back to article Distro inferno: Debian's still rocking at 25

Hot on the heels of Slackware's quarter century comes the 25th anniversary of the announcement that Debian was incoming. Unlike Slackware, however, the Debian flavour of Linux remains hugely popular and the platform can usually be found troubling the top five rankings on open source OS tracker DistroWatch.com. Announced by …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I was a Red Hat guy (I even have a Red Hat red fedora available with RH 1.0 or so) and I remember Debian saved me from "RPM hell" as apt had the ability to automatically determine dependencies and download prerequisites. I switched and I'm still running it today.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly

    The role of Debian in the Linux world has really been usurped by Ubuntu.

    Only the old hands or those peed off with Canonical use Debian these days.

    Then there is the fragmentation of the users into those who don't care and those who do care about SystemD.

    It was my second distro after Slackware. After Debian I moved to SUSE and later RHEL as that was what I used in my work but I never forgot Debian.

  3. Graham Cobb

    Re: Sadly

    Only the old hands or those peed off with Canonical use Debian these days.

    I don't think that is true. I heard the other day that there is a waiting list to become a Debian Developer because there are more people wanting to become a DD than the people managing the process can handle.

    And looking at https://contributors.debian.org/contributors/year/2018 there are still a lot of people contributing to Debian.

    As for systemd, like many people I don't like it but it is clearly here to stay (unlike the previous attempts at init system replacement) and more and more software will assume it is there, like it or not. Devuan is the UKIP of Linux distros: defined only by hating one thing and supported by moaning pensioners.

  4. JohnFen Silver badge

    Re: Sadly

    "Only the old hands or those peed off with Canonical use Debian these days."

    Or people like me -- I've never been able to make Ubuntu actually work properly, but Debian gives me no such trouble.

  5. asdf Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Sadly

    >and supported by moaning pensioners.

    I think you find they are more into proprietary UNIX or VMS. Linux is pretty much all same to those of us who have used proper UNIX so seeing distro slap fights is fighting over the window dressing. Do have Mint at home (still use ksh) but I use something a bit more robust and POSIX compliant at work for our production machines.

  6. Denarius Silver badge

    Re: Sadly

    asdf, spot on. Some of us have to use commercial variants. Accordingly, consistency is not the bugbear of little minds. Same for using ksh93 on linux. A lot of ksh93 scripts written on when written on linux work for AIX, Solaris and HPUX and more if any are left. Ultrix anyone ? I digress again.

    I started on RedHat but dependency hell made me put in effort to try Debian after I found some old boxes using it at work. Never went back. I used Centos occasionally at work and with Synaptic it was satisfactory.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. 0laf Silver badge
    Pint

    I wish I had the time to learn how to use Debian properly. I tried once upon a time (>10yr ago) but found it very hard to get going. I've very glad it's still around though.

  9. Dwarf Silver badge

    Give it another crack

    @0laf

    Its difficult to define "use it properly" given that there is such a choice of packages and alternative ways you might choose to do things, but at its core its still Linux, so why not give it another go and be pleasantly surprised ?

  10. Denarius Silver badge

    Olaf, have you tried a live Debian distro like Knoppix ? Earlier versions of that were great. Mepix also but I think that has faded out.

  11. 0laf Silver badge

    I have played with Knoppix in the past. I just don't have the time these days. I always did find tinkering with Linux quite enjoyable but I've too much on my plate right now.

  12. phuzz Silver badge
    Gimp

    use Debian properly

    That's a pretty wide goal. Debian (including it's downstream distros) can be used for all sorts of different purposes, from a web and/or database server running on some hugely expensive multi-CPU server, right down to a kids web browser running on a Raspberry Pi.

    Anyway, I'm a Windows admin originally and I can get Debian to do what I want, so it can't be that hard ;)

  13. Len Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Distro inferno

    Just came here to say thanks for the headline...

  14. wolfetone Silver badge
    Pint

    RIP to Ian, for what Debian has become wouldn't have been possible without him.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What it has become...

    Nor would it possible with the, ahem, "contributions" of systemd.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stable for servers

    Long term user on servers, uptime in years makes a joy to see when you type uptime.

    Only thing that's going to get a reboot on some of the servers is a power outage that takes the ups with it.

    Never had a debian server hacked either, and in the whole most packages just work on there by default.

    The downside, eventually those old servers no longer get the updates they deserve, and you have to finally update them to the next debian release (although systemd might stop that happening, unless devuan, can gain full support).

  17. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Re: Stable for servers

    Me too, had servers running Debian where the only limit on uptime has been external factors - like power cuts while the UPS was dead (manglement wold pay for maintenance.) But as you say, after Wheezy - then what ? "things break" if you don't allow any of the malware (systemd). I was looking at migrating to Devuan, but my employer nixed that by making my whole department redundant and then flicking the power switch on "anything he didn't understand" - meaning anything other than a Windows server. I felt sorry for the customers who suffered from his completely predictable outages.

