on Wed, Apr 27, 2005 at 09:53:59AM -0300, Stephen Downes (stephen@xxxxxxxxx) wrote: > Yishay Mor wrote: > > >[Forwarded from an unsubscribed address--Doug] > > > >yet another CD-bootable disto, Debian based, but with a built-in > >installer: > >http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ > > > I've heard good things about Ubuntu and have a distro at home ready > to install. But... > > What do people here think of Ubuntu? How well does it compare with, > say, Mandrake? My current comparison points include Debian, RH, Mandrake, and SuSE, with broader and less current experience including many others. Preview: ---------- Ubuntu: nice desktop, great management, great infrastructure, good details, good extensibility if you don't mind diverging from stated goal path, keep an eye on Cannonical's fortunes. Better than most of the competition. I'm still partial to stock Debian but endorse Ubuntu for newcomers with very few reservations. Ubuntu provides a nicely packaged system, I find it little different from stock Debian largely, though my own usage is largely oriented around shell and CLI/curses apps, plus a few others (notably Galeon). Much of the "you have to be there to appreciate it" work in Ubuntu is in its desktop polish, which is rather strongly targeted at GNOME (Ubuntu main distro) and KDE (Kubuntu branch distro), neither of which I use as a desktop (first preference WindowMaker, strong recommendation of XFCE4 for light/n00b use, and pretty much anything else, including TWM, for quick'n'dirty work). How is Ubuntu Different from Debian? ------------------------------------ On differences between Ubuntu and Debian: http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu/relationship/document_view And Ubuntu Philosophy: http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu/philosophy/document_view Pluses: - Ubuntu is bootstrapped off of Debian. Meaning you're tapping heavily on Debian infrastructure, including the package management tools, packages themselves, documentation, experience base, and other support. There are very few areas in which Ubuntu makes marked departures from Debian (none of which I'm significantly aware), but most of these are in the project's focus (desktop, GNOME / KDE), a dedicated enterprise support source (Canonical), and release schedule (6 months). - Packages. 6k+ in primary sources, approaching 17.5k+ in additional sources ("Universe" and others), most of which are stock (or near stock) Debian. - The little stuff. Most of the tools _I_ happen to want (as an admin) on my systems are there or readily obtainable: vim, w3m, lftp, screen, wget, ssh. I usually have mc on hand, may have had to grab that out of Universe. Not that this is particularly significant for the end-user, but as an admin of a box, these and related tools make my life much easier. Not everything happens at console (e.g.: locally) or in GUI. - sudo installed (and configured correctly) by default. This is a *massive* win for Ubuntu (though the hoi polloi won't understand why) and they deserve massive Beaujolais for getting this right. - Clean network profile: no services by default. Now, if you want SSH to your box, that's a bit of a PITA, but readily amended. - ISV support. One potential plus of a commercial entity is forging relationships with ISVs. This is one place where RH and SuSE offer major wins. It's not something Ubuntu's made noises about (that I'm aware) but could be a significant plus over stock Debian, in a "For those who like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing that they like" sort of way. Minuses: - Ubuntu is bootstrapped off of Debian ... which means it (as the fine folks in irc://irc.freenode.net/#debian will be more than happy to tell you) *isnt'* Debian. Packages _are_ different, there are now two conflicting sets of Debs floating around. APT _should_ keep this sorted, but expect confusion to grow with time. Ian Murdoch's had some widely reported comments on this, slightly overblown, but considered all the same. Also, Ubuntu focuses (but doesn't limit itself) to desktops, emphasizing GNOME/KDE by default. While this _doesn't_ mean you can't run a different desktop, or that you can't use Ubuntu for server roles (or that it's pretty straightforward to do so), but that's not its core mission. If you and [K]Ubuntu have differing goals, you may want to consider this. I like to know that me and my tools are reasonably aligned. As previously mentioned, Ubuntu divorces itself, well, takes up separate residences is probably more apropos, from Debian. Which somewhat divides efforts. There's been some grumbling about this. Most relevant, particularly for organizational adoption, is long-term viability. The Debian project has over a decade under its belt, and is a well-organized (or at least organized) effort comprised of 1000+ developers from many individual organizations, and many "how do we make this thing work" battles fought and won. Any time you're considering a distro based on a single enterprise, you've got to consider that enterprise's survival. Ubuntu and Canonical have ~1 year under their belt. - Packages. By default you're _just_ in the stock Ubuntu / Kubuntu packages, which are all that are supported. It's a considerably smaller selection than full Debian (though it's roughly as rich as any other mainstream distro). While Universe (and other supplemental archives) fill in the gaps, you're now outside the "supported" Ubuntu package set. Which somewhat addresses the question of the real value of "support". Note that this is more a semantic than practical concern, but