Mast Kalandar

bandar's colander of random jamun aur aam

Fri, 22 Jul 2005

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Debian advocacy


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In response to my "advocating" Debian via the article http://www.advogato.org/article/169.html Rahul Basu wrote:

This is ancient -- year 2000 -- lot of things have changed now in all the distributions (he quotes an example from RedHat 5.0 -- when was that - 1970? ) whereas ncm seems to have heard only of Debian (or at least sounds like it).

The article is ancient but the points it makes, regarding the importance of appropriate packaging & system tools, are still valid. Good packaging helps the packagers and system-administrators to "speak" to each other.

This may explain the popularity of Debian with system administrators. A Debian-based installation is easier to administer than most other installations---especially if you have a number of local customisations.

The whole Debian infrastructure---bugs.debian.org, archive.debian.org, security.debian.org and qa.debian.org---have unfortunately no counterpart in the RPM-based distributions. You either buy support or interact through the various on-line forums.

For example, in Debian, reporting a bug is as easy as sending a mail. The mail is automatically assigned a number and forwarded to the maintainer. You receive a mail when a new package fixing the bug is available.

Even if the maintainer goes "missing", the QA team at Debian takes over maintainance of the package. The security team applies patches if security related bugs are found.

Even when a new "stable" release is made, the old one continues to be available as "oldstable" and even older distributions continue to be available in the archive.

I have no idea whether one can obtain such support for the RPM-based distributions and if one can then how one can obtain it (by paying or otherwise).

However, for a number of years the other distributions had newer graphical user interfaces (like KDE/Gnome) which many users wanted. Configuring the default X11/fvwm/twm GUI to user specifications was too much effort for sysadmins so they preferred to install RedHat/Mandrake/SUSE for desktop usage. (The older Gnome and KDE that came with "woody" was not a fully integrated GUI in the sense that you still needed the command-line interface to do various basic things.)

With "sarge" and "hoary" (or with Knoppix and klones earlier), the user interface on Debian-based distributions is also up-to-date as with other distributions.

It is now possible to use only the GUI for basic system and user configuration. Whether this is desirable is not clear to me---but it seems to be what a number of users want!


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