is not quite like any other distro out there. If bigger is better, then
Debian wins hands down. Aside from having the largest collection of
free software packages, Debian also runs on 11 platforms. But there is
more to Debian than just size. Almost uniquely among distros, Debian is
a non-commercial development project run by volunteers spread around
the globe. That the efforts of all these people manage to come
together to produce a well-tuned distro (rather than breaking down into
sheer chaos) is in itself quite an accomplishment.
In order to keep things organized, Debian is divided into three
branches - stable (currently Woody), testing (currently Sarge), and unstable (Sid). Debian
has a fearsome reputation for being difficult to install, and unstable
is even more "interesting" since it requires that you install stable
first. Travel writer and recent Debian convert Robert Storey tackles
the whole installation procedure head on and gives his report below.
See also: User Review of Debian GNU/Linux 3.0r1
|A d v e r t i s e m e n t
|Mine is Bigger
|Debian - there has never been any other
Linux distro quite like it. Long a favorite of the geek elite, there is
no doubt that Debian is popular. Sign up for the Debian-user mailing
list, and you can expect to receive about 300 messages a day. Perhaps
(just perhaps) there are more people using Redhat, Mandrake or SuSE.
However, if bigger means better, then Debian is the undisputed champion
- Debian's "stable" branch boasts 8710 "packages" (packages =
precompiled software bundled up in a nice format for easy installation).
In Debian's "unstable" branch there are about 13,000 packages (more than
six gigabytes worth). If software was sold by the kilogram, then Debian
would fetch top dollar. However, this massive collection of excellent
software is free, the work of hundreds (or thousands) of unpaid
volunteers. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Now, dear reader, if you think this is going to be Yet Another Gushing
Review (YAGR) by a Debian cult follower, you are mistaken. Yes, I use
Debian (though not exclusively). But if the truth be told, my zealotry
for Debian is tempered by certain shortcomings in the distro. Yes, if an
election for "best distro" was held today, Debian would almost certainly
get my vote. But much like any candidate for political office, Debian
has some skeletons in the closet. However, before I get into all that,
first a little background for the benefit of those who are new to this
whole "distro" thing.
|Package Management That Will Knock Your
|A quick glance at the Distrowatch
web site reveals that there are something like 160-plus Linux
distributions in circulation. What is less obvious is that most of these
distros can be classified into four broad categories according to their
"package-management system." In chronological order, the first was
Slackware's TGZ system, followed by Redhat's RPM, Debian's APT
("Advanced Package Management"), and most recently source-based package
management, the most famous example being Gentoo's "Portage" system (for
some more brief history, see the footnotes at the end of this article).
Without going into a great deal of detail, the basic idea of package
management is to install (and perhaps remove) software packages. One
very big issue that immediately crops up is the ability (or lack
thereof) to "resolve dependencies." That is to say, some programs
depend on other programs in order to function correctly. To give a very
obvious example, if you try to install a graphics editing program like
The Gimp, it's not going to work without Xwindows which supplies the
whole graphics subsystem. A good package management system should, at
the minimum, inform you about unmet dependencies so you can install
everything that's needed. Even better, the package management system
should just fix the problem for you without asking - that is, it should
fetch all the required programs and install them automatically.
Resolving dependencies is something that users should not even have to
Slackware's TGZ solves the problem by ignoring it. Dependencies have to
be dealt with manually, a non-trivial task. Many say that running
Slackware is a great way to learn about how Linux works. Indeed,
Slackware users are among the most knowledgeable Linux system
administrators around. It has often been said that Slackware is the most
Unix-like of the Linux distros. That's about the most positive spin I
can put on the TGZ system, and I think I'll shut up now before I get
flamed to a crisp by irate Slackware enthusiasts.
