back to article Must 'completely free' mean 'hard to install'? Newbie gripe sparks some soul-searching among Debian community

A post on the Debian developer list about issues installing the operating system on a laptop sparked a debate about whether Debian's free software principles have become a blocker to adoption. Wanting to convert his laptop from Windows 10 to Debian, Dan Pal clicked "Download" on the Linux distro's homepage. It did not install …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Debian long since accepted shipping large, obscure blobs as start of the standard distribution when they adopted systemd. There's no reason why they shouldn't feature the maximally working version alongside one specifically labelled "Hair Shirt".

    1. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

      Systemd is not obscure or a blob. You can get the source package and view/patch/compile it yourself. It may be big and not very unixy in that it is not a small program that does one thing well, but that idea has been dead since emacs was invented

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Systemd is not obscure or a blob

        I am sure that in many ways, systemd is neither obscure or blobby. However, it seems to me that it is a lot *more* obscure and blobby than any collection of more or less sensibly named shell scripts.

        I wanted to get a debian install to do automatically a networking thing on boot up some time last year. After a few hours of reading systemd doco and tutorials &etc I just gave up without progress ... it really wasn't worth the candle. In contrast it would have taken me almost no time to get something functional working with a few lines in rc.appropriatenamehere.

        I can believe that systemd might be excellent if you really cared about the design and implementation of handling startup stuff in an efficient and elegant manner. But I have different things I care about, but still want to get a few things working to my taste on startup, ... and systemd offers me not only no worthwhile advantages, but obscurity (or perhaps just poor documentation), and obstacles.

        1. Gerhard Mack

          Re: Systemd is not obscure or a blob

          I fail to see how systemd could be harder in your case. The most familiar implementation would be to load a shell script from a minimal unit file that only specifies the dependencies and startup script. For me it has been the opposite, I have server and home network configs that I can get working more easily than before. Getting filesystems on FiberChannel or ISCSI is much easier now. Even in my home setup, I can have certain software not load until he CIFS mounts are in place with just a short unit file.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I fail to see how systemd could be harder in your case

            Perhaps you missed where I said "After a few hours of reading systemd doco and tutorials &etc I just gave up without progress". Clearly I am either poorly matched to the style of modern documentation, or the architecture of systemd is too sophisticated for my feeble powers of understanding.

            1. Gerhard Mack

              Re: I fail to see how systemd could be harder in your case

              Here is a simple unit file I used to re enable rc.local on my PC.

              The only other thing you could need is a "Requires=" under "[unit]" to load it after some needed dependency.

              [Unit]

              Description=/etc/rc.local

              ConditionPathExists=/etc/rc.local

              [Service]

              Type=forking

              ExecStart=/etc/rc.local

              [Install]

              WantedBy=multi-user.target

      2. Glen 1 Silver badge

        Old Joke

        Emacs is great, but Unix/Linux has more apps.

        (Accidentally posted this as a post down thread rather than a reply - since withdrawn)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old Joke

          Does emacs run in systemd or vice versa? Asking for a friend.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "You can get the source package and view/patch/compile it yourself"

        Have you tried that?

        Don't forget that many of us who adopted Linux was because it was Unixy. Why do you think we should appreciate having something non-Unixy foisted on us in such a crucial role?

        Edit wars coat-trailing ignored.

        1. Chubango

          GNU's not Unix

          No matter how you might feel about design principles, the fact of the matter is that people only pay lip service to the Unix philosophy in the Linux sphere and have done so for at least 25 years. In that time Linux has become more widely adopted, more flexible and easier to use. Meanwhile, Unix purists like the BSD folks have continued to slide into irrelevancy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: GNU's not Unix

            This. People who think that InitRC is the "Unix philosophy", have no idea what the "Unix philosophy" is anyway.

            SysV Init has nothing to do with the chains of bash scripts that we used to have to deal with.

          2. FIA Silver badge

            Re: GNU's not Unix

            As a user of both Linux and BSD (cli only though generally), I've not found much difference in 'ease' between the two. Kind of depends on with which you're more familer I suppose?

            Systemd seems to do what it does, but it does always feel a bit like having an F16 fix the issue of a slightly annoing moth.... Sure the mess of RC scripts and runlevels was awful, but there's simpler alternatives out there... I mean you could look at RC in NetBSD, simple, easy to set up and works... although there's probably something to do with having lots of them in a cloud somewhere I don't really understand. :)

            The reason for Linux's rise over a BSD is probably more to do with momentum and lawyers

          3. bigtreeman

            Re: GNU's not Unix

            Use OpenBSD if you want an easy install, easy configuration, accurate man files, not bogged down with systemd, in short a delight to use.

            OpenBSD is Unix

            Linux has become a gnu's turd.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: GNU's not Unix

              <pedantic>

              Well, strictly speaking, any *BSD is explicitly NOT UNIX, as there is not a single version that has passed the SVID, Posix, or UNIX98, 03 et al testing suites, so they cannot legally be called UNIX. (Strangely, Mac OSX has passed some of these, so could, even though it does not have a UNIX kernel!)

              But I understand that BSD is almost the last bastion of UNIX thinking, although Solaris, HPUX and AIX still exist (for the moment) in the commercial space.

              </pedantic>

              I only adopted Linux because of it's original 're-implement UNIX' design ethos, and there is almost nothing in systemd that makes me like it.

              I recently wanted to turn Wake-on-Lan on Ubuntu 20.04 during boot (strangely, there does not appear to be a way to make this persistent on some BIOS and UEFI implementations), and whilst it would have been a single line change in any one of a number of places in a traditional RC scripts, it ended up with changes in Udev and two systemd configuration files, which were so un-intuative that I could not work it out myself in any reasonable time from the man pages and other raw documentation (I eventually cribbed it from an online tutorial, but having to do so is another can or worms)

              I know it's a matter of what you know, but I think that even the most novice of shell programmers, once they had been given a 30 second overview of init and rc.d could have had a stab at it, whereas me as a 40+ year veteran of UNIX and 20+ years of Linux struggled with systemd.

              Yes, I am slowing down, but systemd is complicated.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: GNU's not Unix

                However, strictly speaking "genetic UNIX" has quite a bit of BSD code in it. Put another way, while BSD went way out of it's way to ensure it contained no AT&T code (and I have scars to prove it), AT&T had no such compunction about using code from BSD.

                I prefer "the systemd-cancer is unnecessarily complicated".

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  Re: GNU's not Unix

                  Jake,

                  I'm mainly talking about UNIX as a registered trademark.

                  I think we both remember when the UNIX ecosystem was more co-operative and less encumbered by licenses, but Berkeley was academic, and Bell Labs./AT&T was commercial, so the ability to distribute code was always going to be different between them (BSD published under a very permissive license). And this situation was complicated by US Anti-trust legislation that essentially changed the way that AT&T had to operate.

                  I'm not sure that it would have been suited either of us for UNIX to have remained just in educational environments and internal AT&T use.

                  Because of Bell Labs. being the original inventor, they registered the trademark, and made the original rules about when it could be used.

                  Forgive me for being blunt about this, but if it were that important, it would always have been possible for one of the *BSD spinoffs to have gone through UNIX branding, but that cost money, and they obviously didn't think it was worthwhile (and to all people in the know, it probably wasn't).

                  Not everybody wanted to, which is why we got Ultrix, SunOS, HPUX, AIX and all of the other myriad names that were *IX *UX. Following SVR4, things converged a bit (if you ignore OSF), but vendors then kept their own names because it became their brand (with the exception of DEC, who switched from Ultrix to Digital UNIX, and then Tru64 UNIX).

              2. Gerhard Mack

                Re: GNU's not Unix

                Didn't Solaris move to something similar to Systemd? I Seem to recall the Systemd folks using the Solaris boot system as a justification of their own at one point.

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  Re: GNU's not Unix

                  Not sure. It's been quite a while since I have logged on to a Solaris system. But I can pretty much guarantee that if they chose something different from SysV init, it would not have evolved into something as all encompassing as Systemd has become.

                  Systemd was modeled on Mac OS X launchd.

                  I think that if systemd had just remained as an init system, some of the anger present may not have happened. But it's becoming an OS on an OS, and specifically Linux (it's widely been said that it is Linux specific, and will never be ported to any other UNIX-like systems), which will push Linux away from other UNIX-like OSs. But this is unlikely to be a problem to anybody except those businesses that still cling on to their traditional UNIX systems (those people will find it increasingly difficult to move UNIX to Systemd/Linux as time goes by), but I would guess that most of them now are probably interested in radical re-implementation into hybrid cloud, rather than straight platform shift to Linux.

                  1. Gerhard Mack

                    Re: GNU's not Unix

                    Check out SMF on Solaris.

                2. Down not across Silver badge

                  Re: GNU's not Unix

                  Yes, Solaris has SMF. However unlike systemd, SMF actually works pretty well and does just init/respawn and doesn't try to be all encompassing convoluted cancer like systemd.

                  Had Poettering implemented just a rewrite of SMF for Linux, it might have gotten better reception.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Hair Shirt"

      Would that be like insisting on all networking via ip6, as I found when trying to install it (buster, I think) last year? Perhaps I had missed something, but in the end I dropped back to an older release (stretch) to get a completed install... seeing as the local network was ip4 only.

      1. s2bu

        Re: "Hair Shirt"

        Wha? Most OSs these days default to IPv6 enabled, but I’ve yet to see one that forces you to only use IPv6?

      2. Gerhard Mack

        Re: "Hair Shirt"

        That could only happen if something on your local network were handing out IPv6 address that don't route anywhere and even then you could have disabled IPv6.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: even then you could have disabled IPv6.

          I wasn't particularly trying to disable ip6. I was trying, and failing, to find any way at all of enabling ip4, so I could get an ip address and networking connectivity from the ip4 router, and it remains true that I couldn't *find* a way anywhere during the install process.

          Perhaps I somehow found a weird edge case, but it's not like it was my first ever Debian install, nor was I trying to do anything more exotic than boot off a usb stick, get the install going, so that it could (would) pull the rest of the stuff I needed off the network. And since I usually prefer to install Slackware for real work, as it were, and have done for quite a number of years now, it's not like I require a high standard of careful hand-holding from the installer.

          What I described, happened, whether you like it or not.

          1. Gerhard Mack

            Re: even then you could have disabled IPv6.

            That's the odd thing for me, I have installed pretty much every version of Debian released in the past 18 years and I've never had it fail to ask me to setup a network interface with IPv4. Mind you, if you assign both IPv4 and IPV6 addresses it will prefer IPv6.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: even then you could have disabled IPv6.

              Indeed. I thought the idea that it would (could) not allow me to use ip4 so bizzare that I spent quite a while trying to work out how to turn it on; and only ended up with the conclusion that it had been made impossible. I certainly never acted to assign an ip6 address (although I suppose the installer may well have silently done so in the background), ... and there was nothing to give it one, because, after all, the networking wasn't up.

              I guess I could always dig out the usb stick I booted off and have another go at it, to try to see again what might have happened; but I do not really have either the enthusiasm, or a spare partition to install to.

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      I've dabbled in using 'nux distros of one kind or another for years.

      But that "hair shirt" approach is never far below the surface. There's always something that doesn't "just work". And then there's always someone who will say " Ah you just need to use the command line; type sudo string of incomprehensible characters and all will be resolved". And you're never far from someone who sneers at any distro which doesn't require a postgraduate diploma in Advanced Witchcraft either. Mint- you don't want to be using Mint lad. Real Men use Cyberfloggernix. It's command line only and you can only enter data by typing ascii character numbers in Hex

      The point about an OS is that it shouldn't get in the way of using the box with the programmes inside to do stuff that needs doing.

      1. Adair Silver badge

        'The point about an OS is that it shouldn't get in the way of using the box with the programmes[sic] inside to do stuff that needs doing.'

        And you are implying that Windows fits that description? [laughs]

        As said many times before: all OSes are crap, it's just a case of finding which degree of crapness we are most willing to live with in any given use case.

        Debian seems to have a specific and excellent role to play in providing a core Linux OS that many other people can riff off. Debian should focus on doing what it does well, and listening to comments/criticisms that are relevant to that.

        Otherwise it's like the whiners who never stop whining that GIMP isn't Photoshop! Gee, who knew? That really is the point, isn't it: GIMP is NOT Photoshop. If you want P'shop use P'shop, don't fill up lines of message boards whining on and on about how GIMP isn't P'shop, ... ad nauseum

        1. Snake Silver badge

          RE: doing things behind the curtain

          "And you are implying that Windows fits that description?"

          Oh, yes. Hell yes!, compared to Linux.

          Users who choose MacOS do so because they do not have to know how anything behind the curtain works. For the most part, it simply does. The vast majority of instances, MacOS users have no idea how and why things happen.

          Users who choose Windows do not need to know what happens behind the curtain to get things done. It certainly helps, especially if things go pear-shaped, but for the most part a large number of Average Joe Windows users have no idea how and why things happen. But a novice user, starting off in computers with absolutely no knowledge of how these things work, can still get things done and then learn about system maintenance and operations on the way.

          Users who choose Linux must know how things work otherwise there is a strong chance you won't get things to work at all. You, far too often, must have a medium-advanced knowledge of computer technology coming in to Linux before you can get your system up and running in the first place. And for the medium-advanced users, there is *still* a steep learning curve when dealing in arcane Linus problems, and their sometimes even more arcane solutions ("recompile package [X] with options set to [Y]"). The historic "The Luxury of Ignorance" essay, http://catb.org/esr/writings/cups-horror.html, tells the story...

          -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

          Being "Unix-y" is only a benefit for those in the computer sciences field. For the average user it is the greatest negative that will always hold Linux back from general desktop adoption, unless and until the programmers understand this and create an actual end user-friendly (read: "an idiot can use it!") OS that doesn't intimate new users, and can run and can be maintained with minimum computer skills. Using arcane OS commands to beat users over the head with "Newb!" insults, in a belief that knowing these arcane skills makes you a fundamentally better person than someone using Windows (who is getting their work done) is a fool's errand.

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

            You could swap 'Windows', OS-X' and 'Linux' almost interchangeably in your opinion and it would read just as truly. The correct part of your opinion is that it all depends on the user, and it does regardless of what OS the user is using. That's the whole point. I find Windows pretty much as ropey as Linux, and OS-X drives me crazy, but overall I much prefer Linux, partly because it's what I'm most used to, but mostly because of what it represents on a philosophical level, which, for me, places it head and shoulders above the other two main desktop players.

            But, which is 'better' well that just depends, doesn't it. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by making the issue into some kind of religious war. It all comes down to what the user needs and what they are capable of dealing with. Any of these three OSes are capable of providing effective general purpose computing solutions. Do your research - pick your poison - get the job done.

          2. ovation1357 Bronze badge

            Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

            "Oh, yes. Hell yes!, compared to Linux."

            Really? REALLY?

            Anyone who believes that Windows 'just works' (or even macOS for that matter) is lying.

            Windows may give the appearance of just working if it get it preinstalled but installing from scratch can present all sorts of challenges about missing divers or hardware which just says 'not working' even with the right driver. And how many times have we all spent hours trawling dodgy-looking, malware-ridden 'drivers' sites in the hunt for that specific missing driver - sometimes it's for a cheap Chinese device but I've definitely had to do it for big brand hardware as well.

            Or when Windows 10 just says that an error occurred the print subsystem when trying to print from anything that is an 'app', and you spent half a day reading pages and pages of people discussing the same problem on MS forums but nobody finding any solution, so in the end you have to hurry leave it broken and find a workaround?!

            Linux isn't perfect but you're more likely to have a smooth experience if you get past a couple of installation issues. For almost all mainstem hardware from HP, Dell or Lenovo from the past 5+ years. You're likely to find that a distro like Mint or Ubuntu will 'just work'.

            Granted of you _need_ Photoshop or other incompatible proprietary software then it might still not be the OS for you, but certainly for general use (and many specialist tasks too) it's very much capable of serving that need for people who know absolutely nothing about how it works.

            My mother and my mother-in-law are running Linux now - do you know how many support calls I've had from them in the past year? One. Just one when my mum couldn't remember the instructions I'd given her for copying the photos from her phone to her laptop.

            When they were running Windows I'd get a call every few weeks. I'd call this a big win for Linux, personally.

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

              "..Windows may give the appearance of just working if it get it preinstalled but installing from scratch can present all sorts of challenges about missing divers or hardware which just says 'not working' even with the right driver. And how many times have we all spent hours trawling dodgy-looking, malware-ridden 'drivers' sites in the hunt for that specific missing driver - sometimes it's for a cheap Chinese device but I've definitely had to do it for big brand hardware as well..."

              Just wrong.

              I had a brand new laptop in 2015 when Windows 10 was brand new out of the gate and it had a few missing driver issues.

              Since then every one has had drivers available either via MS or the vendor.

              I bought a spanking new Dell last year. It came with Home but I always wipe and replace with Pro. Didn't miss a beat despite again having brand new hardware.

              I really do believe a lot of Linux commentary along these lines is from Windows XP ot earlier.

              I've just done a 7 to 10 migration for a council. A mixed bag of hardware from years old to brand new. The configuration manager images were almost trivial to create. Over 4,000 machines.

              1. James Anderson Silver badge

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                I had to ditch a perfectly functional Epson printer because the driver stopped working after a win 10 update. It took about 4 hours to get the replacement printer up and running ( 30 seconds to get it working on Android ). Win 10 gives the appearance of “just works” because someone at the factory has spent weeks patching together a setup that works with their hardware.

                I have only come across two boxes ( both cheapo PCs on a stick ) where Linux mint did not install first time.

              2. Adair Silver badge

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                'I had a brand new laptop in 2015 when Windows 10 was brand new out of the gate and it had a few missing driver issues.'

                Ah, so you freely admit that you did not install W10 yourself. So, you admit that all the hard work of matching the OS to the laptop hardware had already been done for you.

                Please note the OP's statement, which you are responding to: 'Windows may give the appearance of just working if it get it pre-installed but installing from scratch can present all sorts of challenges about missing divers or hardware which just says 'not working' even with the right driver.'

                Clearly user mileage varies, but overall - at least in this user's anecdotal experience - all OSes are pretty much of a muchness when it comes to installation woes and ongoing maintenance. They all offer their own particular kind of pain, but I know which I find most bearable. :-D

                1. TonyJ Silver badge

                  Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                  "...Ah, so you freely admit that you did not install W10 yourself. So, you admit that all the hard work of matching the OS to the laptop hardware had already been done for you..."

                  So you chose to ignore or didn't see this bit then?

                  "... I always wipe and replace..."

                  1. Adair Silver badge

                    Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                    Touche, however, as we all know anecdotal evidence (including my own) always trumps the overall experience of many.

                    Which, in the case of installing a Linux distro or Windows, is that anyone's experience will lie somewhere on the normal distribution curve, running from Hell to Heaven.

              3. ovation1357 Bronze badge

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                "Over 4,000 machines."

                To make it a fair comparison I wonder how the experience would have been if you'd been using a Linux distro that includes propriety drivers out of the box... I reckon you'd have had no trouble with something like Ubuntu.

                Considering that it's hardly a fair fight to begin with - Microsoft is in bed with many of the manufacturers who keep their as specs and APIs a secret and only produce binary blobs for Windows (perhaps also for Mac these days) - Linux is doing outstandingly well. It's very rare that I encounter a machine now on which the Ubuntu live image doesn't simply boot and work (WiFi, Sound - the lot). In fact the only example I can remember out of many machines is a very recent experience with an HP desktop using a very old ATI FirePro card from before the time that AMD bought them and opened up the code. It doesn't play nicely and boots to a black screen but can be tamed fairly easily.

