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Re: comment on "User Review of Debian GNU/Linux"

Alexander Antoniades <lordgarth@nyc.rr.com> writes:

> There is a lot of information available about Debian, but much of it
> is out of date

Which materials, at least of the ones on www.debian.org, are you
referring to?  Have you filed bugs for them or sumbitted feedback on

> > We do have a policy, in fact, of now new upstream versions go into
> > stable after it's released.  [...]
> While I can appreciate using limited resources to their fullest potential, my 
> main issue with the no updates to Woody policy would have to do with 
> OpenOffice. IMHO OpenOffice is as significant to Linux on the desktop as 
> Apache is to Linux as a server, and I think making an exception in this one 
> case would make a great deal of difference for anyone considering using Woody 
> as a desktop installation. This of course could be another resource
> issue. 

A very subjective pick.  Since it's in contrib, and not in main, it is
not officially part of Debian.  Moreover, it wasn't even packaged at
the time of woody's release.  It's hugely complex, so probably even an
upgrade couldn't be provided without requiring a whole cascading set
of other packages.  Finally, I'm not sure it's even very mature as a
package.  Just glancing at it I noticed a number of problems, such as
circular dependancies between openoffice.org and
openoffice.org-debian-files.  Personally I use gnumeric/abiword for
that sort of thing.

> One of the things I've found unintentionally disingenuous about
> Debian is the implication that the software in Woody is the only
> latest stable, secure software available, whereas the real issue
> appears to be one of resources and the amount of work necessary to
> make big changes.

Well, I don't know where that statement came from.  What became woody
was certainly the least buggy, most secure set of software we had at
the time when woody froze.  Which was a long long time before release.

> My stress on the lag in testing was to help people decide what version of 
> Debian to install since I think this is key to having a better user 
> experience. From my perspective Sarge, at the current time, is broken. It 
> doesn't contain newer versions of the larger packages,

Well, that would make it stale, not broken.

> and doesn't offer the support, backports or security that Woody
> does.

Actaully, there are security team updates available for sarge; just
put this in sources.list:

  deb http://security.debian.org/ sarge/updates main contrib non-free

As for back-ports, if you have reasonably new software, why need

> For example during the time I upgraded from Woody to Sarge, I found out that 
> KPackage was broken. It's linked to the wrong library and will not load. The 
> bug was reported six months ago and will probably not be fixed, since the 
> maintainer is, rightfully, working on getting KDE 3.1 into Sid.

I think this reflects the immaturity of the kde rather than the
brokenness of testing.  If folks had found the bug when it was in
unstable and filed bugs at the correct severity, it would have never
propogated to testing.  Not that that helps you much.  Anyhow KDE
3.1.0 does seem to be in unstable now.

> When I read a sheet like Jaldhar H Vyas's Introducing Debian
> GNU/Linux which was handed out at LinuxWorld says Testing "is a good
> choice for desktop users" I cringe.

Well, sad to hear that.  

> I agree this is a transient condition, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist 
> and shouldn't be discussed.

I not aware that I said it shouldn't be discussed....?

I'm all for an open critique of Debian.  I just feel it might help in
your critique, in your approach, and if you're interested in helping,
then understand why it is the way it is, is quite important.

> > I don't mean to pooh pooh Debian's #1 complaint (old versions of
> > packages) and the #2 complaint (the install system).  As for #2, the
> > install system, now in alpha, has been rewritten from the ground up to
> > be modular, maintainable, and user-friendly.  It might take a while
> > for it to quite get there, of course.
> I was unable to find any information on this, outside of that it is
> currently being done.

Well, it's not in wide distribution for beta.  If you want to help
with testing, ask on debian-boot list.

> I was also unable to find any information on the Debian desktop 
> project.

It is rather buried under devel...  Here's the URL:

> IMHO The main problem is under the current system there just seems to be 
> massive duplication of effort with the work going into and maintain the Woody 
> backports

But Debian developers do very little work along these lines.... 

> and packages spanning multiple versions that never get out of Sid. 

I don't follow, "spanning multiple versions" ?

> These issues and that the scope of the changes in Sarge are just too much to 
> be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time make me concerned for future 
> of Debian.

??!  That's a pretty extreme statement.  What do you consider a
"reasonable amount of time" ?

Look, what's going to happen is very simple.  Some more time will
pass, the "constipation" in the flow between unstable -> testing is
going to go away, more time will pass, then testing will become
frozen, and then eventually sarge will release.

Don't be concerned about Debian.  It will still be around when we're
all dead and gone, I'm sure.
> Users are the lifeblood of operating systems, and Debian has to compete for 
> those users with companies like Red Hat who are willing to support and offer 
> software like KDE 3.x and OpenOffice.

We compete through quality of integration.  We simply cannot compete
on time-to-market.  Don't go thinking this is going to cause the end
of the world or the end of Debian.  In fact, it's much better now that
it was just two years ago, when we didn't even have the unstable
release (nor did we have KDE at all, in any form).  And our release
cycles have always been long, so that's not a new problem either.

All this gnashing of teeth and hair-pulling you're doing -- it's
really unnecessary.  We are aware of the problems and working on it.
The element of hysteria is not required.

> The fact that no version of Debian has a complete edition of KDE 3.x
> doesn't make the argument that more people should use it any easier.

Well, unstable does.

> Debian is also more vulnerable than other distros 
> since it requires a great deal of bandwidth from dedicated repositories just 
> to keep it going.

Dedicated repositories?  Are you talking about the non-Debian

Oh, come on.  If someone wants to serve up a few Debian pkgs on an
apt-get'table place, so what's the problem?  "Huge bandwidth"?  In
fact, given that we have 8000 packages and RedHat has less than a
thousand, I would think it would be pretty fair to say that the
third-party network of Debian package supplier uses orders of
magnitude less bandwidth than corresponding third-party RPM-providing

If the poeple want it, the people do it themselves.  That's the whole
beauty of the Internet and Free Software.

> Ultimately my feeling is that Debian would be a good position to
> benefit from the whole symbiotic, rising-tide-lifts-all-boats thing
> if it were more up to date.

Yes, that's pretty obvious.  :)

> I stand by the factual information in the article,

I don't believe I ever asked you to retract it, or challenged it's
factuality (except on the glibc matter).

> if there is indeed a different reason why Sarge is so out of date (I
> suspect there are many) I'd like to address that in another
> article. If there's someone you can suggest I interview who could
> definitively answer this I'd be interested in writing about it.

Hmm.  I would email on the debian-glibc list, and/or read some recent
archives, http://lists.debian.org/debian-glibc/

> I wanted to review to focus on my impressions and observations not
> on Debian's policies and official responses.

Well, I respect that.  A number of places you go beyond just
impressions and observations and into prognositcations and
diagnostics, and, I thought, a little wrong-headedly.

A note: "official responses" is a term that doesn't make much sense
for us.  I'm responding, but I'm not officially responding.  The whole
term "official" requires corporate/bureaucratic organizations of
control which we simple do not have.

> I brought them up only because the review was focusing on the
> ongoing use of Debian, not just the usual "I had these problems with
> installation, but I've been using it for an hour now." One of my
> main considerations of any distribution is what the future holds for
> this software.

Well, I hope I managed to give you some clues about what the past
held.  Understanding where we are relative to 2 or 5 years ago is
crucial for crystal-gazing on what the future holds, IMHO.  And I
think seeing the long view will help keep that hair in your head and
not between your fingers.

...Adam Di Carlo...<adam@onshored.com>.......<URL:http://www.onshored.com/>

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