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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Categories: Debian, Jon F, Linux Debian, distribution, installation, lenny, Linux, sid, squeeze, stable, testing, unstable
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Huge User Community: Check out this massive list of people and organizations that currently use Debian as their distribution of choice.
- 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 (192.168.1.173)
- USB Controller: Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – USB Universal Host Controller [B-1]
- BIOS: IBM 70ET69WW (1.29 )
- Battery: Sony IBM-92P1089
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.
Categories: Jon F, Linux Debian, distribution, DistroWatch, Fedora, flavours, linus torvalds, Linux, live cd, novell, openSUSE, tightvnc, Ubuntu, windows