                My most recent Win10 problem was on an old Win7 laptop (an Acer IIRC). A fairly old machine but still serviceable with an SSD added - Yes, Win10 did install and boot however I noticed that the trackpad couldn't do any kind of scrolling. My search for a driver led me nowhere after a fair amount of time spent. It's old kit so you're stuck with the most basic driver and nothing else is available. I also had to spend a fair amount of time stripping out Cortana and other junk that gets forced upon you.

                Prior to the Windows upgrade I'd booted it from a Ubuntu USB drive and two-finger scrolling worked straight out of the box (as did everything else, which is what I've come to expect these days). Personally, I'd have installed Ubuntu on it but this user specifically wanted MS Office.

                The thing about running Win 10 on older hardware is that it might have a broad range of hardware support but you typically get only very basic and sometimes extremely old drivers out of the box, and unless the manufacturer is still supporting the hardware then that is all you will ever get.

                This is where open source really comes into its own because you get the very latest available drivers. That doesn't guarantee that the drivers aren't also old, but you can be sure they'll get updates for security and quite possibly bug fixes as well.

              4. amacater

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                Put a blank SSD in your Windows laptop. Grab a vanilla Windows 10 .iso image created via the Microsoft tool. Do this from nothing on the hard drive: keep a note of how many steps it takes.

                Also note how many third party sets of drivers you need to get the graphics card working.

                Check how long it takes to download the sets of Windows updates when you then first go to Settings and run update and how many times you need to run settings to get up to date.

                You can do this more readily with (most) Linux distributions and a lower number of third party packages - and I install both OS fairly regularly from nothing, so have done this relatively recently with Windows 10.

                For bonus points: install Linux first, then install Windows to make it dual boot (and then reverse the process). Which OS doesn't find the other?

                For real fun: do this without a working mouse/trackpad (or use speech output to install the OS without a working screen.)

                And yes, you can install Debian without any of the above though the screenless isntall is a bit slow because the speech output is verbose.

                Hint: This thread is all about Debian and finding a single .iso image which will "just install" . If you include the firmware you need - and there is a step to do this manually even when using the fully free media - then the updates happen seamlessly during the install. For Intel/AMD - that's a <700M CD size download to get the unofficial media and then however long the net install takes.

                The Debian folks are talking right now about building a better download page: most people seem happy in the original thread if the installer can be made to prompt the user once to install/not install firmware.

                1. TonyJ Silver badge

                  Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                  Ok let's take some of your comments in turn:

                  Put a blank SSD in your Windows laptop. Grab a vanilla Windows 10 .iso image created via the Microsoft tool. Do this from nothing on the hard drive: keep a note of how many steps it takes.

                  Since this is effectively what I do with a new release of WIndows every so often anyway I can answer this.

                  Step 1 - Download the latest ISO from Microsoft.

                  Step 2 - Kick of the installer from USB to wipe the partitions.

                  Step 3 - Allow Windows to update drivers during install

                  Step 4 - Get the latest NVidia Driver

                  Total time on my Dell: Around 45 minutes start to finish.

                  Also note how many third party sets of drivers you need to get the graphics card working.

                  See above. 1

                  Everything else from sound, NIC and TPM for example were just found and the latest available drivers were installed.

                  Check how long it takes to download the sets of Windows updates when you then first go to Settings and run update and how many times you need to run settings to get up to date.

                  Well this depends but if you get the latest version of the ISO rather that using that one you have lying around from 2-3 years ago, the answer tends to not be too many and as above the upgrade to 20H2 was 45 mins start to finish, including updates.

                  And since as a consumer you can only usually download one version of Windows 10, which is the latest, I'd recommend everyone does it prior to any build/update.

                  You can do this more readily with (most) Linux distributions and a lower number of third party packages - and I install both OS fairly regularly from nothing, so have done this relatively recently with Windows 10.

                  For bonus points: install Linux first, then install Windows to make it dual boot (and then reverse the process). Which OS doesn't find the other?

                  For real fun: do this without a working mouse/trackpad (or use speech output to install the OS without a working screen.)

                  And yes, you can install Debian without any of the above though the screenless isntall is a bit slow because the speech output is verbose.

                  Hint: This thread is all about Debian and finding a single .iso image which will "just install" . If you include the firmware you need - and there is a step to do this manually even when using the fully free media - then the updates happen seamlessly during the install. For Intel/AMD - that's a <700M CD size download to get the unofficial media and then however long the net install takes.

                  The Debian folks are talking right now about building a better download page: most people seem happy in the original thread if the installer can be made to prompt the user once to install/not install firmware.

                  I can't comment on this because I don't dual boot. My machines with Linux (r/Pi, couple of laptops, few VM's) are purpose built and my use-cases mean I don't need to do this.

                  But - given the crux of this is, as you say, making a version of the ISO that someone can expect to just download and for it to work, I would ask how many consumer users would you also expect to be dual booting? I don't have an answer for that. But I wouldn't imagine it's a huge number.

          3. bigtreeman

            Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

            The reason Windows 'simply works' is because it comes pre-installed and the vendor has sorted out driver issues and filled it with 'crapware' .

          4. Jakester

            Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

            Windows often doesn't "just work". There are too many crappy software engineers and programmers out there that don't seem to understand what the user needs to do. I have had to deal with finding solutions to software that doesn't work for a standard user and the product tech support "team" solution is to have all users log in as an administrator. As for the crappy Microsoft brainchild of 'dll's, I once had to support a computer with only 4 applications on it. There were two which were incompatible with each other to the point if one were run, the other wouldn't work until the computer was rebooted because each manufacturer had a custom dll with the same name. Printer drivers can be troublesome as there is no standard way to install printers. And of course, Microsoft want to install WSD ports for printing, which constantly breaks the ability of certain printers to work. I switch to TCP/IP and a Microsoft update (or some other strange event) switches it back to a WSD port, once again breaking printing. Microsoft constantly changes the look and feel of Windows, deprecating things or moving them around so trying to debug an issue becomes an Easter egg hunt, except there isn't always an Easter egg to find. True, the more you understand of Linux, the faster you can solve problems, but the Linux community has solutions easier to find than most of the Windows issues I come across and seldom can I find the correct solution on the Microsoft website. The usual Microsoft solution is to reinstall Windows and that is seldom anywhere close to the real solution.

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

              "...Windows often doesn't "just work". There are too many crappy software engineers and programmers out there that don't seem to understand what the user needs to do. I have had to deal with finding solutions to software that doesn't work for a standard user and the product tech support "team" solution is to have all users log in as an administrator. As for the crappy Microsoft brainchild of 'dll's, I once had to support a computer with only 4 applications on it. There were two which were incompatible with each other to the point if one were run, the other wouldn't work until the computer was rebooted because each manufacturer had a custom dll with the same name. Printer drivers can be troublesome as there is no standard way to install printers. And of course, Microsoft want to install WSD ports for printing, which constantly breaks the ability of certain printers to work. I switch to TCP/IP and a Microsoft update (or some other strange event) switches it back to a WSD port, once again breaking printing. Microsoft constantly changes the look and feel of Windows, deprecating things or moving them around so trying to debug an issue becomes an Easter egg hunt, except there isn't always an Easter egg to find. True, the more you understand of Linux, the faster you can solve problems, but the Linux community has solutions easier to find than most of the Windows issues I come across and seldom can I find the correct solution on the Microsoft website. The usual Microsoft solution is to reinstall Windows and that is seldom anywhere close to the real solution..."

              Genuine question here. How many of the above issues are actually down to Windows and how many down to the applications?

              As for troubleshooting applications, make your life a lot easier and use the Sysinternals tools. It makes tracking down things like registry and file permissions trivial and you can unlock the necessary bits rather than the oft-taken lazy approach of "make the user an admin".

              1. ovation1357 Bronze badge

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                Isn't it still a bit sad though, that Windows doesn't have the power of the sysinternals tools available as built in commands and instead has to rely on some very outdated-looking tools...

                Most Linux distros come bundled with lsof (list open files), strace and ltrace (trace System/Library calls). I believe many also now include Sun's powerful dtrace utility although I admit to barely ever using it - even, most shamefully, during my days at Sun!

                With Linux you also get an army of system monitoring tools for seeing applications using CPU, RAM, I/O etc. Plus, of course the awesome /proc and /sys filesystems.

                Things are improving very, very, slowly on Windows Server as powershell gets a few more useful tools (ironically with aliases to their UNIX/Linux counterparts such as 'curl') but it still feels like I've had my hands chopped off when diagnosing Windows problems.

                A year or so back I had to look into a problem on a Windows box which turned out to be a bug in the antivirus causing exhaustion of ephemeral TCP ports (i.e the random port number used for replies to outgoing requests). I found a powershell command that would show me all open connections and the owning process (similar to 'netstat -tunl' on Linux), only it didn't show the process column no matter what I tried.

                It eventually turned out that the missing column was simply off the edge of the default 80 column terminal. No word-wrap and no scrollbar or other indicator to show that there was more information than being displayed. Ages wasted!

                I just don't get Microsoft's attitude towards support. For all the years I've been computing (since around the tail end of MS-DOS 3.31) nothing has changed with regard to getting necessary information out of a Microsoft OS. Things just typically fall with 'FATAL ERROR: ±<big number>'. If you're lucky there might be something in the event log but don't count your chickens. With UNIX/Linux stuff it's far more common to have at least a verbose or debug output flag for each command and/or a log file along with a much more descriptive and helpful error in the first place.

                1. TonyJ Silver badge

                  Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

                  "...Isn't it still a bit sad though, that Windows doesn't have the power of the sysinternals tools available as built in commands and instead has to rely on some very outdated-looking tools...

                  I would absolutely agree with this. And given that Sysinterals is owned by MS and the aforementioned tools are tiny in size, there's really no excuse for it.

                  With Linux you also get an army of system monitoring tools for seeing applications using CPU, RAM, I/O etc. Plus, of course the awesome /proc and /sys filesystems.

                  Things are improving very, very, slowly on Windows Server as powershell gets a few more useful tools (ironically with aliases to their UNIX/Linux counterparts such as 'curl') but it still feels like I've had my hands chopped off when diagnosing Windows problems.

                  A year or so back I had to look into a problem on a Windows box which turned out to be a bug in the antivirus causing exhaustion of ephemeral TCP ports (i.e the random port number used for replies to outgoing requests). I found a powershell command that would show me all open connections and the owning process (similar to 'netstat -tunl' on Linux), only it didn't show the process column no matter what I tried.

                  You really don't need convoluted PowerShell to see the process using a specific port. Just use netstat -ab from an administrative command prompt.

                  With Linux you also get an army of system monitoring tools for seeing applications using CPU, RAM, I/O etc....

                  You get these built into Windows and have for a very long time. If you can't glean what you need to know from Task Manager at a glance then there is a rather good performance monitor built in.

                  I also forget to mention before that I do agree that MS have made some crappy UI choices since the introduction of Win10. e.g. have a Control Panel or have Settings screens but don't have both. And whilst they do seem to have slowed down the rate of change, they do still keep moving things for no apparent benefit!

          5. buchan

            Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

            > Oh, yes. Hell yes!, compared to Linux.

            You mean Debian, not all Linux distros, many of which are more pragmatic about things like firmware.

            > Users who choose MacOS do so because they do not have to know how anything behind the curtain works.

            Until you venture out of the Apple eco-system, and find that some hardware doesn't work as well with MacOS as it does with Windows or Linux. One example I have run into recently is MacOS 10.15 refusing to connect to a Logitech MX Master 2S (until you install a 3rd-party Bluetooth utility called blueutil and force it to pair). There are many threads about this on Apple and Logitech support forums. But, connecting to it on Linux works without any hassles or command-line use.

            > Users who choose Windows do not need to know what happens behind the curtain to get things done.

            > Users who choose Linux must know how things work otherwise there is a strong chance you won't get things to work at all.

            In my experience, not any more than Windows users.

            My wife and kids use Linux on a desktop computer at home. Yes, I installed it, but I didn't need to use a CLI at all to get anything working for them.

            However, I regularly have to help my mother with her Windows laptop. While fixing these issues may not necessarily require CLI use, the issues are often more frustrating, and troubleshooting is more difficult because of lack of deep access into the OS.

            > The historic "The Luxury of Ignorance" essay, http://catb.org/esr/writings/cups-horror.html, tells the story...

            This article is 17 years old. Even at the time it was written, there were more user-friendly distros where printing was as easy to setup as Windows (assuming the printer was supported), but even Fedora has had usable printer configuration out-the-box for at least the past 10 years.

            BTW., Apple now uses CUPS for printing ...

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain @buchan

              Um. Apple WROTE CUPS and contributed it to the community. It was a major step forward in printing on UNIX, primarily because the UNIX print system expected printers to do more (and it to have to do less) than the cheap laser and inkjet printers that became common in the early 2000s.

              I wonder just mow many people really remember the concept of dedicated print backends set up using lpadmin (or earlier, by editing the lp scripts). It was often difficult, and often required programs to know how to handle particular printers. Bog standard UNIX only really knew about a very small number of printers, and Postscript used in conjunction with DWB (the Documenters Workbench, an installable component of AT&T System V) was often the best bet in getting printers to work.

              But otherwise, I agree with your sentiments.

              1. Colin Bull 1
                Happy

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain @buchan

                "how many people really remember the concept of dedicated print backends set up using lpadmin (or earlier, by editing the lp scripts"

                LP scripts were magic. You could use all the unix tools to look for certain data in the stream and do wonderful things like redirection, duplication, modification - insert barcode for non barcode aware software.

                Those were the days. I must admit my only experience using a tutorial for systemd left me frustrated and in the end I gave up.

              2. Down not across Silver badge

                Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain @buchan

                I wonder just mow many people really remember the concept of dedicated print backends set up using lpadmin (or earlier, by editing the lp scripts). It was often difficult, and often required programs to know how to handle particular printers.

                I do. Fondly.

                Nothing wrong with termcap/printcap.

                I must be exception but I only bought PostScript capable printers and simple lp worked very well thank you very much. CUPS (for me) was total overkill and recall (this was long ago mind, and CUPS was in its infancy) it mysteriously suddendly refusing to print and it took ages and lot of google-fu to get it to play nice again.

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain @Down

                  I actually predate Postscript. I was managing UNIX systems from before affordable Postscript printers were available. Back in the day when Postscript printers were expensive limiting yourself to Postscript often meant that people could not buy a printer.

                  Where I worked, we had horrendously expensive channel attached Xerox laserprinters, and you mostly used a troff backend processor for those printers (part of di-troff) for high quality dicuments. We normally just used the printers as dumb character devices, and formatted the documents before submitting to the printer.

                  You could not do this with Postscript (at least, not without knowing what you were doing), because if the print job was not a valid Postscript program, it was not going to print anything.

                  What CUPS does is to allow you to render the page into an image, and then send this to the printer. It uses Ghostscript to do this, This allows you to have a really dumb cheap and cheerful printer produce quality images, as long as your application knows how to produce Postscript (and you have a PPD file for the printer you have).

                  This is essentially the way Windows does it now, although it uses the WDDM as an output format rather than Postscript to produce prints, and the printer manufacturer provides the backend to allow that to be rasterised for the printer.

          6. Gerhard Mack

            Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

            I'm trying to remember the last time I've needed the command line to finish a Debian install. I can usually get networking with Wifi up and running without trouble.

            1. Down not across Silver badge

              Re: RE: doing things behind the curtain

              I've had to do that on occasion for some old Realtek wireless cards, other than that for me it Just WorksTM

        2. 080
          Happy

          "Otherwise it's like the whiners who never stop whining that GIMP isn't Photoshop! Gee, who knew? That really is the point, isn't it: GIMP is NOT Photoshop. If you want P'shop use P'shop, don't fill up lines of message boards whining on and on about how GIMP isn't P'shop, ... ad nauseum"

          And I thought Gimp was just a free version of Photoshop.

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Many people seem to make that mistake. :-P

        3. werdsmith Silver badge

          And you are implying that Windows fits that description? [laughs]

          Sanctimony aside, that's exactly what it does.

          Debian seems to have a specific and excellent role to play in providing a core Linux OS that many other people can riff off. Debian should focus on doing what it does well, and listening to comments/criticisms that are relevant to that.

          That's all well and good as long as wider adoption is not one of the aims.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Windows, usually, just works. Yes, its update ecosystem is not perfect. Yes Microsoft spent many years berating Google for mining its customers data only to execute an extraordinary reverse-ferret. But critically, Windows usually just works.

          I tried installing debian on a little server. I am not a techno-muppet. Computing degree - admittedly eons ago when Prime machines were big in academia - ex_IBM etc. etc.

          Trying to install Debian was a total pita. I concur with the point that one should not have to chant in a dead language while inputting command-line stuff in hex to get the damn OS to install and boot.

          It / I failed to load Debian.

          It should not be that hard.

          You can sit in your ivory towers of whatever hue you wish: if it stays this hard I would posit that you are not advancing much except within your own already-rarified-and-happy-with-that circle.

      2. Muppet Boss Bronze badge
        Trollface

        >And then there's always someone who will say " Ah you just need to use the command line; type sudo string of incomprehensible characters and all will be resolved". ...The point about an OS is that it shouldn't get in the way of using the box with the programmes inside to do stuff that needs doing.

        ...And the award goes to the countless developers who make computer systems to appear to Just Work. Those who integrated all those incomprehensible sudo commands so that a mortal user does not have to.

        Running Linux on a laptop without consulting the distro HCL is generally a bad idea: any problems, and you are on your own. Running a Linux distro that made a conscious choice not to include or officially support closed source device drivers is just asking for problems.

        Anyway, the pal is clearly just trolling around and having a good laugh about recent changes to the website design: he writes directly to the developers list and complains about "The current policy of hiding other versions of Debian". Well, there is a 'More...' button right below 'Download' that helpfully reads, 'Further links to downloads and software'. The current website look is straight back out of the 90s, no doubt about that. It actually looked a way better in 1998 as witnessed by archive.org.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Running a Linux distro that made a conscious choice not to include or officially support closed source device drivers is just asking for problems."

          That could be the crux of the matter. There is a bewildering number of Linux distros out there. Some random user, having heard of Linux and for whatever reason,. decides to try it, might well just pick whatever turns up first in the search results. S/He's probably heard of Linux from Linux users and from their comments of how wonderful it all is, just assumes that it will install easily and completely, just like Windows. When s/he has problems just trying to successfully install it, or managing to install it and find some of the hardware is not working, is more likely to give up and tar all Linux distros with the same brush as being "too hard" or "broken".

          Personally I primarily use FreeBSD simply because when I chose to escape the clutches of Windows, a friend used FreeBSD (in the days of 4.3R, natch) and was available to help me. I use Linux Mint on an old EeePC netbook because at the time I was given it, Mint "just worked" and FreeBSD, IIRC was either a pain or impossible to get certain drivers for. Likewise, I have a few live distros I use day to day from a multiboot thumbdrive for testing and diagnosis of hardware in my day job (which also requires that I use Window too)

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >That could be the crux of the matter. There is a bewildering number of Linux distros out there. Some random user, having heard of Linux and for whatever reason,. decides to try it, might well just pick whatever turns up first in the search results.

            Agree, the issue seems to be the quality of installers.

