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Re: Future of Debian !uncertain



Patrick McFarland wrote:
> But, sadly, I also agree that we dont have enough QA types, or other kinds of
> non-maint developers. That is something that should be corrected asap, imho.
> The reason redhat and mandrake (and other distros like that) look so good to
> newbies, is because they have nice tools like autodetection of hardware, and
> other nice things. (Stuff that clueful people dont exactly need, but are nice
> to have around anyhow. Provides a certain ammount of eyecandy Debian doesnt
> have yet.)

But, here you really miss Noah's point and your idea that we can just
throw more developers at it and make it better is wrong. 

The reason you can install Mandrake or whatever and get a
well-configured, working desktop automatically set up for you is that
Mandrake has decided that they will cater to the set of people who want
a nice desktop without any work. They will make decisions for them.
They will autoprobe stuff for them. They will not bother to support
obscure hardware and software. They will support installs only from CD.
They will test and re-test that particular desktop install.

The reason installing a Debian desktop takes a phd is because the
installer is just as happy to let you go off and build a shell server
on a m68k. Or a ratpoison "desktop". Or a headless X font server/xdm
server.

Every branch in this path requires a decision from the user, since
Debian is afraid to make any decisions for them. We end up with some
fairly nice, but flawed, tools like debconf and aptitude and tasksel
that are designed to help the user communicate their decisions, and
rather over-designed[1], possibly second-system-effect[1] things like
debian-installer that are likewise designed to let the user install
anything they want to, from any possible media, to any possible
hardware. We test a few paths through it, but there are too many to even
test them all[2].

And then we wonder why despite all the hard work people still complain
that Debian is not suited for newbies. By trying to be all-encompassing,
we really just limit outselves by default to a particular set of people
and applications. Maybe we should instead give some thought to
conciously choosing what sets of people and applications we want Debian
to be best suited for.

-- 
see shy jo

[1] Hey, if it is, I'm guilty. But there is a reason why PGI, which
    leans toward the Mandrake end of the spectrum is languishing while
    debian-installer gains momentum. I worked in the constraints of
    being unable to make any desisions or assumptions as for the user
    when I designed d-i, and it's good given those constraints. But they
    *are* constraints.
[2] Guess how many people told the installer team that X didn't
    autoprobe hardware in woody, since some required packages were not
    pre-installed -- before woody was released? Zero. Guess what
    percentage of our users seem to run into it now. About 25% I'd say.

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