it's there. - The little stuff. I _did_ have to go grab a few things out of Universe, most notably annoying was 'mc'. While I'll admit it's not a package widely used by most n00bs, it's insanely useful: console; interactive; remote access via sh:, FTP:, http: and other methods; virtual filesystem access to archive and package (DEB, RPM, tarball) formats. OK, it's a tad large than I'd have thought, at ~2 MiB. But it's an incredibly useful 2 MiB. - sudo configured by default: Um. This is *not* a bug ;-) - Clean network profile. As noted above, you'll have to install any services you want to run, SSH among them. One consequence is that there is no firewall configured or installed by default, rationalized by the lack of listening services. - ISV support. Proprietary SW is _so_ last millennium ;-) But if you've got to go there, you've got to go there. Yes, I'll admit a pragmatic need at times. It's just that I avoid proprietary lock-in wherever possible. The careful reader will have noted a certain symmetry about these bonuses and complaints. Ubuntu's strengths are in large part its weaknesses. Its weaknesses (that I've been able to tell in a couple months of occasional use) are _not_ shows-toppers, but you should be aware of them. My one major gripe to date is that the Wiki support suggests Ubuntu can be installed in as little as ~800 MiB. My experience on a 1.7 GiB partition (exceeding the install minimum guidelines) is that there's simply insufficient space to run a system update. A bit of truth-in-advertising would help here: give yourself 3-4 GiB minimum, and if you *really* want to be happy, 20 GiB or more is going to give you space for multimedia files and other detritus of modern computing in your $HOME. It would be useful to note that LTSP and other thin-client solutions are well-suited to older HW with limited storage, as a rich GNU/Linux installation is actually larger than a stock legacy MS Windows system, though IMVAO the utility is vastly greater. How Does Ubuntu Compare to Other Major Distros? ----------------------------------------------- Most of the comparisons with other distros are pretty much as for Debian vs. world. A general note: the only box on this system I oversaw installation of was the primary Debian server. - APT (and Debian Policy) provide huge wins in package management over RPM based distros. The latter _are_ improving, but still don't hold a candle. It's not just package availability, it's not just package quality, it's not just ease of install. It's details like how /usr/share/doc/ entries are named (by package, *not* package+version), the menu system (and automated addition / deletion, including integration into all WMs on your system), requirements for manapges for all executables (again, more a "the guy who's got to admin the damned thing" than an end-user issue, but significant), It Just Works[tm] services, clear /etc/init.d/ scripts, FHS-compliant sysvinit structures, clean and sane networking config.... I could write an essay on the topic. Oh, I did: http://twiki.debian.org/Main/WhyDebianRocks - Ease of upgrade. No wipe-and-rebuild (RH/FC are *still* walking this path...). If you're tracking a release state (stable / unstable / testing), on release day, you just run 'aptitude update; aptitude dist-upgrade' and you're on your way. If you're tracking a specific named release, you 's/oldrel/newrel/' in /etc/apt/sources.list and do as before, to switch (say: warty => hoary). - Command-line admin utils. Ubuntu's (and Debian's) 'adduser' command is interactive, prompts for full information -- password, full name, GECOS fields (office/phone) -- and creates the user's home directory and associated user group (something not adopted by other distros). On MDK, RH, & SuSE, passwd, chfn, and mkdir must be run manually. Another admin point, but another place where The Guy Who's Got To Fix The Thing[tm] (TGWGTFTT) is going to be a lot happier. - Ease of updates. Security issue: subscribe to the security announcements list, and make sure you're running an 'aptitude update; aptitude dist-upgrade' reasonably frequently (at least once a week, daily isn't too often). Updates happen smoothly without a reboot. Ubuntu minimizes user prompts for configuration w/ sane defaults. - Online documentation. Another massive win for Debian is the documentation packages available -- not just various *-doc packages, but linux-gazette, RFCs, HOWTOs, and several large books including rutebook, Grokking the GIMP, and others, and the integrated, web-accessible, documentation system, 'dwww', indexed via swish+. The result is instant access to man pages, package documentation, references, HOWTOs, guides, standards documents, in both a menu-driven and searchable form. Very impressive. Among the things I've done with the primary Debian system installed at the school lab is to exploit its 80 GiB of storage to load it up with docs (for the day I ride off into the sunset). - Configuration smoothness. I'm running a lab with the following distros currently: Mandrake 10.1, SuSE 9.1, RH 9.0, Ubuntu Warty, and Debian Sarge. Some of the hassles noted: - Mandrake 10.1 installed (not by me but by the somewhat neophyte HS teacher of the course) w/o SSH. Had to hunt on IRC to change from CD installation to online RPM archives (not stated in docs or readily apparent on Mandriva's website). Had to install clamav (and RPM deps) from RPMFind, manually resolving deps, prior to configuring mirrors. Learning curve noted. - SuSE 9.1: As for Mandrake. sudo (not sure if it was configured by default or not) doesn't appear to work right. While I *can* 