[lug] distribution favorites?

Nate Duehr nate at natetech.com
Sun Nov 12 00:13:25 MST 2006

Sean Reifschneider wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 09, 2006 at 09:34:45AM -0700, Daniel Webb wrote:
>> On Sun, Nov 05, 2006 at 07:06:55PM -0700, Nate Duehr wrote:
>> Same here.  I like Debian stable.  The plus for Debian stable is that once you
>> get it set up, you can go for a *long* time without fiddling.  You can usually
> I tried operating under that theory, but found that Debian really didn't
> deliver that.  If you set up a Debian "stable" system, it's going to
> upgrade to the newest "stable" the next time you "apt-get dist-upgrade"
> after the Debian project pushes out a new stable.  Whether you're ready for
> the upgrade or not...

No, but you found the answer below.

> You can stick with named versions, like "woody", but that only gets you
> slightly better...  Let's say that today your production environment is
> using woody and you need to install a new system because of growth.  I hope
> you kept your CDs around, because you won't find the ISO images on most
> Debian download sites.  Did you apt-get anything after the install?  Oops,
> they're gone too...  And that stuff you got from backports?  Nope, not
> available either.

You'll find the ISO's and the packages on the main Debian sites, but 
most mirrors choose to take the older stuff down.  Their choice, not 
Debian's, but Sid and Potato was still on the mirrors three years after 
both were dead and gone, if I remember correctly.

I think there's a policy document somewhere for those *really* paying 
attention as to when exactly the older versions truly disappear.  One of 
the reasons in recent years that they have to be taken down is that 
security patches are unavailable for them.  That and other things break 
like "stable" during the reinstall is now pointed somewhere else, as you 

I don't typically wait all that long after a new stable is out to 
upgrade, but I see your point.

But I'm doubting heavily that many RH/Fedora mirrors still have RH 7.3 
on them, either.  :-)

As far as backports go, I avoid them like the plague.  Or I make my own 
packages after looking at the backport source package.  That way I 
always have the source and notes on how to make it again, if I really 
need something that badly.

> One of our clients who is in this situation has set up a caching HTTP proxy
> that all their servers use, and the cache never expires, so they can later
> get packages that were installed previously.

Interesting tactic.  Why not just upgrade?  Considering the cycle is 
years and years long, isn't it time anyway?

I (probably better than most, I work in telco!) understand slow 
methodical glacial speed upgrade cycles with deep certification testing 
and the associated (heavy) costs to the folks running the servers -- but 
even in telco which tends to lag 3-5 years behind the rest of the Unix 
world, there does come a time when it's time to bite the bullet, load up 
a test machine, and see if you can get it through the upgrade cleanly.

The sun is just now starting to set (no pun intended!) on Solaris 8 in 
telco... but testing of Solaris 9 and/or 10 started years ago for these 
environments, and some new products had it from day one, so the 
companies using Solaris 8 got some exposure and comfort level about 
anything new by now.  I don't expect to see Solaris 8 truly gone for 
another four to six years, in the telco-world.  Sun will push that 
sooner if they can.  (Or the way they've been acting lately, they'll go 
under completely... Ouch.)

> Personally, I would recommend CentOS (7 or 10 years) or recent Ubuntu
> (ones that say "LTS", 5 years for the desktop) for setting up a server,
> because of exactly this reason.  Once you install a system and qualify the
> applications, you probably want to stay with that platform.

Those sound nice.  I'm probably disconnected from it enough that I 
didn't notice, but Ubuntu LTS I'd never even heard of before this 
message.  They weren't options until very recently, in my timeline of 
running Linux.

CentOS would definitely be my choice for anything requiring RedHat-isms. 
  Ubuntu is an odd duck and so far seems pretty good, but I worry about 
where it will go when the billionaire becomes bored with it. 
Shuttleworth's grand experiment.  At least he's got deep pockets.

Ubuntu is (typically) at about the level Debian's "testing" branch is at 
with slightly better security support (no delay in security packages as 
they work their way through "unstable"), so I've never had a dire need 
to use anything yet that was already in Ubuntu but not in "testing" that 
I couldn't backport myself, if needed that badly.

> With CentOS and Ubuntu, you don't NEED to upgrade for quite some time
> unless it's your own requirements that drive it (needing newer PHP or
> something).  With Debian Stable, it's really the Debian project that's
> driving your schedule.  That's what I've found.

Yep, they're nice options, now.  It took RedHat about six years to morph 
into the commercial and non-commercial versions (RHEL vs. Fedora) and 
then another year or so for CentOS to turn into the free stable version 
of RHEL -- at first it wasn't quite "baked" right, but generally worked, 
and now is a virtual copy of RHEL without anything weird wrong with it. 
    But, prior to that, I was already running Debian that already had a 
plan laid out and documented (!) for all of this.

That's got to be my favorite part of Debian really, in the long-term. 
The packaging rules, release rules, etc... are all very well documented 
and highly mature and ingrained in the culture.  While this may drive 
new developers and some people nuts, it's hard to beat being able to 
know that if you present a bug of type X, that bug is mandated to be 
critical and will stop the entire release until it's fixed or the 
package is completely removed from the distro.

Ubuntu (and flavors, Kubuntu, etc...), Knoppix, MEPIS, and others simply 
wouldn't exist at all if there weren't a core Debian stable release to 
start from as a jumping off point for folks deciding how much 
IN-stability they choose to add to gain new features.  RH and Fedora 
have never been great jumping-off points.

CentOS *is* RHEL, which *is* a good jumping off point for making 
something stable.  Like you, I'd recommend it to just about anyone 
setting up a server if they couldn't do a Debian machine for whatever 

I think it says a lot that you don't see people spinning off new (sane 
and popular) distros from Fedora.  Every once in a while you see it, but 
it's to make some really crazy distro that you'd never put anywhere near 
a real production/business server, really.  That or it's a VERY 
stripped-down version (SmoothWall comes to mind here) where they took 
lots of things OUT of Fedora to stabilize it for embedded/small-system 
work, or added things for clusters, etc.  Never to create another 
"desktop" or "standard consumer" distro.


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