Saturday, January 1, 2011

Debian Squeeze - Thoughts - 1

v 0.1.1

As I sat down to write this, I thought of the Debian development cycle and thought I'd follow its principle in writing articles for this blog.  I've already started adding any corrections or additional information to other pages, and I thought for this piece in particular I should just post what I have and add extras when I find them.  It may be irritating to some, however it keeps all the information on each subject together and I think that is important.
so ..

Debian Squeeze is almost ready to be declared "Stable".  I was secretly hoping it would happen on Christmas day, and then by the end of the year, however that was not to be.  It is currently the morning of the New Year here on the East Coast of Australia, and so there is still plenty of time for the release to occur on the First of January, US time.  Here's hoping.

But - does it really matter if the official release happens?  Well no, not really - after all the distribution is readily available and the only significance is an entry on the Calendar.  To understand what that really means, one has to understand that unlike many other Linux distributions, Debian is a "rolling" distribution with three different subsections that appeal to different categories of users.  When a new package is released by the authors, for example a new version of Open Office, it must first spend some time in the "Unstable" branch/section to make sure there are no glaring bugs in it.  If it passes that test, then it is progressed to .. er .. "Testing".

Now, remember I said Debian was a rolling distribution?  Well, only partly.  You see "Testing" forms the basis for the next official Debian release.  When "Testing" has progressed to the point it meets the goals for the next release, AND all release critical bugs are eliminated, THEN it becomes "Stable".  "Stable" never gets new packages or features - the only fixes are bug fixes.  So we see in the current Debian "Stable" release, Lenny v5.07 there have been eight releases of Lenny, however ver 5.07 only differs from 5.00 in bug and security fixes.  Given it has been nearly two years since the last Debian official release, Debian Lenny is looking quite dated with "old" software, HOWEVER this has a benefit.  Debian Stable IS stable.  It just works.  It is exceptionally well documented, so you will probably find instructions to enable you to do whatever you want with it.

Before I continue, some links that give excellent background:
People could be surprised at the inclusion of the "Slackware Book Project", however it is an excellent resource when it comes to understanding Linux - and anyway, Slackware is another just wonderful distribution.  Its reputation for difficulty is, in my view, undeserved since all you need to do is to RTM.  The boot files are wonderfully documented and easy to edit just the way you like for startup.

As you can see from the extensive list of download options for Debian, it supports a large variety of computer architectures - more than any other operating system in fact.  This is one of the reasons why Debian seems a little slower to get releases out than other Distros that only have to cater for one or two architectures.

In order to have a viable Debian system, you only need to download at the most, the first CD - this will give you a system with the default Gnome desktop.  There are alternative CDs that will provide a KDE or Xfce desktop if you wish.  Of course, the alternative desktops are always available by a simple load through the Debain toolchain or Synaptic if you are using a Graphical environment.

Downloading the Net-install CD is a faster download and gives better flexibility.  It contains the packages to allow you to install a base system, after which the installation routine gets the extra packages from a suitable Debian repository.

Download speeds from Debian are good, however using BitTorrent will give excellent results all the time and ease the burden on the Debian servers.

Well, it seems I got a little diverted from my original intention, however all this is worth knowing and if you proceed with an installation then it is all useful knowledge.  Later I want to talk about how I view Debian (and indeed Slackware) from the large number of alternative / derivative distributions of Linux and why Debian gives ( in my view ) a more satisfying experience.  I'll also discuss why the "apt" and "menu" tools are so important and the role the Debian repositories play in its success.

Later ....

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