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[~OT:] philosophy of installation ease

an abstract question:

bootstrapped into debian, having never extensively worked with any
other Linux distro, i've had the pleasure of using and maintaining
debian systems for the past two and some years.  in the first two or
so years, all the debian installs i performed went smooth as a hot
knife through butter.

in the past two months, however, i've installed debian on several
systems (both dells, funny enough) that did not take to it like the
proverbial fish to water, and i also utterly failed to install it on a
friend's old (wall street model) powerbook.  one install[1] took two
solid weeks of investigating frambuffer oddities and grokking the
kernel; the more recent took only two days, but required that i do a
knoppix chroot install[2] (thanks, greg & karsten!).

i don't resent either of these installs -- i've learned a lot through
both, and it's both fun for me and useful for my work that i know
about the issues (basic networking; LKMs; &c.) that i ended up
understanding (better) in the process.

however, something like knoppix, based on debian yet compatible with
everything i've ever slipped it into, makes me wonder why the initial
debian install process can't be easier than it currently is.  the
company i work for uses primarily redhat on their linux boxes, first
for ease of installation, and second because they've gotten to know it
best because of its ease of installation.  i'm putting debian on the
servers i'm bringing up right now (because i can, haha -- and also
because i'll be maintaining them, and don't want to deal with RH), but
i'm getting flak from colleagues about the difficulty of the install.
and just sliding the knoppix CD in and watching it recognize all my
weird hardware in both the laptop & server cases, makes me wonder why
the woody & sarge distro CDs can't behave more like that.

don't misinterpret -- i'm not saying i want to take control away from
the person who's installing -- that's why i switched to linux in the
first place, to get that control on all levels!  but it would be nice
to have the option of functional auto-detection of more hardware than
i've recently seen distro CDs recognize.

i'm wondering what the philosophy behind this do-it-yourself (and by
"it" we mean the kitchen sink) install is.  klaus knoppix himself is
quoted recently as admitting that debian is his favorite, but only
after a difficult install[3].  a recent thread on another LUG i
subscribe to advocated RH to a new user, for ease of installation, and
then recommended that they switch to debian after they get fed up with

surely this isn't the kind of linux philosophy we want to promote?
i'm wondering, then, what is ... and how the installation plays a role
in this.



[1] http://www.maenad.net/geek/di8k-debian/
[2] http://twiki.iwethey.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/DebianChrootInstall
[3] http://www.pctechtalk.com/view.php?id=1239

    .~.      nori @ sccs.swarthmore.edu
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