    When I have time, I'll be migrating my home servers to Devuan - it's the future :-)

  18. oiseau
    Thumb Up

    Re: Stable for servers

    Hello:

    I'll be migrating my home servers to Devuan - it's the future. :-)

    +1

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Stable for servers

    "unless devuan, can gain full support"

    I think that needs a bit of explanation. Full support of what or from whom? Do you mean support of H/W? If so it supports whatever the equivalent Debian supports although availability of a new Devuan might lag the release of the equivalent Debian a little. But then the whole approach of the Debian world is release it when it's ready and not before.

  20. herman Silver badge

    Re: Stable for servers

    For maximum stable servers with uptime requirements of several years, I prefer OpenBSD and Slackware. For personal machines, I prefer Kubuntu or Fedora though.

  21. phuzz Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: Stable for servers

    Isn't "my server has X years of uptime" just another way of saying "it's been X years since I last checked my server could boot successfully"?

    ;)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Stable for servers

    "The downside, eventually those old servers no longer get the updates they deserve, and you have to finally update them to the next debian release (although systemd might stop that happening, unless devuan, can gain full support)."

    apt-get dist-upgrade

    Always nerve-wracking to do a major release, but goes amazingly smoothly when compared to other OS updates. If you do have to do that more than one time in the life of the server you're probably due for a hardware refresh anyway.

  23. John Crisp

    Devuan +1

    Liked Debian, but systemd ended all that (don't even go there with Gnome)

    Yet another convert to Devuan.

  24. Nolveys Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Re: Devuan +1

    Yet another convert to Devuan.

    Me too, posting from a machine running Devuan right now. Three boxes down, two to go.

  25. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Devuan +1

    "Three boxes down, two to go."

    In the Debian/Devuan context it's not often you find "boxes" and "down" in the same sentence.

  26. Chronos Silver badge

    Re: Devuan +1

    One last server to migrate, due to it having some pretty odd processes¹ running on it for which I threw together unit files and haven't got around to writing rc scripts. It doesn't help that the server in question is armhf rather than x86-64.

    Everything else is Devuan and has been since my main workstation crapped itself and I found that systemd's logging leaves very much to be desired when Things Go Bad.

    ¹ A background process that listens for XM ipcamera motion alarms and translates these into MQTT topics, then several subscribed processes that record directly from the relevant RTSP stream when they're triggered, bypassing all the insecure crap these modules have built in. I have to dissect what the hell I did to get this house of cards to stay up and ensure sysv init can keep it rollin'...

  27. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    And another one

    Three of my machines moved to devuan, just one left to go.

  28. steelpillow Silver badge
    Pint

    Re: And another one

    1 Devuan, 1 still Debian but quaking in its boots.

    Adopted Debian many years ago. Tried on occasion to elope with RedHat, Suse, Ubuntu, Mint or whatever, but always came back when Debian mended its ways and the others lost the plot again. Will I ever return from Devuan? Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets please....

  29. JohnFen Silver badge

    Fond of Debian

    A couple of decades back, when I switched to Linux, I tried out a number of distros before I found two that worked well for me -- Slackware and Debian. Debian has been good to me (Slackware, too!) Over the years since, I sorta fell away from Slackware as Debian did everything I needed.

    Long live Debian!

    Although, I have to admit, the introduction of systemd has me seriously considering moving back to Slackware. It remains possible to have a systemd-free Debian, but it's pretty clear that this won't remain true forever without having to rebuild stuff, and as long as I have to do my own building, I may as well go with the Slack.

  30. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Fond of Debian

    "It remains possible to have a systemd-free Debian, but it's pretty clear that this won't remain true forever without having to rebuild stuff"

    Let the Devuan folks rebuild it. I do have reservations about the systemd crowd making that impossible but should that happen Slackware would be in the same hole as Devuan. If that happens BSD would be the answer.

  31. JohnFen Silver badge

    Re: Fond of Debian

    Devuan's certainly an option. The only reason it's not really on my radar for this is because I'm not familiar with it (aside from on a superficial level), and when I look at changing the OS in all of my machines, being familiar with what I'm changing to becomes important.

  32. Sven Coenye

    Re: Fond of Debian

    The biggest problem is not so much systemd itself, but the usurpation of udev. On Stretch without systemd, that has already broken LUKS. The inclusion of hardware dependencies in the network interface names wreaks havoc when rolling out network configs with something like Ansible. (Instead of the familiar eth#, udev now produces names like enp3s13 where the numbers reflect the position on the PCI bus.)

  33. EveryTime Silver badge

    Re: Fond of Debian

    > "(Instead of the familiar eth#, udev now produces names like enp3s13 where the numbers reflect the position on the PCI bus.)"

    One of the seeming-minor but operationally important advances of Linux was fixing the network device naming.

    Almost no one cares that you are using a LANCE (e.g. "le0") or Intel ("ie0") Ethernet chip. They just want to initialize the Ethernet or Ethernet-like interface. And they certainly don't want to change the tested configuration just because a piece of hardware was moved or replaced.

    This was an obvious-in-retrospect idea in 1992, when it was put into Linux. Apparently it's not so obvious to the systemd people.

  34. steelpillow Silver badge

    Re: Fond of Debian

    "Devuan's certainly an option. The only reason it's not really on my radar for this is because I'm not familiar with it (aside from on a superficial level), and when I look at changing the OS in all of my machines, being familiar with what I'm changing to becomes important."

