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Re: current Redhat user evaluates Debian

"In a galaxy far away, John L. Fjellstad" wrote:
>  Hi,
> I'm a current RedHat user (started with Linux on RedHat because
> it was available at Fry's), and I'm currently evaluating
> Debian for a possible switch.
> Can anyone come up with a list of advantages of using Debian
> Linux over Redhat Linux?
> I would also love to hear any the weaknesses Debian has compared
> RedHat.


I've been dual-booting Red Hat and Win98 on a PII 350, since March,
1999. Before that I'd been dividing my computing pretty much equally
between MacOS and NT.

In January, 2000, I got serious about setting up a network to serve my
websites, front-ended by a firewall box that wouldn't quickly become
just 'a piece of Swiss cheese' between my LAN and the outside world.

In other words, I wanted a system configuration that would impose a
strict, consistent, logical hierarchy and be easy to maintain and update
against any new security exploits that would inevitably come at it.

I looked into Slackware, SuSE, Debian and also OpenBSD and FreeBSD.

In March, 2000, I picked up a 1992-era 486DX 66 with a modest 514Mb hard
drive, at Goodwill of all places. $120 and all the hardware was Linux

The local LUG (Linux Users Group) here, offered to make free burns of
any distros members wanted to try. I got a CD each for Debian, Slack and

Since I'd already started auditing this (the debian-users) mailing list,
I popped in the Debian CD first and found I only had part of what I
needed. But it made enough sense that I downloaded a set of tools from
http://www.debian.org to floppies and partitioned the 'Goodwill Special'
as 100% pure Debian and installed a workable 'Slink' (Debian's current
stable release) base system.

Over a 56k modem and using 'dselect' (Debian's front-end to 'dpkg', the
package management tool), I fleshed out 'Slink', but realized it was
pretty outdated as compared to the Red Hat 6.1 conglomeration I was
using on the PII.

So I ordered a set of CD's for Debian 'Potato' (at the time, Debian's
unstable release) from the nice people at Greenbush Technologies 
http://www.greenbush.com/cgi-greenbush/order/index.cgi .

But before the CD's arrived I'd discovered apt-get (Debian's system for
upgrading from file, http or ftp sources). I never used the CD's.

Once you get the hang of apt-get, you realize there isn't much else out
there that you can even compare it with.

Almost overnight, online, I went from 'Slink' to 'Potato', without
having to bother the great folks on this list too much (I hope). All of
a sudden, Red Hat was looking outdated!    

BTW, if apt-get is my #1 reason for going forward with Debian for my
firewall, this list is a close second. I have attempted about nine times
to get email support from Red Hat, support I paid for, and never got
past a bot or a 'customer service' representative who couldn't
understand how I could possibly be feeling frustrated. Never once did
anyone who knew anything ever respond.

In late June, 2000, I upgraded from the 56k modem to a 192k/192k SDSL
connection, installed linux-2.2.16, set up the network, ssh and ssl,
then just last night decided to 'apt-get' myself from mostly 'Potato' to
full 'Woody' (Debian's current development release).

Maybe I've gotten too confident in the Debian development team for
'Woody' on a firewall?

If apt-get was great at 56k, it is mind-boggling at 192k. Especially if
you've ever tried to get a crucial security update from Red Hat or one
of its mirrors and gotten an insipid dialogue saying more or less 'sorry
all circuits are busy' or 'that site/directory/file does not exist'.

Best of all, once you've done an 'apt-get dist-upgrade', a complete
upgrading of everything you have chosen to have on your Debian system --
online -- in under an hour -- whenever you want (I do it weekly) -- you
never want to go back to anything like the horrors I experienced
upgrading from Red Hat 6.0 to 6.1.

RH 6.2? No thank you. 

However, I'm continuing to run Red Hat 6.1 on the PII.

Are there advantages to Red Hat over Debian?

Well, just the day before yesterday, a brand-new Red Hat user snuck onto
this list and asked why Red Hat wasn't recognizing his new ethernet
card. I think they do that because they've heard if you want Linux help,
ask the debian-user people. Some have even admitted that.

Off the list, I attempted to walk him through the various steps I'd had
to learn to set up my network 'the way I wanted it'. I began by asking
him questions about his routing table, his kernel, etc., so we'd have
enough information to 'just do it'.

Finally, he wrote back saying "Hey, thanks, but I know nothing about my
kernel since Red Hat did it for me, and somebody else told me just go
into linuxconf > Basic host information > Adaptor 1, select the right
kernel module, and it worked. But I learned a lot from your questions."

And you know (slapping my forehead), I knew that! But it was just too

Does Debian have weaknesses as compared to Red Hat?

For the paradigm I started with, I'd have to say no. But, for people who
just want to 'do it'? Yes. Debian takes work, a greater willingness to
read the HOWTO's and manpages, and a strong, dedicated support group in
close touch with the developers. Luckily, that last 'weakness' is more
than overcome by the debian-users mailing list.

Will I switch the PII from Red Hat to Debian?

Probably. But, I don't feel any pressing need to switch now that Red
Hat's security looseness is tucked in behind a Debian mediated firewall.
Of course, security is relative. But, I'll feel relatively secure as
long as nobody writes back "Don't do Woody on a firewall!"

Still, when friends ask me about 'this thing called Linux', I recommend
they go out and buy the latest Red Hat boxed CD set; try Linux; and, if
they like it and want to get serious, switch to Debian, Slackware or

Sorry for the story format and not a neat list. Hope it helps.


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