Going Debian

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Going Debian

Postposted on Sun Mar 27, 2011 5:27 pm

I just finished installing Debian on my main rig at home. I've been getting my feet wet with Ubuntu for a while now. I've been pretty disappointed in Ubuntu's documentation though. A couple days ago I stumbled upon the Debian Reference and my jaw hit the floor. That's the best Linux documentation I've ever seen.

There are a couple things I don't like about the default installation. I've installed Debian 6.0 about 6 times now - the first 5 in VMs. Every single time the installation has troubles either setting up or connecting to the repositories during install. After install is done I have to go into sources.list and comment out the line for the install disc and then everything seems fine.

I also don't like the defaults for vim. I'm very accustomed to Ubuntu's vim defaults.

Other than that, Debian seems - and this surprises me - much faster than Ubuntu. I mean, it's just extremely snappy and responsive. It seems to have recognized all of my hardware. Perhaps hardware recognition troubles have not been a problem for Linux distros for a while now.

I've still got Windows 7 installed on a standby hard drive in case I get the urge to play a game. Anything else that requires Windows I can do in a VM.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:11 pm

Hardware recognition has not been an issue for the major Linux distros for at least a couple of years now; it is pretty rare that a device isn't recognized out-of-box. In general, unless you've got some oddball (or very new) hardware, at worst you may need to install proprietary drivers to get full functionality out of your GPU.

Ubuntu is basically Debian with a bunch of Canonical's apps layered on top, so yeah Debian will be a bit leaner. I find both of them to be snappier than Windows on the same hardware, with the exception of Firefox (which is just kind of sluggish on Linux for some reason). Debian Stable is very conservative about rolling out changes; I generally find Ubuntu to be a better compromise between stability and bleeding edge. (On Debian you can get some of the more bleeding edge stuff if you want, by enabling the "Testing" and/or "Unstable" repositories.)

Most of the info in the Debian Reference should be applicable to Ubuntu as well. In fact, if you install Ubuntu from their "alternate" or "server" CDs, you'll end up with something that is closer to a stock Debian install.

I've gotten used to editing the sources.list file as the first thing I do on new installs, but for a different reason: I mirror the entire Ubuntu repository for the versions I'm using, so I need to edit the config to point at my local copy. Using a local mirror makes bringing new installs up-to-date on patches and installing additional packages essentially instantaneous; gigabit connection to the repository FTW! :D
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:43 pm

Debian "squeeze" went stable relatively recently (just a few months ago) so it's more up to date than Ubuntu at them moment. They've also done a bunch of stuff on making it boot super fast, a big improvement over the last stable version. I run Debian on my server and Ubuntu on my desktops.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sun Mar 27, 2011 7:34 pm

Debian's not more up-to-date on /everything/. Firefox (or whatever they call it) is still at v3.5 while Ubuntu 10.10 is at 3.6. Judging by their past, they'll continue issuing security fixes to that v3.5 for a few years, long past when Mozilla stops supporting it, but won't upgrade to anything newer until the next stable release of the distribution, which might take a couple years.

As mentioned, though, you can switch to the Testing repository and will get periodic upgrades to the latest and greatest, and the stability will approximate that of an Ubuntu LTS release. I'd be shy of going to Unstable; at least once (years ago) it wasn't bootable.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sun Mar 27, 2011 7:58 pm

notfred wrote:Debian "squeeze" went stable relatively recently (just a few months ago) so it's more up to date than Ubuntu at them moment. They've also done a bunch of stuff on making it boot super fast, a big improvement over the last stable version. I run Debian on my server and Ubuntu on my desktops.

What I've heard is that Ubuntu LTS releases are based on Debian Testing, and Ubuntu non-LTS releases are essentially Debian Unstable with most of the rough edges filed off. So Ubuntu 10.10 is likely still more up-to-date than Squeeze, at least for some packages; but in some cases "more up-to-date" will actually mean "with new bugs and/or inexplicable arbitrary changes to things that didn't need fixing".

