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Story: Debian Etch: Solid, crufty, some assembly requiredTotal Replies: 17
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May 23, 2006
8:21 AM EDT
Keith Curtis, you are causing way to much attention than you deserve. Who are you and why do you expect us to listen to you? Are you so special, so clever, so experienced, so old, so that we should take everything you say as granted? Why shouldn't I just come to the conclusion that you are Just Another Troll (tm) and disregard everything you say?

Let's look at this latest blog post of yours. I will go through it step by step and tell you what I don't like about it.

"Debian is the the quietest big Linux distro" Aha? Who says that? Proof, please. And even worse: Does it matter at all? Do you think citing Oscar Wilde makes it true?

The second paragraph is all about what you think makes Debian better than Ubuntu, but it mostly amounts to Ubuntu bashing. You field all the arguments the critics of Ubuntu have used in the past. Every single one of them can be questioned and argued upon, you simply take them as The Truth(tm). Bah.

Next mistake: You take a daily build of Debian Etch for installation? Why are you doing that? Why don't you try Sarge first? It seems you lack some experience using GNU/Linux. Nothing bad in that and I'm happy to have you with us, but why should I or Debian or Mark Shuttleworth listen to you, then?

Btw, Ubuntu Installer = Debian Installer. They're the same, period. Since you seem to like forks so much let's call that a ZDF or Zero Diff Fork.

Then you start complaining about "bugs" in you software. Well, nothing wrong about that but this is the wrong place. Use reportbug please. You seem to expect so much from your favourite distro. Why don't you start giving some back and become a DD, then? Do you do you own packages? Do you compile your own kernel? If you expect Debian, a non-profit community based project to give you the same kind of end-user experience as a GNU/Linux distro that companies try to make a profit with, then you should use SUSE instead.

The kind of problems you report shows that you don't seem to have much experience and probably gave up before seriously trying to diagnose problems. Again, nothing wrong with that. Not everyone is a true computer geek. But then again, why should I/Debian/Mark Shuttleworth listen to you, then? Have you ever been at a LUG meeting? People could help you out with these problems there....

The next topic if your complaint is "out-dated" software. Bah, you don't have a clue what kind of work it is to integrate software from hundreds of different sources together and actually make it work. That's not a thing you do in an hour after the release of the new upstream version. Debian might be a wee bit slower to adopt new upstream versions, but at least I can be sure unstable doesn't break more than once or twice a year. I won't tell you about the utterly disastrous experience of using dapper (since flight-2) on my second machine. Compared to pre-beta dapper, Debian unstable is solid as a rock, not to mention testing and stable. If you are one of the guys who think the newest is the best you should choose a linux distro that is actually following that philosophy, try Arch Linux or Gentoo instead.

Also, that complaint is not consistent with the rest. First you complain that Ubuntu's main team isn't large enough to track down all the bugs and test the releases. On the other hand you complain about "outdated" versions in Debian Etch. Obviously, Etch has been integrated to well for you already, it's got to few bugs and to many maintainers. Can you please make up your mind?

For a change you are very right in the paragraph after all the complaints. You do not understand Debian. You don't even understand computers. You just use them and expect them to work as flawlessly as your toaster.

"but I feel like Debian will need to do more than fix the RC bugs to keep up with the other distros and tempt me." Indeed, Debian doesn't tempt you with being the most flawless and newbie-friendly distro out there. True, it would not hurt if Debian was a wee bit easier to use for beginners, but that's not their selling point. Their selling point is the freedom you get out of using a GNU/Linux distro that has been developed by a non-profit democratic social movement that consists of volunteers only. No other GNU/Linux distro can give you that experience. Debian was the first GNU/Linux distro who made their whole development process transparent to the rest of the world. Debian as an organisation has no other company's axe to grind. The fact that Debian is a one of the best GNU/Linux distros around is just a very convenient side effect (probably not an unintentional one, though).

"It should be no surprise that Debian is only #7 on the distrowatch list." So? The position on the distrowatch ranking list also tells which GNU/Linux distro is the best or the most popular? Go home, what does that prove anyway?

"I also didn’t see that Debian is benefiting as much from Ubuntu as I thought it would." What do you mean, Debian as an organisation or Debian as a GNU/Linux distro? Are you so deeply involved in Ubuntu and Debian (I bet you're not) that you can actually back this claim up? I don't think so. Please stop talking rubbish like that. Leave that part of the discussion to the Debian and Ubuntu and their members themselves, there's enough misinformation going on already (see Newsforge's report on debconf6).

