Posts Tagged ‘Debian’

The Distributions of Debian

August 21st, 2009 No comments

Like many of the other varieties of Linux, Debian gives the end user a number of different installation choices. In addition to the choice of installer that Tyler B has already mentioned, the Debian community maintains three different distributions, which means that even though I’ve picked a distribution, I still haven’t picked a distribution! In the case of Debian, these distributions are as follows:

  1. Stable: Last updated on July 27th, 2009, this was the last major Debian release, codenamed “Lenny.” This is the currently supported version of Debian, and receives security patches from the community as they are developed, but no new features. The upside of this feature freeze is that the code is stable and almost bug free, with the downside that the software it contains is somewhat dated.
  2. Testing: Codenamed “Squeeze,” this distribution contains code that is destined for the next major release of Debian. Code is kept in the Testing distribution as long as it doesn’t contain any major bugs that might prevent a proper release (This system is explained here). The upside of running this distribution is that your system always has all of the newest (and mostly) bug free code available to users. The downside is that if a major bug is found, the fix for that bug may be obliged to spend a good deal of time in the Unstable distribution before it is considered stable enough to move over to Testing. As a result, your computer could be left with broken code for weeks on end. Further, this distribution doesn’t get security patches as fast as Stable, which poses a potential danger to the inexperienced user.
  3. Unstable: Nicknamed Sid after the psychotic next door neighbour in Toy Story who destroys toys as a hobby, this is where all of Debian’s newest and potentially buggy code lives. According to what I’ve read, Sid is like a developer’s build – new users who don’t know their way around the system don’t generally use this distribution because the build could break at any time, and there is absolutely no security support.

I’m currently leaning towards running the Testing distribution, mostly because I like new shiny toys, and (I think) want the challenge of becoming a part of the Debian community. Since we’ve been getting a lot of support from the various development communities lately, perhaps some of our readers could set me straight on any information that I might have missed, and perhaps set me straight on which distribution I should run.

The Shorter List

August 11th, 2009 No comments

In an earlier post I had said that I had narrowed down my list of potential Linux distros to a mere four contenders: Debian, Fedora, Linux Mint and Mandriva. I have since then decided that by the end of this week (or, if I’m lazy, early next week) I will have knocked this list down to my final choice. The way that I have chosen to do this is potentially the most annoying way possible: I plan on filling my post quotas by only removing one choice each post 😛

So without further ado lets kick one of these to the curb!

Debian, you are dead to me

Why I had considered it: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.

Why its just not making the cut: As I am somewhat familiar with Ubuntu and have read about its relation to Debian, I feel as though Debian is just simply not that different. Now before all of you bearded basement dwellers start telling me just how wrong I am, keep in mind that a large component of this experiment is about the perception of our selected distribution as well. I am sure Debian, like Ubuntu, will offer a great experience to those who use it, however I feel that my person use of it would almost be a violation of rule #1.

Well there you have it! Debian is off the list leaving me with Fedora, Linux Mint and Mandriva. Who will survive to see the install screen? Stay tuned!

To be continued…

Narrowing it down…

August 9th, 2009 2 comments

Two posts in one day!

I am learning quite a bit in my continued research of which Linux distro will be right for me. So far I think I have knocked out a lot of the more… exotic Linux distros and have come up with a bit of a short list with a few pros and cons to go along with them.

