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Debian

Contents

  1. News
  2. What is Debian
  3. A Long Introduction
  4. Why I like Debian so much?
  5. Nothing's Perfect
  6. Is Debian Good For You?

News

2008-10-29
Corrected broken links.
2002-07-25
A couple of small fixes.
2002-05-04
Filtered through a spell checker. Grammar bugs left alone.
2002-05-03
Created this page. Too tired to even do a simple spell check. Mail me if you find bugs in the text.

What is Debian

Debian GNU/Linux is my favorite operating system. In this page I'll try to explain why.

A Long Introduction

I started from MS-DOS. Later came Windows 95. At about that time two books on the Unix operating system fell into my hands. I was fascinated reading them. Fascinated by the power, elegance, simplicity. In other words, fascinated by the Unix philosophy. I understood then that everything I liked in MS-DOS was just a shadow cast by Unix. A bit later I came upon The Jargon File, which I "swallowed" with great pleasure. I learned what hackers were (do not confuse them with H4x0rS, which also like to call themselves "hackers") and wanted to become one. While reading How To Become A Hacker I found there an advice to try Linux or some other free Unix clone.

In late 1997 I finally made up my mind. I downloaded Slackware 3.4 (or 3.2?) boot and root disks and played with them all night wandering in the shell and admiring the colours of ls output (I didn't have the actual floppies with all the packages -- dialup... my father downloaded them at work later). Next morning I left for Cape Town (for the students' International Olympiad in Informatics), but after coming back immediately continued the installation etc. Initially I lived with Slackware in 340 Mb hard drive in my 66 MHz 486 with 16 MB RAM. Later I purchased a 7 Linux CD set from Cheap*Bytes which contained Slackware 3.4, Red Hat 5.0, Debian 1.3 2 CD (binary & source), and three CDs full or Linux software from various FTP sites. When I got a new bigger hard drive I decided to try out Red Hat. I liked it more than Slackware. For a long time I used Red Hat, and then tried Mandrake 6.0 or maybe 6.1 and later made the jump to Mandrake. I had been happily using Mandrake 7.1 for a long time on my desktop and my small notebook (Pentium 75, 40 MB RAM, 1.2 GB hdd).

By then I was no longer a neophyte in Linux. I got the impression that most Linux users migrate to Debian, and later to FreeBSD. I wasn't sure about BSD (and I'm still not sure it's better), but I decided then that there must be a good reason for that and that earlier or later I would switch to Debian.

I tried it once. After dealing with Debian 2.1 install process I was strongly disappointed and returned back to Mandrake. By the way I was still a poor dial-up user at that time and installed Debian from CDs.

2001, spring. I was back from a semester's studies in Denmark. I decided to put my old 486 as a router for my 24-hour Internet connection (which I managed to get a short time before leaving for Denmark). I decided to give Debian another chance. I downloaded and burned all three Debian 2.2 CDs, installed the system (the process failed to impress me again, but it was much better this time) and started looking around. I liked it. In a month I couldn't do anything but switch my desktop to Debian (from the same 2.2 CDs, but I upgraded it to unstable (by mistake) on the same day). Today I've been using Debian for more than a year -- both at home and at work, where I share half of sysadmin duties for 10 workstations and 3 servers, and I also oversee a couple of Linux servers for friends and acquaintances.

Why I like Debian so much?

I'll try to list the reasons I like Debian.

Nothing's Perfect

Debian is not flawless. For example its old package selection interface (dselect) gives me the creeps. Hardware setup is not automated enough (actually, all automatization is hidden in packages that are not widely known). There is no single place (setup/control panel) to access all configuration mechanisms so you have to find the commands and files all by yourself. Sometimes it is difficult to choose one package from several alternatives (e.g. of a POP3 server). Stable release occur too infrequently, and not everyone wants to run unstable betas.

Is Debian Good For You?

The answer is -- I don't know. But if you want some sort of Unix instead of a replacement for Windows, if you are an advanced user/programmer/sysadmin, if you are not afraid of the initial step of installation/configuration, if you have unlimited access to the Internet, then give Debian a try.


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