RPM was considered a great advance when it was first released. It was
invented by Redhat, and was the major reason why Redhat was propelled to
first place in terms of popularity. RPM was adopted by Mandrake, SuSE
and others, and still claims the prize for most-used package-management
system. However, RPM too suffers some serious shortcomings. The basic
problem is that RPM will inform you about dependencies, but it won't
automatically resolve them. The scenario goes like this: you try to
install Package-A but it fails and generates an error message saying
that you need Package-B. So you fetch Package-B and try to install it,
only to receive an error message that Package-B requires Package-C. And
of course, Package-C won't install because you don't have Package-D.
This frustrating situation has become known as "dependency hell." To be
fair to the above-named distros, there have been attempts to work
around the problem. Mandrake seems to be the most successful with their
URPMI system. Redhat users (with no support from Redhat) have built
APT4RPM. But these home-brewed solutions do not work across distros,
weakening the RPM "standard."
Gentoo's Portage system is very effective at banishing dependency hell.
Portage is a concept borrowed from FreeBSD's Ports which has been around
for about 10 years (Portage is a recent variation on the theme). Both
Portage and Ports are source-based - that is, you have to compile all
the packages from source code. An advantage of this is that
knowledgeable hackers can optimize the source code, and software
developers find this feature particularly exciting. On the downside,
compiling does take a great deal of time, and is especially tedious on a
slow machine such as a laptop. A fairly typical Gentoo installation
takes about three days to complete.
Debian's APT system is older than Portage, but does much the same
thing. The crucial difference is that APT is binary, so it does not
require compilation and installs very quickly. Developers will probably
see that as a disadvantage, but the average user will most likely prefer
the speedy installation over the ability to tweak source code.
To get some idea how APT works, consider this: I am writing this review
right now on a Debian system using a popular editor called Emacs
(version 21). It just so happens that Emacs is a large program that
depends on nine packages. Using Debian's "apt-cache" command, I can view
root@sonic:~# apt-cache depends emacs21
Nice as it is to know all this, it's not mandatory. I can choose to
remain blissfully ignorant about dependencies. To install Emacs, all I
need to do is issue this command:
apt-get install emacs21
Debian will then fetch all nine packages and install them. Note that I
used the word "fetch" in the previous sentence - one might logically
ask, "Fetch from where." That, in fact, is something you can configure.
You can fetch the packages from Debian mirrors on the Internet, from
your own private network (if you happen to have one), or from a set of
CDROMs. The configuration file that determines your source of packages
is /etc/apt/sources.list. You can edit this file at any time and point
it to wherever you choose.
If at any time I decide to get rid of Emacs, I can remove it with this
apt-get remove emacs21
This will not only get rid of Emacs, but will also uninstall unneeded
packages that would otherwise be "orphaned."
This might be a good time to mention that the ever-mighty "apt-get" is
a high-level command that serves as a front-end for "dpkg" (which is a
lower level command). That is to say, dpkg does the actual installing of
packages, but apt-get calls dpkg and performs other magic such as
resolving dependencies. You could almost get through life without
knowing anything about dpkg, except that on occasion you may get to
download a package from the Internet and install it individually, like
dpkg -i packagename.deb
Aside from installing packages, APT can be used to upgrade Debian. This
notion of "upgrade" deserves special mention, because Debian is (almost)
unique in this regard. Most of the big name Linux distros (Redhat,
Mandrake, and SuSE) release a new version approximately two or three
times per year. Debian, on average, makes a major release perhaps once
every two years. This is partly due to the fact that Debian relies on
volunteers rather than on paid staff, and also because there are
thousands of packages which need to be thoroughly beta-tested before
they are deemed to be rock solid stable and secure. Debian is, indeed,
famous for its stability and security - this is one of its great
features. The downside is that the long delay between releases means
that the software seems almost obsolete, a great frustration to users
who want the latest and greatest.
The solution has been to divide Debian into three branches: stable,
testing, and unstable. These versions are also assigned cutesy names
taken from the movie Toy Story - currently, stable is Woody, testing is
Sarge, and unstable is Sid. (Note that Sid was the evil and "unstable"
kid next door in the Toy Story movie). Anyway, to get to the point of
all this, you can (at least theoretically) install Debian just once,
and then upgrade it continually so that you always have the latest
version on your machine.