            It's almost as if what is wanted is a pre-installation configuration compatibility checker that determines which drivers your hardware needs and then provides a shortlist of the distro's with open/proprietary driver support and then can download all relevant drivers for a chosen distro (ie. create a drivers disk), so that they are available to that distro's installer.

            Pie in the sky I know, but that is effectively what MS did for Windows 10.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              That'd be brilliant for me. I have a Lenovo Thinkpad 2 in 1. I'd love to use it as a 'Nux box, with a lightweight distro, Windows is too heavy for it really. But getting it to boot with the right drivers was a nightmare. Especially getting the screen to function in tablet mode. Maybe there is no distro/selection of drivers that will give full functionality. Online discussions of this matter seemed to conclude at that.

              I gave up

              1. bigtreeman

                Looks like OpenBSD might work on the Thinkpad, of course no bluetooth, fingerprint no and thunderbolt has a fudge. https://jcs.org/2019/08/14/x1c7

      3. katrinab Silver badge
        Flame

        The incantations you have to type into PowerShell to get things working are even more incomprehensible

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          And what percentage of Winbloze users have EVER entered a powershell command?

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            On Windows Server, it is the only way to do a lot of things.

            1. AndrueC Silver badge
              Boffin

              On Windows Server, it is the only way to do a lot of things.

              And what percentage of Windows users are running Windows Server?

              1. Glen 1 Silver badge

                Conversely, what percentage of users are running a Linux Desktop

                I use Linux almost daily, but its all command line stuff on headless servers. My daily driver is a Win10 machine, and I have little reason to jump ship. Although I have installed Ubuntu to dual-boot if need be, it hasn't been booted in over a year.

                An older relative asked me to take a look at his machine. It had Vista on it, and had the 'pox. He only used it to get on Facebook, and play web based games (one of which undoubtedly provided said pox). I thought this would be a good opportunity to do what we are always talking about in this place. I put Mint on it, making sure Chromium was on there too.

                I heard back via another family member that he'd stopped using it, as the games he wanted to play wouldn't work without flash - and I didn't install it for obvious reasons.

                I guess my point is that most users see their computer as "the internet box". The minutia we argue over is completely opaque to them. Extolling the virtues of things they don't care about means bugger all.

                1. AndrueC Silver badge
                  Happy

                  Conversely, what percentage of users are running a Linux Desktop

                  Oh very true, and really this goes to the heart of it. "The year of the Linux desktop" never did happen. Windows and MacOS are the two most popular operating systems. Linux is used by sysadmins and a few geeks.

                  As long as Linux users are happy to accept they don't represent the majority of computer users then all is fine.

        2. spireite Bronze badge

          I work with Windows primarily and I hate Powerhell ..

          bloodyy awful.

        3. Colin Bull 1
          Trollface

          Not true

          The writers of powershell have done an excellent job of ripping off most unix commands. Just write a unix shell script and get powershell to run it :-)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There's always something that doesn't "just work". And then there's always someone who will say " Ah you just need to use the command line; type sudo string of incomprehensible characters and all will be resolved". And you're never far from someone who sneers at any distro which doesn't require a postgraduate diploma in Advanced Witchcraft either. Mint- you don't want to be using Mint lad. Real Men use Cyberfloggernix. It's command line only and you can only enter data by typing ascii character numbers in Hex

        This. This is also why I avoid taking Open Source types to any business meeting. There is a significant delta between pragmatism and purism and boy oh boy are they easy to trigger. Which, of course, any Microsoft exec knows full well how to use..

      5. Captain Obvious

        You owe me

        a new keyboard. I haven't laughed out loud in years!! GREAT stuff!

    4. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      You missed the point. The distinction is in the license. Systemd is under a free license, so it's allowed in.

      I still wish the claims of my having a choice on whether it's installed were factually accurate though.

    5. DrXym Silver badge

      Systemd is a set of well defined, small executables with specific roles and the entire thing is open source. Gripe about it all you like, but distributions use it because it works better than its predecessors did.

      1. nijam Silver badge

        > Systemd is a set of well defined, small executables with specific roles

        Systemd is a vast and ever-growing set of defined (well, sort-of) and slightly documented executables with specific roles (almost none of which you want), entangled with other activities that are unclearly related to those roles.

        It has been claimed (evidence still awaited) that it outperforms its predecessors.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          "It has been claimed (evidence still awaited) that it outperforms its predecessors."

          It does boot faster, I'll give it that, though rebooting is not something I do very often.

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Faster boot @katrinab

            OK, Ubuntu stopped allowing you to switch back to Upstart after 16.04, but when I could choose, Upstart was always faster on the two systems I used to try (and, incidentally, shutdown faster as well).

            I have recently put 20.04 on one of my systems (I always use LSB releases because I don't want the continual hassle of dist-upgrades, and also delayed partly because of the stupid change in linux-core that changes the default function of "ls" to put quotes around filenames with spaces in them), and that does seem faster, but then again the system also got a processor upgrade and SSD at the same time, so it's difficult to judge. One thing that did cause grief the was that the old Nvidia GTX8800 graphics card had to go as part of the upgrade, because the supposed correct binary driver would not work, and the system would not power down with nouveau driving the card.

            1. KSM-AZ
              Linux

              ls, less, sort, head, tail

              I will stir the tar for the jackass that forced single quotes around *some* filenames. Really screws with some shell scripts. Bring the asshole that changed the syntax for head/tail. They completely hosed sort moons ago. If you want to CHANGE the way a command works, create a new command. ( errr, .. more, then less . . . ). I talked the less maintainer off the ledge, when he made it automatically gunzip compressed files by default, moons back.

              Intel maintained dominance by making everything work the way it always did. Having qoute wrapping as a feature, invokable with an argument, and on with an alias or environmental is fine. I can remove the rm aliases from .profile, bachrc, etc. Breaking the sorts in all my shell scripts sucks. I truly do not understand the arrogance. A big you are an asshole, who likes to break people's shit to ya.

              <sigh>

        2. DrXym Silver badge

          Pathetic.

      2. kurkosdr

        Good luck changing the mind of a Unix weenie errr... Veteran Unix Admin. They have their init.d scripts from 1994, and they want computers to keep booting processes one at a time (like a Pentium 4 PC) and of course do it by running arcane bash scripts. Oh, and using PID lock files to track service state. The idea that you can declaratively define a process and its dependencies and let a system daemon do the rest for you is alien to them. The idea that service files should not contain random bash logic is also alien to them. They are the same people who think array bounds checking and garbage collection in programming languages are superfluous.

        But , fortunately for the rest of us, Red Hat and Canonical have money to make, and they need a way to reliably track services on a Linux system (as Windows NT has done since forever) so those Veteran Unix Admins should either learn systemd or retire for good.

        1. sw guy

          Sorry, but no

          Veteran Unix admin are used to the old adage: if it ain't broke, don't fix.

          And BTW, Debian did a good job of increasing boot performance by replacing /bin/sh years ago: You can run a search of dash cs. bash

          And BTW*2, boot frameworks including parallelism though using shell scripts exist

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sorry, but no

            Sorry InitRC scripts were and are, very, very broke.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @AC - Re: Sorry, but no

              At least for those who can't master them.

              1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

                Re: @AC - Sorry, but no

                And mastery took me about two hours, back when I was still more properly a hacker than a programmer...

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @AC - Sorry, but no

                  BS - All the init scripts were copy and paste of 100s of lines of boilerplate to get command line options "start/stop/restart/etc/...." to work.

                  All they do in the end is launch or kill a program command line... Using hand-rolled bash code to track PIDs in a var file.

                  Some of them detect crashes and restart (never in a standardised way), some of them support setting uid/pid/chroot and sandbox (never in a standardised way), some of them implement event stuff that should be in SysV init but was never added (events like Ctrl-alt-del and UPS error events are there, hardware change is not)...

                  Anyone who has learnt both InitRC and systemd will know why systemd exists.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @AC - Sorry, but no

                    > will know why systemd exists.

                    Yes. Someone at Red Hat had an agenda, and the clout, persistence, etc. to convince program management to go along with it.

                    Don't pretend everyone "saw the light" when systemD was introduced. It causes as many problems as it solves, and some of the problems didn't actually need solving.

                    The viral spread of systemD since then has only compounded the problem. It embraces and extends as well as Microsoft products are reputed to do.

                    1. jake Silver badge

                      Re: @AC - Sorry, but no

                      There is a reason I call it the systemd-cancer ... Consider: systemd takes root in its host, eats massive quantities of resources as it grows, spreads unchecked into areas unrelated to the initial infection, and refuses to die unless physically removed from the system, all the while doing absolutely nothing of benefit to the host.

                    2. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: @AC - Sorry, but no

                      Systemd spread because people who knew what they were doing (those who have to deal implementing it) found it to be superior to InitRC. Not that "superior to initrc" is a particularly high bar. End of story.

                      1. DrXym Silver badge

                        Re: @AC - Sorry, but no

                        Not even that. People whining about systemd replacing init.d are forgetting that it didn't - it replaced upstart. And both upstart and systemd were recognition that using scripts to start or stop processes is slow and doesn't express things such as dependencies or security issues like least privilege. Readers of The Register can be utterly clueless when they put their minds to it and by golly they do when this topic comes up.

          2. kurkosdr

            Re: Sorry, but no

            Oh please, tell me how I can achieve parallelism in init.d as easily as defining a systemd service file, with dependencies that may have dependencies of their own taken care for me automatically (please don't try weasel out of that last requirement). I am expecting a step-by-step guide, and I shouldn't have to write more than 10 lines of definitions, because that's how long my systemd service files are.

            As a DevOps person, the satisfaction of going to a Springboot developer and saying "here is a 10-line file you have to provide in your RPM, as you can see, it all makes sense intuitively and doesn't require any knowledge of that arcane language known as Bash only we DevOps people know to understand it, and also has no PID locks" is immeasurable. And it's all delivered by a big corporation, it's not someone's tiny little hack on top of init.d that might not exist tomorrow. The company I joined some years ago had already made centos7 a requirement just to get Systemd functionality. Good. Welcome Systemd.

            PS: init.d was a bad idea from the get-go. The idea that you mix service declaration and application startup logic was a bad idea. Because anyone who wants to parse your service defintion has to understand the logic ("does he use PIDs to track service state or something else?"). If Windows was doing that, we'd be saying how bad it all is.

            PPS: Google "r/archlinux Why did ArchLinux embrace Systemd?" and see it from the perspective of the distro maintainer too.

            1. DrXym Silver badge

              Re: Sorry, but no

              A service unit (the file describing the service) can also be per-user, list other service dependencies or prerequisites, automounts and other conditions. All defined in a declarative text file. It describes the service in far more detail than any script ever did and needs less maintenance.

              No wonder that that virtually every dist uses it successfully and in preference to init.d or upstart.

            2. KSM-AZ

              Systemd

              Systemd was pretty awful, mostly lack of reasonable docs. It has grown on me. It's pretty simple to build a service, and a lot harder to hammer the system, (like as in inittab 2 wait /oops/script/doesnt/exit). They need to get the overrides better (systemctl edit service, 'cannot have two Exec...', but I want to run tomcat in a wrapper, and not edit /lib/... that the package will overwrite)

              Or we can go back to scripts and ttymon . . . (Lovely sh-t there).

              It is faster for the same level of startup cruft, but openRC is nice for embedded with limited tasks. No love lost with Sysvinit unless younare a masochist. Something had to give.

              When /etc/init.d had 30 items to start.... pretty simple. Then 60, tolerable, With dbus, and udev and all the other crap, init.d/rc/... starts to get painful. Lessee, that's checkconfig or wasnthat update-rc.d or ....

              Frankly, I think the biggest achilles heel is 'Network Manager'. Early RC you scripted the ip config. Then defines in /etc/sysconfig or /etc/network. Now there is som abortion of that shit, with some netplan (and the stupid fucker who thought that was a good idea to make a hand edit with yaml bullshit), throw in a liitle systemd-resolv, and a splash of predictable interface names (Another utterly stupid idea, swap a nic, re-write your entire config, woo hoo, thanks asshole), and the lunitics are running the asylum.

              Try running bind with conditonal forwards on a 'Desktop' ubuntu, using some openvpn 'client' configs. Toss in some Wifi and some netplan... and then see if you can get a name to resolve via bind without ripping sh-t out. Frankly that was much easier with 'man interfaces' and jessie. Don't even talk to me about netplan and 'bond' with some vlans. It went from a simple stanza with keywords, to netplan with undocumeted wierdly indented yaml. An extra space and your network is hosed. Brilliant fella's

        2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          EVERY Unice sysadmin that I have spoken with in the last 20 years has stated (strongly) that init.d needs a good replacement. To. this. day.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Yes, but systemd isn't it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I doubt that you have learnt either.

              1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
                Pint

                Assume all you want.

                But let me put it this way: why is this "init replacement" supplying its own DNS resolver, logging system, cron, user session management, and now soon to be taking control of mounting user homes? And don't give me the "it can be disabled" guff, either. They're still heavily entangled with the init, which should only have one job: Starting and stopping tasks. Nothing else.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Because InitRC has all that too? Yes - take a look at the scripts: one of them starts the DNS resolver, one starts the user session, one starts cron. You can't even plug in different implementations in InitRC - the inittc scripts hardcode the exact binary names.

                  1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
                    WTF?

                    That's... probably the most ignorant statement I've read all month. Init service scripts are not entangled components of a larger application. All a good init does is start the programs it's told to start.

                    The scripts themselves are - in a package-managed distribution, at least - installed by whichever application you choose to perform those tasks. Or they're installed (or written) by the system administrator. One starts a dns resolver, one starts a cron. They aren't "part of" the init. The init is agnostic: it just starts the daemons.

                    systemd incorporates all of these things into itself, replacing previously separate, diverse subsystems with its own entangled "modules" and removing choice and flexibility, increasing its own domains of responsibility and providing more places for things to go drastically wrong.

            2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Can I have a whoosh?

              1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
                Coat

                Woosh failed successfully.

            3. KSM-AZ
              Linux

              Systemd isn't it

              sysvinit sucks. I have no viable alternatives. The sh-t I've been using doesn't scale anymore. Someone came up with something, but It sucks because it isn't the crap I'm already using that doesn't scale.

              OK. There are plenty of sysvinit like alternatives, but they can't get traction because systemd resolves many of the scaleability problems, and it's much easier to 'plug-in' to when things are deep.

              Example:

              I run haproxy on an active/passive pair with a shared configuration backend on NFS. Systemctl edit haproxy, add an 'After be.mount' to the unit section, mount dependencies resolved, even if haproxy uprades and replaces the systemd config.

              Is it perfect? Nope. But long term it's a helluva lot better from a maintenance perspective. Seriously though, if YOU are digging in that deep and you anly need to run with scripts just get an Alpine distro with openRC and get happy. If I'm building an appliance, systemd is much more than I need, and it still has a lot of quirks.

          2. jake Silver badge

            That might be true for Unice, but it's far from true for *nix.

            In the 37 years since SysV init was released, I think I can count on on both hands the number of times I've had to actually code something that it couldn't handle. All of those cases were extreme edge cases. And note that in none of those cases would the systemd-cancer have been any help. In over half of those cases, BSDinit worked where SysVinit didn't.

            That's not to say that a replacement is not overdue, but the systemd-cancer is not that replacement.

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              I guess everyone is missing the implications of "To. This. Day."

              I fully agree that SysV can handle everything. But the lack of explicit dependency declaration was wrong from the get-go, and the lack of parallelism in startup was crying for a fix even in the late nineties.

              Upstart & systemd attempted clean reimplementations. But Upstart demonstrated that a clean DSL was MUCH harder than expected (although the RPM & apt experience should have been a warning). SystemD is the Blob.

        3. John Robson Silver badge

          Booting isn't the issue - you shouldn't be booting frequently enough for parallelism to make an appreciable difference to your workflow.

          the consistency of "keeping stuff running" is kinda useful, but I'd still rather have it as a bunch of scripts- maybe even have the rc file for openvpn be a bunch of env settings that are passed into the "standard" script to keep things alive.

          But I can still chuck a log line in before the handoff, and can put some custom logging in the standard script trivially.

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Boot time is a big deal in many larger environments. I suspect that sysadmins having to upgrade a hundred servers care about such things to a significant degree as well.

            1. Down not across Silver badge

              I'm still not convinced with that argument. Sure I've seen some boxes take rather long time to boot. However I doubt that parallelism would actually save much time due to dependencies. Also, how often do these lager environments get rebooted? Not that often.

              1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

                Not being a sysadmin, I really cannot say. But they continue to complain about it.

            2. John Robson Silver badge

              If you are managing a hundred servers then you really ought to be using automation - so you just kick off the update, and it runs through them in turn, with the load balancers handling the load so that the users never even notice.

              1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

                Dude, I'm a SWE. If I'm managing TWO servers, I'm going to use automation because I know #$*$ well that I'm going to do something wrong if I try to do it twice.

                But my sysadmin friends have been complaining about this for decades. I'm trusting that they have valid reasons.

            3. John Robson Silver badge

              To be fair it could be a factor in scalable cloud environments... but do they actually spin up servers, or containers/processes?

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "because it works better than its predecessors did."

        Apart from the known bugs marked "Won't fix" and that function creep is taking it to places out of scope.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > distributions use it because it works better than its predecessors did.

        Bollocks. They use it because Red Hat entangled it with the rest of the OS and drove it as a de facto standard into the other distributions. It's more to do with politics and control and influence than technical merit.

        It's a familiar refrain, same tune as Gnome3 and NetworkManager.

        Red Hat generally sets the "standard" for major features in Linux distributions, and has done for some time. It's not always welcome, but it's the truth.

        Personally I look forward to the day I can be done with Red Hat and their spawn and leavings.

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          It's a familiar refrain, same tune as Gnome3 and NetworkManager.

          NetworkMangler. Now there is another idiocy that has no place on a server. I can vaguely see why someone might want to run it on a laptop. Still, at least it can be excorcised.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Must 'completely free' mean 'hard to install'?

      Of course not, but that's beside the point, because if you don't want to be bothered with the installation part at all, as most casual users won't, you just go and buy a computer with Linux pre-installed, as you would with any other OS.

      The KDE Slimbook is hard to beat in terms of polish, raw power, price and convenience. Other brands are also available.

      1. T-Rex Neb

        Re: Must 'completely free' mean 'hard to install'?

        No, it's not beside the point. The casual user either wants to easily install a distro on a(n extra) computer that is starting to act up or age out due to the Windows tax. They want to fiddle with it before they decide to commit to Linux as their production OS. If they're going to buy a new machine, they'll either buy a Windows box or a Mac. No casual user buys a computer with Linux installed on it, because a casual user's not going drop that kind of coin on an unknown quantity. Only the established Linux user buys a new computer with Linux pre-installed.

    7. anothercynic Silver badge
      Facepalm

      The fact that Linuxes of various descriptions were less user friendly (for those coming from UI-heavy OSes like Windows and possibly macOS) has been a stumbling block for a lot of efforts to get Linux more accepted. The amount of times I've had to insist on more elegant installation scripts (via RPM, DEB, whatever) are endless and varied. My engineers shouldn't have to spend 6 hours in a 200 step guide setting up software when most of the things are defaults and you can script them in and collapse 90% of the steps into a few Enter presses!

      Nothing makes me happier than seeing a well-engineered piece of *nix software that uses either a text UI that prompts you for all the important bits, or a well-documented command-line system to be able to script an installation thereof, and of course leaves all the crufty do-it-all-yourself-because-you-grew-up-handcrafting-bytes-by-hand stuff for those who grew-up-handcrafting-bytes-by-hand.

