Sunday, June 26, 2011

Debian Squeeze updated to 6.0.2 - and my nostalgic trip back in free-software time

There are 60-something updates waiting for me in Debian Squeeze at the moment, and such a large number of packages staring at me from Update Manager usually means a “major” Debian Stable update.

In this case it’s the second update of Debian Squeeze, 6.0.2. Check the link for everything changing in Debian in terms of bugfixes and and security updates.

As always, while new installation media is available for download, any Debian 6.x image will still install a system that can be fully updated via the usual tools (apt, Aptitude, Synaptic/Update Manager).

Whether or not this point release is some kind of milestone (it’s not, I think), it’s a good time as any to assess where I’ve been on the Linux and BSD desktop over the past few years. Am I setting a personal longevity record with Debian Squeeze?

If you don’t count Sarge, and I don’t because I’m running it on my Sun Sparcstation 20 now and not in the deep, dark past when Sarge was the current Stable release, Squeeze is third Debian Stable release I’ve run for significant periods of time.

That means I’ve been messing with Linux for a bit more than four years at this point. I started experimenting with Knoppix, Ubuntu, Puppy and Damn Small Linux in early 2007 (maybe late 2006) and did my first Debian installation after I read about Etch going Stable in April 2007.

That I was able to install Etch with no trouble after only a few months using the “easier” distros was and continues to be a testament to both how Debian’s reputation for difficulty in comparison to Ubuntu is somewhat unfounded, and its performance and flexibility well worth any additional effort.

I did my current Debian Squeeze installation in late November 2010, and the release was declared Stable on Feb. 6, 2011.

So I’ve been running Debian Squeeze for seven months. Not that running a Linux release for that period of time is some kind of Herculean task — although it may be for you, I can tell you that it is for me.

My free-OS history

Looking back at the Click archives (the archive page being one of my favorite Movable Type features), as my “main” OS on my main laptop (first the Toshiba Satellite 1100-S101, then the Lenovo G555):

  • I’ve been running Debian Squeeze from late November 2010 until the present (7 months)
  • I ran Fedora 13 from mid-July 2010 until late November (4 1/2 months)
  • Ubuntu/Xubuntu 10.04 from mid-April 2010 until mid-July (3 months)
  • FreeBSD 8.0-release and 7.3-release (in that order) from late March 2010 until mid-April (maybe 3 weeks)
  • Debian Lenny from mid-December 2009 until my failed Squeeze upgrade in mid-March 2010 (3 months)
  • Ubuntu 8.04/9.04/9.10 from mid-May 2009 until mid-December (7 months)
  • OpenBSD 4.4 from late November 2008 until mid-May 2009 (just about 6 months)
  • Before this, on my Gateway Solo 1450 (currently running Ubuntu 10.04), Compaq Armada 7770dmt and Self-Reliant Thin Client (Maxspeed Maxterm with Via C3 Samuel processor), I ran tons of things in the Ubuntu/Debian/Slackware/Puppy/OpenBSD realm.

So Debian Squeeze is only now becoming the installation I’ve run the longest on my main system (I’m counting that Ubuntu stretch in 2009 as a single system since these were all in-place upgrades).

I’ve made it this far due to a number of factors, including being very satisfied with Debian Squeeze’s performance (and by extension the rest of the thousands of packages that go into the distribution, many if not most of which are so good not because of Debian but due to the upstream developers who code them).

This particular laptop, the Lenovo G555 meshes very well with Linux at this point. Working suspend-resume is something I’ve only experienced briefly before getting this laptop. I like having it.

The major changes that are keeping me happy with Debian Squeeze:

  • Newer kernels from Liquorix. If the G555’s sound issues had been resolved in the 2.6.32 Linux kernel, I probably would have never explored the Liquorix kernels. Since using a newer kernel did solve my sound problem (muting speakers when headphones are plugged in), I’ve stick with Liquorix and am now running 2.6.39.
  • Newer web browsers and e-mail client. I’m running Iceweasel 5.0 and Thunderbird 3.1 from the Mozilla Debian team, and Google Chrome from the Google repository.
  • Debian Backports. I added Debian Backports to my repository list last week and replaced OpenOffice with LibreOffice. That wasn’t strictly necessary, but I wanted to start tracking the office suite that most of the Linux world has already turned to in the wake of Oracle’s handling of OpenOffice.

To make it easier to get my work done on multiple machines, I’m using Dropbox though not feeling a huge amount of confidence in the service due to its recent security issue. Hopefully the problem, in which accounts were left unprotected over a weekend, will serve as a huge wakeup call for Dropbox and lead to greater security overall.

Right now, as I’ve written many times in the recent past, I’m going to let the GNOME 3/GNOME Shell and Unity environments age/ripen more than a bit before I leave GNOME 2 behind. And right now I’m looking hard at Xfce and LXDE.

I’ve messed with success before, mostly to scratch the distro-hopping itch, but now that I’m doing more with my Debian Stable installation than ever before, I don’t see myself moving away from it in the months or even year ahead.