"I wish Debian was trying a bit harder for my affection." What? Aren't these 1000+ volunteer members of a non-profit-org no trying hard enough? None of them gets paid by the organisation. Some DDs get paid to do Debian work by their employers. However, usually these companies have other things to do than to crave you affection. I think every single one of these DDs deserves my deepest appreciation and thanks for investing so much of their lifetime to give us that unique Free Software experience. If that's not good enough for you I don't know what can be. Another thing is that misconception of your about Debian. You refer to it as a single entity, whereas it is a democratic organisation with more than 1000 members. Makes you miss a lot of things about it, too.

"It appears that Ubuntu has all the advantage of Debian with no new disadvantages." That depends what you're looking for. Ubuntu certainly gives you a nice desktop experience, imho generalising that opinion onto other use cases is a mistake. You don't realise how similiar Ubuntu actually is to Debian. All that talk about those two being a fork is rubbish anyway and has been debunked by prominent Ubuntu and Debian members.

"but I want Debian to succeed" Bullshit, all you want is a convenient GNU/Linux experience that makes all your shiny but horribly complex PC hardware working out of the box. When people who know better tell you how difficult that is to achieve, you should start believing them for a change.

Keith, you whine around in the name of charity but all you're looking for is your own convenience. That's not how a healthy community works. If you want to establish credibility you should do some learning first.

Regards, Dominik

May 23, 2006
4:54 PM EDT
My Dearest Dominik,

I hope you have good heart because it seems easy to raise your blood pressure!

You wrote a very long post and I read it twice and I appreciate the time you spent commenting on my writing. I'm honored you think anyone is reading my work--how do you know I am causing any attention?

You say I 'might be a troll', but the definition of troll includes being offensive and rude, so I think you 'might' also qualify.

I also think you didn't read my post very carefully, or that your anger caused you to not be careful. For example, I never cited Oscar Wilde as proof that Debian is a big quiet distro--Oscar Wilde died 92 years and 10 months before Debian was created. I do believe his insights are timeless and I hope you get a chance to read him at some point.

I installed Etch because if I had installed Sarge, I would have had to change the title of my blog post.

You seem to think that compiling my own kernel would be giving back to the community. It makes me wonder if you are copy/pasting this screed from somewhere else. BTW, I do file bugs and send e-mails to devel aliases and developers. You keep telling me what I should learn and what I should do, but how can you know either of these things?

When I said that Debian isn't benefiting from Ubuntu, I meant Debian the codebase. The examples I gave were that new code and new features which are in Ubuntu but not in Debian.

When I said that I wish Debian was trying harder for my affection, I meant Debian the distro--I was anthropomorphizing.

I cover this topic in other posts on my website, but I'll bring it up again here. It is to the free software movement's benefit when Debian runs the new code. Software cannot get better and debugged, etc. until people are actually using it! If you want Debian to contribute bugfixes to the 2.6 kernel, they need to be installing it.

Also, as a practical matter, software gets better every day (other than regressions, which happen 1% of the time or less which is why you have stabilization phases) so old code is all around worse than new code.

You seem to be confident in what Debian should cand should not be. But isn't a lot of that just your opinion? I think its that thinking which has caused it to slip from #4 in 2002, to #5 in 2003, to #7 today. Here are a couple more for ya:

Hits per day, various distros

Debian Fedora SUSE 2003 428 631 366 2004 832 1202 858 2005 867 1211 1451 Last 3 mos. 835 1631 2193

The numbers might be meaningless in absolute terms, but I think the relative terms are useful.

May 23, 2006
6:18 PM EDT
I'm pretty sure that you 'mean well' Keith, but statements like the following really point to your lack of expertise:

> I installed Etch because if I had installed Sarge, I would have had to change the title of my blog post.

WTF... did you post this all 'before you installed???

The current release of Debian is the stable one 'sarge'. Installing from testing (etch) or from unstable (always sid) is only getting a snapshot of the Debian debug process. It may work, or it may not, and if it doesn't then you are the idiot who took the chance.

Also, Ubuntu has an continues to contribute to the Debian Repos, particularly with gnome and xorg. That's great, but these contributions still have to go through the whole Debian debug process. That means passing inspection in unstable and testing before they are finally released into current stable.

Because of the latest and greatest factor, Ubuntu and a lot of the other derivative Distros considers testing, and sometimes unstable to be the basis for their releases. That is not Debian's decision or responsibility. If their are still bugs, well, we warned ya.

And, I'm assuming that that the figures that you tout are from Distrowatch. Good for tracking n00b interest, but really not much else. Certainly not an indicator of real Debian installations.

