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Re: Why choose Debian?

on Fri, Jan 19, 2001 at 11:43:24PM -0500, David B . Harris (dbarclay10@yahoo.ca) wrote:
> To quote Bill Wohler <wohler@newt.com>,
> #   1) The package manager.
> Speaking of packages, I think this should be raised.
> In general, I find that the quality of Debian packages is better than
> most others. Why?
> With most distributions, managers are forced to make a compromise -
> spend more time packaging very popular software, and less time
> packaging less popular software, or spread out the available resources
> for all packages. For the former, you'll end up with some very good
> packages, but you'll also end up with lots more that are mediocre, at
> best. In the latter case, you'll end up with a bunch of mediocre
> packages. When you pay your packagers and rely on those packagers for
> your distribution, you have finite resources to work with.
> Debian is really a community - in essence, a community of packagers.
> While there are only a few dozen dedicated packagers(who will package
> anything and everything, and things that everyone uses, like libc and
> such), there are hundreds of packagers who only package the program(s)
> they want to. The ones they use, day to day.
> What you end up with is a nice, even quality to the packages. The
> less-popular packages are still packaged by someone who uses it -
> they'll give just as much attention to detail with their "pet package"
> as someone who's packaging 'util-linux' or 'file-utils' would. The
> best of both worlds - you have a good, solid, base system of
> well-packaged popular software, and you have hundreds(thousands!) of
> other less-popular software packaged to the same standards and
> quality.

Mostly.  Though Debian's got its warts.  Look at the open bugs lists
some time -- there's an unhealthy number of them.  Largely noncritical,
and largely associated with lesser-used packages, but still.

What this analysis fails to address, however, is that Debian approches
packaging from a _distribution_ standpoint.  While RPM is really just a
package manager, the Debian tools:  dpkg, apt-get, aptitude, are
_distribution_ management systems concerned with _policy management_.
Well-formed packages understand how they fit *with the system*, not
merely within their own dependency scope.  With a hierarchy of packages,
core, extra, etc., failures to fit within the system are correctly
identified as bugs _of the noncompliant package_.

I do feel that the points you raise regarding the decentralized
(distributed) maintenance of packages are well made, BTW, just that
they're not the whole story.

Note also that the comprehensiveness of the Debian system far exceeds
that of a base RH distro.  Debian's 6700 packages vs. about 750 in core
RH.  Order of magnitude difference.

> There is also the issue of updating. A distribution maker must expend
> enourmous resources into making the next version of their
> distribution.  They also must expend resources to keep their most
> current distribution up-to-date with the rest of the world. Let's look
> at Red Hat for an example. Aside from security fixes, when was the
> last time you were able to update to the latest GNOME desktop, using
> packages specifically designed for your distribution's version, from
> you distribuion vendor?  Not very often, I can tell you. And they
> can't be blamed for that, either. For some things, it can be a
> near-full-time job for twenty or thirty packages. Considering a modern
> Linux distribution comes with thousands of packages, this is obviously
> a time-consuming prospect.

Naw -- see above.  Them RH users only have to deal with 10% of the
issues we've got <g>.

In fairness, RH has been attackign this problem of late, though IMO
their approach is still flawed.  Unfortunately, business models have a
bad habit of getting in the way of good systems and development
practice.  Fortunately, the Debian effort appears to be largely

> I'm rambling a bit. Sorry, I'm tired. Maybe I'll write an essay :)

Definitely some good bits in there.

Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org

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