      That approach shows that the engineers who built the software understood that their market isn't just the greybeards who, well, grew up handcrafting bytes by hand, but also those who need to get the software up and running in a short time with sensible settings that can be reconfigured quickly and not spend days setting it up just so, and put serious effort into making their software *usable* for anybody.

      And please, spare me the "oh, but Windows isn't that great either" or "you can compare Linux and Windows and macOS with each other then" or "they're all as bad as each other" crap. You won't believe how many untold usability man years Microsoft and Apple have spent trying to improve their UIs, the installation processes and configuration processes that have been fine tuned by countless usability and user experience engineers over decades (I once worked for a company that made this much easier for many in the Windows space for 2 decades). So yes, Linux has had a *lot* to learn in that regard.

      The GUI system for Linux installations has been an absolute godsend in the last 5 years for getting RHEL-based and Debian-based systems to install faster, better, and more like Windows or macOS, detecting hardware, making sure drivers are available etc. Compared to 1994 when I first touched Sl(ut|ack)ware and 1995 when I first laid my hands on FreeBSD, the Linux installation process has come along *a lot*, so kudos to the engineers who work(ed) on that.

      Now if more component software could do the same, that'd be lovely.

      And do take your downvotes and... well... I'm sure you know what I want you to do with them...

  2. nematoad Silver badge

    Two ways of looking at things.

    "Not all Debian developers agreed."

    Ah, and there is the problem. Two different viewpoints. One for the devs who have the skills and opportunity to shape Debian and the ordinary user who does not.

    Purity is fine but comes at a cost. Everyone using Linux owes a lot to Richard Stallman but not many people can go along with his strict interpretation of "Free" software.

    When I was a SysAdmin my main concern was to allow the users to get on with their jobs. They had no interest or need to know the ins and outs of the systems they were using. Shortcuts were taken at times and workarounds put in place to ensure that the primary business of the company was allowed to continue. My view of the system was not the same as theirs. For me it was a job. For them it was a tool.

    So for devs to say that the way you can use the system has to be the one they favour is, in my opinion, short-sighted.

    As the old saying goes "Give me the tools and I will finish the job."

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      Heretic

      1. T-Rex Neb

        Re: Two ways of looking at things.

        And there you have it. Linux as a religion vs Linux as a tool. Beware zealots!

    2. Smartypantz

      Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      It is a matter of freedom. The freedom to program and design software to the limits of technology. The only way this is possible is for all of the software to be free! Debian is the most successful Linux distribution, with countless derivatives on account of the quality.

      This is only possible because people can devote their time to do it the right way, with no concerns to interests not directly dictated by the limit of technology (i.e. limits in licensing and possibilities of use).

      You viewpoint is the shortsighted one! To serve "the users" in an "easy" way. To compromise the freedom of debian to appease an "easy" install "experience" will not further the fantastic quality and ultimate freedom of "The Universal Operating System". It might get you a win in an popularity contest, but my guess is that that is not the primary motivation of the debian community.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Two ways of looking at things.

        So, maybe Debian should have a warning on their primary download link emphasising that it's for experienced users only and direct those wanting a more simple and complete installation experience to click the links clearly indicated below to get Ubuntu or similar. That way, people arriving at the Debian home page don't end up slagging off the entire Linux ecosystem as "broken" and "too hard".

    3. mykingdomforanos

      Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      While I'm not defending unnecessarily counter-intuitive and arcane configuration requirements, nevertheless, regarding software as merely a tool is comparable to regarding citizenship as merely a way to earn a living. It's not as simple as that.

      Our software choices have ramifications. Always favouring convenience and neglecting licensing stipulations have often been shortcuts to vendor lock-in and dependency, to lack of transparency, to increased difficulty or even inability to effectively security audit your tools, to loss of ability to make multiple copies of programs, etc. etc. Such things may not be at the top of your priority list, but they are important to others, and it's those people for whom distros such as Debian are tailored. For those for whom such things are irrelevant, there's a long queue of proprietary vendors just waiting to take your money. You have choice :-)

      Debian is one of the most deployed server operating systems on the planet. It seems rather odd to criticise the project for not understanding what it is their users want and need. Their desktop offering might offer a few more challenges to the uninitiated (particularly laptop users) than than their server edition, but it's become one of the most successful Linux distros of all time, so I think we should cut them some slack (no pun).

      1. Lon24 Silver badge

        Re: Two ways of looking at things.

        "Debian is one of the most deployed server operating systems on the planet. It seems rather odd to criticise the project for not understanding what it is their users want and need. Their desktop offering might offer a few more challenges to the uninitiated (particularly laptop users) than than their server edition"

        I have a slew of Debian servers. But that's the point - Debian server just works because we don't tend to connect them via wifi. Laptops are different. These days there are many that have only wifi connection or are being used too far from the router. Certainly have a 'pure' edition but the non-free is the one many of us have no choice to get Linux working with an internet connection.

        Methinks the purists are living in a different age.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @nematod - Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      Yes, there is a cost. It is a high cost that we Linux enthusiasts are accepting to pay because we value that freedom you put in condescending quotes.

      Your opinion is short-sighted when you claim developpers are forcing you to adopt their view. They spent countless hours working on software they offer for free if you want to use it. They don't claim it is perfect and if you find it doesn't suit your needs they're fine with it. And it's not for users to shape Debian the same way it's not users who shape Windows.

      What I really, personally owe to Richard Stallman is an OS that trusts me and one that I can trust. No forced activations, no telemetry(a.k.a. spying or slurping), no compulsory cloud logins. Yes, it has downsides, rough edges but it requires nothing in exchange and I'm comfortable with it.

    5. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      "My view of the system was not the same as theirs. For me it was a job. For them it was a tool."

      This isn't a bad philosophy, but I disagree with how you extended it. For people who don't work on the system, they do want a tool that works best rather than the realization of some ideal, and that's a good thing for the users to be thinking about. However, you said this:

      "So for devs to say that the way you can use the system has to be the one they favour is, in my opinion, short-sighted."

      I don't think so. It would be if the devs were responsible for building the best tool for your users, but they're not. They chose to create the project because they wanted a realization of their ideals which also works as a tool. Whether it's the best tool for other people may not be their primary consideration. The reason is that it's designed so that others can change functionality when it doesn't do what they want. If your users need a proprietary application on the server, Debian lets you put it there. It's not Debian's responsibility to know your users will need that and put it there for them. For that reason, I take exception to your contention that "devs say that the way you can use the system has to be the one they favour" because they've designed it so that you can use the system any way you like, but you need to change it if it's not the way they set originally.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Two ways of looking at things.

        They chose to create the project because they wanted a realization of their ideals which also works as a tool. Whether it's the best tool for other people may not be their primary consideration

        i.e.Software as a Cult - SaaC

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Two ways of looking at things.

          Why is it so unreasonable for software developers to develop their software to have the features they value? When they're giving the software away for free and you don't have to use it? It's as if you expect them to change their plans because you don't like them, when they don't work for you or sell stuff to you.

          Several years ago, I wrote a basic audio editor because I wanted one that could run on a device with very restrictive specs. I then published the code, which was basic but a few people at least looked at it. Had they come back and informed me that it crashed if they used some of the features, I would have fixed it. Had they suggested a different feature that would make editing audio easier, I'd have considered adding it, but no guarantees. And had they told me to make it a video editor instead, I'd have ignored them. Why? Because I needed an audio editor and I have no reason to write a video editor from scratch just because someone wants one. A video editor would have been better than an audio editor from the number-of-features standpoint. However, it would have been tricky to write given the limits I put on the system, it would have required a bunch of visual interface elements that would take a while to add to the software, and perhaps most importantly, it wouldn't do anything for me because I didn't have any video to edit. So I didn't write one.

          The same applies to the Debian developers. They want an operating system for their use case, and they want it to include only code they can legally edit themselves. They made this, and it turns out there are people who want that and people who want something else. Because there are people who want something else, somehow it's now Debian's responsibility to make that too? Or perhaps to discard their original desired product and only make the thing that others want but they don't? Again, why?

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Two ways of looking at things.

            This is a fair point. One I wouldn't argue with.

            Some 'nix users and developers will have a use case for an OS that is not amenable to non-techie or simply non-interested people.

            However, such Distros are not kept as a separate category of software - but are listed with all the other distros. Frequently 'nux advocates will point new users to more consumer distros in a sniffy "Use this until you can take the proper stuff" sort of way. Like it's the gateway drug to true Linux addiction.

            Which is unhelpful.

            Maybe it's time that developers stopped forking broadly similar distros (I've never understood why there are so many - and that's not too helpful either btw ) and instead forked between Consumer Linux and Techie Linux, with distinct identities. Who knows, then it might really become "The Year of Linux" that we keep hearing about. Mint is pretty close.

            In a sense, of course, that's what we have with Android, too. God help us.

            And if too few of the volunteer devs who produce the OS are interested in the consumer version it can wither on the vine and leave the techies to use their OS of choice.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Two ways of looking at things.

              I agree. There is a cultural problem in Linux that assumes everyone knows how to do various things, and that's bad. Unfortunately, I see similar things in Windows too; how many Microsoft knowledge base articles tell people how to edit registry keys when we all know the nontechnical should probably never go in there? Nevertheless, the solution to this is to tell conceited people that Mint is no less powerful than Debian is, not to demand that Debian change it's structure because there are some who find it difficult.

              1. anothercynic Silver badge

                Re: Two ways of looking at things.

                Have to agree entirely. I ended up as a tech person for a reasonably complex technology a few years ago, where the technical setup docs had been professionally written for sysadmins in mind. But while the sysadmins were the ones who would eventually implement it, it was scientists and non-sysadmins who first got a whiff of the tech and thought it was worth looking at. The documentation was... difficult for them because it made certain assumptions about the target market and their technical know how, but even then, some sysadmins looked at the docs, couldn't get it to work and went "nahhhh, too messy".

                Know the target market, don't infantilise those who are the target market or those who aren't quite the target market and don't get sneery. Instead learn from the experience and go "ahhh, maybe we should look at improving those docs instead".

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      "So for devs to say that the way you can use the system has to be the one they favour is, in my opinion, short-sighted."

      This goes far beyond Linux distros, and seems to be a movement in the Computing world in general. Android itself is a great example, so is most of the Internet stuff Google fucks-up by moving the security goalposts at their whim and requiring the rest of us to follow. Not to mention the hot mess that is Firefox. And Windows is beyond the pale at this point with "our way or the highway". It's the reduction in "choice" that really irks the most. They dumb things down so even the most incompetent user (ie - middle-management) can appear to do magic, but for us not-so-dumb users, we're left wondering why we can't change things to work the way we want, like we could 10-15 years ago. And when we ask about it (especially asking the Deities at Mozilla), we are derided for wanting to do things the "old" way instead of their newer, greater, more awesomer way.

      Fuck them. Fuck them all.

    7. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Two ways of looking at things.

      Absolutely 100%. You are so right.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
    Linux

    Not for noobs

    This is why I point less-experienced users to Debian derivatives like MX Linux, as they generally already have the "user-friendly" install functionality built-in.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Not for noobs

      With respect, who the f*** wants to install an operating system on the basis that with more experience they'll be able to install another operating system.

      It's an Operating System . The clue's in the words.

      Otherwise what this turns into is Linux is for deep down grags, and Windows is for people who actually do stuff with computers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: who the f*** ...

        Someone who really likes trying out new and increasingly weird and hardcore operating systems?

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: trying out new operating systems

          Because his point, with respect, is that if you're spending your time installing, configuring and learning a new OS, you AREN'T using the applications that run on [said OS] to get the work accomplished that made you acquire a computer in the first place.

          If your entire computerv usage paradigm is strictly casual - a gamer, or just to learn computers in your spare time - then go for it. But most of us sit in front of a computer to get a specific task - work - done. And spending dozens to hundreds of hours in a constant chase of the "perfect OS" means you aren't getting that work done.

          And most of us are too damn busy to allow for that in our lives.

      2. J27 Silver badge

        Re: Not for noobs

        There are Linux distros that are fairly easy to use, Debian isn't one of them, that's why don't use it, don't have the time.

        1. DryBones

          Re: Not for noobs

          Provide examples, please.

          1. CAPS LOCK

            Re: Not for noobs

            Mint, baby and use the Xfce version for old and slow hardware.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not for noobs

      The installers I find particularly unfriendly are those which offer to do everything and then set up a partitioning arrangement that's not suitable for long term use, not even a separate partition for /home.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: Not for noobs

        Debian isn't remotely difficult to install, assuming you have a reasonable basic skillset. It's approximately as difficult as properly installing say, Windows 8 and disabling all the crap associated.

        A difficult install would be Fedora 14 or so (around that era? I don't recall precisely), which had a bug in the installer so it always failed. If memory serves there was a bad line in the install script that could be worked around, but it took serious head scratching to figure that out.

        1. nijam Silver badge

          Re: Not for noobs

          > It's approximately as difficult as properly installing say, Windows 8...

          It's easier and much quicker than installing any Windows release I've ever tried.

          1. kurkosdr

            Re: Not for noobs

            Haha, no. In my Acer Aspire One netbook (ironically designed to run Linux) I had to manually install a driver for the Broadcom Wifi using obscure dpkg commands. Windows had the required driver bundled. Also, Windows always finds an accelerated GPU driver for your graphics card the moment it connects to the internet. Every Desktop Linux distro I've tried makes no attempt to find an accelerated driver if the required driver happens to be proprietary, so if you have an Nvidia or AMD graphics card, it will default to unaccelerated 1024x768, drawing pixels on the screen one at a time using the CPU like a peasant, without any indication that you should probably install an accelerated driver.

            Dear distro devs: Either go the Apple/Android way and make system-specific images or go the Windows way and discover drivers automatically, at least for common hardware. Nobody cares about your "purity".

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Not for noobs

              If the drivers are there they'll generally be found and used. The problem is the packagers who leave them out, possibly because they reject proprietary S/W, possibly because the vendors don't release a proprietary one nor make the information available for anyone else to do so or because the distro was packaged before the H/W became available. As regards the last you may well find that Linux provides the opposite side of that coin; it continues to support H/W long after Windows abandons it.

            2. Velodrome

              Re: Not for noobs

              Ubuntu 20.04 finds and installs the proper Nvidia drivers OOB. I respect Debian's purity and they should stick to it but Ubuntu works well for a heretic like me.

            3. ThePendragon

              Re: Not for noobs

              What ? You had to use a dpkg command ? You probably could have just edited /etc/apt/sources.list to include the non-free repository and then update your system via apt then search with apt-cache then install it. Also, maybe you did have to use dpkg but I bet it was something simple like : dpkg -i package.deb

              I'm from the oldschool I first installed linux in 1997 and I first installed Debian slink in 1999. Did you that Linux is a unix-like system and that unix was not designed to be a commercial operating system but a hackers tools set a programmers tool box for programmers ?

              Dpkg is not obscure it is the god damn package management command for the entire system. It also documentated in a man page.

              You don't want to read man pages ? Don't use *nix go use windows. Debian is not designed for people like you.

              Nobody cares about 'purity' ? Nobody cares about newbies like you. I'm 42 years old RTFM or get off my lawn kid !

              1. T-Rex Neb

                Re: Not for noobs

                Look, if you don't care about the noobs, then they won't care about you, and whatever you treasure will just fade away from lack of exposure.

              2. Smartypantz

                Re: Not for noobs

                Hear-hear

                The "Digital Generation" do not know how to operate a computer! All your downvotes are from young people that think that the Internet is either WebApps or "the cloud"

                I makes me want to cry. The fact that all you need to have your voice heard on the Internet is an IP address, A hostname and the ability to use a computer seems to be completely lost on the new generation. They all seem convinced that to have an Internet presence you must be in "the Cloud". I fucking hate what the IT business has turned into. I Wan't out!

            4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Not for noobs @kurkosdr

              "Windows had the required driver bundled".

              Ah. But did it? If you are saying that the install image provided by Acer had, then that is down to Acer. Did you try from a Microsoft raw install image? I often find that raw MS install images do not include the drivers for Laptop systems.

              I recently put Win10 on an older HP laptop (one that HP does not provide Win10 drivers for, at least not officially), and although the system mostly functioned out of the box, there were about half-a-dozen unidentified devices after the base install, and I'm still unable to work out what one of them is.

              And I actually put a demo version of Windows Server recently (the demo versions you download are always the latest) on some gash hardware I cobbled together, and I could not configure the network and display devices out of the box to allow it to connect to the network to download the drivers!

              IIRC, that Broadcom driver on the Acer was particularly frustrating, because it involves a binary blob from Broadcom that is license encumbered with a license that makes it difficult to include by default in a Linux distribution. You (personally) can make the decision to put it on (by adding the PPA to the packaging system) but a distro provider can't without running the risk of being dragged through the courts.

              1. kurkosdr

                Re: Not for noobs @kurkosdr

                It was a standard Windows 8.1 x86 ISO, nothing Acer-specific whatsoever. Generally, it's a pattern Windows has mastered very well: Get the user going with a GUI and networking support, and then use Windows Update to download additional drivers. It's why the standard Windows ISO includes so many networking drivers Also, Windows maintains driver back compat between Windows NT versions, so drivers from Vista and 7 will work (you may have to get them from the manufacturer's website, most recent version obviously). And with Windows 10, Microsoft forces manufacturers to put all their drivers in Windows Update for new laptops. This is called progress.

                BTW the issue with Broadcom drivers in Linux is why every OS needs to have a utility to find and add drivers. I shouldn't have to type dpkg commands.

                1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                  Re: Not for noobs @kurkosdr

                  I think you'll find that the way Microsoft are getting hardware manufacturers to submit code is the code signing that is enforced by Microsoft's signed driver process. In order for the drivers to be installed without questions asked about unsigned drivers, you have to let Microsoft sign the driver (or at least be in the good books of Microsoft to have a signing key issued).

                  This is sold as a benefit to users, but is also so Microsoft get some control over the hardware manufacturers. If they put conditions on like "you must not ship your laptops without a Windows license" to the process of getting the drivers signed, they essentially manage to stop suppliers shipping alternative OSs on their hardware (at least not without them buying a Windows license as well).

                  So it cuts both ways.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: Debian isn't remotely difficult to install

          Nobody said it is difficult to install. The problem, apparently, is that it is difficult to get it to work with the hardware.

          Which is not a problem because, apparently, the solution is Ubuntu.

          I prefer Mint, these days.

          1. J27 Silver badge

            Re: Debian isn't remotely difficult to install

            The people who publish Mint care about ease of use, which is what makes it a good distro to use if you don't want to spend hours hunting down obscure fixes every time you want to do anything.

            I'm still using Ubuntu because I'm one of those weird people who genuinely like Gnome 3+.

            1. David 132 Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Debian isn't remotely difficult to install

              J27: I'm one of those weird people who genuinely like Gnome 3+.

              You are different and strange, and we shall all point at you and laugh derisively.

              1. jake Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Debian isn't remotely difficult to install

                "You are different and strange, and we shall all point at you and laugh derisively and then buy you a beer because you are one of us (whoever "we" are)."

                FTFY.

            2. tfewster Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Debian isn't remotely difficult to install

              > The people who publish Mint care about ease of use, which is what makes it a good distro to use if you don't want to spend hours hunting down obscure fixes every time you want to do anything.

