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Re: [school-discuss] Which is the fastest Desktop distro for schools?

On Sun, Nov 14, 2004 at 12:45:42PM -0800, Wm.G.McGrath wrote:
> What's easy for a sysadmin is also easy for a student. Granted
> apt requires a root password, but it won't be the first time a
> student shoulder surfs an admins pwd. Making it 'easy' to
> install upgrades, also makes it 'easy' for students to install
> a root kit for example.  Mounting important partitions ro may
> help somewhat though.

Sorry but I digress.  If a capable student got root, nothing
would realistically help on a classic *nix system.  If (s)he's
not that capable but somewhat locky with destruction, nothing
helps either -- dd'ing root partition with zeroes is a matter of

Package management lies at completely another level of
abstraction to consider mixing them up a mistake.

> So a more difficult, or less well known pkgmgr may actually be
> a better choice in a lab environment. Kids will be kids.

No.  It's like "getting Amigas to schools will help".  There are
standards, and using home-made stuff as a replacement for proper
security procedures -- and helping students to understand that
they do any harm to the systems that would otherwise help _them_
learn -- is better in my experience.

Albeit it was a high-level liceum and I bet that those
undergraduates were worth undergrads from significant part of
European univerities.  So they did understand my arguments and
those were superfluous maybe -- the situation was very friendly

It's not "some lusers", it's children we're responsible for.
Remember Antoine de Saint Exupery's "The Little Prince"?

> However, Vector Linux does offer a choice of package managers.

Front-ends for tar or technologically?  Debian and ALT, for
example, do provide Synaptic GUI and aptitude console tool in
addition to basic apt utilities, but all of these stand as
unified _technology_.  Fedora provides yum and apt which can be
described as two _different_ technologies.

All of these base themselves on lower-level technologies and
package formats (rpm/rpm and dpkg/deb) which _already_ let us do
sysadmin-critical things starting with integrity checking.

It doesn't matter whether to untar stuff with This Cool GUI or
That 1337 Tool -- it _does_ matter if you can answer "where's
this file from?" and "what files belonging to package X are
changed and how?".

On Sun, Nov 14, 2004 at 12:41:06PM -0800, Wm.G.McGrath wrote:
> : "systems" is not just "localhost".
> Well, there are many ways to deal with this: scripts, local pkg
> repositories, nfs, etc.

And (surprise!) some of the ways to "deal with this" are already
well-trodden (replacing custom scripts with proper packaging
systems) and results combine even better with the rest of these
ways (having package-based master nfs'ed over or using local
packages with settings -- I prefer to submit non-specific
software packages upstream so that more people can benefit).

> Can you provide links

To what?  apt/synaptic/aptitude? :)

I have an article titled "Unix as Standard Operating Environment"
that is a compilation of a related discussion in one of local
mailing lists but it's in Ukrainian (babelfish won't grok it).

> or flesh this 'debate' out a bit? People have been keeping
> networks up to date for decades.

Yeah, and people are successfully running Windows systems
(without that very "where's this file from?" and "is it intact?")
for something like that, too.

It is the matter of time wasted with finding the answers.

> : The next merit after the packaging system itself is richness and
> : conciseness (in terms of dependencies) of package repository, and
> : Debian is really by far leading in this area. 
> I'm not sure this is relevant. It's true that Debian has over
> 10,000 packages available but how many will you need?

It _is_ relevant though when you stumble upon the one you badly
need right now but have to figure out what it needs to build and
run if it's not packaged.

Believe me, I've had systems running with *large* /usr/local.
And I do remember how good it was when I first improved ALT's
webalizer package in spare time so that it would reasonably
auto-tune *and* when it helped to spare time when it was critical
to get a server up and running *fast*.

Packaging is distilled experience of building, tuning and using

> The significant fact is that for all the software available,
> precious little of it falls in the education/applications
> category. What good is a ton of software you don't need?

Then nobody forces you to use it.  Still if you spend your time
to package stuff for e.g. Debian Jr then it benefits not only
your users but fellow colleagues and their users, too.

It's reusable experience.

Again, I did some packages for ALT Linux SchoolJunior (which is
getting deployed in some districts of Russia) and it's a pity
that there's no time to package and maintain every beautiful
piece of software I'd like to deliver to our friends in schools.

 ---- WBR, Michael Shigorin <mike@altlinux.ru>
  ------ Linux.Kiev http://www.linux.kiev.ua/