'sudo', I'm forced to give root's password. I may or may not have needed to add myself to the 'wheel' group to make things work right (this is a, um, "feature" of some sudos, it's not clearly documented in SuSE, and clearly doesn't work quite right). I previously noted that Novell's made finding SuSE docs needlessly difficult. SuSE annoyingly changes the default bash prompt ($PS1) from '[stuff]$ ' to '[stuff]> '. Which to me is a continuation prompt ($PS2). Confusing particularly if you notice it in the middle of writing a complex bash line. Nothing a .bashrc edit won't fix. - RH 9.0. First it must be noted that RH 9.0 is unsupported. It was released March 31, 2003, and was EOLd April 30, 2004. While this is RH's prerogative, our illustrative sample of The General Public (OISOTGP), an enthusiastic but inexperienced HS tech teacher, picked it as "a recent and current RH release". It's not immediately evident that FC (highest version: 3 / 4) or RHEL (highest version: 3, and pricey) are upgrade replacements. This is a serious marketing / education problem for RH. While the choice of RH 9.0 is clearly a user error, it's not one that's immediately apparent, nor is it readily correctable RH as installed (again: not by me but by OISOTGP), lacks an XPDF reader, a current (Firefox) web browser, and a few other oddities. Installing these requires third-party RPMs or repositories (and yes these exist, and yes, there are third party support options, but both involve research and time). Current plan is to wipe & rebuild with a current FC. There are a number of other niggles, including (this is something I've experienced w/ RH going back to 5.x/6.x days) terminal settings which Are Just Plain Broken for remote access. C'mon, aren't backspace/delete key mapping issues something we solved in the *last* millennium? By comparison, the initial Debian box in the lab was installed as 'stable'. While this shares RH 9.0's somewhat stale package load, it *is* supported. It's also readily upgraded via a quick edit of /etc/apt/sources.list, then 'apt-get update; apt-get dist-upgrade'. - Installed base apps: Ubuntu does as well or better than other platforms for having useful apps installed, particularly noted, PDF readers. Firefox browser is seen as more usable than Konqueror (SuSE) by user comments. Selection is considerably more current than RH 9.0 (EOL previously noted). - More on terminal: Ubuntu handles a $TERM value of 'linux.screen' sanely (or is it screen.linux?). None of the others (MDK/S/RH) do. I get this when sshing to a host from w/in a screen session. I think. Have to manually set my screen session or edit .bashrc to fix this. Summary: -------- My experience with a *wide* range of platforms, from Mac to MVS to PC to VMS to SunOS to Irix and across a gamut of GNU/Linux distros is that a cross of Debian's technical expertise and *technically informed* polish is a Really Nice Thing[tm]. Go Ubuntu! (but Debian Rocks ;-) Note too: one of the major features of Ubuntu is its stock package install. There's little barrier to listing these packages and installing them on a stock Debian. Peace. -------------------- Notes: 1. Oscar Wilde. 2. NB: Looking at employment listings (something occupying too much of my time, hint, hint), I'm seeing *way* too many gigs citing RH versions dating to 9.x (Mar, 2003), 8.x (Sep, 2002), 7.x (May, 2002), and even 6.x (Mar 2000). For *public-facing* systems. What this tells me is that RH has long had a real problem facilitating user upgrades, whether for technical (it's old and vulnerable) or corporate (it's income) reasons. I'm pretty solidly convinced that _any_ business model in which sale of upgrades is tied to revenues is broken. Doesn't mean you can't sell your software: SAS Institute (a proprietary company) is one in which what is sold is _access_ to updates, support, and other services. That is, your current license grants you rights to any current (or prior, if supported) release of the product. RH may be headed in this direction. Redmond's got big concerns here. My experience as a SAS programmer in the 1990s was that *many* mainframe shops, with full access to the latest release (~6.8 or so) were still running 5-8 year old v5 versions. Tried, proven, and carved in stone. Both SI _and_ the customers were reasonably happy with the situation. It wouldn't surprise me to find that there are still MVS systems running 5.x in production. 3. ObJWZQuote: Linux is only free if your time has no value. There's some truth to that. http://www.jwz.org/doc/linux.html Yes, it's an old quote. Yes, much mentioned in the essay has been addressed. Yes, there's *still* some truth in it. And *yes*, I'm an unapologetic GNU/Linux bigot. And if JWZ's currently using computers, I'm pretty sure he's glommed on to Mac OS X. Hrm, looks like it's prolly a mix of GNU/Linux, SGI, and Mac OS X based on the following and other posts found: http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=jwz&itemid=78731 4. Something that seems sadly lacking at Linspire. I read Michael Robertson's latest comments that "root is safe" as a license to withhold any personal recommendation for that platform: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/18/2213218 -- Karsten M. Self <kmself@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> http://kmself.home.netcom.com/ What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand? Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and women will not care if Dick finally gets down with Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
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