              YMMV. In my experience, Mint was as full of useless cruft as an HP PC and an end user couldn't have got it working. Though once I'd put a few days into cleaning & stabilising it and making it usable, my mother is happy with it.

              https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=269907#

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not for noobs

          Given the number of times I've installed Debian or Devuan I agree with that. The "here, let me put that into a configuration you can't replace without wiping user data" distros that I've seen tend to be the "user friendlier" end of the spectrum. Somewhere in between are the slightly more flexible ones that still don't make it clear just how they're going to partition or what other stuff they're going to install (such as Apache on a laptop) before you set the process in motion.

        4. Norman Nescio

          Re: Not for noobs

          The Debian installer works adequately, but doesn't give complete freedom in setting up partitioning, LVM, LUKS*, various RAID levels, and filesystems in advance (or even during) the install. I understand giving full flexibility is difficult, but doing something non-standard is unreasonably difficult - I have to resort to chrooting and copying things once they have been set up, then fiddling with fstab and GRUB etc.

          Debian is, as you say, not difficult to install, so long as it is in a way allowed for in the installer. Which is fine for most cases, but by no means all.

          NN

          *A case in point: some people like to encrypt the entire hard disk (except for the ESP) then layer LVM on top of the encrypted disk. Others prefer to set up LVM, then encrypt each volume separately. Some like to use non-standard filesystems e.g. if they are using an SSD, they might want to use F2FS or NILFS2 for their root, or even bcachefs. The installer makes this difficult. At least, it did the last time I tried it. Since I don't do a full install that often, I haven't checked the most recent incarnation, and I don't have time to spin up a VM to check for this comment. Sorry, the rest of my life intrudes.

          1. amacater

            Re: Not for noobs

            Text install and expert install option - should give you enough options to do most things you want - it is, after all, the way the more complicated tests are done when testing the point releases.

      2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        ...not even a separate partition for /home.

        Yes. So many times the install script offer to either install from scratch, wiping everything; install alongside an existing installation; or 'something else'. Something else is a bit daunting if you don't know what you're doing (should you really have to go to a web site to find out recommended default sizes?).

        Maintaining an existing \home should always be a default option, I feel. Installing a separate \home should be the default except on very small disc/flash systems.

        1. Carrot007

          Re: ...not even a separate partition for /home.

          Sorry. My important files are on another disk.

          /home is not. it's just a place full of shit anyway.

          Like windows idea of why I should put files I ignore it.

          I'll manage my files, the OS can mange its own. That way a fresh install is never an issue if I juist feel like one.

          (and yes on linux or windows there are severl important configs on the os drive, these I back up on another drive also).

          The idea of using a known mountpoint/palce the os knows about for anything is outdated and ridiculous.

        2. dgeb

          Re: ...not even a separate partition for /home.

          > Something else is a bit daunting if you don't know what you're doing

          I agree that it is, but it also something you probably shouldn't do *unless* you know what you are doing.

          The basic options of use whole disk/largest free space, plus the standard Debian 'recipes' of

          > All files in one partition (recommended for new users)

          > Separate /home partition

          > Separate /home, /var, and /tmp partitions

          already give you more flexibility than the interactive Windows installer, so I think it is unfair to criticise the advanced 'something else' option for being harder to use; there just isn't a reasonable equivalent to compare.

          The default one-size-fits-all of using a single partition for everything is also what the Windows installer does, and it's a sensible default because you can't make a good automatic guess at the relative sizing of stuff - maybe you've got a webserver producing copious logs, maybe you have lots of large media files, maybe you have a pipeline that involves lots of intermediate steps (so in the Linux example, biasing disk usage towards /var, /home and /tmp respectively) - if you do one of the three then you're going to need that volume to be much bigger than the other two, but the installer can't possibly guess in advance. Producing all three at 1/3 the size each is worse for any of these use cases than just using a single volume for the lot.

          (I'm ignoring custom Windows images that include extra disk layout information, since there is an equivalent for the Debian Installer - preseed.cfg, but neither have been discussed).

      3. Smartypantz

        Re: Not for noobs

        I have installed hundreds of debian hosts. Their ncurses based installer is the best there is! Of course you need to, actually, know how to use a computer to use the installer. A problem for the "digital natives" generation i guess.. HAR!.

        Now get of my lawn!

        1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

          Re: Not for noobs

          Unless you predate the Internet, I suggest you get off my lawn. I expect a bit of intelligence in my installers, which seems lacking here. Close, no cigar.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @NetBlackOps - Re: Not for noobs

            Then use Windows and all your expectations will be fulfilled.

    3. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Not for noobs

      It's not even about being built in though - as per the comment by Sven Joachim, they maintain two copies - a "pure" version that is broken for most laptops (which they put front and centre) and then a version that works (which they hide).

      So the current situation is that we make an active effort to produce two different types of installation media: one that works for all users, and one broken for most laptops. Some sort of FOSS version of an anti-feature. Then we publish the broken version on the front page, and hide very carefully the version that works.

      There's nothing wrong with saying Debian is a purist distro, useful for headless servers and as a proto-distro that is built out to fill different roles by others (Ubuntu, Mint, etc).

      But they're not - they're maintaining two versions and then not making clear what's what. The entire free/non-free debate is quite irrelevant - it's bad website design, bad UX design, bad communication.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        rg287 - Re: Not for noobs

        You are perfectly right if we consider only the technical aspects. However there are two things that you and others on this site are largelty missing:

        1 - Support - as a distributor they have a minimal obligation to acknowledge and solve technical problems, just like this one affecting wireless drivers. They can't simply tell you to shove off because they did not write those drivers and they have no leverage against the hardware manufacturer. So the distribution is all stuck until Intel, Nvidia and Broadcom of this world bother to take a look at the bug. To put this short, they can be held accountable only for the code they produce but you as an end user will not swallow that.

        2 - Licence compliance issues - not all firmware and drivers are freely redistributable. You need special permissions to do that and it takes a legal team to read and understand those licensing contracts. So when lawyers come at their door, Debian can safely throw the non-free version under the bus like in 'we didn't do it!' and still have something to offer to the rest of us happy to tinker with.

        They're not the only distro doing this separation between free and non-free.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: rg287 - Not for noobs

          This is all true but it's not the complaint. The complaint is that the non-free version, which a whole part of the user population - and potential users - who are not sys-admins is hidden away. As GP said, it's largely a site design issue.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Doctor Syntax - Re: rg287 - Not for noobs

            See my point #2 and also take a look at the notion of wilfully infringement. Who would enjoy answering questions from the prosecution ?

    4. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Not for noobs

      Debian: it's user friendly, but it's very picky about who its friends are.

      Ubuntu: Swahili for "I failed to install Debian"

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Not for noobs

        Ubuntu: Ancient African word meaning "Slackware is hard."

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Free means somebody is not getting paid

    So why did the complainant not sit down and write the driver himself? That would have solved the problem but instead he wanted it for free ...

    Open Source programmers tend to be owned by the users. The code writer is considered by end-users as property, or chattel, and is deprived of most of the rights ordinarily held by users when they try to install a new operating system (the definition of slavery updated).

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

      It depends on who you mean by complainant but I take it to be the one who just wanted to install and go. His complaint wasn't that the driver didn't exist. It did. His complaint was that the DVD with the proprietary drivers was well hidden.

      If by complainant you mean someone who thought the driver should be OS you have a point but I find it difficult to see such a person as being the complainant.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Doctor Syntax - Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        Have you ever tried to bother one of your neural cells in order to understand the reason why Debian does this ? Maintaing two distributions is lot of extra work and if Debian does it that means they might have a valid reason for that. Nobody likes to to extra work, especially for nothing.

        That someone who thought the drive should be in the OS might largely ignore things like license compliance and tech support issues for example.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: @Doctor Syntax - Free means somebody is not getting paid

          Have you ever used Debian or even read the story so far?

          Debian does maintain both* the free and unofficial non-free versions so the work is done. They're both on the Debian mirrors. Sorry if I have to shout to get through your ear-wax but THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE MOST GENERALLY USEFUL** VERSION IS PUSHED INTO A CORNER.

          *There are a lot more than two versions and I don't mean old-stable, stable & testing etc. There are versions for architectures from ARM up to S390. There are several live images with different desktops. There are netinst images. There are non-live images for instillation from disk that run to a 3 DVD set if DVD-1 isn't sufficient for your needs.

          ** More useful in that it has the drivers for a wider range of hardware.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

      So why did the complainant not sit down and write the driver himself?

      Even for someone who is able to write a device driver (and very, very few programmers can as its a specialised area), can you provide them with the hardware documentation to allow that to be done?

      Methinks you don't have a clue about the issues here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Paul Crawford - Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        Linux developpers have complained for decades about the unwillingness of hardware manufacturers to publish the specs that would allow them to write drivers. This has and will always be hampering Linux adoption.

    3. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

      I write and maintain a piece of open source software.

      Do you know who I write it for? People who might want to use it. If they're also programmers then that's great but my priority is to make my piece of software a smooth part of their workflow; the less time they have to think about me or my link in the chain, the better.

      Every time I get critical feedback that allows me to improve my software. I am tremendously grateful to those who not only take the time to try out my little effort, but put the extra energy into getting in touch when something isn't quite right.

      So I guess I'm doing it wrong? I should just set up an autoreply that says "Oh, well, if you're sooooo clever, just fix it yourself"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ThomH - Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        No, my friend! This is a case when people complain your work is sh*&t and criticize you for forcing your vision on them. What do you do then ?

    4. mykingdomforanos

      Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

      Good grief, did you get Sydney Powell to write that bit of hyperbolic, libertarian propaganda? Back to the Houston patent troll firm from whence you no doubt came!

      In fact, most free software and open source programmers would rather collaborate to create their own tools than give a penny to the likes of someone with your sense of commercial entitlement.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        But the post was Gold-Fringed ! Free from Admiralty Court jurisdiction the poster had not assented to !

        1. mykingdomforanos

          Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

          I acknowledge that the post may well have been a missile full of sarcasm that rocketed straight over my head.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

            "The big difference between coding for money and coding for free is that coding for money usually costs a lot less." - Brendan Behan (updated).

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        I've been writing and handing out source code for more than 40 years now to help people and I have a few commercial apps that cost a lot to build and did well until I helped a student get his PhD by helping him writing code in the same environment. After a year of answering his questions every week he made his PhD code open-source and graduated, it's widely used now and he's working in a different industry so it's unsupported and has killed about 90% of my income. But I keep getting requests to explain the bugs in his code ... I'm not pissed about it, I accept that I created the environment, so maybe I can retire and get a job cutting sugar cane or picking cotton?

        All the down votes show that many people think that anyone writing open source code is their slave. They are thinking, "I don't understand the code, you wrote it so you need to fix my problems because I can't be bothered - my problems are your fault, I don't owe you - you owe me."

        1. mykingdomforanos

          Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

          Yeah, my bad, please ignore my intemperate outburst above. I took your irony literally (as I came to suspect after a subsequent reading of your post). I saw "property", "chattel", "slave", etc and assumed this was a version of ye olde IP maximalist critique of free software authors and users.

          I don't know what to say about the situation with your student. It's certainly unfortunate and I wouldn't blame you for feeling rather aggrieved. My support and advocacy for free software notwithstanding, given the situation you describe I think most would understand if you felt it was not your responsibility to continue helping those struggling to understand your ex-student's now abandoned code.

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

            No problem - it was just a result of me concentrating on user support, not "business" - I've remains friends with the student now that he's a PhD, he wasn't thinking about the results of this either, he just wanted to get his degree and I'm glad to have helped him, regardless of the results on my end.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

          How did users of his code get your contact details? Perhaps you should just forward all the requests to him.

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

            Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

            LOL, because users in this area have been coming after me for answers for more than 20 years now (hence my name in El Reg).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Version 1.0 - Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

          You do not deserve down votes.

          You concern is real and shows the importance of carefully licensing and protecting the code you write, especially when it is your source of revenue.

          You're not the first craftsman who made the mistake of sharing the secrets of his art only to regret it.

          Sadly, your last paragraph is so true.

    5. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

      Did you build you own washing machine? Tv? Car? House? Monitor? Mouse? Central Heating?

      Well shut the fuck up when you have a problem with any of them. Build you own next time.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        There's a reason most of those things cost money and have warranties. It is because support isn't free. If I gave you those things for free, you would probably be in a similar situation. If I forced you to use Debian, you could easily expect quick support, but basically everyone using Debian chose to use it knowing that they can't just expect the Debian developers to turn into the support team.

        If you choose to use something which doesn't have a support team, you have a few options. You could find people willing to offer support for free, knowing that they might not always be the fastest or most reliable. You could find a company willing to offer you a paid support contract, and you would find one. Or you could go without support and figure it out yourself. If these options sound bad, then perhaps a no-support operating system isn't for your use case. There are companies willing to provide you an OS with their own support built in, but those have costs as well.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @IGotOut - Re: Free means somebody is not getting paid

        Yeah but I paid through the nose for those articles, you didn't give them for free. And you promised they will be free from defects or that you will fix/replace them.

  6. spireite Bronze badge

    "Drivers" me mad...

    To be honest, it's just not Linux flavours that have this issue.

    In the past with Windows, you had to faff with USB 3 drivers insatlling from a USB 2 port, because the OOTB install didn't support it. Same with video cards, and network drivers. I've had the same issue with my Windows box recently, because it didn't have drivers for my USB Wifi dongle.

    It is a PITA, but lets be honest, you can't support everything OOTB.

    What you should provide though is an easy link to drivers.

    With regards to 'why didn't he write one'... that is the comment of a single man/nerd.... well, I use Linux as part of my job, but I haven't got the time (or knowledge tbh) to write a driver. As someone with a family, I just can't justify it, unless I want a divorce.

    1. nintendoeats Bronze badge

      Re: "Drivers" me mad...

      And is Qualcomm going to provide a register map/programming guide for every one of their devices? I doubt it.

    2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "Drivers" me mad...

      "unless I want a divorce"

      Oh, you mean that's how I could have escaped sooner?

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Drivers" me mad...

      "What you should provide though is an easy link to drivers."

      Of course if it's a networking device and you need the network to follow the link...

      The most ridiculous thing I've found so far is a motherboard that just hangs if a DVD drive is plugged into its SATA connectors, less so if the drive is in an external USB connected housing or connected via a SATA daughter board but even then it won't work. Try installing a DVD image if the MB won't handle a DVD drive.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: "Drivers" me mad...

        For initial access to a network I have a USB thingy that is recognised as a wifi device by most versions of linux, although Windows needs a driver.

        So I can install the linux and then look for the driver for my real hardware.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: "Drivers" me mad...

        >The most ridiculous thing I've found so far is a motherboard that just hangs if a...

        Get similar problems using modern techniques on old kit... Created a USB Win10 image, went to an old HP Win7 box and discovered the BIOS only supported boot from an IDE connected device, namely one of: FDD, HDD, CD. Naturally, I wasn't carrying a blank DVD nor a drive in which to burn it...

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: "Drivers" me mad...

      I built a new PC in 2004, Athlon64, SATA HDD, DVD, no floppy... And swappable hard drives. The drive with Linux installed like a dream, slap the DVD in the drive and wait 30 minutes while it chugged away.

      Windows? No. No hard drive attached to the PC! Hmm. The motherboard supplier provided a floppy with the drivers. I borrowed a USB floppy from a friend. Windows found the drivers... Then reset the USB bus before trying to load them! Luckily the shop where I bought the components was very friendly and lent me an internal floppy drive, 10 minutes later, Windows had found the drivers and loaded them! I then returned the floppy drive to the shop.

      I also had an Acer laptop, with ATi Radeon X800m graphics. That couldn't even install Linux in VESA mode! I had to do a command line install, then download the ATi drivers and link them into the Kernel... I think it took a good 18 months, back then, before even rudimentary support was built into Linux for the graphic chip!

      Both sides of the fence "could do better". Although, these days, both do a half-way decent job of installing from scratch, as long as you have a compatible network driver in your toolbox...

      1. quxinot Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: "Drivers" me mad...

        2004? Use nlite to slipstream the drivers required into the XP CD that you're using. While you're at it, you can do a bunch of other really nice tweaks so that you don't sit and spend until the end of time adjusting settings on the finished install.

        I mean, it's not like you were going to do something idiotic like install Vista back then. And if you did, you fully deserve what you got! :D

        1. Boothy Silver badge

          Re: "Drivers" me mad...

          Ah nlite, had a couple of custom XP disks I created, one automated a few things just to save time, like selecting region/time zone, keyboard etc. Plus included SP2 (later SP3), plus a few useful drivers (RAID, network etc), and a couple of apps I always installed.

          The other had the same items, but automated everything! And when I say everything, I mean it would automatically wipe the primary drive and install the OS there, with no prompts!

          Needless to say, disk 2 had big red writing on saying something like "This will auto wipe the boot drive!!! Unplug all drives except the new boot drive!!!"

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Drivers" me mad...

            There must be a "Who me" in there somewhere.

            1. Boothy Silver badge

              Re: "Drivers" me mad...

              I see where you're going :-)

              But thankfully not! These were strictly for my use at home, so the disks never normally left the house, and were mainly used to keep a gaming PC and a test PC reasonably 'clean'.

              It was probably a year or so later that I started using VMware for the test systems, and so snapshots and cloning VMs removed most of the need for fresh installs. The gaming machine was eventually switched to Win 7, and so the XP disks dropped out of use.

              Oddly, I still have the XP disks! Got a few of those multi CD/DVD zip up folders, and I had a look over the weekend, and actually found my old OS and main Software collection in there!

              Blast from the Past:

              Several XP disks, retail copy, then another with SP1 and SP2 slipstreamed in, plus the above mentioned C: drive only one!!

              Hirens Boot CD!

              Disks for Office XP and Publisher XP.

              Server 2003.

              Visual Studio .NET (1st released version)

      2. kurkosdr

        Re: "Drivers" me mad...

        Ah yes, the eternal problem of XP not having bundled SATA drivers, with Microsoft not being able to fix it because the CD-ROM had already shipped (back in 2001). It was fixed in Windows Vista and Windows 7 about 13 years ago, so the pain is now gone. Now imagine that little driver problem expanded to your WiFi chip and your graphics card, and not being solved, and you have Desktop Linux.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: "Drivers" me mad...

          Or Windows (8/9/10, Server 20008 - 2019) on VMware with Paravirtual SCSI driver and VMXNet network card. You need the VMware Tools ISO to get the PV-SCSI driver installed, then you need the VMware Tools to be installed after Windows is installed, before you can use the network.

  7. karlkarl Silver badge

    Debian is probably better suited to more technical users.

    There are *many* distributions more suited to the beginner / GUI fanatic / Windows convert.

    So many of these gripes suggest they are on the wrong page and that they don't have much of an interest in learning how things work. They are not going in the same direction as the project. There are still many distros for these guys, no need to sit in the wrong community moaning.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      This. If it takes too much fiddling, then why is anyone wasting their time with it when there are so many alternatives?

      I'm all for alternatives. To each their own. But sometimes it's better to just move on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Debian is probably better suited to more technical users.

      Debian is only suited to those who like living dangerously, wondering what breakage the packagers would have caused today to the application that you use and expect to work.

      My last drop was when I spent a considerable amount of time debugging a system that had just stopped working and it boiled down to some self-entitled idiot removing the /dev/tcp Bash built-in. If you're going to do that (and as a packager you shouldn't) at least have the decency to make it obvious: change the name to Bish or Trash or something.

