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Re: Back to RedHat

On Wed 23 Sep 1998, Bob McElrath wrote:

> I'm sorry to say it guys, but after playing with Debian/Alpha for a week,
> I'm terribly unhappy with it.  I think the amount of work I'd have to put
> into Debian would be much greater than that for RedHat, and it's too bad,
> I'm not fond of RedHat, but I already know how to fix their hacks. I need to

I never figured out those hacks :-)

> get some work done on this machine, and can't tinker with it forever!  ;) 
> Here are a couple of general suggestions that I'd like to see in some
> distribution...some day...

I see that most (all?) of your suggestions below concern the general
Debian "system", not the specific Alpha idiosyncracies... I've cc'ed
debian-devel in this reply, for the benefit of the other developers,
and redirected followups there as well.

> 1) Few (if any) trick/slick/pain-in-the-ass scripting thingies that try to
> make life "easier".  I spend an inordinate amount of time looking through
> little scripts written to go along with distributions to figure out what
> they do, so I can undo it.  And then when you remember one of those scripts

IMHO Debian is one of the few distributions that actually have useful
"scripting thingies"; I find I have to tweak very little. YMMV.

> and need to run it, you have no idea where it got run or how it was called. 
> (i.e. configuring keyboard -- my keyboard went all goofy like it was
> remapped or something, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to
> fix it, or how to bring up that dialog box in the installation that chose
> the keyboard, or what that script did to select the keyboard)  Other things
> in this category are /etc/alternatives, moving X11 config to /etc/X11,
> window manager menu structures (hook?)
> 2) Few (if any) duplicate functionality packages.  For instance, Debian
> comes with like 7 mail-delivery-agents.  What's with that?  To a new user,
> it's not clear which is best, and at times, even that you can only choose

One mail transport agent is selected by default (smail), so the new user
shouldn't have to worry about that. For more experienced users (or the
new user who has progressed a bit) it's a blessing that alternatives are
available; I don't want to be forced to run sendmail or smail or
whatever, if my preference is for example exim.

> *one*.  Also, there are 3 different mutually exclusive ways to install the
> gtk libs.  (???)

Hmm, I thought you can install the runtime libraries in any combination,
the problem is that you can only have one of the development packages
installed (the stable 1.05 or the unstable 1.10).

> 3) Whittle down the number of packages.  At last count the main tree had
> 1713 packages in it.  It takes many hours to sift through that list and
> decide what to install.  And after doing so, you simply can't remember all
> the "neato" little things you installed.  I saw mention recently of trying
> to keep up with the intel side of .deb's.  Forget about it.  Their community
> is much larger and they will always churn out new stuff faster than us.  Go
> for a smaller set of stable packages instead of the latest whiz-bang stuff.

Many people like debian exactly because of the diversity of packages.
It makes it easy to try some package out; I know I've tested much more
stuff out while using debian than when I had to go get the source,
build, compile, run, deinstall it again manually.  It's true that the
large number of packages makes the selection process a bit painful, but
the preselection stuff helps.

> 4) Get rid of beta software!  This includes WindowMaker, Gnome, etc.

See above.

> 5) In order to help users see and play with the software on their system,
> set up some kind of way to automagically add installed software to window
> manager menus so they can run it.  (*all* window managers...)

Not all window managers (can) support this; perhaps it should be made
clearer in the description of the window managers which ones do.

> 6) dselect needs a major overhaul.  Its key mappings are non-intuitive and

You should take a look at apt.

> conflict with other popular packages (i.e. '-' going back a page in more,
> and the + key turns into the * symbol, while all other keys match symbols).
> It doesn't show you that a package has dependencies until after you try to
> install it (which takes time, and is distracting to switch screens).  Show
> (unresolved) dependencies on the same screen that is used to select
> packages.  The way it constantly brings up the help screen is a *major*
> pain.  How about a mode to look at *only* what is currently installed, so
> that you can remove things?

Paul Slootman
home: paul@wurtel.demon.nl | work: paul@murphy.nl | debian: paul@debian.org
http://www.wurtel.demon.nl | Murphy Software,   Enschede,   the Netherlands

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