 6.2 to RedHat 7.3 on a Kernel/Software-RAID box.  Have
fun cleaning up the mess.  Been there, done that.  If the Debian package
maintainer can NOT provide you with a clean upgrade path, they're REQUIRED
by policy to tell you what, where, when, and why when you attempt the

This is the number-one reason I run Debian on my servers that are critical
to me.  I started literally YEARS ago with a server that is still running
"stable" and as "stable" progressed, the machine followed suit.  On that
machine I'm simply not interested in dealing with X, pretty GUI's, or other
cruft that's not necessary for a server.  It does it's job 100% of the time
(well, except when it overheats, and that's a fault of both my lack of time
to fix it and lack of funds to do so...).  No questions asked.  I very much
appreciate the very hard work of thousands of maintainers to let me work on
other things other than that server.  Uptime and Return-on-Investment
numbers are through the roof on that box... too bad the popular IT media
will never be interested.

Right now I'm also running a Debian unstable machine on PowerPC platform
here also as a desktop machine.  I haven't seen any serious "breakage" other
than a few packages that won't upgrade due to dependency file screwups, but
they're still there and running, just fine.  Considering that the PPC port
has a LOT less attention given to it and much of it is created by
autobuilders that take the source from maintainers doing i386 uploads and
rebuilds the source for PPC, I'm pretty impressed.  GNOME 2, KDE stuff, all
of it works.

Debian embodies the true open-source (not the open-mooch) spirit... don't
like what it does?  Crack open the code and write.  Anyone can fix it.

(And yes, I'm posting this message from the Windoze box... for those reading
headers.  Deal with it.  (GRIN))

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!  (BIG GRIN)

Nate, nate at natetech.com

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