I am very impressed with the boot time of Ubuntu 10.04. They seem to have taken a step backward in this regard with 10.10; while 10.10 still boots faster than the pre-10.04 releases, it isn't "OMG that boots fast!" like 10.04 is. Upstart is a wonderful thing!
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sun Mar 27, 2011 8:25 pm

Get an SSD. Boot times become non-issues. I no longer hibernate the laptop because shutting down and booting is so fast.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:14 am

Was testing Linux Mint Debian edition last night. Boot up and only 130MB RAM used. Tried the Apple website and Quicktime videos load. Tried Youtube, and Flash works as well. At least I don't have to tinker with installing codecs like Ubuntu requires. The UI is pretty polished too, can't say I like the colour scheme of Ubuntu very much. My only gripe with Linux installs are the oversized fonts.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:11 am

etilena wrote:Was testing Linux Mint Debian edition last night. Boot up and only 130MB RAM used. Tried the Apple website and Quicktime videos load. Tried Youtube, and Flash works as well. At least I don't have to tinker with installing codecs like Ubuntu requires. The UI is pretty polished too, can't say I like the colour scheme of Ubuntu very much. My only gripe with Linux installs are the oversized fonts.

Debian does not suffer the oversized fonts as far as I can tell.

What you have to say about Mint is interesting. I think I'll give it a try in a VM. If it is worthy I still have a hard drive to spare. It's getting to the point that I need to build a hard drive retirement home for the numerous retired hard drives around here.

Quicktime on Apple works with Debian default install, flash on youtube does not.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:34 am

flip-mode wrote:
etilena wrote:Was testing Linux Mint Debian edition last night. Boot up and only 130MB RAM used. Tried the Apple website and Quicktime videos load. Tried Youtube, and Flash works as well. At least I don't have to tinker with installing codecs like Ubuntu requires. The UI is pretty polished too, can't say I like the colour scheme of Ubuntu very much. My only gripe with Linux installs are the oversized fonts.

Debian does not suffer the oversized fonts as far as I can tell.

I generally prefer the appearance of Redhat's "Liberation" fonts anyway. One of the first things I do on a new Ubuntu install is change all of the default fonts over to Liberation. You used to have to install them separately, but now they apparently come pre-installed (they're just not selected by default).

What you have to say about Mint is interesting. I think I'll give it a try in a VM. If it is worthy I still have a hard drive to spare. It's getting to the point that I need to build a hard drive retirement home for the numerous retired hard drives around here.

Heh... I was just thinking the same thing last night. Over the weekend I finally got around to dissecting the carcass of my old file server; it was retired a few months ago, and this weekend I decided I wanted its case for another build. There are 80GB IDE drives all over the floor now! :lol:

Quicktime on Apple works with Debian default install, flash on youtube does not.

Adobe's Flash plugin has a proprietary license; therefore Debian will never bundle it in the default install.

***

Back on the subject of documentation, I highly recommend the dwww package for Debian and Ubuntu users. It indexes and hyperlinks the man pages (plus any other installed documentation) for the packages on your system, and presents them in your web browser. If the man command seems a little too old-school to you (or even if it doesn't!), dwww is definitely worth installing.

Edit: Oh, and incidentally, if you install package debian-reference-en (on either Debian or Ubuntu), you get a complete local copy of that reference guide you linked in the first post!
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:45 pm

just brew it! wrote:Back on the subject of documentation, I highly recommend the dwww package for Debian and Ubuntu users. It indexes and hyperlinks the man pages (plus any other installed documentation) for the packages on your system, and presents them in your web browser. If the man command seems a little too old-school to you (or even if it doesn't!), dwww is definitely worth installing.

Edit: Oh, and incidentally, if you install package debian-reference-en (on either Debian or Ubuntu), you get a complete local copy of that reference guide you linked in the first post!

That's valuable info, JBI, thanks.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:08 pm

Yep, thanks JBI. Installing those packages on my work Debian server.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:47 pm

Well, I've been having a hell of a time. :D

First off, my hard drive took a crap. I knew it was a dodgy hard drive and I chose to use it to make it either walk the walk or walk the plank. It walked the plank and right off the end.