So Debian is great. It's totally free. It offers the largest collection
of free software in the world. And it's infinitely upgradable. It's got
this great tool APT which can do everything but wash your socks. It's
the greatest thing since sliced bread. Install Debian, and your Windows
and Macintosh-using friends will be green with envy, right? If only.
|It's the Installer, Stupid
|Given all the above, one would expect
Debian to have by now blown away the competition. However, the reality
is somewhat different. Although many hardcore geeks swear by Debian, the
majority still swears at it. Even loyal Debianeers are reluctant to
recommend their favorite distro to newbies. So just what is the problem?
To paraphrase an old US Army recruitment advertisement - installing
Debian is more than just a job, it's an adventure. I confess that the
first time I tried to install Debian, I was so put off by the
installation program that I gave up and reinstalled Redhat. However, I
was shamed by the experience, and a few months later (after reading a
glowing review) I purchased Libranet, which is a commerical distro based
on Debian. Libranet was great, and whetted my appetite to give Debian
another try. Finally, when Debian announced a new release, I took the
plunge. I purchased the 6-CD set from a local bookstore (price US$7),
and took the precaution of first signing up for the Debian-user mailing
list before even attempting the installation.
The first question I (sheepishly) asked on the mailing list was, "Why
is Debian so hard to install?" I was expecting to be crucified for
asking that, but the replies I got were surprisingly civil. In a
nutshell, I was told that Debian's installation was not difficult by
intention, but rather by neglect. Debian developers are unpaid, so they
work on those projects that interest them, and writing a good installer
is not the most exciting project to work on even if it is important. I
was also assured that some people were in fact working on it, and
perhaps it would be ready in time for the next release but in the
meantime I'd just have to rise to the challenge. Furthermore, several
people promised me that the installation experience would be
educational, and indeed, it was. What follows is an abbreviated "how to"
for installing Debian.
|The Devil is in the Details
|Debian doesn't waste its time with a
wimpy graphical installation program - in the Unix tradition, it goes
right for the jugular with good old-fashioned text-mode. Actually, to be
more correct, the installation program is "ncurses-based" (where you
maneuver through text-based menus using the cursor keys). This is really
not so bad, and indeed, I find ncurses to be just as easy to use as
graphics. Nevertheless, it's a widely-acknowledged fact that graphic
installers give newbies a nice warm fuzzy feeling. Text-mode, even if
made user-friendly by context-sensitive ncurses menus, still looks cold,
harsh and impersonal if you grew up in a point-and-click world (as many
Show courage. Insert Debian's disk 1 into your CD drive, reboot, and
within seconds you will be greeted by a text-only screen saying:
"Welcome To Debian GNU/Linux 3.0!" There is a lot of "fine print"
written in the middle of the screen, and at the bottom of the screen is
a prompt that says "boot:". Veterans of Linux installations will be
tempted to just hit <enter> and get on with it - that would be a
mistake! Within the Debian welcome screen is an insidious trap - to
discover it you have to read the fine print."
Welcome to Debian GNU/Linux 3.0!
This is a Debian CD-ROM. Keep it available once you have installed
your system, as you can boot from it to repaair the system on your hard
disk if that ever becomes necessary (press <F3> for details).
For a "safe installation with kernel 2.2.20, you can press
<enter> to begin.
If you want additional features like modern hardware support, specify a
different boot flavor at the boot prompt (press <F3> to get an
If you run into trouble or if you already have questions, press
for quick installation help.
WARNING: You should completely back up all of your hard disks before
proceeding. The installation procedure can completely and irreversibly
erase them! If you haven't made backups yet, remove the CD-ROM
from the drivfe and press <RESET> or <Control-Alt-Del> to
get back to
your old system.
Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
permitted by applicable law. For copyright information, press
Press <F1> for help, or <ENTER> to boot.