The Short List

  • Debian
    • Pros: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.
    • Cons: The distro prioritizes stability over new technology which sometimes seems kind of dull, only F/OSS software.
    • Why I am considering it: This distribution has widespread use and serves as sort of a gold standard and I know using this would be a very practical choice.
  • Fedora
    • Pros: Stable, very secure, a lot of support, constantly adding brand new technology.
    • Cons: Using bleeding edge technology can sometimes be a bad thing (I hear KDE 4.0 didn’t go over so well for example), I don’t know a lot about it, not sure what the software situation is like for example.
    • Why I am considering it: To be honest it intrigues me. It seems like a distro that can have a lot of customization done to it and it has a focus on security which I’m a bit of a nut about.
  • Linux Mint
    • Pros: Ubuntu as a starting point, tried to make the best desktop experience possible, simplified a lot of the UI and made great improvements in the usability.
    • Cons: It’s a relatively new distro and doesn’t quite have the community behind it yet. I’m worried that updates for Mint specific problems might not come frequently enough.
    • Why I am considering it: I am familiar with Ubuntu and this seems like an improved version of that.
  • Mandriva
    • Pros: Mandriva One sounds like it includes everything I could possibly ask for.
    • Cons: It seems to try and push a full computing experience on the user, which for most would be great but for this experiment maybe not so much.
    • Why I am considering it: It seems like an easy out.

Hopefully I can make my decision shortly and read up some more about it before the start of the experiment!

Debian! I Choose You!

August 6th, 2009 2 comments

After a little bit of research, I’ve chosen to use Debian as my distribution for the duration of the experiment. While the decision was more or less arbitrary, it was based on a few core ideals:

  1. The Social Contract: These guys believe in free software to such an extent that they wrote up a social contract that governs the user experience with Debian, ensuring that the system and it’s derivatives will forever remain free for use, distribution, and modification. As a part of the contract, they define their use of the term free software to ensure that nobody can question their motives. Although I run a lot of free software on a daily basis, I’ve always been locked into proprietary software and formats in one way or another. It will be interesting to try and figure out how to emulate my current workflow in its entirety with free and open-source software.
  2. A Solid System: Debian is known to be such a solid distribution that Ubuntu (currently the most popular Linux distribution around) uses it as a basis for each of their own releases, and then backports any fixes that they make into the Debian stream. Further, Debian is available as one of three code forks (unstable, testing, and stable), allowing the user to choose from a rock solid stable experience, a less stable one that supports the latest packages, or a potentially buggy one that runs along the bleeding edge of new development.
  3. 100% Community Driven: Unlike other distributions, Debian development is not backed or sponsored by a corporate entity of any kind – it is simply an organization of (almost 1200) like-minded people working towards a common goal through the power of the internet. You really can’t get a better taste for the ideals of open-source software in any other distribution.
  4. Huge User Community: Check out this massive list of people and organizations that currently use Debian as their distribution of choice.
  5. Lots O’ Warez: The stable distribution of Debian contains thousands upon thousands available packages. With access to all of this software, replacing my current setup should be fairly easy (although it might require a bunch of research).

With the release of KDE 4.3 today, I’ve also decided to try using it as my display manager (mostly because it looks really pretty, and I like pretty things). Now I can only hope that Debian has the drivers for my laptop:

  • Motherboard: IBM ThinkPad R52 (Product#: 1859B7U) with Mobile Intel Alviso-G i915GM Chipset
  • Processor: Mobile Intel Pentium M 740, 1733 MHz (13 x 133)
  • RAM: 758 MB  (DDR2 SDRAM)
  • Video: Mobile Intel(R) 915GM/GMS,910GML Express Chipset Family  (128 MB), Intel GMA 900
  • Audio: Analog Devices AD1981B(L) @ Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – AC’97 Audio Controller [B-1]
  • Storage Controller: Intel(R) 82801FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2653 with AE9GMGLK IDE Controller
  • Disk Drive: FUJITSU MHV2040AH  (40 GB, 5400 RPM, Ultra-ATA/100)
  • Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD/CDRW UJDA770  (DVD:8x, CD:24x/24x/24x DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
  • Ethernet: Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wireless: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection  (
  • USB Controller: Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – USB Universal Host Controller [B-1]
  • BIOS: IBM 70ET69WW (1.29 )
  • Battery: Sony IBM-92P1089