So last night I installed on a different drive. I am now fully conviced that there are at least one or two bugs in the install process. Selecting a mirror during install fails every time and then I have to go and edit sources.list. This isn't such a big deal for a semi-experienced person. For a newbie it would be sucktastic since there's a whole list of things you have to have a general awareness of to fix this problem. Even using the "Software Center" fails without this properly configured.

Secondly, throuout the install there is the options to go "back" to the previous step. This usually works, but I chose to go back a step at the "popularity contest" screen and had a hard freeze and had to reboot.

Then, during the install last night, I skipped trying to set up a mirror since I knew it would fail. Well, I don't know why, but this seems to cause some rather crazy problems that I did not know how to fix and the practical impact of those were that some applications - chromium-browser for example - simple could not be installed and the install process would error out. I'm sure it was the fact that I didn't "try" to configure a mirror during install that cause this because that's quite literally the only thing I did differently. But I haven't tried to reproduce this and I don't intend to try either.

So, I'm reinstalled on a stable hard drive now and sources.list is at least functional and chromium-browser is successfully installed so I'm at least on the road to recovery. Time to reinstall dwww and some other things :P

I'm not complaining. Just sharing.

Also, I'm annoyed - for the first time - with my Antec Sonata III because it's literally impossible to install a hard drive in the exterior 3.5" bays, and that is simply unacceptable, Antec!!! :evil:
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:14 pm

flip-mode wrote:I am now fully conviced that there are at least one or two bugs in the install process. Selecting a mirror during install fails every time and then I have to go and edit sources.list.

Are you by any chance installing 6.0.1?

There was an announcement from Debian, just today, that something was overlooked in the process of building the 6.0.1 ISOs and some important files in those ISOs got left out. Not everyone will have seen any problems, and if the install worked fine there's nothing really to worry about AFAIK, but they've still fixed the problem and released updated ISOs tagged 6.0.1a.

I don't know exactly what the problems which got fixed were, but since you've been having issues, it might be worth checking out the updated version.

I've installed 6.0.0 several times now, over the course of wrestling with RAID config and hard-drive failures on my new build, with no problems which couldn't be more plausibly attributed to other sources. (Aside from one design flaw which only hits if /dev/sda is configured as a RAID device and can't play host to grub. I still need to file a bug report about that one.)
Last edited by The Wanderer on Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:59 pm

Well that is interesting. I will have to look into that, thanks.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:55 pm

Wanderer, looks like none of those issues applied to me, as far as I understand.

In other news, I just configured bash to have the color prompt. It's not behaving right for root though. When I set force_color_prompt=yes in /etc/bash.bashrc it will take for root but then I get the mouse pinwheel, which tells me that the system is thinking hard about something, when I open up a root terminal. So, I removed that line from /etc/bash.bashrc and place it in my local .bashrc and also in root's .bashrc. Well, it worked fine for my local but doesn't work at all for root, which is mystifying.

Also, Debian's default settings for vim are not to my liking, having grown accustomed to Ubuntu's. None of the configuration changes I made were working right, but then I happened upon the suggestion to just do a full vim install to "fix" the configuration. Well that worked great! I just wonder why Debian's default settings are 1)atypical and 2)not very responsive to the configuration changes I was making. No matter though, all is well with vim now.

Next up is probably to install the flash plugin. Kinda hard to avoid.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:42 pm

I believe Debian suggest gnash and browser-plugin-gnash for playing Flash videos.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:44 pm

bthylafh wrote:I believe Debian suggest gnash and browser-plugin-gnash for playing Flash videos.

They do, but in my experience, a lot of real-world Flash doesn't work right in gnash.

If you value the functionality and performance of the official Flash plugin more than you do maintaining a more purely Free system, add the 'non-free' keyword to the end of your repository line in /etc/apt/sources.list, and apt-get update; there should be a package called 'flashplugin-nonfree', which will download and install the official Adobe Flash plugin.

flip-mode wrote:Wanderer, looks like none of those issues applied to me, as far as I understand.

