The legend of Debian Linux
Officially, Debian is a widely used Linux distribution that meets people's needs with stability, lots of software and years of security releases. The Debian community has lots of developers and will tell you that it's just the right thing if you're tired of living on Red Hat's bleeding edge.
Unfortunately, that's a legend. The truth is somewhat different, as I have found out by actually running a server using Debian's 'Woody' release.
By the time it was replaced with a long-delayed new release this June, Woody was antiquated, long overdue for a replacement and full of obsolete and orphaned software (including the kernel). The failure to get a new release out had become a long-running sore spot (and somewhat of a joke) inside the Debian developer community.
If you griped about obsolete software versions to almost any serious Debian user, their likely advice was to in effect not actually run Woody: they would suggest updating to Debian 'testing'. Testing isn't a release; it's a usually working rolling snapshot of what Debian developers are working on. Naturally, testing comes without many of the promises Debian makes about its regular releases, like security updates.
My impression is that almost no serious Debian users or developers actually used Woody; everyone was using testing instead, and Woody was for people who didn't know better. Woody was so unsuitable for real use that Ubuntu has created a popular and fast growing business more or less out of taking periodic snapshots of Debian testing and turning them into a stable releases.
Thus, all of those things told about Woody were in fact a big Debian legend. Woody was not suitable for anyone with even relatively modest needs for relatively current software, which included me on my server.
Debian has just come out with 'Sarge', their new release; maybe the fable of Woody won't repeat itself all over again. (The omens are so-so, seeing as Sarge ships with some significant bits pre-obsoleted, including the default kernel.)
These days, I'm seriously wondering whether I can take that gamble with some new servers we're planning, or whether the odds are against me. (Or maybe I am just grumpy due to the problems my existing Debian Woody server is giving me because of its obsolete software versions.)
Comments on this page:Written on 13 July 2005.