Ah, it's an IQ test! You have to hit <F3> to discover the secret
method of installing Debian with an up-to-date 2.4 kernel. The great
secret is that, at the "boot:" prompt, you must type "bf24" and then hit
<enter>. Failure to do so will result in your having installed
Debian with the ancient 2.2.20 kernel! Consider yourself warned! (Note
that if you boot CD No. 5, it will install the 2.4 kernel without the
need to do this <F3> bf24 <enter> routine).
Once you've typed "bf24" and hit <enter>, you'll be asked to
choose a language (there are 19 choices, an indication of just how
international Debian has become). After that, you are presented with the
"main menu" giving you many choices about what to do next:
Debian GNU/Linux Installation
You must indicate what sort of keyboard you have so that
keys operate as expected. Select "Next" from the menu to
configure your keyboard.
Next : Configure
Alternate : Preload essential modules from a
Alternate1: Partition a Hard Disk
Configure the keyboard
Preload Modules from a Floppy
Partition a Hard Disk
Initialize and Activate a Swap Partition
Activate a Previously-Initialized Swap
Do Without a Swap Partition
Initialize a Linux Partition
Mount a Previously-Initialized Partition
Unmount a Partition
Install Kernel and Driver Modules
Configure Device Driver Modules
Configure PCMCIA Support Install Foreign
Configure the Hostname
Configure the Network
Install the Base System
Edit Kernel Boot Parameters
Make System Bootable
Make a Boot Floppy
Reboot the System
View the Partition Table
Execute a Shell
Report a Problem
Restart Installation System
That looks a little scary too, but it's not so bad - just proceed in
order from top to bottom. Note that you do not have to do everything on
this list - you could, for example, skip "Configure the Network", and
then go back and do it later after you've completed installation.
Anyone with even a little prior Linux experience can probably work
through the installation menus without too much difficulty. The great
pitfall comes when you are presented with numerous tricky questions
about hardware configuration. The irony is that you can safely ignore
most of these questions and the installation will still work fine.
However, the Debian developers wanted to give users the opportunity to
tweak their hardware settings. While choice is generally a good thing,
consider what happens when you choose "Configure Device Drivers Modules"
- you are presented with this menu:
Modules are loadable device drivers. Please go through the menus for
each category and look for devices, network protocols, filesystems, etc.
that you would like to have supported by your system. You should not
install modules for devices that are aren't installed on your system, as
they will sometimes cause the system to pause for a long time while it
is searching for the device. Also, drivers for devices that you don't
have use memory that you could put to better use.
Please select the category of modules.
Exit Finished. Return to previous menu.
If that doesn't terrorize newbies, I don't know what will. However, the
vast majority of users can simply choose the first option, which is:
Exit. Finished. Return to previous menu.
In other words, the default kernel will almost certainly work with your
hardware. For 99% of aspiring Debian users, there is really no need (at
this stage anyway) to delve into the abyss of kernel module
Roughly 15 minutes into the installation, you should reach the menu
item that says "Reboot the System". Debian's basic installation actually
goes quite quickly, because you aren't really installing much at first.
However, once you reboot, you've still got some work to do, mostly
configuration and installation of packages. This can be more arduous
than the basic installation.
After rebooting, you will be asked if you want to run Tasksel. Most
users will want to say "yes" - Tasksel is a helpful front end for
loading packages. Running Tasksel will present you with this menu:
Screenshot 1: Tasksel
Tasksel is a handy utility for installing a basic software collection,
but it's by no means complete. Indeed, the fun is just beginning.
|Post Install Configuration
|The good news is that once you have
finished running Tasksel, you are essentially finished with the
installation. The bad news is that nothing works. Put on a pot of fresh
coffee - the fun is just beginning.
The next logical thing to do is jump right in and start playing with
the "apt-get" command. However, before you can do that, you need to tell
Debian where to look for the packages that you wish to install. It just
so happens that I don't have broadband, so I want Debian to install all
its packages from my set of six CDROMs. I could do this by manually
editing file /etc/apt/sources.list, but a more elegant way is to issue
apt-cdrom -d /cdrom add
I will then be prompted to insert my CDs, starting from the last (CD
No. 6) to the first. Once I've done this, I can install any of the 8710
packages that Woody has to offer.
