Slandering Debian GNU/Linux

One thing the growing prominence of GNU/Linux has triggered is more slander from the powers that be. Like a true paid evangelist of M$, Jack Germain wrote,

“Debian may be a granddaddy in the Linux world, but the latest version of the software isn’t much to look at. Debian 7, dubbed ‘Wheezy,’ is about as exciting as its name is unattractive, and it’s certainly not a showcase for the latest distro developments. To be kind, this latest Debian Linux release has little or no flash-bang impact under its hood.”

see Debian 7: A So-So Distro Not Worth Switching For | Reviews

It’s disgusting that such stuff gets published on Linuxinsider. Clearly the authour is an ignorant outsider:

  • “it is not a showcase for the latest distro developments. To be kind, this latest Debian Linux release has little or no flash-bang impact under its hood.” If he wanted the latest developments he could use the testing or experimental flavours of Debian GNU/Linux. He knows that because he writes later, “You have your Stable Debian, you have your Testing Debian and you have your Unstable Debian.” so lack of the latest packages is not a fault of Debian GNU/Linux but an abuse of the stable flavour. You don’t criticize the centre of the football team for not being a wide receiver…
  • “You must download the specific version and burn the installation disc rather than bolting on the desktop shells from the Debian distro storehouse.” This is false. The APT package manager can bring in whatever DE or flavour of Debian that you want. apt-get install ldm xfwm4 xfce4-goodies xfce4 will do amazing things if you want a lighter desktop. There certainly is no need to burn a different CD. Just select nothing from the tasksel screen of the installer and reboot the resulting minimal OS. APT will do it all from then on.
  • “You also will not find support in Debian 7 for the typical downstream add-ons that make using the Linux OS the joy that it has become….one of my biggest disappointments with Debian 7 is its stark installed base of software….Wheezy’s repository is much less complete than those of other distros. That forces a reliance on manually adding software sources and relying on the Synaptic Package Manager; the trial-and-error process of discovering what works or does not work adds to the discomfort.” Let’s check the repository, shall we? apt-cache search e|wc
    36871
    shows nearly 37K packages. Has he even looked in there? The presumably more popular Mint fits on one DVD. It takes 10 DVDs to hold Debian Wheezy. Is the authour mathematically challenged?
  • “If my experience is any indication, however, Wheezy also will not recognize some essential hardware components. For example, while I had no problem establishing a hard-wire Internet connection, Wheezy does not see my wireless connections.
    On some of my portable gear, Wheezy claimed that no firmware was found. Mostly, though, Wheezy just plain old does not work with the wireless circuitry on new and older computers. There is no provision for doing anything about it.” Of course there is. Debian GNU/Linux has a repository filled with all the firmware required to run many wireless gadgets but those are put in a separate compartment because binary blobs are not Free Software. One can use installation CDs with firmware included from http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/. Besides, it’s the Linux kernel that runs the drivers and most distros use the Linux kernel from kernel.org. The ability or not to run particular hardware is almost independent of distro. I have installed Wheezy on a bunch of wireless devices even before release and only had one ancient notebook that required a bit of work by me. You would think an insider would have lifted the hood of Debian GNU/Linux before writing such a damning review.
  • “Good ol’ Stable Debian 7 has some aging bones in its skeleton. For example, it runs the Linux 3.2 kernel released in January 2012 . In case you are wondering, the latest kernel is 3.9.” Again, he skips Debian GNU/Linux “experimental” which does have 3.10-rc5 if he wants it and he can always download and build a kernel customized for his system from kernel.org. That’s what I do, just for fun.unxz linux-3.9.6.tar.xz;tar xf linux-3.9.6.tar; cd linux-3.9.6;make mrproper;make oldconfig;make -j 6;make modules_install;make install;shutdown -r now just takes a few seconds of your time and a few minutes of your PC’s time. The -j parameter is the number of processes you want to run in parallel. It could be 1 to a number similar to a few times your number of cores or RAID 1 devices. There will be an optimal number to get the job done faster. Of course “1” will give the least disruption of your system.
    Oh, and 3.2 is supported until 2016 upstream
  • “One major success, though, is that Debian 7 supports UEFI installations on x86-64 hardware. It does not, however, support Secure Boot. So I must also guess that I won’t have much of a chance of getting it to dual-boot should I buy a new computer packing Microsoft Windows 8.” Again, suggesting a mis-use of Debian GNU/Linux, Free Software, must dual-boot with “8”. Blame M$ for that nonsense, not Debian.
  • “you must track down and install Adobe’s Flash plug-in.” Not so. I use Google’s Chrome browser which includes flash-playing automatically. Flash is deprecated software anyway. Adobe doesn’t ship if with 64bits for GNU/Linux anyway. Again, this is not Debian’s problem but Adobe’s.

