A couple of nights ago I converted my Mandrake 8.0 box to a Debian (testing) box. I've been running Woody on another box for several months now and have been very pleased with the experience. Here's what I dig about Debian:
- Freedom from RPM dependency hell. Mandrake, like many other RPM-based distros, has packages that depend on specific library versions. This is bad. Debian packaging policy, and the veritable army of maintainers that support the policy, takes care of this problem almost completely.
- Apt-get works. Two commands and you've got an up-to-date distro.
- The init scripts are decipherable. RH-derived distros tend to have init scripts that are edited by all sorts of GUI configuration tools, and the resulting mess can be a real pain to dig through.
- Access to Debian (unstable) means I can generally get new software updates (Galeon, Mozilla, etc.) within a few days of release.
Here's what's not so great:
- The installation routine is nowhere near as polished as Mandrake's. But it gets the job done.
- 'dselect' has an incredibly nonintuitive interface. Fortunately 'tasksel' can handle much of this work, but there has to be something better. Maybe there is a third party tool (Progeny must have had something) that I am unaware of...
- Configuration of XF86, lilo, etc. must be done (mostly) by hand. Fortunately I am capable of that. This isn't such a big deal, you set it up once and you're done.
I also built a fresh kernel right away. I'm using 2.4.17 with the kernel-preempt patch. It does seem like preemption improves X responsiveness a bit. More importantly, the 2.4.17 VM beats the crap out of the early 2.4 VM that shipped with Mandrake 8. I used to hit some nasty swap storms, which seem to have disappeared now.
Anyway, life in Linux land is good once again.