I do an "apt-get install rcconf". Equivalent to Redhat's ntsysv, rcconf
makes it easy to enable/disable start-up services.
I have some other things to do before my installation is complete. For
one thing, I need to set up a printer using the CUPS driver. So I need
to issue the command:
apt-get install cupsys
Although not strictly necessary, I also install cupsys-bsd (a facade so
old apps can use the lp commands):
apt-get install cupsys-bsd
Mozilla (or some other web browser) is need to configure CUPS. So I
apt-get install mozilla
Then I start Mozilla, and open this URL:
I will then be able to configure a printer with ease.
I still use a dial-up modem. The utility to configure a modem is
"pppconfig". It's actually quite intuitive. However, I don't want to go
online until I've installed a firewall. Writing firewall rules by hand
is an enormous headache, so I look for a user-friendly frontend. I
settle on Shorewall because it's in Woody, though I would prefer
Guarddog (but for that I'd have to go to Debian unstable).
I do not yet have sound configured. The thing to do is:
apt-get install sndconfig
Then I run the command "sndconfig" - it finds my sound card. As user
"robert" I must be added to the group "audio" in order for me to hear
sound - to do this I issue the command:
adduser robert audio
User robert must log out and log back in for this to go into effect.
My sound isn't loud enough, so I need a sound mixer. I install "aumix"
and then run it so I can adjust the volume and pcm settings. Now that
sounds much better.
My computer does not power off when I shut it down, but I want it to.
So I edit file /etc/modules and add a line that says this:
I found myself being much annoyed by Debian's default framebuffer
configuration that makes text mode look like graphics mode. It puts a
little Tux (the "Penguin" for those not well-versed in Linux mythology)
in the upper lefthand corner of the screen. I had to go onto the
Debian-user mailing list to find out how to put Tux out of his misery.
The secret is in file /etc/lilo.conf, you need to add a line saying:
I want the ability to burn CDRs, and for this I need to set up scsi
emulation. I edit /etc/lilo.conf and modify the previous append
statement - it now says:
append="video=vga16:off hdc=ide-scsi hdd=ide-scsi"
I run the command "lilo" to put these changes into effect. Then I
create a directory for the CDR to mount:
I then edit /etc/fstab so that the entry for my CDR looks like this:
/dev/sr1 /cdrom1 iso9660 ro,user,noauto 0 0
Then I remove the symbolic link for my CDROM:
And create a new one:
ln -s /dev/sr0 /dev/cdrom
Finally, I add a line saying "ide-scsi" to /etc/modules. Then I reboot,
and scsi emulation works.
The last thing for me to do is to get my ethernet card working for my
internal (static) network. I happen to know that my card uses the
via-rhine.o driver, so I edit /etc/modules and add this line:
(Note: Within hours after the publication of this review, a reader
informed me that I could have run "apt-get install etherconf", and then
"dpkg-reconfigure etherconf" -- Robert)
I edit file /etc/hosts so it looks like this:
I create /etc/init.d/ethernet with this content:
ifconfig eth0 192.168.0.2 netmask 255.255.255.0 up
And then issue the command:
update-rc.d ethernet defaults
|X - Can't Live Without It
|You almost certainly will want to
install Xwindows unless you are running a server. To install X, there is
a "metapackage" which installs most everything you need. To install this:
apt-get install x-window-system
Although not mandatory, you'll also want to install the package
xlibs-dev. This contains the X development libraries, and it's crucial
if you want to be able to compile X-based software from source. Also not
mandatory (but recommended) is to install these three packages:
discover -- hardware
mdetect -- mouse device
read-edid -- hardware
information-gathering tool for VESA PnP monitors
Once you've got these packages installed, you launch the Xwindows
configuration program like so:
The questions that you'll be prompted to answer are reasonably
intuitive, and few people have much difficulty with this part of the
installation. For me, the real stumbling block was that when I finally
got X all configured and started it, I found that my screen was slightly
off center. After discussing the issue on the Debian-user mailing list,
I came to the conclusion that the "nv" driver (which I have to use for
my Nvidia card) is somewhat flawed. I could have downloaded and
installed a closed-source driver from Nvidia, but I was determined to
make the open-source driver work.
