Monday, May 20, 2013

jesse reviews wheezy

Kinda chuckled while reading Jesse Smith's review of Debian Wheezy in this week's DistroWatch Weekly.

Lukewarm review, I thought, with the same old complaints: It isn't easy to figure out which image to download, and where to go for various images. Documentation, release notes, etc., not all in an easy-to-find place, and some of the documentation hasn't been updated for Wheezy. Long installation process in comparison to many other distros. Old packages. Regarding documentation, he wrote:

I felt the documentation was a bit scattered and I found myself digging through the release notes, installation guide, release announcement and wiki looking for details on Wheezy.

All valid complaints, to be sure, although the issue of "aged" packages in Debian Stable is a fact of life -- and, part of the deal. There are usually ways for users to get more up-to-date packages in Stable (via Backports, for example; or, as another example, by installing something like the latest Firefox directly from the Mozilla site). But, in the end, you simply can't have both "stable" and "cutting-edge."

He wrote, "In the coming weeks there will probably be a live CD released to accompany these install discs, though at the time of my trial the live CD was not yet available." But I had a Debian Live image downloaded within a few of days after Wheezy went final.

He reviewed only Wheezy GNOME, and wrote, "Debian comes with two graphical package managers which act as front ends to the underlying APT package handling system [Synaptic and "Add/Remove Software"]. Not really an accurate statement, though. Debian Wheezy GNOME comes with gnome-packagekit. In GNOME Shell's Activities overview, if you type "software" (or just "soft") you see the following software apps:

Add/Remove Software
Software Settings
Software Update
GDebi Package Installer

Add/Remove Software (the command is /usr/bin/gpk-application), Software Settings (/usr/bin/gpk-prefs), and Software Update (/usr/bin/gpk-update-viewer) are all part of gnome-packagekit, which, of course, is not included in Wheezy Xfce. He didn't even mention GDebi, which is also a GNOME app that doesn't come with the Xfce version.

Jesse mentioned having a problem with his repository sources. He said when he first went to update the system, he found that the "installation DVD was still listed as a package repository":

...and this appeared to be short-circuiting the update process. I attempted to remove the Debian DVD as a source and found the utility would not permit the removal of the DVD as a package source. Whenever the checkbox was cleared it would be automatically re-enabled. At this point I dropped to a command line and manually edited the APT package sources file and set it to use the remote repositories exclusively. From then on I was able to check for updates and install new packages without any problems.

I think that he would have been able to remove the DVD from the list of sources via Synaptic just as easily as manually editing his sources.list file, but it would have been good if the approach he first tried (using the "Software Sources" tab in the Software Settings app) would have worked. In any case, it should be noted that after installing Debian, you might want to go back and check your sources.list file (and edit it, if necessary) before updating the system.

At least he had positive things to say about Wheezy's stability, performance, and so forth:

Debian is surprisingly light for a modern distribution and it is blindingly fast, both when it is booting and when logged in. The system is quite clean, responsive and comes with a decent collection of software. The Stable branch of Debian lived up to its name and I did not encounter any lock-ups, application crashes or other frustrations after my first day with Wheezy. The distribution stays out of the way, performs quickly and comes with a huge amount of software through the repositories.

Well, I've had Wheezy GNOME and Wheezy Xfce running here since late September -- quite a long time before Wheezy was finalized and released as Debian 7.0 (the current "Debian Stable"). It's been great -- stable and absolutely dependable.

It's true that it can be a bit difficult to find information about Debian, but for the most part, the information is out there, and a few good web searches will do wonders. Installation could no doubt be made easier and less time-consuming, but it really isn't so bad. I always plan for it to take about an hour -- and I take good notes during every step.

All of that makes Debian less easy to install than many other distros, but it's well worth it, and there are other distros that are definitely more difficult to install. All you really have to do is read and follow instructions, take your time, and take good notes. Then sit back and chill for a few years, because it's highly unlikely that Debian Stable will ever give you any problems.

Many interesting and informative comments regarding Smith's review can be found in this week's DistroWatch Weekly comments section; just scroll towards the bottom of the page.

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