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apotheon (5460)

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I'm a third generation computer geek. I happen to like Perl, Ruby, XHTML, and C, in no particular order. I happen to dislike Visual Basic, VBScript, Python, and Java.

I'm a Linux geek — I'm a fan of Debian in particular. I know a lot about Windows system administration. The knowledge and experience that goes with my familiarity and expertise with Windows is part of the reason I like Debian GNU/Linux so much.

That's it for now.

NOTE: Except where preexisting copyright or other license conflicts, such as in quoted material, all journal entries at this account are distributed under CCD CopyWrite [].

Journal of apotheon (5460)

Sunday December 19, 2004
02:37 AM

the importance of a distribution

[ #22366 ]

I've been thinking about what it is that makes various distributions different from each other. Here's sort of a rambling list of factors:

  1. default installer interface(s) and automation
  2. composition (included software) of default install
  3. ease and degree of install customization
  4. package/port availability
  5. package licensing
  6. available support contracts
  7. stability, security, and current-ness of packages/ports
  8. software management system(s) support
  9. filesystem configuration
  10. default kernel (modified/standard/release/etc.)

I think that's all I've got for now. Some of these can probably be combined. In fact, if you really want to generalize things, I think all of that can be combined into two overall catch-all categories of characteristics:

  1. installation
  2. software management

This, of course, helps to explain how I have ended up preferring Debian over other distributions. I like the fact that the easiest way to install Debian is a bare-bones minimal install that includes some very few necessary amenities (like bash). It loads drivers pretty well, installs reasonably quickly (about a third the time of any Windows install), uses a fairly simple installer (now that the new installer has been available for a few months), and doesn't install anything I don't want.

Once installed, of course, I then will want to install some packages to make it "home". The idea of a bare-bones install is that it makes for a machine that runs lean, devoid of cruft, and allows you to install only those software packages you actually want.

The software management for Debian is excellent. Apt is so great that everyone else is trying to incorporate it into their distros, now. In fact, the Red Hat based community distro (Fedora) is offering decent support for apt. Considering Red Hat introduced the RPM, the "other" package format (as contrasted with Debian's "deb" packages), that really seems to be a pretty notable indicator. In any case, apt works more smoothly with Debian than with any other distro, and the Debian archives are bulletproof and extremely friggin' extensive. It's quite a simple thing to find, get an idea of the value of, and add non-official servers for apt to use, if you want to.

Apt's slickness and powerful, flexible functionality not only allows for great ease and convenience of system management, though: it also provides for about the easiest method available for adding exactly the software you want to a minimal, lean install.

Yep. Debian is about perfect, for my tastes.

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  • If you install Debian often, like I do, it's worth the trouble of learning to do things manually. Eventually, that makes installing Debian easier, especially with weird hardware, because you can use just about any live CD (I use Knoppix, because it supports almost all hardware I have encountered so far).

    You end up with an even cleaner system. Unless you install one yourself, not even a boot loader is installed by default. Or a kernel, for that matter. Of course, installing these things is just a matter of
    • I tried an install this weekend, with experienced help, and the Intall CD on strange hardware (Alpha). Somehow wound up with Debian 3.0 and kernel 2.2.20, not quite the configuration I wanted. Your suggestion of doing it manually is beginning to make sense -- I hope something makes it get easier ;-)

      Thanks for the description of the RAID1 instructions. I was thinking that should be possible, was wondering how. Since the weekend install was due to a dead boot disk, I was interested. When I grok in fullness,

      # I had a sig when sigs were cool
      use Sig;
      • have to make sure it will reboot accessibly, I guess?

        Yea, this is something you have to deal with. Especially since debootstrap (as it installs a minimal set of packages) does not install ssh for you. And you should of course be prepared to go to the data centre in case anything goes wrong.

        This said, it's hard to get it wrong after you've debootstrapped dozens of boxes locally. Doing it remotely really isn't any different, except you have to double check everything (especially the kernel!).

  • FreeBSD++

    I've found debian incredably painful to use, as if you suddenly find you need to use mod_snmp with apache, oh... the package maintainer hasn't set it up that way... and oh.... you either need to hack the package to do it yourself, or find an unoffical package from something like
    cd /usr/ports;
    cd www/apache13;
    make install WITH_MOD_SNMP=1;
    sounds good to me
    -Scott McWhirter- | -kungfuftr-
    "JAWK - Just Another Whiny Kid"
    • . . . or you could just download and compile the source yourself. That's an option with Debian, too. In fact, apt provides a fairly easy set of tools for making compiling from source simpler, though I've never had to use it myself.

      The fact that Debian has apt doesn't prevent you from using other means to install software.

      print substr("Just another Perl hacker", 0, -2);