So Many Fruity Flavours…

July 30th, 2009 No comments

I think that I’m the only member of the group with absolutely zero experience with Linux. Sure, I’ve used TightVNC to check the status of a Ubuntu-based file server, and I may even have dropped a live CD into my machine once or twice before in vain attempts to save my files from a bricked Windows install, but I have roughly zero actual experience with any of the distributions. Due to my lack of knowledge and the antique laptop that I’ll likely be using during the experiment, I’ve decided to stick to one of the more popular distributions to ensure ease of use and a wide base of drivers to draw from. So far, the Top Ten Distributions page over at DistroWatch has been very helpful, and I’ve managed to narrow my choice down to just a few of the hundreds of available flavours of Linux (ordered by my current preference):

  • Debian: Over 1000 developers, 20 000 packages, and no corporate backing – the definition of open source community development
  • Fedora: Strictly adheres to the free software philosophy; used by Linus Torvalds himself (If that ain’t street cred…)
  • openSUSE: A pretty looking desktop, with corporate backing from Novell.

While doing my research, I have purposely avoided Ubuntu Linux and it’s variants, as they seem to be “the” distribution of choice these days. To really get a taste of what it’s like to make the switch from Windows with zero previous experience, I’ve decided to stay away from Ubuntu. It’s just too common, and I’m non-conformist as can be.

The Search Begins

July 29th, 2009 1 comment

100% fat free

Picking a flavour of Linux is like picking what you want to eat for dinner; sure some items may taste better than others but in the end you’re still full. At least I hope, the satisfied part still remains to be seen.

Where to begin?

A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that the sheer number of Linux distributions, and thus choices, can be very overwhelming. Thankfully because of my past experience with Ubuntu I can at least remove it and it’s immediate variants, Kubuntu and Xubuntu, from this list of potential candidates. That should only leave me with… well that hardly narrowed it down at all!

Seriously... the number of possible choices is a bit ridiculous

Seriously... the number of possible choices is a bit ridiculous

Learning from others’ experience

My next thought was to use the Internet for what it was designed to do: letting other people do your work for you! To start Wikipedia has a list of popular distributions. I figured if these distributions have somehow managed to make a name for themselves, among all of the possibilities, there must be a reason for that. Removing the direct Ubuntu variants, the site lists these as Arch Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, gOS, Knoppix, Linux Mint, Mandriva, MontaVista Linux, OpenGEU, openSUSE, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Pardus, PCLinuxOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Sabayon Linux, Slackware and, finally, Slax.

Doing a both a Google and a Bing search for “linux distributions” I found a number of additional websites that seem as though they might prove to be very useful. All of these websites aim to provide information about the various distributions or help point you in the direction of the one that’s right for you.

Only the start

Things are just getting started. There is plenty more research to do as I compare and narrow down the distributions until I finally arrive at the one that I will install come September 1st. Hopefully I can wrap my head around things by then.

Choices, choices, and more choices!

July 29th, 2009 2 comments

Howdy, everyone! Dana here with what looks like the very first blog post on all of The Linux Experiment. Let me take the time to welcome you here; we have high hopes for the site, and hope you enjoy the process every bit as much as we’re hoping to.

As you know (or may not know!), Linux comes in a wide variety of “flavours”, also known as distributions. Each distribution has its own little personality; some are built for users with no Linux experience and are very user-friendly out of the box, while others require you to compile the kernel itself before you can do anything useful with it. Sounds fun, right?

Part of the challenge we face before the September 1st deadline is picking a distribution to install as our operating system of choice for the four months to follow. As documented in the Rules section of this site, we’re not allowed to install any distribution we’ve touched before – which knocks out a few for me, even though I have limited overall Linux experience.

A few that I’ve been considering so far:

Fedora 11 – this is far and away my front-runner. Reading up, I’m intrigued by its improved open-source driver support, and I’ve heard wonderful things about the new version just released in June.

Slackware – my grandfather’s distribution of choice. Never toyed with it, but he seems amused enough.

Knoppix – I’ve used Debian, but not this one.

I pose the question to you, the reader – what would you have me do? Do you have any input on any of these, or maybe some that I didn’t list? Let me know!