As it turns out, X has a handy tool which is used for tweaking the
horizontal and vertical settings. It's called Xvidtune. It should
already be installed if you've installed X, but lest you need to know,
it's in the Debian package called xbase-clients.
Xvidtune seems like a pretty intuitive utility, but there are a few
tricks to it. When you first start it (by typing "xvidtune" in an
xterm), a very nasty warning flashes across the screen:
The incorrect use of this program can do permanent damange to your
monitor and video card. If you are not sure what you are doing, hit
cancel now. Otherwise, hit OK to continue.
Despite this intimidating message, it's unlikely you'll cause your
monitor to blow up, especially if the only thing you are doing is
changing the horizontal and/or vertical settings. Yes, you can damage a
monitor if you exceed it's horizontal or vertical display frequencies,
but you aren't going to be messing with that. All I want to do is center
the display on the screen. So in other words, hitting "OK" should be OK.
Once I've given the OK, I click on the button that says <Left>,
expecting the screen to move left. Actually, it won't move until I hit
the button that says <Apply>. I find that four clicks on the
<Left> button and then hitting <Apply> does the trick. My
screen is centered. So great, no problem, right?
Wrong. This will work fine, but the settings are not saved. My screen
will remain centered, but when I exit X everything will revert back to
the default settings. In fact, Xvidtune cannot save these new settings.
I must cut and paste the settings manually into file
First I need to see the settings. I can get this by clicking the
<show> button in Xvidtune. The settings will then appear in my
xterm. As it so happens, the settings it shows me look like this:
"800x600" 49.50 800 832 912 1056
600 601 604 625 +hsync +vsync
Well that's nice, but what do I do with these settings? Unfortunately,
that's a little more complicated than it should be. I must modify file
XF86Config-4 manually. Before I do that, I make a backup copy of it
called XF86Config-4.original, but use whatever name suits your fancy. I
then, as root, must edit the file.
I open file /etc/X11/XF86Config-4, and search for the section that says
"Monitor" - it looks like this:
Identifier "Generic Monitor"
I then add a line that says:
So that it now looks like this:
Identifier "Generic Monitor"
Why "Ulycom"? That just happens to be the brand name of my monitor. I
could have used any name really - "Aardvark" would have been fine. But I
do need to have a name, because I need to create a new section called
"Modes" that identifies my monitor and its settings. This section does
not exist - it will be my own creation, from scratch. It will look like
800 832 912 1056 600 601
604 625 +hsync +vsync
Note that the settings after the word "ModeLine" are the settings I was
given by Xvidtune when I hit the <Show> button.
So to summarize, when I am all done, my file /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 will
have a whole new section called "Modes", followed by a section called
"Monitor" (to which I added a line called "UseModes"). The whole thing
looks like this:
800 832 912 1056 600 601
604 625 +hsync +vsync
Identifier "Generic Monitor"
Hopefully, that all makes sense. I restart X, and the screen is
properly centered. Whew!
|Up until now, I've had to work at the
command line, since X wasn't installed and configured. Now, at last, I
can begin to install the really fun stuff.
Many people are put off by memorizing cyptic APT commands. Fortunately,
that little difficulty has been greatly ameliorated thanks to Synaptic,
a graphic application that brings point-and-click simplicity to Debian
software installation and removal. Of course, before I can use
Synaptic, I have to install it, by issuing this command:
apt-get install synaptic
Screenshot 2: Synaptic
|Where Will It All End?
|OK, OK, you get the idea. I can hear you
snoring even from where I sit on the other end of this web connection.