      When the SSH debacle came along I was already well away from Debian. It was just a matter of time before something like that happened.

    3. T-Rex Neb

      re: Debian is probably better suited to more technical users.

      Which is exactly the reason I'm running elementaryOS on all 4 of my Linux laptops, even though I'm in the command line every day. But it'd be better if Debian was better suited to all users, not technical users (even though I'm using Debian's grandson) because it would grow the user base. I have a tremendous interest in learning how things work, and also have an interest in using the computer to work, hence my choice. You do you, and I'll do me, but I think it be better for Debian overall if it--and by extension it's user base--was less insular and more ecuminical in terms of drivers out of the box.

  8. theOtherJT

    I wonder how old this complainant is...

    ...because not so very long ago I remember all too well that pretty much every machine came with a CD with Windows drivers on it and you could be pretty much certain that a clean Windows XP, 7 or 8 install would come up with VESA graphics and the odds of the wifi working "out of the box" were close to zero. We should probably give Microsoft some credit for the fact that that's no longer the case - but it's not the case in the vast majority of Linux distros either. Debian is still more aimed at technically adept users than the average layperson. If it weren't, there's be no need for things like Ubuntu or Mint. I really don't see that it's a problem in it's current form - and if it is the only thing they need to do to fix it is change the "DOWNLOAD" link on their website from the netinst image to the full install DVD.

    (And if they do that let's be clear - it'll just annoy people who will go "But why is the installer so large? Why not just download it on the fly?!")

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how old this complainant is...

      A compact netinst image still isn't much use if the netinst doesn't because it won't talk to the net. I have to admit that I'm used to that so if I'm using a netinst image I take the precaution of plugging in cable.

      And let there be a special curse on distros which provide an install-from-live image where the live image is all singing-dancing but only includes OSS drivers in the installation.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Re: I wonder how old this complainant is...

        You might be interested to know that the netinst image doesn't actually need to connect to the net. It seems a little "misnamed".

        It contains all the files needed for a complete "standard" Debian install, just not the desktop components.

        So actually the netinst image is perfect for setting up offline servers.

  9. steamnut

    If Debian does not work then there are lots of others....

    With many other Linux's available if Debian doesn't work out for whatever reason then try another. Although I have used SUSE for many years, I use Debian on the RPi's and recently installed Mint for a newbie (on a laptop too!). I would recommend trying Mint, then Ubuntu and then Zorin.

    If all these fail to please then feel free to go back to Windoze. But, if you do mange to get Linux working on the laptop you will never go back so do persevere.

    A really useful (free) package for trying various flavours of Linux is Ventoy. (https://www.ventoy.net/en/index.html). You can put loads of Linux ISO's on it by just copying therm.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: If Debian does not work then there are lots of others....

      Exactly. Sometimes it's best to move on. There are plenty of alternatives.

  10. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

    Wrong distro?

    Seems to me that if the complainant got flummoxed by the famously strange way that Debian manages its installers, Debian probably isn't the right distro for them.

    And there's no shame in that. There are plenty of excellent Debian-derivatives available, with a useful amount of drivers that make them a much more straightforward prospect.

  11. mykingdomforanos

    Learning Linux the Hard(-ish) Way

    I completely understand the frustration the user in question experienced, and have often marvelled at how Debian, in years past anyway, made even choosing a flavour of the distro a puzzling and (for me) non-intuitive process. Nevertheless, I think the complainant has gone to the wrong distro for someone new to the Linux desktop.

    There are much more beginner friendly distros out there. Some obvious candidates are Mint, Ubuntu, and whatever else is in favour these days. Debian's raison d'etre has always been that the OS and its ecosystem remain free as in speech/licensing/freedom. That philosophy guarantees that there are going to be some compromises and even occasional pain, even with the availability of "non-free" packages.

    IMO, Debian is better suited to the experienced and the more philosophically motivated user rather than to someone just moving over from the proprietary world. Debian attracts developers and community members who tend to have software freedom as their overriding priority, whereas there are other distros where the user experience and convenience are given greater emphasis. The whole point of having different distros is that they can be tailored for different audiences with different priorities, needs and levels of expertise. That's not to excuse unnecessarily complex or unintuitive processes, but going to a distro that announces up front that it doesn't want to trade freedom for convenience is probably not the best place to start if you're just moving over from Windows.

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Learning Linux the Hard(-ish) Way

      Yes, Debian has it's place. But as the first place to be after moving from Windows? That's a hard sell.

      The most productive thing to do for the newbie with a Debian ISO in their hands is to gently point them at linuxmint.com. If they are a Win7 refugee, suggest Mint-Mate.

  12. Jet Set Willy

    I've recently got fucked hard by Ubuntu - messed up my master boot record so bad that I had to reinstall Win10 pro. Linux is still the domain of the high-functioning user, but Windows is still required for many things. Can't we just get along?

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Whenever I set up dual boot I generally do two things...

      1. Install each OS to it's own drive. i.e. Not to separate partitions within the same drive.

      2. Only have one drive plugged in at a time during install, so their respective boot loaders only install on their own disks.

      Once installed I then plug both drives in and initially test via the MBs boot menu.

      Then once happy they work individually, I usually (although not always), set Linux (usually GRUB) as the default/primary boot drive for the system. Once I've booted up into Linux, I add the 2nd (aka Windows) drive into GRUB, and I can not select at boot time.

      Although this is on a desktop, so not much help for most Laptop users, as they are typically stuck with just the one drive (although not always).

    2. gerryg
      Windows

      Is that all you've got?

      If your MBR was damaged (let's run a survey on number of people that has happened to) all you have to do is reinstall your MBR. Actually I remember about 15 years ago trying to demonstrate SUSE to a hard bitten Windows sys admin. This was in the days when Microsoft refused to even pretend to play nice. And yes I lost the Microsoft MBR. It took about 2 minutes of unflustered admin to restore it but only by removing dual boot.

      Those were the days - have you slipped through a crack in the space-time continuum?

      1. Jet Set Willy

        Re: Is that all you've got?

        My MBR was royally fucked. The partition was fine and, believe me, I tried everything to recover it. The only way I was going to fix it was manual manipulation of Grub - something I'm not prepared to get in to.

        Windows does not present me with these problems. For good or ill, it is the gentlemens/idiots choice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Jet Set Willy - Re: Is that all you've got?

          For my own curiosity, did you ever try to install Windows 10 on the same computer alongside an existing Linux installation ? At least in Linux you have Grub to play with.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Jet Set Willy - Is that all you've got?

            Doesn't windows come with a bootloader these days? I could almost swear I saw one such thing (relatively) recently

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Is that all you've got?

        Years ago my first attempt at installing Linux was putting Mandrake (iirc) on a machine which already had OS/2 and W98 on it. Those two played nicely, but the Linux install screwed my disk so badly I had to reinstall everything from scratch.

        I posted to uk.comp.os.linux in search of advice and while a few people were very helpful, two or three spent a lot of time telling me that I was lying, that Linux couldn't do what I said it had done and that I was therefore obviously a paid Microsoft shill.

        How charming it is to see some of that attitude persisting.

  13. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

    My usual advice

    If you aren't technical at all, save/borrow more for a Mac.

    If you are a bit technically confident, Mint is a good choice.

    If you are strongly technical you probably don't need me, but Debian is a solid one.

    If you know what systemd means and don't like it, Void.

    This guy's problem though is that he knew what he needed, and Debian had very carefully hidden it.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: My usual advice

      I forgot one:

      Windows is only fit for when you need some piece of software that has no equivalent elsewhere. Of course, that includes a lot of games for many people.

      1. jason_derp Bronze badge

        Re: My usual advice

        Windows is only fit for...games...

        My Windows partition labels are "Game_OS_7/10“.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My usual advice

        Even then Windows is best run in virtualbox...

  14. wolfetone Silver badge

    Poor Guy

    He had a bad day, fair enough.

    But he wasn't there in 2004/2005 when you had to use ndiswrapper to actually get a wireless network card to work on Linux.

    We've come a long way baby.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @wolfetone - Re: Poor Guy

      And we all lived to tell the story! Amen to that!

  15. chuckufarley

    I love the way developers...

    ...get all high and mighty about the principles behind shoving their vision of what Free Software means down our throats. Anyone thinking that the old "Let them Eat Ubuntu" argument holds water hasn't thought it through. Some of these devs are unintentionally becoming worse then Gates or Ballmer because while Windows couldn't work well, Linux can work very well indeed. That's the entire point of any software: To allow you to use your computer. Putting any other so called "Principles" above that seems a very base form of hypocrisy to me. You know those firmware blobs get updates, right? And you know those updates fix bugs and security issues, right? So if the hardware manufacturers wish to protect their IP by hiding behind a binary driver blob I say let them as long the system stays stable and secure.

    If the devs don't want to use it that it up to them but they shouldn't expect the average person to feel that way or make them jump through hoops because the entire point of any software is to allow you to use your computer. Usability is the ultimate freedom. Free Software is an empty slogan without usability.

    1. mykingdomforanos

      Re: I love the way developers...

      No one's shoving anything down your throat. You seem to have missed the whole point of the distro ecosystem, *choice*. If you want to become the meal ticket for commercial software vendors, knock yourself out, but you don't have the right to insist that others do the same. Complaining about the approach Debian takes is like standing outside the HQ of a political party, complaining about their beliefs and manifesto. Walk on. You don't have to join and no one is forcing you to. There are plenty of other political parties for you to join. Can't find one you agree with? Then start your own. No one's stopping you.

      "Putting any other so called "Principles" above that seems a very base form of hypocrisy to me."

      One is not a hypocrite for failing to behave in a way that supports *your* views about the purpose of software, hypocrisy is claiming to believe in one thing while behaving in a way incompatible with that belief. So there's no hypocrisy here. Just scores of different Linux distros, each catering to different needs, priorities and preferences. AKA *choice*. If you don't like a particular distro, no one's forcing you to use it. I really cannot fathom what it is you're objecting to here.

      1. chuckufarley
        Joke

        Re: I love the way developers...

        You say that shipping crippleware in the name of Free Software is not hypocrisy.

      2. kc9hzn

        Re: I love the way developers...

        I’d say it’s an even better scenario than political parties. Political parties tend to be oligarchic, while it’s significantly more easy to fork a distro or to create your own. Additionally, political parties can gain political power and enforce their will on you, which is not true for distros, you always have the ability to fork. You’ve got a wide latitude of choice, which is one of the great things about the whole distro ecosystem and Linux’s greatest strength.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: I love the way developers...

      ... if the hardware manufacturers wish to protect their IP by hiding behind a binary driver blob I say let them as long the system stays stable and secure.

      Another problem with drivers as proprietary blobs is that they provide a means for the manufacturers to withdraw support for older hardware, pushing the user to discard the hardware and upgrade (yes, nVidia, I'm talking about YOU).

      ... and the nouveau driver in Buster seems to be broken for my hardware, even though that hardware is officially still supported (so I'm stuck on Stretch and the older version that worked -- but that's another story).

    3. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Re: I love the way developers...

      ...the principles behind shoving their vision of what Free Software means down our throats.

      It's not like the philosophy police are going to throw you in a Chinese gulag for re-education if you don't agree dude. I'm almost certain that a distro that jives with your core beliefs on FOSS (or lack thereof) exists, and whole boards exist to help you find it.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I love the way developers...

      "the entire point of any software is to allow you to use your computer."

      No, the entire point is what is intended by its creators, be that the devs themselves, the management who told the devs what to do, or a set of users who specified to the devs what they wanted. In Debian's case, it's a group of devs, and they decided they didn't want any binary blobs in the default distribution. If they forced you to use it, you'd have a point. They don't force you to use it. They don't even really try to persuade you to use it. They make it available, and you decide whether you're going to use it or not.

      I am currently developing a device which has what you could call an operating system. It does not make it easy to use the device. In fact, it's completely impossible for a user to use the device with just that operating system on it. The OS concerned has no user interfaces, including a command line. The reason: the OS is designed so that an application runs on top of it and provides the user interface. The OS's only goals are a bit of protection from misusing the hardware and recovery from an application crash. And that's exactly what I wanted, because I want my application to do the interface part.

      1. chuckufarley

        Re: I love the way developers...

        "No, the entire point is what is intended by..."

        In all that follows the ... you did not make single point that countered my statement that software allows you to use your computer. I don't care what kind of program you are righting or which OS you are running it on. Software makes programmable hardware usable. Otherwise all computers would be limited to the instructions that could fit on the chips. It doesn't matter a user with ever directly access the system or not.

        Now you are right to say that the Debian devs are not forcing me to use their software. In fact I would go so far so argue that their degree Zealotry is forcing a lot of Infidels like my self away from Debian because we, in our Unholy Filth, wish to actually use our hardware in ways close to the manner intended by the hardware manufacturers.

        As unnatural as it may seem to you, not everyone in the world wants to boot to a command line after a fresh install. Nor do most user wish to have a computer that doesn't connect to the internet.

        I am not trying to say that Debian doesn't have a place in the Linux ecosystem. I am just saying that every year that place is going to get smaller and smaller until things change because if you have to be a developer to use it then only developers will use it. That makes a good distro to base your distro on, but a lousy distro to use, even as a server. That will not last though because Debian isn't the only distro

        with good devs.

        OpenSuse, Fedora, Void, Funtoo, and even Gentoo make usability a higher priority than Debian does. And all them typically have much newer packages in their repositories. Think about that for a while and ask yourself where Debian will be 10 or twenty years from now.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: I love the way developers...

          I didn't counter that it allows you to use a computer, because that's sort of the definition of software. I countered that convenience is not the "entire point". Or rather, there may be points that are considered by the developers or the core set of users to be more important than convenience. It's common for software to remove some convenience elements in favor of security, or extra functionality, or extra modularity, or execution speed, or in this case openness of code. It is your choice whether you care about these things. By incorrectly saying that convenience is the entire point and alleging, again incorrectly, that inconvenience is being "shove[d] down your throat", you are misunderstanding why Debian exists, who sets the goals (hint, not you), why people care about openness of code, and many other aspects of the discussion. Your rebuttal does seem to acknowledge these to some extent, but I can only wonder why you missed them so much in the original post.

          1. chuckufarley

            Re: I love the way developers...

            Well, if it's semantics you want...

            Please do not confuse Convenience with Usability!

            If it's Freedom you want...

            Please don't tell me shipping crippleware in the guise of Free Software isn't a joke!

            Am I confused about why Debian exists? No, I think I have really good grasp of that one. Just because I don't write a novella to justify it doesn't make it so. What I am confused about is how Debian will continue to exist because the world is an ever changing place and they seem stuck in the year 2005. They have good VM support, but running containers is a headache. I cannot for the life of me name a single Cloud Provider that runs Debian on bare metal.

            Twenty-five years ago it was revolutionary to "apt-get install apache" and the Debian devs were at the forefront of innovation. Now, a human generation later, they are proud of their crippleware! We are more than 20% on the way through the 21st century. Any software that is not both easily usable and open sourced by this point in time is either an evolutionary dead end or a niche product. Anyone wanna call the Vegas odds makers about Debian's future?

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: I love the way developers...

              "Any software that is not both easily usable and open sourced by this point in time is either an evolutionary dead end or a niche product."

              A perfect quote to sum up why I don't understand your point. Factually, it's wrong. Lots of things lack one or the other of those yet are commonly used and are highly developed. The original problem, firmware for peripherals, is often closed-source. Sometimes, it's not convenient or good for usability (and by now I have no clue what you think that means) either. Yet GPUs, often a substantial perpetrator of that, are used all the time by all sorts of people and don't appear to be dying out.

              Furthermore, I don't understand why you denounce software that isn't open source while simultaneously decrying Debian's usability problem, which comes from only using open source code. Surely, if anything not open is an evolutionary dead end, then the open-only Debian should be just fine from that standpoint, and anything usability-related would be the fault of Debian-written code, rather than a failure to include dying binaries from others. If your point is just "I don't like Debian", you could have gotten there a lot faster. If you have a different point, I don't know what it is but it likely doesn't make sense.

        2. ayay

          Re: I love the way developers...

          "As unnatural as it may seem to you, not everyone in the world wants to boot to a command line after a fresh install. Nor do most user wish to have a computer that doesn't connect to the internet."

          Then don't.

          It is amusing how some people get offended by the fact that others want to do the weirdest things with the time, equipment, and expertise - all the while making the fruits of their efforts available for others who share the same passion, for FREE! How can that be offensive?

          And yes, it is also amusing how people compare Windows - pre-installed on most new consumer grade hardware - with any Linux distro, which you will most likely have to go through the effort to get set up and running. Not to mention the leverage Microsoft has on hardware makers, who end up being the ones chasing Windows compatibility, while Linux developers have to toil hard so the same hardware work seamlessly - binary blobs or not. It often does, impressively enough.

          And, after all of that, all you have to do is choose. Pick your distro. Each have their focus, strengths (and weaknesses), principles. All for free, and with a community you can be a part of!...

          ..and yet, that is somehow a problem. Because those free software dorks dare to have an OPINION, amirite? How dare them?

          Some see a problem with free software, I see how some people reward selfishness and greed. It is no wonder the corporations who care the less are the most prosperous - many people reward them not only out of convenience, but also out of principle too.

          1. chuckufarley

            Re: I love the way developers...

            That's cute and all, but I think you should read a bit more before you type. While you are not typing, study what you read. Get to know us. Did you know that on El Reg you can read the entire post history of a person just by clicking on their user name here in the comments section?

            If I didn't like their opinions I would let it slide as long it didn't have a real world impact on the things that I care about. Debian is dear to me and it pains me that the devs continue turning it ever tighter into a death spiral. As the world changes around them they seem intent to carry on fighting a battle that was won years ago. Some of them seem blind to the fact that real battles now and in the near future will be fought in hardware and the casualties triaged and treated in firmware.

            In the late 1990's one could install an entirely usable Linux desktop in less than 256MB of disk space. AMD now ships a CPU with that much L3 cache. How much longer until the OS-on-a-chip becomes main stream?

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: I love the way developers...

              "As the world changes around them they seem intent to carry on fighting a battle that was won years ago. Some of them seem blind to the fact that real battles now and in the near future will be fought in hardware and the casualties triaged and treated in firmware."

              That's the battle they're fighting, at least as far as wanting open firmware is concerned. If your concerns are that an OS on a chip will come along to lock us in, Debian's battles are helping you twice over. First, if they have any success at convincing companies to make more firmware open, then we won't be able to be locked in because we can edit the firmware as we do with software. Second, even if they don't have that effect (and they probably don't if we're realistic), their focus on open means we'd still have an alternative which could be run on something else.

              Some people don't care about the interest in having access and rights to edit all the running code. I get that; it's a tricky and complicated thing that involves a lot of minutiae. If you just didn't care and wanted an OS that didn't make anything not work just because the licenses don't line up, I'd understand and I'd tell you to look elsewhere. Instead, you seem to argue a point directly in line with Debian's viewpoint, then turn right around and lambast them for their view.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: I love the way developers...

        No, the entire point is what is intended by its creators,

        In other words the digital version of masturbation.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What makes you think only makes you stronger

    Debian installs, the only issue I have nowadays is installing the non free nVidia drivers often causes headaches. I have the same runarounds to work through on Fedora and Centos too. - On Desktops.

    IPv6 only networking only - never had the issue as I go through the settings before rebooting, Infact I always disable IPV6 and have IPV4 because for my sins I am on Plusnet at home and they still dont have IPV6 support rolled out.

