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RE: Considering Debian (currently using Red Hat)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fred Whipple [mailto:fwhipple@imagineis.com] 
> Sent: 14 January 2004 14:57
> To: debian-isp@lists.debian.org
> Subject: Considering Debian (currently using Red Hat)
> Hi Everyone,
> I'd like to get some of your thoughts on a few things...


Package: cruft
Priority: optional
Section: admin
Installed-Size: 636
Maintainer: Anthony Towns <ajt@debian.org>
Architecture: i386
Version: 0.9.6-0.4
Depends: libc6 (>= 2.3.1-1), file
Filename: pool/main/c/cruft/cruft_0.9.6-0.4_i386.deb
Size: 26690
MD5sum: a1dfa3e1828f92cbf9e03223f498f07c
Description: Find any cruft built up on your system
 cruft is a program to look over your system for anything that shouldn't
 be there, but is; or for anything that should be there, but isn't.
 It bases most of its results on dpkg's database, as well as a list of
 `extra files' that can appear during the lifetime of various packages.
 cruft is still in pre-release; your assistance in improving its accuracy
 and performance is appreciated.

I think that's what you want. Seems to work - just tried it.


Debian is the biggest distribution, it has *more* packages than redhat. It
has almost 9000 packages in the main stable tree, I believe. Generally I
find that I can find any program I want. If it's not in debian it's not
worth having in a lot of cases! The exception to this is driver packages
which often come as rpm-only. Anything non-proprietary is usually debian
packaged, however.

3) Debian is not released in the same way as redhat, which seems to follow a
windows style of releases. Debian development is a continous stream. A
"release" is created by first taking a branch off the main development
stream (unstable), calling it testing and declaring a freeze on any new
packages or non security changes. After a while, that is released as the
next "stable" release. Stable in this case means version-stable, It doesn't
necessarily imply that newer development streams are more unreliable. 

If you were to take your updates from the unstable tree, as I do, you would
never have install a upgrade, as your system would always be the latest.
Even if you dont, upgrading doesn't involve finding a cd and rebooting, a
apt-get dist-upgrade will do.

4) Stable like you say is updated fairly infrequently, however security
updates are released at the same time as for other releases/trees/streams. I
believe you can use the security updates no matter how old your initial
release of debian is.

5) There's the political differences, as you are aware, but i'd say the
biggest difference between debian and redhat is the absolute ease that you
can keep your whole system up to date and the efficiency of the packaging
system - dependency conflicts are rare on the unstable branch and unheard of
on the stable and testing branches. There's none of this nonsense about
"premium" updates support, special privileged ftp servers, etc. There is a
large network of mirrors, and they all work reliably and quickly.

6) If it was a choice between GNU/Linux'es, debian, if it was a more general
OS choice, it would depend on the task at hand. 

Dan Ros

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Fred Whipple [mailto:fwhipple@imagineis.com] 
> Sent: 14 January 2004 14:57
> To: debian-isp@lists.debian.org
> Subject: Considering Debian (currently using Red Hat)
> Hi Everyone,
> I'd like to get some of your thoughts on a few things relating to the 
> possibility of our company switching distributions from Red Hat to 
> Debian.  As most folks already know, Red Hat has drastically changed 
> their strategy, and we ultimately must make *some* relatively drastic 
> changes no matter what.  And, we intend not to switch to RHEL (though 
> not for financial reasons).  This gives us the opportunity, 
> welcome or 
> not, to consider other distributions.  And even other OS's -- we're 
> frankly not closed to the idea of ultimately switching platforms 
> entirely to BSD or Solaris.  So with this in mind,
> 1.)  One of the biggest reasons we went with Red Hat many 
> years ago was 
> RPM.  Of course I know that Debian has a package system, and there're 
> constant arguments about which is better, if either.  What I wonder, 
> though, is how they compare for the purposes of security 
> checking.  On a 
> Red Hat system, practically any file or directory outside of 
> /home can 
> be found within the RPM database.  We can check each and 
> every file, its 
> MD5 hash, etc.  It's like having a built-in Tripwire installation so 
> long as you trust the RPM database.  We've modified the RPM 
> installation 
> such that we can trust it more than we trust Tripwire.  Do Debian 
> packages have similar security built-in?
> 2.)  A related reason we used Red Hat was that practically 
> anything you 
> could want to use was pre-packaged in a simple to install 
> RPM.  And they 
> were typically pretty high quality RPM's, and very often well 
> maintained.  Do admins typically find that they're able to 
> find Debian 
> packages for most software they're typically interested in using?  I 
> realise this varries greatly between markets, but I guess what I'm 
> asking is do you usually find 70% of the packages you're 
> interested in 
> in Debian package format, and well maintained?  80%?  Just a 
> general idea.
> 3.)  I read quite a bit of the Web site, and see that in general, 
> releases seem to be very far and few between.  This is 
> advantageous to 
> ISP's, of course, because we want things to just "work".  Is my 
> perception correct in that releases are far apart?  When is the next 
> release expected?  How significant is the difference from, 
> say, 3.0 and 
> 3.1.  Can you just install a bunch of packages and call it an 
> upgrade, 
> or do you have to go through a whole ordeal as you do between 
> Red Hat .X 
> versions?
> 4.)  How long are previous versions maintainaned with patches 
> and such?  
> Or to restate this, how long after a new version is released are you 
> FORCED to upgrade in order to maintain security?  How drastic are the 
> changes in between minor version increments (say, 3.0 to 3.1)?  For 
> example, Red Hat has tended to make significant kernel upgrades and 
> glibc upgrades in minor version changes, and has caused significant 
> incompatibilities that have caught us by surprise.
> 5.)  Of course we'll be testing it extensively ourselves, but 
> what would 
> you say the most significant differences, both from a user 
> and an admin 
> perspective, are between Debian and <Brand X> Linux?  Or, 
> maybe better 
> stated, why Debian?  I know that's a religeously charged 
> question, but 
> at the moment our only position is "not RHL."  We're open to being 
> converted ;-)
> 6.)  And finally, if you care to toss in any ideas or info, I'm very 
> glad and excited to hear it.  For instance, if you were going 
> to switch 
> all your systems within the next year, would you choose 
> something else?  
> A BSD port?  Go back to Solaris?  Novell?  SCO?  Just kidding.
> Thanks very much!
>     -Fred Whipple
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