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Re: No good user experience of Debian (Was: Packaging r-bioc-simpleaffy)

On 28/02/11 22:59, Andreas Tille wrote:
Hi Tony,

I would like to discuss this topic in a separate thread on
debian-project where it might belong to.

Hi, Andreas.

OK, the topic is now closed on Debian-Med.

[...]   I simply wanted to share some negative user experience in
contrast to several good critics on debian-project list.  For the
readers here:  I highly regard Tony's opinion.  Please do not start
a flamewar about his opinion.]

I don't want to start an advocacy debate about Debian vs. Ubuntu, because that has been done to death elsewhere. My objective is to win the hearts and minds of biologists using M$ Windows to run Bio-Linux, the current version of which is based on 64-bit Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

Together with my colleagues, I arranged a biologist's 'power' user workshop in Florence during which we spent one of the three days in a University computer lab set up entirely with Debian Etch workstations running Iceweasel, to connect as NX clients to NuGO-Linux servers.


It was not my idea to use Debian clients. It was a facility offered to us by the University of Florence and I was happy to accept the offer. I did not anticipate the problems that we encountered doing something as simple as running an NX client. The session was a complete disaster until we rapidly installed the non-free Sun Java and browser plugin.

First off, our NuGO servers use the NX 'helper' applet that did not work with gcj and IcedTea, to load a native NX client. Then as part of the excercise we wanted to run Adobe reader. These things are trivial to do under M$ Windows and I found myself unable to convince anyone that it was a good idea to run Linux on the client-side. Needless to say, this all worked perfectly from my Bio-Linux (Ubuntu) laptop.

I used Debian on SPARC and x86/x86_64 on workstations and servers long before Ubuntu was released, and I'm well aware that Ubuntu is nothing without Debian. However, my own experience of non-expert users being introduced to Debian for the first time is a lot less satisfactory than when they are introduced to Ubuntu. I'm not in any way detracting from the huge achievements of Debian. I'm just saying that I found it easier to convince sceptical M$ Windows users to run an NX client on their own machine to access an Ubuntu server, or run Ubuntu on their own machine than I did to convince them to use Debian for any purpose.

As Andreas said, this is not flame-bait - It's just my opinion, and I've posted a message here on debian-project because he asked me to.



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