Oh, just one other thing. Not to say that Debian may not require a little more hands on setup, but, last couple of times I installed Debian Testing, my screen, color depth, resolution, and frequency were set up perfectly. That's as opposed to Ubuntu and a number of other Distros that screwed it up...


May 23, 2006
6:33 PM EDT

Guys!!! Those corncobs must be rubbing your butts the wrong way!

Having read the article, I am hard-pressed to see what's got you in such a twist.

It's not so much that you have no valid points: you do. The venom behind them, however, is incomprehensible.

FIrst and foremost: What is the deal with Etch v. Sarge?

I haven't used Debian in years, but I would have killed for a testing release. It was all but impossible to build a desktop with the pieces I wanted way back then. If I were installing Debian now, it would NEVER occur to me to use stable. Period. For a web server -- sure. Desktop? Never.

But here's the deal: Keith never pretended that Etch is stable. He made multiple references to using a daily snapshot, etc. Straightforward and honest so far as I can tell.

Plenty of room to disagree, but Keith did not kidnap Helen, did not steal the Holy Grail, and did not sack Rome.

Deep breaths, guys.


May 23, 2006
7:12 PM EDT
> it would NEVER occur to me to use stable.

Your Bad.

May 23, 2006
7:16 PM EDT
My bit about changing the title of the blog was a bit o' humor. Even if it didn't make any sense, it says nothing about my expertise...

Again, I grabbed testing bits because Etch has been in development for *almost a year* and it seemed like a good time to see how its doing! In fact, Debian has only 4 more months of work before it really starts to get locked down. You guys act as if its illegal or bad to check out pre-releases.

As I talked about in another post on my site, I have e-mailed a xorg dev in debian, and he said the Ubuntu modular x work was only a starting point even though the guy who did it was a debian developer and an xorg expert. If you have to staff up expertise in 2 orgs, you don't save much time. And also, there are many other things in Ubuntu that haven't made it up to Debian as my review has demonstrated. The Debconf6 review by Robin Miller quotes Manoj making this same point. I believe that the relationship is not working as well as you think it is...

I also agree that maybe Ubuntu shouldn't be using debian unstable, I've talked about that on my website as well. The reason they use unstable is because the stable code is years old and they don't have much of a choice. Fortunately Debian is going to start shipping faster which will give derivatives better choices.

I agree that distrowatch isn't a great measure, but how would you propose to find out when Debian is losing marketshare to Fedora and SUSE? The data might be imperfect, but the trends might still be meaningful.

As for Debian being stagnant, does the fact that Apache 2.2 is not yet in the repos 6 months after it shipped signify anything? If you want to test the theory that debian is stagnant, how do you propose to measure it? How many debian devs do less than 4 hours of coding a week? How does that value compare to values over time?

Debian might do a good job with the basic video setup, but what about the ATI/nVidia ones, power management, 802.11, sound, etc.? A desktop is *a lot* harder than a server.

What are your relationships to Debian?

May 23, 2006
8:52 PM EDT
> You guys act as if its illegal or bad to check out pre-releases.

Absolutely not, but you were acting like it should be a stable relase.

My point is that if you are new to Debian, you should be starting with stable/sarge. That sets up just fine and everything works and there is nothing wrong with the desktop. When you get outside of that, you can't just expect perfection without potential issues.

I run a mixed Testing/unstable Desktop with a few unstable apps thrown in, so I'm not missing any bells or whistles. Sound, printing, video, all up and working. Honestly, my desktop beats anything out from Ubuntu (or Kbuntu in my case) in all respects. Reliability is still excellent. It's pretty easy to set this up if one has experience with Debian... not so easy if you have little experience with Linux and specifically Debian, or if you are attempting to make a derivative Distro work with every little piece of new hardware. Most of the other people I work with on debcentral are also now running straight Debian.

> Robin Miller

Any mention of that clown gets you negative points ;-).

> The reason they use unstable is because the stable code is years old and they don't have much of a choice.

That is where Ubuntu, Kbuntu, Mepis, Kanotix, and the others get into trouble. By the time they get a decent snapshot, the repo has moved on. So now Debian is blamed for moving too fast. Well. were damned if we do and damned if we don't. The same slow development cycle that allowed these guys to get a head start has speeded up and is now working against them.

> If you want to test the theory that debian is stagnant, how do you propose to measure it?

I gave the video as an example, but, I've even noticed that the Debian installer is now actually a little more advanced than the one in Ubuntu. If anything, I see a lot more activity, and overall, fewer bugs than I did in the last development cycle for nearly all the apps. Now I know that isn't a statistically verifiable number, but I don't see that any of the others are either.

