[kwlug-disc] What's the best desktop distribution?

Khalid Baheyeldin kb at 2bits.com
Thu Feb 4 17:58:17 EST 2010

On Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 5:40 PM, Lori Paniak <ldpaniak at fourpisolutions.com>wrote:

> On Thu, 2010-02-04 at 16:48 -0500, Chris Frey wrote:
> > > Yes, but Paul's point is that we have a myriad of them for each
> language.
> > > Even though it is fairly easy to pull stuff from the respective
> repository
> > > for that language, it bypasses APT's dependency checking mechanism.
> >
> > I'm a little confused by this.  Why would they make deb packages
> > that don't have the right dependencies?  Apt just provides what the deb's
> > themselves ask for.
> >
> > Unless...
> >
> > > The issue here is release cycles. Debian is very slow to come with
> > > stable releases compared ot other stuff. For example, Drupal used
> > > to have a 6-8 month release cycle for core, and several hundred
> > > modules. Now the cycle is more like 2 years for core, but there
> > > are 3,000 or more modules out there, with various maintainers.
> > > They tend to move at their own pace, often very quick, and hence
> > > does not fit into the Debian repositories. We had really old stuff
> > > in Debian as far as Drupal is concerned.
> >
> > ... the dependencies of the manual deb packages mean that you
> > have to run Debian unstable all the time?
> >
> > - Chris
> The question is why are the Debian Drupal packages so far out of date?

Short answer: Drupal moves too fast for the Debian stable cycle.

Longer version: Drupal has the philosophy of not preserving backward
compatibility for the sake of improving the software and refactoring it
constantly. The thriving eco system of Drupal has the downside that
anyone can contribute, whether they are beginners or veterans in the
industry. This makes the quality and degree of maintainership of modules

Module maintainers rely on upgrade paths rather that keeping APIs
compatible. Updating a module involves running update.php which migrates the
database schema to the new version. Because we have a few thousand
modules with developers of varying skills and backgrounds, the quality of
upgrading varies too.

Moreover, updating Drupal is done from the web interface. There is a command
line updater in the works, which can probably be the basis of a Debian
updater for Drupal (run update.php in CLI mode), but it will not be in
7 and perhaps not 8 either.

Add to that the fast moving cycle of Drupal, and Debian will always be

By the way, Drupal has its own dependency system, which works well for
initial installs, but still has warts for updates (perhaps fixed in the
Drupal 7).

Again, this is another example where some kind of automated packaging
> could be useful.  So long as the dependencies could be tracked in an
> automated way as well.

Dependency is a smallish part of the problem in Drupal. What matters most
is running update.php and having it update the database without errors.

For upgrades within the same version (e.g. Drupal 6.13 to Drupal 6.14) one
can safely upgrade an existing site provided they backup before the upgrade.

For upgrades from major versions (5.x to 6.x), it is more elaborate and may
involve a significant amount of work. The best strategy is to copy the site
a test server, and do the upgrade there, write down the steps taken, then
do it on the live site after you iron out all the issues on the test site.

We just had a presentation on that a couple of months ago at the DUG
Waterloo meeting. Ping me if you want more info.

You don't have to run Debian unstable for your whole system in order to
> keep up with unstable packages and their dependencies.  When in that
> situation, I manually update the unstable packages I have installed.
> PITA.  I'm sure there is a way to specify certain packages to update
> from unstable (or some other repository) with files
> in /etc/apt/preferences.d.  I've never taken the time to investigate
> that option.
Khalid M. Baheyeldin
2bits.com, Inc.
Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
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