Debian testing joys.

I have moved my production boxen to Debian testing. I was using Ubuntu (Xubuntu to be exact) but I have ongoing issues with the direction that Canonical is going. I do not like the cloud — the situation with Dotcom has made me realize that any nation state can just take down servers and unless they are mirrored all over the place you are… without data.

I’d rather trust my paraniod array of USB stix and hard drives :-)

I’m also sick of reinstalling. Now, I have tried almost every version of debian going — from mint debian to aptosid (and sidux). Sid, in my hands, is too unstable.

So I installed debian testing. And I am still using it. But some issues have arisen.

1. The Nouveau driver is broken. It smears text. Repeatedly. Now, the debian bug system says that (a) this is known and the nouveau people cannot work it out and (b) it goes away if you downgrade libcairo. But the simplest solution is to install the Nvidia driver… which is fast, stable… but needs to be manually reinstalled when the kernel changes.

2. Debian uses gnome by default. This is not bad — I got used to it on Fedora (which is what I run on my laptops) and it can work. But (and this is very good) Debian still has gnome legacy… which is gnome 2 like. I like gnome 2. I particularly like the fact it works dual screens out quickly and perfectly. But the alternatives — lxde and xfce — are still optimized for one screen.

3. It is not user friendly — well it never was. (Not the command line, that is a feature not a bug) but things that should be automated are not. Yet. Despite being automated in other distros that roll, like Arch or Gentoo.

4. It runs behind other distros, particularly fedora. But I do not want things breaking on my work machines.

5. (and most importantly) Debian testing chews through hard disk space. You are updating a LOT more often. If you have 10 GB as your root partition, which is what debian recommends, you will fill it. I’ve reconfigured everythign so that there is 100 GB there (which is overkill, I know). To be fair to Debian, most people are not me: I switch between gnome, kde, and lxde and xfce randomly and when I’m bored I try out odd interfaces like enlightenment or openbox. And most people don’t have darktable producing 15 MB files. But I do: the machines are built to take it, and the OS better be able to handle it.

The thing I really like is that when I get something I like I do not have to reinstall it. Just maintain it… At least, at present, I can still buy bare metal (or bare SSD) machines and install everything myself.

And… I can install the odd things I need. Like Revman. Easily. Doing things like this is a challenge in Arch or Gentoo — and to a certain extent, even in Fedora. Which is another reason to go to this slightly ornery but powerful distro.

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Solo Dad. Calvinist. Photographer: manual, film and Digital.

  • Grant Paton-Simpson

    Hi Chris – start using Ubuntu with Unity when 12.10 comes out – seriously. It’s your equivalent of Green Eggs and Ham. You’ll actually like it. Every release it just gets better and better and it is nice to use already. Grant.