Which "those issues" were you referring to?

The only place I've found an obvious "list of issues" in relation to 6.0.1 is the one on the debian-installer "installation information" page, http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/debian-installer/ - but those don't seem to be the ones which were announced as having been fixed in 6.0.1a.

The only place I've seen the announcement of 6.0.1a is on the debian-news mailing list (http://lists.debian.org/debian-news/2011/msg00015.html), and there is a separate (shorter and less detailed) list of issues fixed there - the third of which really looks, at a glance, like it might be related to the problem you've described. (It's harder than it might be to find this sort of information, right at the moment, because Debian have already put up their April Fool's joke and so some of their site navigation layout isn't there for the time being.)

If you have in fact already found that announcement message or an equivalent list, then I'll take your word for it that this isn't related, and I'm sorry to have bothered you. If you haven't, however, it might be worth your while to check it out. (Though then again it might not.)
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:51 am

went to lookup the debian home page and saw the Canterbury Project. Had me for like a couple of minutes until I realised what date it was. :o
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:51 am

The Wanderer wrote:If you have in fact already found that announcement message or an equivalent list, then I'll take your word for it that this isn't related, and I'm sorry to have bothered you. If you haven't, however, it might be worth your while to check it out. (Though then again it might not.)

Woah there! You didn't bother me at all! I appreciated the tip-off to the 6.01a announcement even if it doesn't seem to apply :D So, thank you (and don't stop offering help)! :lol:
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:27 am

:o I may have a problem. When I run cfdisk I get this output:
FATAL ERROR: Bad primary partition 1: Partition ends in the final partial cylinder
Press any key to exit cfdisk
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:42 am

A bit of Googling indicates that that can be caused either by overlapping partitions (which probably means corrupted or otherwise garbled partition data)[1] or a by relatively recent change in the way drive partitions are laid out in some cases, which (as of mid-2010, at least) cfdisk allegedly did not support [2][3].

In the former case, some people mention a utility called testdisk (which I've never heard of) which may be able to fix the problem; if it can't, there may not be any solution short of wiping the partition tables (using fdisk, gparted, or 'cfdisk -z') and starting over. This situation can apparently arise more often when dual-booting with an existing Windows install and moving/resizing the original Windows partition from Linux.

In the latter case, the problem can probably be avoided by using almost anything other than cfdisk. I prefer straight fdisk myself, but not everyone likes that.

[1] http://morecode.wordpress.com/2007/02/1 ... -cylinder/
[2] http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions ... on-841447/
[3] https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php ... 68#p813368

flip-mode wrote:Woah there! You didn't bother me at all! I appreciated the tip-off to the 6.01a announcement even if it doesn't seem to apply :D

Oh, I didn't think I'd bothered you by pointing out the announcement in the first place; I just wasn't sure if pushing on it after you said "no, this doesn't apply" would have seemed annoying.

flip-mode wrote:So, thank you (and don't stop offering help)!

No chance of that, as long as I still have or can readily find answers. I love working in Linux, and I enjoy helping people when I can; being able to combine the two is even better.

etilena wrote:went to lookup the debian home page and saw the Canterbury Project. Had me for like a couple of minutes until I realised what date it was. :o

The announcement almost sounds plausible (if a bit jump-off-a-cliff out-of-the-blue "where did this come from") if it weren't for the date, too - aside from the quote from the Gentoo developer. ^_^
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:33 am

The Wanderer wrote:
etilena wrote:went to lookup the debian home page and saw the Canterbury Project. Had me for like a couple of minutes until I realised what date it was. :o

The announcement almost sounds plausible (if a bit jump-off-a-cliff out-of-the-blue "where did this come from") if it weren't for the date, too - aside from the quote from the Gentoo developer. ^_^
The name should give it away as well, see ESR.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:25 pm

Well, I kicked Debian to the curb. Too much weird stuff. I may have to download 6.01a and see if it's better.

