[kwlug-disc] definition of debian's "stable"?

Chris Frey cdfrey at foursquare.net
Mon Aug 17 03:14:26 EDT 2009

On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 04:20:07PM -0400, unsolicited wrote:
> Other thoughts:
> - it is my impression that Debian is an older distro than Red Hat.

In terms of when it started?  Only about a year:

	Debian, 1993

	RedHat, 1994

> - it is my impression that Debian struggles to not re-invent the 
> wheel, even when people would really like it to, and so creates 
> superset applications. e.g. dpkg -> apt -> aptitude -> synaptic. Thus 
> people coming along much later have a multi-layer, inconsistent, 
> onion, to chew through to grok the whole. Rather than silently 
> deprecating the group in favour of one or two coherent replacement 
> applications that make consistent the design experience and results of 
> all the prior efforts.

That's probably true.  Debian does reuse existing technology.  Even the
.deb package format is just an 'ar' archive (tar's poor, but well-used
sibling).  You can extract files from a .deb file with basic unix
commands.  RPM is a reinvented wheel with its own C structs to parse:


Yet Debian solved problems before other distros realized they existed.
Debian had apt-get before yum existed, back when there really was
a dependency hell.  Apt-get was introduced in Debian 2.1 Slink in 1999.


> - things like yum and rpm have come along since dpkg, in a different 
> distro., making different onions with some fewer layers.

Synaptic is the GUI... what is the GUI called for yum/rpm folks?
I'm sure there is one, I'm just drawing a blank.

I see similar layering on the RPM side, which makes sense, since each level
is quite separable from the other.

	RPM -> yum -> (GUI?)

Synaptic does not depend on aptitude.  Aptitude is more of a competitor
for apt.

	dpkg -> apt -> synaptic

> - one of the reasons Windows is popular is because in general it 
> presents the 'one true way.' Linux presents many 'one true ways' and 
> says which one would you like today. But for the 'new user', they have 
> to grok all of it to figure out which flavour they like best, and stop 
> early. When all the flavours don't mesh together, frustration sets in.

There is only "one true way" on a Debian system: using the official
repositories.  You can work around it, but usually there is no need,
and you either know what you're doing, or you're asking for pain.

Folks accustomed to Windows or Fedora may not see the "one true way" at
first, but it does solve a lot of the packaging problems that Windows and
Fedora have.  (More Windows than Fedora, definitely).  And fortunately,
Debian has a "you _will_ be packaged" mentality, so a huge percentage
of available software is already available through official sources.

As for the interface, yes, that's completely up to the end user.

	- command line with apt-get or aptitude with a little dpkg
		for the finer details;
	- or TUI (Text menu user interface) with aptitude or dselect;
	- or GUI with synaptic, gnome-apt, kpackage, or wajig.

I've only used dpkg, apt, aptitude, and synaptic.

> - wasn't there something in the news last year or the year before 
> wherein Debian recognized that their packaging system was ungainly, 
> and was going to work with others to harmonize software distribution. 
> i.e. Migrate to rpm / yum?

That would be news to me.  URL?

> - these threads point out yet again that 'it should just be easier.' 
> (Got me how to make it so.)

If the end user uses only the official package repositories, uses a
GUI that isn't too scary (synaptic is a little scary, but that's
mostly because of the sheer enormity of the number of packages),
relies on the auto updater to check for security updates and installs
them, then it already is pretty easy.

Because if so, then dependencies are solved for you, software validation
is solved for you, security is solved for you, and clean package removal
is even solved for you.

It's worlds ahead of Windows.  But people who expect it to work like
Windows will be frustrated or disappointed.

> - An earlier list thread pointed out how one should just be able to 
> download a 'package', double-click setup, and get on with their day. 
> And they should be able to repeat that experience on any other 
> machine. That may be a pipe dream, but I can sure appreciate the 
> sentiment.

This is the Windows mentality that's getting in everyone's way.
Sure, sometimes you do need to download a random package off the interwebs
and pray that it isn't trojaned.  But with Debian, that need is
far down the list.  It would be nice if it were easier, but then you
bring along some of same the security problems that Vista tried to solve
and got the smack down for.

- Chris

More information about the kwlug-disc mailing list