    Devuan ASCII = Debian Stretch - SystemD

    Devuan is literally just Debian with SystemD exorcised. It pulls its builds from Debian repos, waves bell, book and candle over them and presto! the latest Devuan build. There are a few necessary changes such as installing eudev instead of udev, but the /udev directory paths don't even get renamed. I got more grief upgrading from Debian Jessie to Stretch than I did from upgrading to Devuan Jessie. You'll be 99.99% right at home - more so probably that with Debian's SystemD builds.

  35. EveryTime Silver badge

    Gotta give a shout out to MCC Interim -- the first Linux distribution.

  36. amrs

    Wow, I remember MCC Interim. Well, vaguely. I think I installed it from a bunch of floppies since I didn't have a CD back then and my modem was just 2400 bps.

  37. bob, mon!
    Pint

    Devuan!

    It's the future of 64-bit Raspberry Pi --- even if it is slower than the 32-bit Raspbian variant of Debian....

  38. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Re: Devuan!

    Every time I see that name, it reminds me of "Durian"...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian

  39. Denarius Silver badge

    Re: Devuan!

    ah yes, the stink raised by systemd. But Devuan is sweet :-)

  40. onefang
    Coat

    Re: Devuan!

    'Every time I see that name, it reminds me of "Durian"...'

    The Fruit that smells like your Nutcase?

  41. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge

    It should never have come to that but legacy lives on.

    I've stared into that "void" on more than one occassion but not for a very long time now. There's no way in the modern day that anyone should be alone and see no other alternative than to leave, respect to Ian Murdoch.

    I started back in 1993 with a funny booklet, floppy disk and CD package with something called Yggdrasil that a friend brought at a computer fair and gave me and I still have that little booklet on my bookshelf! I went through RedHat and others but I've used Debian variants for many years and it's a testament to Murdoch's simple vision of making something usable. I don't like the elitest mindset, I don't want a complicated life, a computer should allow me to get things done not spend all day cursing it's existence. You may hate Ubuntu, systemd or whatever your current ire is directed to but I'd rather see people have a choice, a free choice and Linux variants offer us that choice and we can offer that to others rather than watch them tied down by a yoke from those folks in Redmond.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It should never have come to that but legacy lives on.

    ' I don't like the elitest mindset, I don't want a complicated life, a computer should allow me to get things done not spend all day cursing it's existence.'

    Oh, agreed, and this is the reason I still have Windows installed on a couple of machines despite detesting the OS (been supporting Microsoft products from the days of DOS 3.0 -> Server 2018).

    'You may hate Ubuntu, systemd or whatever your current ire is directed to but I'd rather see people have a choice, a free choice and Linux variants offer us that choice and we can offer that to others rather than watch them tied down by a yoke from those folks in Redmond.'

    Yes, we currently have choice, the problem is that we've a cabal who want to 'control' Linux, as control of the kernel is out of bounds (and has 'resisted' their subsequent attempts at subversion), they went for the next most critical component as a vector of control over the OS, the init subsystem. They have no interest in the philosophy of choice, cf. the way the systemd project has grown like Topsy, going from the initial 'it's only a better init system' phase to its current Redmondian style 'Borging' of other basic system functionality.

    Now that systemd is in both Redhat and Debian, it's also in the majority of the derivative distros, so other people using these systems to develop code are making systemd a hard dependency for their code, either by design or, more dangerously, by osmosis.

    Other distro maintainers are now left with the following choices

    1. Find forks of, or fork and maintain non-systemd versions of systemd infected code.

    2. Do not supply any systemd infected code in their official repos.

    3. Deploy one of the 'gelded' systemd solutions available to run systemd infected code.

    4. Embrace systemd.

    For the record, amongst the mix of systems I run I do have two Debian/systemd installs (used to be only one, but that box, functional as it may be, is getting seriously long in the tooth now and has started struggling when running the last couple of OS and code updates). These boxes only exist to run software that does have a hard dependency on the systemd 'ecosystem' and rather than faff around changing/recompiling a whole pile of stuff this was the path of least resistance in the short term.

    Long term If I get the time, I'll get the stuff up and running on Devuan or Slackware.

    In idle moments when I look at this mess, I keep thinking we're heading for an inevitable Pöetterdämmerung, I just hope the buggers responsible are then kept well away from the *BSD codebases after they've finished screwing up Linux.

  43. Chronos Silver badge
    Flame

    Re: It should never have come to that but legacy lives on.

    I just hope the buggers responsible are then kept well away from the *BSD codebases after they've finished screwing up Linux.

    The problem there has already begun. pkg was the turning point for me, although I was already rather fed up with fixing ports with many dependencies updated without a care for their dependants and scant regard for whether the upgrade was security or even feature focused rather than just another mundane minor version number race to the bottom. Also the many changes to ports.mk and friends which screwed up my tinderbox without mercy on a regular basis had me steaming from the ears.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I had hoped POLA would insulate us from these pet-project mongers but it was just words.

  44. PhilipN Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "good thing"

    ..................^................

    Oh alright ...... "letters"

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