Debian GNU/Linux, The Distro I Love

Come on! It’s software. How can I love software, eh?

Debian is more than software. It’s 1K+ developers doing stuff I don’t have to do, bringing together thousands of software packages and providing an installer and package-manager to provide a pleasant installation, management and usage experience. Debian is also democratic and open. I can see their rules, their known bugs and what they’re doing about them, just like a modern political democracy, thriving and true.

An example of why I love Debian GNU/Linux happened just yesterday. A notebook that the “Little Woman” used to carry around in her purse wherever she went, trouble-free, refused to connect to Wifi at an hotel… I checked and found Wicd-GTK was not working and worse, had not been updated in ages… It was from two releases ago. Four years or so of trouble-free usage. You have to love that. How many PCs running that other OS go a week without problems/malware/viruses/slowing down/re-re-reboots etc? Anyway, I did the right thing and upgraded all the software to the latest version of the latest release with one command:
apt-get update;apt-get upgrade; cat /etc/apt/sources.list > /etc/apt/backup.sources.list;cat /etc/apt/sources.list|sed -e s/squeeze/wheezy/ > /etc/apt/new.sources.list;mv /etc/apt/new.sources.list /etc/apt/sources.list;apt-get update;apt-get install apt;apt-get dist-upgrade;shutdown -r now
I then had only to respond with [ENTER] or q (quit) to a few messages about choices and ChangeLogs. No shopping for an installation CD. No EULA. No phoning home. No re-re-rebooting. No hunting for drivers. No re-installing applications. Just doing what was necessary. Oh, yeah, I later removed the old kernel but that’s just me, not wanting to leave too much stuff on the hard drive. I have upgraded that other OS and usually it takes several hours. This was just a few minutes and it was done over the wireless network…

So, that’s the system of IT that I love, created by people who love software and make it their life’s work.

It has other merits like a huge repository of packages. With a few hundred packages one can have a bootable system with just a CLI. With a thousand packages one can have a nice usable desktop installation or server installation. With a few thousand packages one can have a whole IT-system complete with local cloud, servers, multiple virtual machines and as complex a network or file-storage system as you could ever want, all easily maintained without leaving your chair.

e.g. Suppose I want an office suite. I can search for one with
apt-cache search office (or I can use a GUI application, synaptic).
That finds over 500 packages. Suppose I want LibreOffice from the Document Foundation. If I download direct from The Document Foundation, I have a bunch of Debian packages to install. With APT and LibreOffice from Debian’s repository, I just call for LibreOffice and it all happens.

e.g. suppose I want a weather widget on my desktop. I search APT for “weather” and find 116 packages.If I filter for my XFCE4 desktop I can narrow it down right away:
apt-cache search weather|grep xfce
xfce4-goodies - enhancements for the Xfce4 Desktop Environment
xfce4-weather-plugin - weather information plugin for the Xfce4 panel

Another example occurred as I was writing this blog entry. The router in our house quit. I could not ping it. Everything seemed normal at the router except there was no “link active” light on the LAN connection. I swapped cables and switch ports to no avail. I used the Debian installer to verify that the software could not wake up the Ethernet NIC either. It was dead. I switched the system over to the wireless router and carried on. An installer on a USB drive is as handy as a screwdriver when maintaining IT, especially with Debian GNU/Linux. I might install Debian on that dead router but first I have to replace the NIC if that’s possible. I might have to change the motherboard… The router’s running some awful GNU/Linux router-distro and it’s almost incomprehensibly cryptic to someone who only occasionally visits it. That router has been running flawlessly for years but Debian would make it better.

The way I use APT for a normal installation is informative. I can install a few packages giving the results my user wants on the client and APT pulls in ~1K+ packages to make it happen. I don’t have to accept any default, just what my user wants. That’s powerful, responsive, efficient, and fast. What more could one want in a relationship with software? High prices? Restrictions? Re-re-rebooting? Malware? A hundred different EULAs? None of those are what I want. Debian gives me what I want.

You, too, can have it all. Just visit

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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One Response to Debian GNU/Linux, The Distro I Love

  1. ram says:

    I like the way one can continue to update an old Debian version and keep it going and going … and going. Kinda like a rabbit associated with a certain battery promotion;-)

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