[buug] tired of redhat, and i want something new to play with

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun May 4 20:24:43 PDT 2003

[Hoping none of this comes across as harsh; it's just that you hit a
number of points that I've been trying to educate people on.]

Quoting Michael Paoli (michael1cat at yahoo.com):

> Many (most? :-)) would argue that Debian's packaging system is superior
> to RPMs ...

This is vague.  Moreover, it commits a category error, in as much as
Debian's package system can be used with RPMs -- either on Debian or on
other distributions including Red Hat.

Please read: http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/linux-info/debian-policy
Salient points:  (1) There's nothing the least bit wrong with either the
RPM package format or the rpm package-handling tool.  (2) What is
primarily distinctive about Debian is neither its package format nor its
package-handling tools, but rather its _policy_ -- a term with a
technical meaning in this context, extensively defined in the Debian
Policy document (http://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/), and strictly
enforced upon package maintainers by automated package-checking software.

> ...but RPMs are the de facto (and LSB) standard for LINUX distributions.

Honestly, this turns out to be just about semantically null:  When
interpreted literally, it's arguably true, but seems to say a great deal
more than it actually does.

> Debian does support installation of RPM packages in one
> of two ways:
> A) recommended method - use the Debian package alien - it will handle
> RPM packages and track them within the Debian package management system.
> B) One can install rpm and its requisite libraries and use rpm itself on
> Debian - this is however generally not recommended, as the Debian
> package management system will be unaware of packages handled through
> that means.

This is true, but, since you mentioned LSB, I'm surprised you didn't
also mention the Debian "lsb" package, installation of which
more-or-less ensures full LSB v. 1.2 compliance.  It's kind of a
core-structure shim with a list of 28 dependencies that collectively
furnish all required support for the full LSB spec:

I say "more or less" because it's not technically LSB-certified through
passage of official test suites, but reportedly does the job.

> And my random comment - who'd want RPMs on Debian anyway?  Most anything
> anyone would ever want is already available an packaged as a native
> Debian package anyway. :-)

Over 8000 packages on the "stable" branch; over 11000 on the "testing"
and "unstable" ones.  My production servers track the "testing" branch.

> Extensive (balanced and comprehensive) survey techniques....

Hah hah!  You slay me.  You really do.

> Other random comments: Debian isn't necessarily the easiest LINUX
> distribution to install (not necessarily a top recommendation for a
> LINUX/UNIX newbie if they're going to install it themselves
> unassisted).

This distressingly common erroneous comment reflects the nearly
universal lack of comprehension that Debian can be installed through
your choice of about a dozen different installer programs, which differ
very widely -- and a lack of comprehension of the fact that Debian is a
system architecture and maintenance regime, _not_ a particular installer

Thus, for example, if you use Knoppix as your installer program (which
means you're on x86 and wish to get a "kitchen sink" installation),
Debian _is_ just about the easiest Linux distribution to install:  The
Knoppix installer script does unsurpassed and totally automated hardware
recognition, and asks a bare minimum of questions.  (By the same token, 
expert users would find it lacking in flexibility.)

No matter whether you use the Knoppix installer, the Progeny Graphical
Installer ISO, the Xandros Desktop OS installer, the Libranet installer,
the (somewhat obsolete but still usable) Stormix installer, or the
much-maligned but highly flexible plain-vanilla official Debian
installer, what results at the end is Debian -- in any meaningful sense.

Cheers,           "I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate
Rick Moen         those who do.  And, for the people who like country music,
rick at linuxmafia.com         denigrate means 'put down'."      -- Bob Newhart

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