    Partitioning - never been a problem on debian or other Linuxes, simply follow the links to custom partitioning. If you want a /home partition no problem. Since when has a standard windows install ever set up anything other than on a C: drive? for any normal none IT dept administered install?

    Can't install Windows from a CD/DVD as doesnt see hard drive (SATA on XP?) as someone suggests stream the drivers on to a copy of install media. Alternatively use a boot media such as UBCD4win that can see the hard drive, partition it system disk it and then copy the windows media on and install it from being on the actual hard drive. There are other utilities for installing from usb, There are utilities to make usb pens appear as floppy disks, which is what windows installers always used to want extra drivers on. It is why such utilities exist because someone found there could be a need for them.

    Old laptop cant boot from USB except a USB floppy (Toshiba Portege) oh my there is Plop boot manager and once installed it can boot and run from any suitable USB device.

    Window Me - damn it I bought it. Wouldnt install on any PC or laptop I had that was well above minimum specs (700MHz Duron 768MB RAM 80GB hard drive) It complained every computer didnt meet the specs required. It installed on a Canon CN600 P120 with 24MB RAM which was below specs.

    Windows 95 installs that would only run if the files had been copied to a folder on the hard drive and started from dos.

    OS2 Warp installs that instantly forgot it was on CD if the CD was attached through the sound card. Buy an IDE CD drive - oops the same. Produce dozens of floppy disks from the 2x CD's and install that way. Oh no it only sees it as standard VGA - use dial up Internet from Win 95 to find drivers and install them from floppy disk. 2 years too late found it installed from SCSI CD ROM drive borrowed from my Amiga if it was on an adaptec card in the PC.

    All a pain in the backside at the time, but as a result it taught me to be prepared to look around to find solutions.

    Someone has complained of systemd, I dont like it, it slows my Debian desktop right down booting or opening certain programs, but as for it not allowing you to run items from rc.myscriptshere. I dont have that problem even on an old Android TV box that running as a bananapi clone. The SATA hard drive mounts then auto unmounts after 8 seconds of usage if mounted via /etc/fstab So I found I run the mounts as single line inputs on my /etc/rc.local no need to even create a service within systemd - which isnt hard anyway. It still works from rc.local and doesnt keep unmounting itself and also no longer causes gparted to crash when sda becomes sdb then sdc and so on. The system is running Armbian based on Debian Buster.

    The bananapi clone doesnt see the ethernet port or the wifi/bluetooth or the 4 xUSB ports - a different distro for the Bananapi the USB works but not the ethernet, another one ethernet works and not the USB. Armbian with a two line edit of the /boot/armbianEnv.txt everything works and it makes a great tvheadend server for home. My actual bananapi and raspberry pi2 work flawlessly as long as the SD card doesnt corrupt.

    My point being anyone that wants to install something different than it came with or even builds their own PC's needs to and should be prepared to do some reading and searching for answers to issues. Otherwise buy a big name fully installed system full of bloat and crap, a Mac or find a vintage Amiga - they also mostly just worked!!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IPv6 only networking only ...

      It was hard to be sure, seeing as I was on an ip4 network, and networking wasn't up, but the *impression* I got was not that ip4 was turned off by default in debian buster; but that ip4 capability was instead either entirely absent or entirely hidden [1]. I may have been wrong, but - having got the distro on usb stick and been most of the way through an install - no sort of "ip4-on" mechanism was visible. Probably I could have easily downloaded the necessary packages, but for some reason networking wasn't up :-)

      [1] I suppose maybe it was possible that ip4 could have been turned on, if only I could complete the install I couldn't complete without ip4?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: IPv6 only networking only ...

        My experience with the Debian installer and the Devuan equivalent is that it tries both although I haven't installed Buster. But I see from the Debian site that they include the Calamares installer on the live images. Could it be a Calamares thing?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IPv6 only networking only ...

        The install from the full install media rather than from a live disk image certainly lets you enable or disable IPv4, IPV6 and even whether it needs to use one protocol type to use to be allowed to complete the other.

        I must admit to never having installed from a Debian live media. Out of habit I even disable IPV6 on my windows installs at home as I have no external IPV6 so currently little use for it.

        There are currently 18 computers in my house even though I am now semi retired.

        A few years ago I did have an issue that turned out to be a bad cable, On ethernet which was set to auto negotiate not just dhcp but connection speed and duplex settings. It was timing out setting an IP address during install of any distros I tried on the computer, also the Windows already installed wouldnt connect.

        Configuring for a manual IP address at 100mbit half duplex the install completed. Replacing the cable fixed the problem, which caught me out as the same cable worked fine connected to another computer and connected to the same powerline adapter (easiest way to get ethernet to that part of the building), it was breaking down internally depending on the cable routing!

        It had happened years before at work on a customers Mac network but I had forgotten the headaches it caused. Now I check the settings manually on every fresh install Linux or Windows. Prevents hair loss and becoming a Homer Simpson lookalike, still soundalike tho' d'oh.

  17. amacater

    Debian installer

    As one of the people cited in the article: Debian's fully free installer provides a step to stop and add firmware - usually from a USB stick. As a convenience, the unofficial installer includes that firmware on the CD. Unfortunately, most folk with laptops want to install over Wifi - which is not the best install method if you have Ethernet available. One of my colleagues recommends a USB -> Ethernet adapter which works well if you can.

    We could change the link on the front of the website to point directly to the CD including firmware but it won't stop some of the problems that people have. There have been flamewars and a GR [General Resolution] in Debian on the issues of what was free software/free firmware/free documentation a while back.

    For those who recommend Mint/MX or other smaller derivatives: these all depend on Debian and have comparatively fewer devs of their own to fix problems - nothing's easy.

    1. T-Rex Neb

      Re: Debian installer

      Of course laptop users want to install over WiFi. It's not unfortunate, it's a feature! Being tethered to an ethernet cable completely defeats the whole raison d'être of implied portability. Why wouldn't they expect the WiFi to be usable out of the box?

  18. itzman
    Thumb Up

    Linux MINT

    Debian that 'just works'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux MINT

      Not guaranteed. I've dabbled with linux numerous times over the years. Following el Reg's recent review of Mint 20.1 I gave it another go. Made a live USB with some space assigned for persistent storage. Booted into Mint and got the settings the way I like and checked to make sure various things worked, then installed the security updates. Rebooted and was confronted with a kernel panic! So no, Mint doesn't "just work" either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux MINT

        Mint isnt proof against bad hardware

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twas ever thus with linux!

    The neckbeards will never relent and simply respond, "You want ease of use? Build it your god damn self!"

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tell Dan…

    …to use OpenSUSE.

    Or Manjaro.

    1. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Re: Tell Dan…

      It'd be funny (though cruel) to throw the poor bastards in the Gentoo tank.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tell Dan…

      Tell Dan…

      …to use OpenSUSE.

      I've just tried exactly what you suggested using a OpenSUSE "Leap" 15.2 live USB stick.

      Here's what a new user is confronted with when they access the app menu.

      https://ibb.co/n3PxbMg

      Names beyond a certain length get abbreviated and end with an ellipsis. We can therefore have instances where two apps have the same name! "YaST software ...", for example. OK, very ugly but not a dealbreaker, so I thought! Perhaps mousing over the icon or text will flash up the full name? Nope! Perhaps right clicking on the icon will offer some added insight? Nope again!! So we have a situation where the only way of identifying an app in the menu is to open said app. The descriptor text might as well not exist. Really?!?!

      By the way, the year is 2021, almost 60 years since the first GUI emerged that happened to do a better job than this abomination that ships as standard with OpenSUSE, who themselves have been in the Linux game for 26 years!

      Now, I know what happens at this point. It becomes a blame game. Oh that's GNOME's fault! Oh that's because you've not got the xyz graphics driver installed! etc. etc. etc. Just nonsense which serves as a monumental barrier to entry for any newbie.

      By the way, I'm using a bog standard 2016 era ThinkPad from Lenovo, who are known to be one of the most Linux-friendly manufacturers, so the exotic hardware excuse is also null and void I'm afraid.

      Really, this is all just unforgivable and explains precisely why it's never ever going to be the Year of Linux on the Desktop. Hell, we'll have stopped using desktops by the time the Linux community gets its act together!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tell Dan…

        You touched something, didn't you? That is *not* a default OpenSUSE install, which uses KDE.

      2. Smirnov

        Re: Tell Dan…

        Well, it actually *is* a GNOME issue, and using the same (apparently pretty low) display resolution and desktop setting longer names are truncated on other distros which use GNOME, too, so I'm not sure what your point is (aside from you not knowing GNOME and the mess it is).

        As it's been mentioned elsewhere, the default desktop for openSUSE is KDE, to which SUSE is a main contributor. And KDE is a lot more polished than GNOME.

        The only desktop systems were we use GNOME is on those running RHEL, and only because that's what RH supports (now that we move these systems over to SEL they'll be moving to KDE, which is what most our non-RHEL systems use)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tell Dan…

          "Well, it actually *is* a GNOME issue, and using the same (apparently pretty low) display resolution and desktop setting longer names are truncated on other distros which use GNOME, too, so I'm not sure what your point is (aside from you not knowing GNOME and the mess it is)."

          You've proven my point that "just use OpenSUSE" is no panacea for the Linux newbie. If GNOME is such a mess, why list it as a prominent option (see below)?

          "As it's been mentioned elsewhere, the default desktop for openSUSE is KDE, to which SUSE is a main contributor. And KDE is a lot more polished than GNOME."

          In which case they need to make that more clear on the live ISO download page.

          https://ibb.co/p4nxFgf

          I went with the left hand option since, like most people in the West, I scan pages from left to right.

  21. Blackjack Silver badge

    Small market share of Debian?

    How many Linux distros are based on Debian again?

    1. amacater

      Re: Small market share of Debian?

      200 or so if you include each flavour of Ubuntu as it's own. There are three or four main streams: Slackware, Debian, Red Hat and Gentoo/build it from source. The largest number of surviving distributions are Debian-based. [I used to maintain the LDP Distributions HOWTO and helped Rebecca Sobol of LWN check the distributions list more recently.]

    2. T-Rex Neb

      Re: Small market share of Debian?

      A metric scheisse-ton.

  22. DwarfPants
    Meh

    My personal favorite examples

    Windows, Installs fine writes loads of stuff to the hard drive, except compatible hard drive controller driver. Rebooo....oh

    Not really driver, Linux multiple screen setup. Two screens exactly as I want them. Reboot no trace of ideal configuration or even the ability to set it again.

    these are both historic and offer great learning experiences, if you don't want to get on with whatever it was you were installing the stuff for in the first place

  23. markstevent

    My personal rant about all Linux variants

    Background:

    Started in IT in 1974 operating IBM mainframes running the "real" DOS

    Moved to development with COBOL writing insurance software

    Moved to internal IT Audit with an American bank in 1984

    Was presented with an IBM PC and a floppy with Lotus 123 and asked to write a budget program

    Worked with IBM PCs and Token Ring networks, then ethernet. Worked with DOS Windows, then real Windows - just about every version

    Moved to External Audit and was given a Mac, the all-in-one box - I hated it, you couldn't get behind the curtains to see how it worked, or fiddle with it.

    Moved back to Windows - thank the flying spaghetti monster!

    I have worked with Windows ever since.

    Many times I have been tempted by Ubuntu and installed it and tried to get it to work. Every time I have come across a problem (e.g. adding shares from windows folders) to which the solution was just totally non-intuitive. So I googled for help and found not one, but ten different solutions, none of which worked!. So I gave up again and waited for a new version. And each new version had new problems which required using arcane character strings and commands which had no inherent meaning, some of which worked and others didn't - with no hint as to what was wrong.

    I have heard so many people advocating that we should all move to some variant of Linux. What they all apparently forget or ignore, is that the majority of people don't want a computer - they want Office type applications, email, games, films and music. And they want them to just work, they don't want to have to dive into a world of arcania and magic! I don't consider myself a newbie, but I am not prepared to commit many months to learning the details of Unix/Linux/Ubuntu, I have a life and a real job!. If you really, really want people to adopt a Unix variant, you have to make it just work, that is how Apple (spit!) succeeded.

    1. Jet Set Willy

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      My experience entirely.

      This ˅˅˅˅˅˅˅

      "I don't consider myself a newbie, but I am not prepared to commit many months to learning the details of Unix/Linux/Ubuntu, I have a life and a real job!."

      Spare me the pious Linux/Unix purists.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

        Coming from Unix my position was the converse - not prepared to commit many months learning the details of Windows.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

        Nor do you have to. For a lot of users, there is a Linux variant that includes the stuff they want and is easy to use. That just isn't the same distro as Debian. If you want to use a system that has a lot of stuff included, there are options. That's not saying everything will be easy on that, because if you want to do more technical things,, you'll sometimes have to learn some technical details, but most of the software you talk about will run without fiddling. Expecting every distribution of Linux to do that though is just not going to happen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      If you really, really want people to adopt a Unix variant, you have to make it just work, that is how Apple (spit!) succeeded.

      I think this is the crux of the problem with Linux. No distribution is large/focused enough to make things just work for the everyday user - Ubuntu/Canonical included.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

        > No distribution is large/focused enough to make things just work for the everyday user

        OpenSUSE. Miles ahead of everything else.

      2. FatGerman

        Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

        This. So much this. There's so many arguments, so much infighting, so much fragmentation. For all it's talk about openness and working together, the Open Source world is essentially a large collection of very small cliques, all of them working very hard to prevent the others from achieving the very thing they're all trying to do.

    3. alisonken1

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      <quote>

      What they all apparently forget or ignore, is that the majority of people don't want a computer - they want Office type applications, email, games, films and music.

      </quote>

      "Office type ..." is incorrect.

      "MS Office on a non-MS platform"

      "Photoshop on a non-MS platform"

      ...

      And the list goes on ....

      1. T-Rex Neb

        Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

        You can get MS Office and Photoshop on a Mac, which is a non-MS platform, so where are you going with this?

    4. yetanotheraoc

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      Ah yes, the famous "It just works [tm]". Except, in the rare cases it's true, it also turns out the system is doing things you don't want it to do, and there's no way to turn off that functionality without making the system "not work".

      Where I work for pay it's a Windows shop. Windows is fabulous -- because there's a whole IT department to deal with network, security, updates, licenses, etc. When things fall over, which is common, I just do something else and wait a day for the fix to roll out. But at home my Windows 10 machine is a cluster, at this point I only boot it air-gapped whenever I want to burn a DVD. Next I have a recent Intel-based MacBook Air. I really like it, it mostly holds my hand and takes care of me, and when I want I can get stuff done on the command line. A decent compromise, but the software I really want needs CrossOver. Finally I also have a Devuan install. This is the one that really respects my choices. The price of this is I do have to do part-time sysadmin chores. It has the same limitation with software, some Wine required. I go back and forth between Linux and macOS, depending on what I am coding at the moment.

      So to sum up, NONE of these operating systems "just work". The mac comes close, but at a hefty cost. But "just works" is a mirage. It's what the end users want, and it's what they are never going to get. After all, there's a good reason most of us are unofficial first-line support!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

        Noooooooooooooooooo All operating systems just work.

        They just dont always work in the way you want them to.

        OS= Operating system it should run the things in the background it needs to without fuss and be invisible in use for the software programs the user wants to run. If it doesnt then may be a different choice of OS is required.

    5. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      "I have heard so many people advocating that we should all move to some variant of Linux."

      I think you should just use what works for you and the problems you are trying to solve and the work you need to do. Time is short, especially for those of use who date from the mainframe era.

      (If curious about the Linux world, just try WSL for some tasks, or try a VM install of e.g. Mint, or put up a Linode virtual server instance and have a play with a Web site for giggles)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      So you basically never used Unix? That's the only explanation I can find for someone from the old guard being deceived by Canonical's marketing prowess.

      They're good at selling, but their distro sucks balls. Not surprised you'd be put off if you thought that Linux = Ubuntu.

      I had done some work on my very own conspiracy theory according to which Canonical was secretly founded by Steve Ballmer. Unfortunately it wasn't outlandish enough to be a good conspiracy theory.

    7. T-Rex Neb

      Re: My personal rant about all Linux variants

      Love my Macs, being using them since 1984. Also built my own WinXP boxes that died from cruft. Used WinXP and Win7 at work for 20 years. Dabbled in Hackintoshes. Currently have 4 macs and 4 linux laptops. Hate Win10 and its ilk. I use my macs for most of my production and my linux laptops for fiddling and learning Linux, although I do use them for chat/email/surfing/calendaring as req'd. Glad I never tried to put Debian on a laptop, it'd probably drive me to distraction. Love elementaryOS and how it looks/feels/works right out the box, w/ some added apps that can be easily found and installed. Love mucking about in the CLI. Love the fact that if the Linux machine borks, I can re-install, no harm, no foul, as all of my data's in the cloud. I will say that the build quality of my ThinkPad, EliteBook, ZBook, and Latitude is nowhere near the build quality of my MacBook Pros (currently running Big Sur Beta, thank you very much). That said, the way Apple breaks the UIX during system upgrades is frustrating for this audiobook aficionado. I get my library books using OverDrive Media Console (ODM), which has a 32-bit app for 10.14 and for Windows. So I keep my 27" iMac at 10.14 so that my DVD ripping software (for archival purposes), my DVD converting software (for archival purposes), my ondesoft audiobook converter (for archival purposes), and my ODM keep working. I used WinODM on my Linux VM for a while, but after a while, something corrupted with the Wine/winetricks/Windows Media Player 10 install and it quit working, which is frustrating as all get out.

      This thread is such a fun read for me, as I've been chipping away at using/learning Linux/FOSS for years (including trying to install a WiFi driving using ndiswrapper).

  24. jason_derp Bronze badge

    Interesting

    This is very true of Debian. This has been my experience installing it on a laptop. HOWEVER, this has also been my experience installing with Windows.

    It is very infreient (read: never) that I haven't had to hunt down Realtek or Atheros WiFi (and sometimes ethernet!) drivers for Windows after a clean install.

    I suppose it's worth mentioning that this is when I install Windows using my own media and not the manufacturer-provided version that requires hours of updating, contains tankers of bloat, and seems to work slightly worse each time a "fresh" install is done.

    Maybe that is not a universal experience though? If the idea of "install it and it just works" is the expectation of the user, they can always use Mint. Debian is not a distro to ease one into Linux in my amateurish opinion. I spend (literally) almost the whole day on a computer, with work, schoo, entertainment, and some home projects from the same Pop!OS desktop. I sometimes move to a Debian laptop, and occasionally a Ubuntu or Fedora tower serving arcane purposes unknown to even myself at other places in the house. However, I needed a true and pure wrath towards Windows and a lot of patience and beating my head against the wall to reach this point.

  25. kc9hzn

    Isn’t that what Debian-based distros like Ubuntu are for?

    Debian understandably takes a harder stance on free vs non-free than other distros. But distros like Ubuntu can be based on Debian yet have non-free software available through their package management system, for instance. Isn’t that the whole idea of such distros? You can use a more-free, perhaps harder-to-use distro like Debian as the basis for a less-free, perhaps easier-to-use distro and benefit from their engineering efforts by following upstream patches and landing your ideologically compatible patches in the upstream repo. Isn’t that the whole idea behind distros? That they’re different bundles of free and optionally non-free software that allow for different governance policies but provide the basis for interoperability? I don’t see why Debian would necessarily need to be more approachable and make it easier to install non-free drivers when Debian could largely stick to its principles and those who want easier to install non-free drivers could fork Debian yet have a distro that closely tracks Debian in general. For that matter, major contributors could easily move between both distros, the community connection could be that close.

