[geek] Why I use Debian

I’ve been meaning to write a post about why Debian is my Linux distro of choice, but this article from Linux Magazine sums up most of my reasons pretty nicely.  Some notable points:

  • Debian is really a meta-distribution.  Because of the structure of the project, it’s very easy to customize it for a specific audience, and the Debian organization encourages such spinoffs.  The linked article gives a nice overview of some of the more popular, polished and user-friendly customizations of Debian.  Not everyone realizes it, but both Xandros (formerly Corel) and Linspire (formerly Lindows) are Debian derivatives.
  • “Debian is perhaps the Hassidics or Mennonites of the Linux community. Debian developers are perhaps the strictest adherents to open source and free software development methodology due to their “Social Contact.” Debian developers have the tightest controls over software releases, the software is rock-solid, the distribution is available on the widest variety of computer architectures”
  • “once you install Debian, you should never have to install it on the same system again, ever.” – this has been true, in my experience, and was one of the biggest reasons I switched, way back in the day.
  • “Debian’s remote software update and installation system, APT, is perhaps the best package manager of all Linux distributions.”
  • “Debian has a huge support community”
  • Something which rarely gets mentioned in discussions of Debian, but which is hugely important to me, is Debian Policy.  This is different from the famed Social Contract.  Policy is a collection of quality-control documents which specify certain standards which packages must meet before being included in the Distribution. Unlike other distributions, where a core set of packages are put together by the distro developers and if any other programs are packaged it’s typically done by the developer of the program, all Debian packages have a their own Debian package maintainer.  This maintainer understands both the software he or she maintains, and the pertinent Debian standards.  All Debian packages are customized by the package maintainer to strictly comply with Debian policy. What this means in practice:
    • Files are always located in predictable places, with predictable names.
    • All commands have Manpages.
    • Programs never depend on obscure envrionment variables being set.
    • If a program has a GUI interface, an icon for it will be created in ALL installed window managers and desktop envrionments.
    • If two packages provide the same service or the same command, they will be registered with the ‘alternatives’ system so that it’s easy to choose which one will be the default.
    • New fonts are registered with X, LaTeX, Ghostscript, and any other programs that need to know about them.
    • Programs which have the ability to utilize an external editor or pager always respect the PAGER and EDITOR variables, if set.
    • These are just a few examples.  Debian policy is extensive, and includes sub-policies for things like Perl, Python, and Java packages and MIME support.  In short, Debian packages are predictable, consistent, incorporate sensible defaults, and integrate perfectly into a running system.

I have a “use what works for you” philosophy.  These are some of the reasons Debian works for me.  As always, YMMV.

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  1. sounds awesome…

    If I wasn’t a mac-o-phile.. or maybe when I decide to join the world that actually makes a real living and get a second computer–then I’ll pick it up…

  2. Yeah, Gentoo seems a little raw at times

    I just emerged sys-kernel/gentoo-dev-sources-2.6.11-r2 , and it does well enough, except for the part where the nVidia module fails to initialize, and the X server does a face plant.
    In better noose, I simply pick the 2.6.11-r7 kernel and carry on smartly.
    It really requires too much knowledge, computers; LoseXP isn’t exactly simple anymore, if you’re going to run a ‘limited’ account.
    Discovered someone I see in a part-time capacity is a MicroSoft sales rep. I was proud of the way I left his head on his body. I shall require extra diplomacy for this person…

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