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.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

I’m not jumping on Firefox 4 or GNOME 3 just yet

Even though I wrote about where and how to get Firefox/Iceweasel 4 for Debian, I’m sticking with 3.5.6 for now.

I won’t rule out a move to 3.6.x, but I’m going to wait until FF 4 is out in the wild long enough to get a few major bug-fix and security updates.

I’ve been using Chromium more and more, but I still spend a lot of time in Iceweasel/Firefox, and I continue to see a lot of value in a conservative approach to updating software.

The same goes for GNOME 3. It’s going to be in Fedora 16 and Ubuntu 11.04. But from everything I’ve seen/heard, GNOME 3 and GNOME Shell is far from stable, not entirely functional and just … too new for what I consider “production.”

I returned to GNOME with Debian Squeeze after extended use of Xfce in Fedora 13, Xubuntu 8.04 and before that OpenBSD 4.4. I’m a big fan of Xfce, and it’s my “stopgap” desktop environment if things with GNOME 3 don’t work out (and I’m very happy that there have been so many improvements in Xfce 4.8, especially with networked protocols such as FTP/SFTP in the file manager).

But especially under Debian, GNOME 2.x is so quick and useful, I’m reluctant to give it up for the shiny — at least until that shiny has gotten some considerable polish.

How about a Ubuntu LTS Backports repository?

In the comments to my article on Debian’s Mozilla team offering newer Iceweasel builds, I eventually wound around to an idea that I believe would provide an enormous benefit to Ubuntu users:

There should be an official Ubuntu LTS Backports repository.

I see a lot of value in the Ubuntu long-term-support releases, but they’re pretty much treated by the project as regular six-month releases with a longer support life.

Just as in Debian, after the release only security and major bug fixes are allowed as updates. The message from Ubuntu is that if you want any newer applications, you should follow the six-month release cycle and get off the LTS.

But Debian does this differently. Debian supports a Backports repository with the following stated policy:

You are running Debian stable, because you prefer the Debian stable tree. It runs great, there is just one problem: the software is a little bit outdated compared to other distributions. This is where backports come in.

Backports are recompiled packages from testing (mostly) and unstable (in a few cases only, e.g. security updates) in a stable environment so that they will run without new libraries (whenever it is possible) on a Debian stable distribution. It is recommended to select single backports which fit your needs, and not to use all available backports.

Now I know there are PPAs in Ubuntu that allow users to install newer versions of packages, but the quality of these PPA packages is not terribly consistent, or so I’ve been led to believe.

Having an official Ubuntu LTS Backports repository would go a long way toward allowing those users who wish to stick with the LTS the option of adding select newer applications to their system while maintaining the same stable (or at least “same”) core.

Ubuntu users, what do you think?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Use Ubuntu’s usb-creator in Debian

The new Debian images don’t need so much magic in order to be transferred to a USB stick. You can pretty much cat them over.

But if you want to use usb-creator from Ubuntu, you can pull the Lucid package.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bradley Kuhn: ‘Back Home, with Debian’

Ever since I first heard of Bradley Kuhn, formerly of the Software Freedom Law Center and now the Software Freedom Conservancy, on Linux Outlaws, I’ve been interested in what he has to say about (did you guess it?) software freedom. I try to listen semi-regularly to his Free as in Freedom oggcast.

Here is an article from Bradley’s blog on why he returned to Debian recently after years running everything from Red Hat to Ubuntu.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Epson Perfection V330 scanner and Debian (or any other kind of Linux, for that matter)

I got a deal on an Epson Perfection V330 scanner. It runs great in Windows 7 with the voluminous amount of software on the install CD. I hoped that it would work out of the box with Debian Squeeze. No such luck. Sane/Xsane doesn’t recognize it (although it’s in the dmesg).

I Googled for and found a few packages that got me going. (Here’s a report of this method working in Ubuntu.)
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