Right now I'm back on Ubuntu 10.04. I've been geeking out for the past 4-5 hours. I threw a couple spare drives in and managed to configure a raid1 array with mdadm. Then it took me forever to actually figure out how to delete the array. Then I've been messing around with parted and mkfs and such. I've never messed with those much and they're kinda bread and butter so it's nice to have the spare disks to play with.
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:52 pm

Funny you should mention going back to Ubuntu 10.04; today I am setting up what is intended to be my new primary desktop for home. Installed from the 10.04.1 "alternate" install CD, which allows you to configure the boot volume as RAID-1 during the install process. So far so good...
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:02 pm

just brew it! wrote:Funny you should mention going back to Ubuntu 10.04; today I am setting up what is intended to be my new primary desktop for home. Installed from the 10.04.1 "alternate" install CD, which allows you to configure the boot volume as RAID-1 during the install process. So far so good...

Oh yeah? Did you get some new hardware?
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:16 pm

Nothing earth-shaking; as you're probably aware, I avoid bleeding edge stuff like the plague. I'm finally moving to Socket AM3 (and DDR3 RAM) though! :lol:

Just a cheap-ass Athlon II X4 in it right now, but I'll probably drop a Phenom II X6 in there, or at least swap the CPU with the Phenom II X4 that is in my current (AM2+) main rig once I'm convinced the build and OS are stable and configured to my liking. It has 8GB of RAM, and a big-ass 120mm Silenx heatpipe cooler to keep things quiet. Oh, and of course it's in one of my old Chieftec "boat anchor" full tower cases... love those things! :D
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:27 pm

flip-mode wrote:Well, I kicked Debian to the curb. Too much weird stuff.


I've been having a weird problem with my Samba server since upgrading to 6.0 from 5.0: on an unpredictable time interval (usually a week, +/- a couple days) it'll lose the share group permissions. It's in our Active Directory, and what'll happen is the chown and setfacl group permissions will change from the group's name to a 4-digit number, and users in the group can't access the shares until I reapply the permissions with chgrp and setfacl.

I can't find anything in cron that should affect this; am working around it by running a fix-script daily, but in the meantime the numeric group-IDs are accumulating in the ACLs. Nobody on IRC or the Debian forum has any idea. Haven't filed a bug report; suppose I should, but I'm not sure if it's Samba at fault or something else.

I'm to build a new server sometime in the next month, but it'd be nice to figure this out before then. I hate not knowing why something's misbehaving, and I'd hate for this to happen with the new one. :-?
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:19 pm

bthylafh wrote:I've been having a weird problem with my Samba server since upgrading to 6.0 from 5.0

The problem that actually pushed me over to Ubuntu again was that one I posted about above:
flip-mode wrote::o I may have a problem. When I run cfdisk I get this output:
FATAL ERROR: Bad primary partition 1: Partition ends in the final partial cylinder
Press any key to exit cfdisk

I thought it was possibly a Debian installer problem. Well, it was not. I think the disk itself must be gummed up somehow because I still get that same error on Ubuntu. I'm going to reinstall on a different disk and check this one out with parted or something. :shrug:
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 11:41 pm

flip-mode wrote:I think the disk itself must be gummed up somehow because I still get that same error on Ubuntu.

Did you wipe the partition tables (using either 'cfdisk -z' or another tool) before trying the Ubuntu install? Allegedly, that's about the only way to get cfdisk to stop doing that, and if Ubuntu happens to use cfdisk as well then it would of course do the same thing.

just brew it! wrote:Installed from the 10.04.1 "alternate" install CD, which allows you to configure the boot volume as RAID-1 during the install process.

Is that really so unusual? Debian can certainly do it without much trouble (at least as long as your partitioning setup leaves enough space on /dev/sda to play host to grub), and I took advantage of that as part of a somewhat more complicated setup on my current build...
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Re: Going Debian

Postposted on Sat Apr 02, 2011 11:58 pm

Try running the "o" command in fdisk? I don't think it's a Debian problem, and Ubuntu, to make itself n00b friendly, comes with a lot of extra crap. I used to run Debian, but where possible I usually put Arch Linux instead.
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