I was using Wheezy for most of its existence in production systems. There were a few bugs two years ago but very few lately. It is one of the most solid distros you will ever see. I recommend it for newbies and experienced users. There is a reason many experienced users of GNU/Linux like Debian. It works for them. It will work for newbies too. I have used it with students for many years and now my granddaughter who is just 4 uses it.

One wonders why TFA was written. Early on the authour wrote, “Debian is the foundation for many other more modern Linux distros, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and so many more.

Nevertheless, it is considerably less appealing as an everyday workhorse operating system”

I wonder what he wants for a horse, a bucking bronco? Debian GNU/Linux is a good ride. It carries a heavy load for more than half the world of GNU/Linux.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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16 Responses to Slandering Debian GNU/Linux

  1. oiaohm says:

    I should have been more correct. Newbies to the distrobution. Being idiots writing reviews. They Just visit the download page grab image and go. Yes they should know to read the manual but they don’t.

  2. oiaohm wrote, “Newbies and read the manual don’t go hand in hand Robert.”

    Newbies and installing an OS don’t go hand in hand. Anyone wanting to play around with it will likely read Debian’s manual because they actually have one, er twelve. The vast majority of newbies to GNU/Linux these days will use a PC installed of GNU/Linux in the factory. Something like 1% of PC users can/will install any OS but many times that will buy a PC with a new OS on it as long as they can try it out in the store or there is a QuickStart guide.

  3. oiaohm says:

    Newbies and read the manual don’t go hand in hand Robert. As I say minor issue that its not mentioned on the download page. Placement of some of the debian information suxs basically.

  4. Adam Williamson wrote, ““Like a true paid evangelist of M$” and “ignorant outsider””.

    Those are strong words but entirely consistent with:

    • M$’s version of “technological evangelism” :“Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. “Independent” analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent” consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). “Independent” courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.”
    • criticising Debian GNU/Linux for problems Debian has already dealt with e.g. having a stable flavour tested about two years yet distributing the latest stuff for that testing. TFA showed ignorance of the goals and mechanisms of Debian to ship the “universal operating system”. e.g. shipping an official version which has zero firmware blobs and shipping an unofficial version which has a lot of firmware blobs to handle random hardware issues out there. If you want to find hardware problems with Debian go on using the firmware-free stuff. If you want your headache to continue keep pounding your head against a wall.

    In this case the authour was not denigrating GNU/Linux on behalf of M$ but using M$’s tactics against one distro for whatever reasons. It was still a dastardly review. I don’t review the work of brain-surgeons and he should not review the work of Debian unless he’s going to study the matter. It took me years to learn what I know about Debian. A guy who slaps a CD in and lets fly should not assume he has a handle on the details.

    In fact the authour was comparing “more fashionable” distros against a pure Free Software release of Debian when he should have known to use the unofficial flavour to greatly reduce such problems. It is not a fault of Debian that they track free/non-free software. It is a fault of hardware-makers that Debian has to do that.

  5. Er, I think you’re going rather a bit too far with talk of “Like a true paid evangelist of M$” and “ignorant outsider”.

    To me his article was clearly a comparison of Debian to more whiz-bang distros like Mint. I don’t think it was a great article either, but it’s pretty bad form to throw accusations like that around without a shred of evidence.

  6. oiaohm wrote, “Download page of debian does not mention the fact a full firmware disc exists. That is the minor issue.”

    It’s right in the documentation at http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/amd64/ch06s04.html.en

    Which is linked from 2.2 Devices Requiring Firmware

    Which is linked from Chapter 2 System Requirements

    This “deep burial” under RTFM is why I recommend the CD including firmware from the start to skip hassles. Newbies don’t need the hassles and they can still enjoy Debian GNU/Linux without knowing anything about firmware.