What disturbs me is that from 2004 to present Debian has dropped from 5th to 7th place relative to other Distros. However there are far more Derivatives, so, what does that say? Again, my personal experience sees a lot of people moving to Debian after the've gotten experience with one of the Derivatives, The people involved have (for the most part) become much more approachable, and the Desktop is much easier to configure than when I began using it. All of these things tell me that Debian is far from stagnant.

> I believe that the relationship is not working as well as you think it is...

While they work together, there is still a great deal of hostility between the Debian and the Ubuntu Dev's. I don't have any real hope that they will all get lovey-dovey any time soon, but at least they're still talking. What bothers me more is the question of what Shuttlesworth is doing with all this. I still don't think many in Debian trust him atall.


May 24, 2006
12:01 AM EDT
Sarge is on all 6 of my home computers, ranging from a firewall box to a computer used for games.

My procedure used to be to run the 'stable' release for its first 6 months, then switch to 'testing' and continue with it until 6 months after it became 'stable'. I just haven't seen a need to switch to 'testing' this time as I have run into no shortcomings with Sarge. A different kernel is on each box, because the hardware is so different on each. (I prefer to roll my own, anyway).

May 24, 2006
12:10 AM EDT
I've got the Debian testing/unstable on this one, Sarge on my PII dual and currently Kanotix on my laptop (due to go back to Debian). Recently the Debian kernels have been so good that I haven't even bothered to compile my own. Hardware has not been an issue with any of them.

May 24, 2006
12:26 AM EDT
grouch, jimf:


I used to have a terrible time trying to keep my apps, etc. current with Debian stable.

Are they keeping Debian stable more current? Has FOSS app development slowed down? Are you guys tinkering and mucking around more than you let on? Or was it simply YMMV, depending on one's tolerance of older software, use of multimedia editing, etc?

May 24, 2006
12:58 AM EDT

Sarge isn't Bo. :)

The much-publicized length of time it took for Sarge to be stamped 'stable' was actually a blessing. A great deal of FOSS apps went beyond 'good enough' during that period. For example, I'm running Xsane 0.97 but it's far more useful, friendly, flexible and stable than a commercial product I used 'back in the day'. The only 'issue' is that on start-up it offers a selection between my PVR250 video capture card and my Epson 4800 dpi scanner. Someday I'm going to select that capture card just to see what xsane does.

I just don't have to tinker to keep anything going. Neither my wife nor my son have much tolerance for the unexpected from computers and Sarge gives me peace by giving them peace. (Last I heard, my daughter was running Etch, but even before, her setup was so complex I could only use her computer via ssh. The desktop she has is just weird).

I did create some symlinks in /usr/local/bin/ so my son could use familiar names to launch things like doom3, quake4, war2 (stratagus + wargus + the graphics and sounds from Blizzard's CD), wolf (Return to Castile Wolfenstein). The only other tinkering was the initial setup of desktops; they each like simplicity. (That seems to be very common among folks who just want a computer to act like an appliance. I've removed KDE and GNOME several times by request).

Sarge lets me be even lazier than I was with Woody, Slink or Potato.

May 24, 2006
1:16 AM EDT
Well, sarge was, if you remember, a big change, and, it's only been a year, so, yes it really is pretty good. Backports of many apps and security updates are also readily available. You can have a very nice Desktop when just using sarge.

On the other hand, if you really want xorg and some of the other newest stuff, or you're just the adventurous type, sooner or later you will start pushing the envelope. But, by that time you'll know what can and can't be safely done. Just remember that synaptic and aptlistbugs are your friend :)

May 24, 2006
2:00 AM EDT
dinotrac: "I haven't used Debian in years, but I would have killed for a testing release." Aye, but now there is testing AND backports.org. I'm using unstable on my two debian boxes at home (storage server and laptop byraway). If I would go for testing, I'd seriously consider using backports.org instead, but that depends on the use case.

Keith: "You guys act as if its illegal or bad to check out pre-releases." No, it isn't. But then critizising Debian (the distro AND the organisation) and making the wildest claims about the state of Debian and Ubuntu affairs doesn't really up your credibility, either.

"The examples I gave were that new code and new features which are in Ubuntu but not in Debian." Not true. I admit that not all the bling in Ubuntu has made it back into Debian but a lot of it has. It just hasn't migrated into a stable release yey. Quite a number of Ubuntu's patches have made it back into Sid already, and more are on the way.

"It is to the free software movement's benefit when Debian runs the new code." Rubbish, what makes you think that? You could easily argue the other way, too.

