Recently in Debian Category

January 14, 2003

Flash: FreeBSD beats Debian for getting newer software

I've been playing with FreeBSD recently, and it brought home a point Paul Beard has made to me a number of times. Debian packages make it trivial to install new software, but there's a good chance that that software will be an older version that what you want. If you want a newer version, expect pain. FreeBSD ports will more than likely have the version you want, but it will take longer to install it, because you'll have to compile it from scratch. But if you want that newer version, you'll get there faster with FreeBSD than with Debian. See my essay on the subject for more details.

July 22, 2002

Debian 3.0 upgrade for me

Debian 3.0 came out late last week. My home Linux box runs Debian. I was running Debian 2.2, which was released way back in August 2000. I'm a sucker for upgrades. It was against my better judgment to attempt an upgrade of my Linux box: I rely on it for email and web service, but I'm an addict: if there's something newer out there, the pull is too strong.

The short story: it actually seemed to have gone off ok. For reasons I'll get to, it took about 24 hours before my system was back to normal again, but now a number of long standing annoyances have gone away. And Debian 3.0 finally gets to packages that I've wanted to run but had to build my own versions of, such as Emacs 21 and Python 2.2. I've been vaguely considering moving to some other Linux or perhaps FreeBSD distribution to get something that had more of what I want, but now that Debian is up-to-date, I'll probably stay put for a while.

Back to why it took me a day to get it done: downloading the changes wasn't the real time sink. To do the 2.2 - 3.0 upgrade, dselect (a Debian package manager) downloaded about 250mb worth of new packages. I think the problem was that I had slightly broken my installation of Perl recently when I was trying to get a newer version. I ended up in a cycle where I had to have Debian go through the dselect Install phase a number of times. It appears that if you hit a package that doesn't install, dselect stops there and doesn't go on. (Or perhaps the installs after that fail). Another thing that slowed me down was that some packages stop during installation to ask questions. (When you're upgrading an already running system, you don't want the new installation to smash all the old configurations.) We went to dinner Saturday night and church Sunday morning, so I wasn't able to get to some of those questions for a good 18+ hours.

The final result looks good. My only complain right now is that I haven't been able to upgrade from a 2.2 to a 2.4 kernel: my /boot partition is too small to put another kernel on it. I'd just move /boot into my main parition, but you can't unmount /boot while you're running. I think I'd have to boot off a floppy to make this work.

April 8, 2002

Upcoming Debian 3.0 thread on SlashDot

Slashdot has a good thread on the upcoming Debian 3.0 release. I use Debian on my home linux server.  This thread brings out what's good and bad about Debian: Debian doesn't always have the latest packages, and sometimes the installation procedures can be convoluted, but the people working on it are committed to bringing out a high quality release.

My sense is that Debian is the Linux distribution that is closest to the pure GNU/Richard Stallman philosophy - "We won't do it if it's not right (and we know what's right.)"  Quality and purity over user-friendliness.

Lately I've been using VMware on my W2k box to play with different Linux installations and with FreeBSD; I'll have to write that.