Debian and my Red Hat woes (Re: [Techtalk] Laptop recommendations?)

Mary Gardiner linuxchix at
Fri Jan 25 15:10:22 EST 2002

On Thu, Jan 24, 2002 at 09:49:04PM -0500, Terri Oda wrote:
> I just did a Debian base install after finally deciding that it was time to 
> switch to Debian on my own machine.  I used it all summer at work and it 
> was great, but my RH install was working reasonably well for assignments in 
> the fall, so I didn't want to switch 'till I was done with that course.
> So far, I'm less than impressed.  The Debian install made me feel like I'd 
> gone back in time to when I was 16 or so and decided to move away from 
> slackware to this exciting new RedHat that everyone was suggesting.  Debian 
> is now *definitely* off my list of recommended distributions for 
> newbies.

It also doesn't detect crucial things about your monitor (vertical and
horizontal sync) during install, which I guess isn't surprising since X
isn't in the base install. There are also 4 or so packages required to
get X onto your machine and it takes a while to figure out what they are
(nor do they detect the ranges, I'm told there's *something* that does).

No, man isn't in the base install, and you basically can't see the pages
'natively' either, because groff(?) isn't installed. 'less' isn't in the
base install, neither is vi. It's *very* minimal - almost unusable for
anything at all.

I can't use Red Hat now though, I tried the other day. I wanted to
install exim on a Red Hat box which had the default mailer (sendmail).
Exim had an unmet dependency on libcrypto. rpmfind told me libcrypto is
provided by openssh - but this box had ssh installed (I don't know if it
was ssh or openssh). rpm kept saying that sendmail and exim conflicted,
but if I tried to uninstall sendmail, it refused to, because fetchmail
and mutt depend on it. There doesn't seem to be any way of installing
exim and at the same time uninstalling sendmail. I remembered my SuSE
days of chasing all over the web trying to find packages that meet
certain dependenices.

We also wanted to build a gateway box, but Red Hat 7.2 refuses to
install if you have < 16 MB of RAM. We also couldn't get our proxy box
to change IP addresses without rebooting! (Yes, it is mostly because I
don't know the Red Hat tools.)

The worst thing about Debian is how little hand-holding all the
installers do, for sure.

The best things, the things I can't seem to do without now, are the
automatic resolution of dependencies, and the Debian policies.

The Debian policies mean that I have never had the experience I had the
other day on Red Hat - running a program that we had installed that
crashed becuase the system lacked python and python-gtk (the rpm didn't
declare those, uh, crucial dependencies). Because almost all Debian
packages are in a central repository, there's a whole system of bug
reporting, and dependency problems count :-) The resolutions mean that
if I need libcrypto to install exim, the package providing libcrypto is
automatically download/copied and installed.

As I'm the package experimenter from hell, I love Debian.


Mary Gardiner
<mary at>

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