But before I end this painfully long "how to," let me assure you that
all of the above-mentioned hoops I had to jump through still does not
leave me with a highly-polished installation. I should, for example,
install TrueType fonts (ugly bitmaps are the default). However, the
above installation is good enough - it works. I have a complete, albeit
imperfect, Debian install. It's time to pop the cork on the champagne
|Footnotes, and More to Come...
|Debian (Deb + Ian) got its name from
that of its original creator, Ian Murdock, and his wife, Debra.
I have already been taken to task about which package manager is oldest
(Slackware's TGZ, Red Hat's RPM, or Debian's APT). The chronology works
out something like this:
There is some debate about what constitutes "package management"
because there are some advanced front ends, and the issue is further
muddled by third party extensions which are not part of the original
distro. Hopefully, the following will shed some light on this slippery
- Patrick Volkerding released Slackware 1.0 in July 1993.
- Marc Ewing released Red Hat in October 1994 (it was called the Halloween Release).
- Ian Murdock initiated Debian 0.01 in August, 1993, but there was no package management - everything had to be
compiled from source. Debian 0.93R5 (March 1995) was the first release
that contained the package manager "dpkg". Debian 0.93R6 (November
1995) is when "dselect" appeared. Debian 1.0 was never released due to
defective disks - Buzz (Debian 1.1) was released 1996/03/14. The APT
package-management interface didn't appear until Slink (Debian 2.1) was
released (March 9,1999).
- Daniel Robbins released Gentoo 1.0 on March 31, 2002.
Distribution --> package extension --> package management tool
--> advanced package management tool
• Slackware --> tgz --> pkgtool --> swaret (third party)
• Debian --> deb --> dpkg --> apt-get
• Red Hat --> rpm --> rpm --> apt4rpm, yum (third party), urpmi (Mandrake only)
• Gentoo --> src --> emerge --> emerge
This ends Part I of this article. In the second part, I shall delve
into the mysteries of updating and upgrading Debian.
|Copyright (C) 2003
Verbatim copying and distribution of this article is permitted in any
medium, provided this copyright notice is preserved.
forum on OSNews if you wish to discuss the review.
|3 September 2003
|About the Author
|Hiding out in a rural Asian
backwater, Robert was (sometimes still is) well-known as a Far East
travel writer. He now occupies his time spreading the free software
|Asus A7v8x-x mainboard, VIA KT-400
|AMD Athlon 1600
|nVidia Riva TNT2 64, 32MB
|256 MB, DDR-RAM
|Seagate 40 GB, 7200 RPM
|VIA Technologies VT6102 [Rhine-II]
|SoundBlaster PCI 64
|15 December 2002
|• One of the supported platforms (see
• minimum 12MB RAM
• minimum 110MB hard disk space
• CD-ROM or floppy drive
• SuperVGA monitor
• CRIS (Axis Communications ETRAX 100LX embedded CPU)
|• 11 supported architectures
• APT Advanced Package Management
• Huge software archive
|• AbiWord 1.0.2
• Apache 1.3.26
• Cups 1.1.14
• GCC 2.95.4
• Gimp 1.2.3
• glibc 2.2.5
• GTK+ 2.0.2
• KDE 2.2.2
• KOffice 1.1.1
• Mozilla 1.0
• MySQL 3.23.49
• Perl 5.6.1
• Python 2.1.3
• Samba 2.2.3a
• XFree86 4.1.0
• xine 0.9.8
• Xmms 1.2.7
|The unfortunately condition where one
cannot install a software package because it depends on another package,
which also cannot be installed because it too needs another package,
which also needs another, ad infinitum. Debian's amazing ability to
resolve dependencies puts it head and shoulders above most other distros.
|Advanced Package Tool, Debian's "trump
card" is in fact a front-end for the dpkg package manager. APT can be
accessed through various text commands (apt-get, apt-cache, etc),
along with another command-line front-end called Aptitude, or with the
graphic utility Synaptic.