Thursday, May 15, 2008

Moving on to Debian. Advice Requested.

Last night, I used a net install on my main machine to change over to Debian. Everything went smoothly, but I haven't used Deb in a few years, so I'm adjusting to the differences. One thing that I notice right away is that it was significantly more difficult to get my desktop into shape.

I'm hoping to make installing a good, complete, basic desktop a lot easier using preseeding and netinstall isos. Here's the plan, still in its infancy because it's only a few hours old.

Create preseed "situations" based on Debian stable (now Etch) with backports and third-party repositories added to fill in the gaps. While I'm extremely pro-FLOSS, I'm not going to worry about that issue for these preseeds, instead trying to make the desktop work out of the box. That will include programs, codecs, and decryption (CSS) which may not be legal in some areas.

I'm asking for advice about repositories from the seasoned Debianites out there. I already plan to include What other repositories are you using to get your desktop up to snuff? I'm thinking particularly of drivers and firmware needed to make everything work well.

From the non-Deb users, I'd like to hear feature requests. With post-install scripts, I think I can accomplish most things, so the sky's the limit.

I'm going to eventually make several preseed files, but the first will be for Vista-era (i.e. newish) computers. We're talking multi-core with ~2GB of RAM. Here are the brainstormed specs:
  • Newest kernel available
  • Desktop: Gnome
  • Search: Beagle
  • Browser: Epiphany-webkit and FF2
  • Office: OO.o (3.0b?)
  • Music: Rhythmbox (maybe Banshee2?)
  • Photos: F-Spot
  • BT: Deluge
  • RSS: Liferea
  • IM: Pidgin (anyone champion Empathy?)
  • VOIP: Ekiga and Skype
  • Sync: Conduit
  • Extras: Themes and fonts, Java, Flash
Feedback, please. I'll probably get started on this over the weekend. Once I'm finished and have gotten the major bugs out, I'll write as much documentation on it as I can.



Question: why stable and not testing? Stable is for servers, testing is for desktops, sid is for cutting-edge maniacs, experimental is for nut-cases.

That way you will also be less dependant on backports and isolated foreign packages in your system.

First thing first: use aptitude. Best tool ever (my opinion, yours may vary).
Second: uncheck the installation of recommended and suggested packages before installing anything at all.
Third: you can get a full-fledged system as you wish (but for mono and beagle) with under 1000 packages. But I'm a freak :P

My repositories are Main, Security, Skype and Multimedia (ex marillat). The first two should be in the default installation's sources.list. The other two are:

# Debian Multimeda (Ex-Marillat)
deb testing main

# Skype official repository
deb stable non-free

I'd also recommend Exaile for music playing.

Will you be using evolution? I prefer TB. But if you are not using evolution, I'd recommend against installing the gnome meta-package (that will install way too many packages you don't need - evolution for exaple-) and select the ones you want by hand.

I'd also recommend: GIMP / Inkscape for image editing just in case.

Anonymous said...

I have been running SIDUX, Debain Sid, for a few months and it is really great.

Use the SMXI script from init 3 terminal and you should be OK with it too.

Read any warnings on the warnings section at SIDUX forums before running SMXI script.

This will keep you at the edge in a reasonably stable fashion and loads of fun.

Good Luck


Thanks for the comments. My computer is now running Sid, as it always did before Ubuntu. I pretty much had my desktop the way I wanted it within two hours of starting.

The choice of stable (Etch) for the project I'm starting is so that there is as little day-to-day breakage as possible. Etch isn't that old, anyway.

I'll look over SIDUX, for sure.

I finished my first attempt at preseeding. The extremely sparse page is at:

Once I've gotten full control over the process, I'll start putting the preseeds up for public consumption.


"Question: why stable and not testing? Stable is for servers, testing is for desktops, sid is for cutting-edge maniacs, experimental is for nut-cases."

That's simply bullshit. Stable is not any more for servers than testing or Sid. Stable is wery good on desktop. I have been using Debian on desktop since 1998, and i have ALWAYS used stable. Debian stable is wery reliable and wekll tested. And current stable is still well uoptiodate, it's just one year old and that's not much.


Here is my /etc/apt/sources.list

deb etch main non-free contrib
deb-src etch main non-free contrib
deb etch/updates main non-free contrib
deb-src etch/updates main non-free contrib

deb etch main
deb-src etch main

deb etch-backports main contrib non-free

deb stable non-free

deb etch main
deb-src etch main

# Google Picasa etc.
deb stable non-free

said... is in my sources.list, but I have not installed from there more than 2-3 packages which are not in Etch. You should also disable it unless you really need it, most likely you don't need it.


Note that in my sources.list those Debian repository lines have keywords 'contrib' and 'non-free'. Those keywords activate non-free and contrib sections in the Debian repository.

Many new Debian users don't know those do exist and then they do something like eg. install sun java from Sun's web page, which is NOT nesessary.


Thanks, Mika. I didn't have Skype or Beryl yet. Stable seems like a good choice with backports.

This post has been removed by the author.

That beryl repository is a bit problematic sometimes. Looks like there is DNS problems or something like that right now.

Schelling said...

Your specs suggest that you might be consider Alan Baghumian's Parsix, a KANOTIX-inspired, GNOME-centric distro that tracks Testing whilst providing a custom kernel and various backports from Ubuntu.

The problem with Parsix, as with Testing itself, is that at any one time it can have up to twice as many security vulnerabilities as Sid, the Debian Testing Security Team's efforts notwithstanding.


Schelling. Testing sure has much less bugs than Sid. Just look at this graph which shows number of RC-bugs (release critical bugs).

Green Line is testing, red line is unstable and blue line shows number of RC bugs which were found from stable after it was released. Stable was released when green line was close to zero. Next stable will be released when that green line is again close to zero.

As you can see Unstable always has much more RC-bugs than testing and especially much more than stable.

Schelling said...

That's true in the case of Release Critical bugs in general, but not in the specific case of security vulnerabilities -- in fact, there can sometimes be almost twice as many vulnerabilities in Testing as compared to Unstable.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to see a vulnerability patched in Unstable and Unstable, but not yet in Testing.

As Debian's Sven Joachim explained:

"If the maintainer acts correctly and uploads the package with urgency=high, [a security patch] can migrate [to Testing] after only two days. However, that's often not possible, because the package must also have been built on all 11 release architectures and its dependencies have to be fulfilled in testing. For packages with many dependencies this does not seldom take months. The testing-security support we now enjoy has mitigated the situation somewhat, but testing is still the worst Debian branch security-wise."

Post a Comment

Other I' Been to Ubuntu Stories