  7. oiaohm says:

    Download page of debian does not mention the fact a full firmware disc exists. That is the minor issue. Yes it might be marked as non official. But users installing really need to be told about it existence.

    Minor things are making life harder for end used.

  8. Gonzalo says:

    Very good, Robert. Throwing a lot of light on that ignorant text.

  9. oiaohm wrote, “Yes there are issues to complain about with debian. Like installing using a image with third party firmware not being clear enough.”

    Sigh…
    See Firmware

    The sticking point is that much firmware has no publicly available source code. It is distributed binary-only and is created to run on specialized controllers for hardware devices. The makers use firmware so that they can do modifications/fixes after the devices are in the field by the millions. I recommend people use the CDs including firmware from Debian to avoid installation hassles. Of course this is no problem at all for an OEM or a user of a PC with Debian GNU/Linux installed.

    The “problem” if any exists is akin to trying to install a 64bit OS on a 32bit PC. You get that if you use the wrong CD. The right CD for installations on random hardware out in the real world is the CD including the firmware. Problem solved.

    This is an issue for any OS as the manufacturers cannot/will not/do not assume everyone has their pet architecture for building the software from source. e.g. I had a PC-printer that loaded firmware on power-up. The software on the PC needed to supply that firmware came partly from M$ and partly from HP. M$ no longer ships the software they supplied so those printers can no longer be used unless you have the software in storage somewhere. M$ will not supply it any longer. This is not an issue that will go away any time soon as Debian already builds for 12 architectures and cannot build for dozens more just for device drivers. Manufacturers can help by making the firmware available under a licence permitting copying which they mostly do but Debian’s policy is that they distribute Free Software. Binary blobs are not FLOSS unless people can legally examine and modify the binaries, something folks like me used to do in the old days. Nowadays few have the patience for that. Manufacturers generally like to hide the details of their devices.

  10. oiaohm says:

    Maou Sadao there is telling it like it is and there is getting key things wrong.
    Debian is by its design meant to be a highly boring stable distribution.
    By default debian ship with min firmware.

    Debian secureboot solution is Linux foundations chain boot loader. There are other errors as well.

    Yes there are issues to complain about with debian. Like installing using a image with third party firmware not being clear enough.

    Long term support versions of Linux do get drivers back ported to them so they do support more modern hardware than there first release date.

  11. Maou Sadao says:

    Jack M. Germain tell it like it is. Kudos to that brave man who doesn’t bow to mainstream opinion.

  12. ram says:

    I’ve found the Debian distributions to be complete, stable, and highly reliable. They are the main distributions at my home and workplace. Mostly Debian Squeeze, with Debian Wheezy being trialed.

  13. oe says:

    “Just to be correct there are a lot of Windows installs where network cards and other things are DOA until third party is downloaded.” So very true and from 2006 till about 2010 until I froze on Lucid Lynx for most machines and apt-get compatible Puppy on the remainder it really exceeded Windows in the detect and run funky hardware w/o issues…As to “app stores” GNU/Linux had the same thing, under the admittedly un-sexy name of integrated package management since around 2000….

  14. oiaohm says:

    Just to be correct there are a lot of Windows installs where network cards and other things are DOA until third party is downloaded. Yet for some reason people think they can place Linux on random hardware and not have driver issues.

    3.2 is long term stable. Debian is stable distro so only uses long term stable kernels. If there is a question it should be where is 3.4 Linux kernel. The newest long term stable.

  15. matchrocket wrote, “Almost anyone else would have gone looking for the drivers in some branch off the main repository.”

    Most drivers are in the Linux kernel, not the repository. That’s what’s absurd about the article. Debian can and does use the latest kernel if you want it and get the latest drivers contributed by all those members of the Linux Foundation.

  16. matchrocket says:

    He really should have known better about the drivers. It’s common knowledge that Debian has the largest repository of all the distros. If he had trouble with drivers during an installation he was wrong to just give up then and there. Almost anyone else would have gone looking for the drivers in some branch off the main repository. What a wuss.

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