After Ubuntu

My experiments with running Ubuntu Linux have mostly been successful. I’ve certainly learnt a lot about Linux. I love the Debian package management system, and both the Gnome and KDE desktops are great (though anyone thinking of installing KDE be warned: KBounce is mindlessly addictive).

Ubuntu doesn’t feel very mature, though. For instance, last time I upgraded XMMS (a Winamp-like MP3 player) it stopped working under Gnome, though it still works fine under KDE. I still haven’t got my Palm and GPilot / JPilot working properly. Occasionally the entire desktop hangs. I’m sure that at some time in the future Ubuntu will be perfect for newbie Linux users who don’t want to tinker, but at the moment it’s just a little frustrating for those of us who do. It’s impossible to tell whether it’s my setup or Ubuntu itself that’s falling over.

So – I’m ready to move on. Thanks my newly acquired super-broadband-powers, I am downloading the seven CDs required for Debian. I am going to make myself a little media / document server in a Shuttle box (I’ve always wanted one), and reinstall my big tower so that it’s nice and clean. This time round I am not relying on the forums. I have bought a couple of books to help me with the installation.

This is an arbitrary list of strange words and concepts which I’ve come across, so that I remember what I’m doing:

  • dyndns : Dynamic hosting. There are some sites around which let you do this for free. With the appropriate setup, you can ssh through the router and into the server on the other side.
  • ssh: Not a new concept, but something I’ve never really got to grips with. I have a private key for the first time so that I can commit on the JBehave project.
  • LAN: A local network, like the one we have at home. It was set up by a previous lodger. I want to understand this weird creature.
  • Wireless: I’m aware that there are some security issues with wireless networks. I need to investigate.
  • WINE: Wine Is Not an Emulator. It sits on top of Linux and provides Windows APIs. Microsoft Office already works on WINE. All I need to do is get DataViz’s “DocsToGo” working along with the Palm software, then maybe a couple of games like Doom3, and I will never need to use Windows at home again.
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7 Responses to After Ubuntu

  1. untermensch says:

    Btw, Debian does have a mini-install (a ~35Mb odd .iso) which is enough to get you connected to the net, supply some of the necessary tools, and set up apt-get so that you can continue the install online, only downloading the things you need instead of a zillion packages ๐Ÿ™‚

    Start here. It’s probably the most educational and efficient way to install Debian.

  2. sirenian says:

    My main worry was that it wouldn’t support our Ethernet, and I wouldn’t be able to start it off.

    Also without any web browsers, I can’t get any help from outside of my books.

    And what happens if I break something and can’t access the internet because of it?

    The reassurance of having a full OS is worth the 1.40 and 10 minutes which it will cost me to burn a set of CDs – plus I’ve got to do it for two boxes, so it’ll save me lots in download time. I think.

  3. sirenian says:

    “Does not support internal ISDN cards”. Or on-board Ethernet, I’ll bet.

  4. sirenian says:

    But thank you anyway. I have your phone number. You may be hearing from me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. untermensch says:

    Ok, I know this hasn’t really been invited, but I want to share some experience with Debian so that you become accustomed to the power and ease-of-use it provides you. Feel free to disregard all of this for now, and perhaps revisit it later when you’re feeling bold, but be assured that this is all quite run-of-the-mill and part of a healthy Debian experience.

    It *definitely* supports Ethernet. You’d be extremely hard-pressed to finy *any* pre-compiled kernel at all that doesn’t have respectable support for ethernet and TCP/IP built in or as included modules ๐Ÿ™‚

    The only two advantages I can think of to burning a full set of CDs are that you’ll have a graphical web-browser upon first install, and that you can simply put the CDs into another computer for a new install. The other issues are moot…

    However, Debian is such that the network install is very simple, especially in the case of having an Internet gateway/router accessible on your LAN – it’s a matter of selecting the general functionality you want installed, in the easy to use installer. XFree86? Tick. KDE? Tick. C/C++ Compilers? Tick. Et cetera. It’s really hard to go wrong!

    After you’ve installed, whether from the CD set, or over the Internet, you’ll *still* have to re-download a lot of packages to get them up-to-date. This is the reason why I recommend the net install – you spend less time downloading and updating in total. However, that’s not too important right now.

    There’s a lot to be learned about “apt”, Debian’s package manager (apt-get, apt-cache, etc). It’s extremely powerful and versatile, and very quick to learn. I’m tempted to spew out a whole truckload of useful knowledge about it right here, but I think I’ll just leave you with some helpful tips for installing on multiple machines.

    Your currently installed packages (.deb files) live in /var/cache/apt/archives/ and “apt” looks at your /etc/apt/sources.list configuration file (which “apt-setup” creates) to know where your package databases come from, and what repositories they belong to (eg, stable, testing, unstable repositories). What this means is when it comes time to install another box, you can take these few simple steps to save yourself a lot of time, and gain a huge sense of satisfaction:

    When you have gone through the “apt-setup”, “apt-get update” and “apt-get dist-upgrade” cycle on the first box to get all the packages up-to-date (as seen in all the various Debian HOWTO’s and primers on the Internet), perform your install on the new box.

    Once you have the new box booting up in Debian, transfer the /etc/apt/sources.list file, and the contents of the /var/cache/apt/archives/ directory from the currently installed box (preferably using “scp” – ssh’s sister command which copies files). Then run: “apt-get update”, to synchronise your local package availability database with the repositories of your choice.

    Then when you run “apt-get dist-upgrade” to update your packages, or “dselect” to select, it’ll find most of the packages present in your local /var/cache/apt/archives/ and install them directly from there instead of re-downloading.

    Ok, I hope that didn’t seem too arcane. You’ll need to have at least skimmed over some documentation about Debian’s “apt” and “dpkg” to feel confident with this, but it’s the understanding of Debian’s package management which is the most important thing – otherwise one would never see the advantages of this distribution over the others.

    Happy installing!

  6. sirenian says:

    See “I love the Debian package management system” at the top of the post. I agree. But I still want the CDs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. sirenian says:

    Oh – and I don’t yet know how to use ssh properly (read: at all), let alone the many secure delights which I’m sure await me.

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