"The Debconf6 review by Robin Miller quotes Manoj making this same point." Doh, you have been suckered, mate. That Robin Miller cites the opinion of ONE person (well, let's makes it two or three) out of 1000+ Debian members, and that makes all Debian hate Ubuntu and mistrust Mark Shuttleworth??? You cannot be serious!!! From what I've heard from other Debian and Ubuntu people (Paul Sladen, Jonathan Riddell and some others) most DDs do actually get along with Ubuntu quite easily. Difference to the not-trusters and complainers: The supporters keep quiet about it because there's nothing to complain about. That's one of the things journalists (even the ones at Newsforge) have huge troubles understanding.

"Debian is losing marketshare to Fedora and SUSE?" Roflmao, More people than ever are using Debian today. Ok, it comes in disguise, named Ubuntu, Knoppix, Xandros, MEPIS etc. but under the hood it's all Debian. And what marketshare are you talking about please? Besides, who care about so-called "market share" anyways? Debian isn't "competing" on a "market" (that's so 20th century way of thinking mate), they do not sell their GNU/Linux distro. Take a look at some of these installation surveys (take a grain of salt along, but the general trend proves my point): There's a huge number of computers out there that have Debian installed, and the percentages have been going up rather than down."

And then you take up on that Apache example again? Cut that out. What gives you that silly idea that the release of Apache 2.2 makes the 2.0 release useless?


May 24, 2006
11:10 AM EDT
What about power management? Have any of you gotten laptops to handle that with Debian?

I have never said that DD's don't get along with ubuntu. Geeks are geeks and generally get along. DDs do have the right to be worried that ubuntu isn't giving back enough and that's what I'm talking about. You confuse my criticisms with larger ones I haven't made.

True that lots of people are running derivatives, but I still think that given how much linux is growing that debian itself needs to be growing as well, especially as developers start off as users. However, I think debian's internal challenges are more important than simply adding new users.

If you don't like marketshare, how about community? If you want people to contribute to your effort, you need them to decide to use your base. If everyone switched to Fedora and SUSE, you would still be unworried?

I brought up the apache example again because you keep ignoring it, and f-spot, ekiga, beagle. I could make a much more thorough list, but I installed testing only for a couple of hours.

You can say I make wild claims, but you ignore a lot of my facts.

Here is another point I made earlier that I've not seen acknowledged yet: it is to the free software movement's benefit when Debian runs the new code. Software cannot get better and debugged, etc. until people are actually using it.

May 24, 2006
11:26 AM EDT
Here's a very interesting post which is relevant here to all who say they are unworried that lots of people are using debian via derivatives:



May 24, 2006
12:09 PM EDT
Keithcu, I just read the link to Joey's blog. What I'm hearing Joey say, is that he fears that the developers who work to integrate the GNU/Linux universe into working pieces will be attracted elsewhere. And he has a point. IMO, Debian's problems are internal. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying, but I think a lot of debian-derivative builders have looked at Debian and said "What a fantastic lot of software! What a truckload of dysfunctional organizational politics! I can have the software, and leave the politics. I think I'll do that." And another derivative is born. It's spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and we have yet another new DPL. Let's hope he sees the merit of doing all he can to build out Debian developer capacity, without sacrificing quality. Then maybe some of the nits that your picking at (Apache2.0 vs 2.2? Not a big deal!) can be addressed.


May 24, 2006
12:53 PM EDT
I generally agree that Ubuntu is not contributing nearly enough back to Debian, but, when he starts talking about 'Ubuntu's improvements', I'm not sure I really see many. IMO Ubuntu is just way overrated.

Not that Debian doesn't need to retain Dev's and attract new ones. Ubuntu and other derivatives have certainly not helped with that either. Lately I think that Distros are starting to use Debian as free... as in freedom to rape and pillage. I don't think that was the original intent of the freedom. I agree that Debian needs to be more concerned with its own usable Distro development and not pay attention to those who would use it as a parts warehouse.

Finally, I think that you can readily see that people involved in Debian are quite aware of the issues that you've brought up. A lot of debate has been going on and problems are being addressed, though, more at a Debian drumbeat than what others might want.... As it should be. As incinerator pointed out "Debian isn't "competing" on a "market"". At least not one that the corporate boys would recognize.

May 24, 2006
12:58 PM EDT
I think the major appeals of Ubuntu are its friendly community and cool factor. Anyone who has been scorched by the lunatics that infest Debian will understand why this is so appealing. :) And I think it's been a great kick in the pants to speed up Debian development. There is just no way they can continue with 3- and 4-year old releases; anything over two years old is obsolete, if not dangerous. A lot of security fixes come with major rewrites, not just patches, so trying to perfect old code is a losing strategy.

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