    1. FatGerman

      Re: Isn’t that what Debian-based distros like Ubuntu are for?

      I recently installed Kubuntu on a Dell laptop. Not only did it install and work without a hitch, it also offered me a firmware update for my Logitech wireless mouse, and a BIOS update for the laptop, neither of which I'd ever been offered by Windows Update.

      Debian couldn't even recognise the WiFi adapter.

      I guess Debian provides the base that other people can use to make something that works.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dell, HPQ, etc

        "I recently installed [whatever] on a Dell laptop."

        Is the Dell product range like HPQ's used to be? IE consumer laptops with the lifetime of something slightly longer than the blink of an eye, and little chance of Linux support, and then in the opposite corner a separate (and separately priced) range of business laptops (and desktops) with a lifecycle of a few years if you make the right choices at time of purchase?

        Like a few others already said, my experience has been that [Open]SUSE generally works well, especially as HPQ actually used to qualify it on much of their business-class desktop and laptop ranges. I'm a Linux noob though, only started tinkering around the days of RH4 and OpenSUSE 8 or thereabouts. And before Mandrake was even on the radar.

    2. chuckufarley

      Re: Isn’t that what Debian-based distros like Ubuntu are for?

      Ubuntu is not been based on Debian. They out grew it years ago. They may still have programs apt-get but they use their own code base now

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Isn’t that what Debian-based distros like Ubuntu are for?

        Ask Ubuntu begs to differ...

        "In every Ubuntu release, there's an initial import from Debian unstable for many packages in main. After 9 weeks or so, that process is frozen and the versions are locked down."

        The rest of the answer includes a link to the Ubuntu wiki for details of package import and freeze dates.

        It seems to me that Canonical is trying to reduce the range of packages it's paid developers have to maintain, not 'outgrowing' at all.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes. Hit meet nail head

    As a pretty hopeless tinkerer, that is the big reason I have only ever tentatively titted around with Linux in one or other of its flavours.

    I have had a go several times but I have never ever ended up with an install of which I could ever say ""bloody hell that's great. I'm gonna put that on a decent box and use it as my main machine." That has never happened to me. All too often something doesn't quite work, breaks, doesn't do what you thought it might, needs the entrails of a chicken read to predict what will happen next, has weird things needed (even "simple" stuff, like setting up a password only to have something pops to tell me I need a "Keychain" -wtf?), or you are told you "just need to use the command line" and are presented with instructions to type a sudo string of incomprehensible characters like "plop wee wee poo poos: grep paper -wipe -a -r -s -e" or somesuch.

    I really, really hate to say this but please, can there be a distro that is as easy (relatively) to find, download, install, use, maintain and tweak, as Windows XP or 7. Linux mint hit closest but I still failed completely to understand what the bleeding hell I was doing, why I was doing it and what I shoud do to get out of the mess I found myself. Or indeed if I was in a mess at all.

    Use the Mrs Miggins test. Get the office cleaner and the tea lady to have a go at installing and using. If they can't do it, you've got nothing more than a nerds special product and NOT a serious, polished operating system

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

      "Use the Mrs Miggins test. Get the office cleaner and the tea lady to have a go at installing and using. If they can't do it, you've got nothing more than a nerds special product and NOT a serious, polished operating system"

      Not a bad test, but try getting someone to install Windows from scratch and you'll find it's harder than you thought. Not for us, but for the general public, when the installer asks whether it should automatically partition and format the disk, with the warning about erasure, they usually come to the technical person and say "Please finish this installation and bring it back". Also, it depends what tasks you expect the nontechnical to be able to do once the computer's up and running. Click on the word processor and type in a document? They will be able to do that on Linux or Windows. Connect to a network folder? Sorry, but you'll find a bunch of nontechnical people don't know how to do that on Windows either. Configure a printer? You're now rolling the dice on whether the printer is a standard kind which will just work on everything or whether you'll end up in driver limbo, and that happens on both OSes albeit with different sets of working printers. Comparing a personal Linux machine to a work-administered Windows machine may make it seem like users know how to make Windows do lots of complex stuff, but usually it's IT which did that and they only know how to use, not enable and configure, that stuff.

      1. T-Rex Neb

        Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

        Regarding printers, though, 9.99 times out of 10, you'll find a printer driver for either Win10 or MacOS. I did find a linux driver (actually 2 for the printer and 2 for the scanner) for my Epson ET-4760, installed them and was able to successfully print a test page. Nothing prints after that. Errors out every time. It will print, however for my MBPs running 11.2 and my iMac running 10.14, no issues whatsoever. Talk about frustrating.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC - Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

      Have you ever tried handing Mrs Miggins a brand new computer with a blank hard disk and ask her to setup Windows 7, 8 or 10 ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC - Yes. Hit meet nail head

        Once Mrs Miggins masters that, pass her a Samsung laptop supplied with a small internal SSD as well as a SATA HDD and see if she can master a fresh install of Windows. When it overrides everything and wants to use the SSD and says it has no space for a system partition.

        Mrs Miggins Series 1 Episode1 after the previous pilot episode it could be the shortest TV series ever!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC - Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

      Should I detail you how many countless hours I've spent in a fruitless attempt to setup an HP multifunction printer on Windows ? Heck, I even had to capture packets and analyze traffic. Best part was when using the HP provided troubleshooting tool, it discovered the printer on my home network but refused to configure it because "printer could not be found". And there's no command line where I can fix it.

      Printer is still in its original box on the floor after more than 1 year from purchase.

      As for the string of incomprehensible characters, it looks you haven't seen a PowerShell script yet.

    4. butmonkeh

      Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

      I'd say try OpenSuse Tumbleweed. The installer is beautiful, it will let you select all the software *you* need in a distro (including DE - KDE / Gnome / Xfce / etc). Zypper (the package manager), and YaST (the GUI for using it) will inform you of any potential issues of installing something, and present you with choices of what to do, and the likely consequences of those choices.

      The real beauty though is the BTRFS filesystem and Snapper tool to accompany it. Each time your system changes (installing software / updates, etc) you will automatically be able to roll your system back to before that, and it keeps a history of each change. So if you have a little tinker, and it doesn't work out, reboot, select that read-only snapshot, and boot. Then one simple command will take you back in time (sudo snapper rollback) . So something you tinkered with today doesn't work because of something you tinkered with last weekend - select last weekends snapshot, and you're away. Your documents / files / etc aren't removed if they were created after that point (and there are no multi-Gb 'snapshots' created), but the filesystem is journaled so it can keep track of what state the system has been in since you installed it (default keeps 100 snapshots before the oldest is deleted).

      It's on the 'bleeding-edge' of the Linux world, but it's fast, stable, and so easy to roll back an update / install / tinker if something regresses / fails. It takes the fear of borking your OS away, and leaves you free to learn / tinker to your hearts content.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

        >The real beauty though is the BTRFS filesystem

        Agreed with the rest of your post. But as for your aesthetic values…

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

        I'd certainly suggest OpenSUSE for the reasons you suggest.

        "It's on the 'bleeding-edge' of the Linux world"

        Opensuse Tumbleweed is bleeding edge, and there's also Opensuse Leap, which is somewhat less bleeding edge and may be a better fit for some folks needs. I've been using various Leaps for a few years. Here's a comparison between the two, dating from 2016 (yes it's been around that long)

        https://www.zdnet.com/article/side-by-side-opensuse-tumbleweed-and-leap/

        Or for coverage more uptodate than 2016, maybe try

        https://en.opensuse.org/Portal:Tumbleweed

        or various others.

        On Youtube, depending on preferences, readers could try e.g.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf3b6b1iHIA ("Explaining Computers", Sept 2020)

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

          I'd been using OpenSUSE for years but then it wanted to upgrade to Leap which was 64 bit only. Unlike other distros which just told 32 bit users they would need to reinstall the 64 bit version from scratch, or hang around on the last 32 bit version until it goes out of support, OpenSUSE had a n upgrade path. Admittedly it was a page full of instructions, rather than an automated option, but it was fairly painless and it worked.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Yes. Hit meet nail head

            I haven't had a 32 bit system for at least 16 years. Certainly longer because that's when I recall someone at the computer shop telling a customer not to bother with a 64 bit computer because "nothing ran on 64 bit" and thinking "how odd, my last couple of installs (Linux, obvs) have been 64 bit". It just defaulted that when if it saw the processor would support it.

  27. Me.I.Am

    I'll just stick with my Centos 8 installation .... Oh right !

    The reality is I like my OS to just work to do the job I need it to do. I use Windows 10, Centos, Tinycore, Windows Server 2019, Free as, Linux Mint etc etc.

    But the next time I need total privacy, and openness I will in deed consider Debian, as I am signing into IceWeasle to access my Outlook account and shop on Amazon whilst listening to my free Spotify (wait wrong kind of free right ?) ... ! At least YouTube never fails me.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. PhilipN Silver badge

    "Windows just works"

    Learn something new ....

  29. saskwatch
    Linux

    Link to Debian Non-Free

    http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/10.7.0-live+nonfree/amd64/iso-hybrid/

    Debian for the agnostics who want things to work. Very rarely run into any hardware it doesn't have out of the box.

    Surprised nobody posted this earlier. This is the current stable version. Prefer testing myself. It's there too if you look around.

    1. T-Rex Neb

      Re: Link to Debian Non-Free

      Thank you for this. I noodled around Debian's website and it wasn't readily apparent.

  30. jezza99

    I guess from this discussion that 2021 is the year of Linux on the desktop!

  31. Herby

    Real men....

    Use something wonderful: OS/360.

    Given today's expanse of disk and main memory, it would easily be done now.

    Yes, the '60s have called and they like their OS.

    Me: I used an os on a different group of machines. They used EBCDIC and had nice "big endian" attributes, and bits numbered from left to right!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did I miss a memo?

    Server, VM => Debian, or server linux of your choice. (Is red hat still good?)

    Laptop => use the Linux provided by the vendor, or Ubuntu (and make a donation to the Debian project)

  33. karlkarl Silver badge

    Did you know...

    Public Service Announcement:

    The netinst image doesn't actually need the net to install. It contains everything including the "standard system utilities". It just doesn't contain the desktop stuff.

    So if any sysadmins here used to download the 600MB Xfce image just to set up a server... now you know. Netinst is suitable for that, it is just a little bit misnamed.

  34. whitepines
    Facepalm

    Identity crisis?

    The reason I use Debian, on purpose, is exactly the fact they don't ship proprietary software cleverly hidden away. If they start doing that, I'll have to start looking at other distros.

    If.you want proprietary stuff you don't control, can't fix, and want to put up with all the privacy and security issues of using someone else's unaudited closed source software, there are lots of other options. Ubuntu and Mint leap to mind.

    1. comb_ridge

      Re: Identity crisis?

      Think we need a balance here. I've been using a Slackware based distro for years (salix). It's a nice balance of working out of the box and installing software. It's been very stable but feeling dated so I got the distro itch and have been trying Devuan. It's been quite frankly a struggle in some areas, I think mainly because of a lack of good coherent, easy to find, documentation. I have tried and used Ubuntu - Mint for a few years previously to Salix but found it would get itself tangled up after a while. I like Slackware but do not care for KDE, hence Salix.

      I guess my point is, what good is it if the network card or video is wonky or a common piece of software is a PITA to get working.

      Then we wonder why Linux isn't more popular.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Identity crisis?

        Slackware ships with XFCE, you're not stuck with KDE,

        If anyone cares, Slackware-current is going to do a rebuild against glibc-2.33 as soon as it is released, so if you're not interested in upgrading pretty much everything in a week or so, you might want to wait until then. Also note that it is rumo(u)red that Slackware 15.0 will be in beta AnyDayNow[tm]. See PV's comment dated Jan 18 in the change log.

  35. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    What's needed, I think, is a way to distinguish between the ideologically pure operating system which doesn't actually work and the running-dog revanchist version which does. I suggest that, in honour of the greatest single obstructor of free software, we call the former "GNU/Linux" (Generally Not Usable) and the latter "Linux".

    1. T-Rex Neb

      Hah. That's funny right there.

  36. Binraider Bronze badge

    Debian has been finicky like this for as long as I can remember, generally needing a second computer to get the files you need. Derivatives of Debian do well by giving the option to install non-free components at install; along with an explanation of what they represent. Hence, I don’t use Debian.

    The ideological purists can harp on for the next 3 decades if they want, but a computer that works is fundamentally the thing I want, and by extension what most others want too. Mint, Mandriva and others - can be up and installed in 20 mins no bother whatsoever. Debian - interminably a multi hour troubleshoot.

    Do you want users to actually use Debian, or for it just to be a base for other projects, because increasingly, it’s the latter.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      I can't speak for the Debian devs, but I'd be satisfied to keep it as a base. I don't win by wanting everyone to use Debian alone. I might win by being the basic underpinning of all the popular versions because they contribute upstream, I maintain a base which can easily improve all the downstream builds, and I don't have to make the twenty different versions that people like. If Debian is to be a component in many other versions, why is that a problem? Its users can still use it alone if they want.

      1. Binraider Bronze badge

        By being a 'base' only it is missing one of the projects goals as a universal operating system. Accessibility is a goal to that end of 'universal' too. The noob experience of Debian is frankly awful, and after about 20 years of mucking around with various Linux flavours I would not recommend it to those fleeing Windows.

        It's better today than some earlier releases that unceremoniously dumped a new user at the terminal with no clue what to do next... But far from the polished experience found elsewhere. In short, it has its uses, but is not universal. I'd say dont buy hardware that relies on non-free components, but in laptop land that's often difficult.

  37. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Agreed

    I've found the situation a little silly with the "100% libre" Linux distros too -- I can run Ubuntu with 100% free and open source kernel, 100% free and open source drivers, and 100% free and open source software running on top of it. But it's not "100% libre" or "100% free" because of a whole pile of firmware blobs that are loaded onto various devices as needed (which is why my wifi and bluetooth actually work out of the box with it).

    Older hardware would have a ROM with some firmware in it, somewhat newer would have a flash ROM so you could update this firmware; so, after that, device makers chose to put RAM on the device instead and the driver loads firmware into RAM at run time. But to the "100% libre" point of view, having firmware in a ROM is fine, but it's forbidden to have the exact same firmware in a file and load it onto the device RAM when the driver sets up the device. To me this is very silly, and I would agree with those that advocate the "firmware blobs included" Debian should be the default, with the "100% libre" or "pure" or whatever version being an option for those who want it.

    I'm all for keeping closed source drivers out of a stock install (I do use the nvidia driver on my desktop, but secure in the knowledge that the fully free nouveau driver also supports my hardware, so I'm not at the mercy of Nvidia to keep updating the drivers). Using fully free drivers avoids relying on the vendor to update them, lets one inspect the source, and also allows full portability (i.e. x86, arm, powerpc, whatever CPU you feel like, you can recompile an open source driver, but not a binary blob). But Ubuntu does that, it defaults to nouveau and mentions you can install nvidia driver if you want to.

    Firmware blobs? Well, firmware blobs do not let you see the source, but neither would a device where the firmware is already on a ROM (you do get to the driver source though, so you can see what the driver itself is doing in terms of interfacing with the firmware); the blob does leave it up to the vendor to update it until they've worked out any bugs, but devices with ROMs have the same issue; and (unlike a closed source driver) a closed-source firmware blob in no way prevents building or porting the driver to other CPU types, loading the blob is just part of the initialization process for the hardware really.

    1. Smirnov

      Re: Agreed

      "Older hardware would have a ROM with some firmware in it, somewhat newer would have a flash ROM so you could update this firmware; so, after that, device makers chose to put RAM on the device instead and the driver loads firmware into RAM at run time. But to the "100% libre" point of view, having firmware in a ROM is fine, but it's forbidden to have the exact same firmware in a file and load it onto the device RAM when the driver sets up the device. "

      The problem is that if the firmware is in the ROM then the Linux distro doesn't have to include proprietary code which is governed by a completely different (usually commercial) license which may or may not imply different obligations to the user than the free GPL-protected stuff. Which means that during install displaying the GPL would not be enough, they'd also have to display (and collect agreement to) a number of proprietary license texts which, while not immediately obvious, may have legal ramifications for the end user in where and how he can use the distro.

      Its a legal mine field most distros can't or don't want to deal with. So it's not included.

  38. Fenton

    Developers develop for developers first

    As somebody who has used pretty much most version of Unix (Solaris,HP-UX,AIX,BSD,SCO, etc), OS-X and Windows since the 90s either in a professional or personal capacity, my conclusion is that Unix/Linux, is developed by developers for developers or highly experienced IT people. Yes from a functional point of view they are far superior being far more flexible, but there are also issues with that in itself.

    Even an experienced user can make fundamental mistakes as their knowledge is based on experience. E.g. used to configuring a VM to run with a Netapp filer, suddenly presented with an EMC Isilon, will make the wrong assumptions and wonder why things run slowly.

    But on the personal PC front, the end user should be at the forefront of the developers focus. They want to install the OS without any issues and the hardware should just work (which it does the majority of Windows installs, because of third party support).

    They want to install apps without the need to go down to the cli (which is still to often a requirement) and run them.

    Apple have managed to do this on top of OpenBSD, the Linux community needs to stop the UI wars and focus on a single UI that looks great and is easy to use for an end user.

    By all means have all the useful stuff, but hide it away so it doesn't confuse the end user.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Developers develop for developers first

      Whatever. Me DearOldMum and GreatAunt are happy Slackware users. Seems that the most important thing for any OS, after stability and security, is the wetware doing the installation.

    2. Smirnov

      Re: Developers develop for developers first

      "As somebody who has used pretty much most version of Unix (Solaris,HP-UX,AIX,BSD,SCO, etc), OS-X and Windows since the 90s either in a professional or personal capacity, my conclusion is that Unix/Linux, is developed by developers for developers or highly experienced IT people."

      Not really, no. Both HP-UX and AIX came with a central management tool ("SAM" on HP-UX, "SMIT" on AIX) which was menu driven and made it easy to change most settings without the command line. The tools worked fine in both text mode and X11 sessions.

      This was in the late '90s/early 2000's, and setting up and configuring HP-UX and AIX was not more difficult than doing the same on Windows.

      Fast forward to today, the *only* Linux distros that comes with a similar central management tool are openSUSE and the paid-for enterprise variant SUSE Enterprise Linux (it's called 'YaST').

  39. yetanotheraoc

    Debian is for left-handers

    Think of Debian as a house for left-handed people. Everything in the house is arranged by and for left-handers, and they like it that way. Now a right-hander wanders into the house, and the very first thing he encounters trips him up! And then he goes on the left-handers forum to complain, "Hey, there should be a sign that this doesn't work for normal people." The response he gets is, "It works for us", and for some reason that just drives the world into a frenzy. Isn't that the essence of freedom? You get to arrange things the way you want, and you don't have to put up a sign apologizing for it! Note there aren't any signs in normal-land saying it's built for right-handers, left-handers are supposed to just suck it up, or worse told they should learn to like it.

    Every single point made on El Reg one way or the other: Guess what. The Debian people already thought of it. A right-hander shouldn't lecture a left-hander about handedness. But for some reason they still do.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Debian is for left-handers

      Can't beat a good false analogy to start the week.

      An operating system is a way of making computers work. There aren't different kinds of OS people except by preference.

      (Left handers grow up knowing the world isn't built for them and how to make adjustments. Further more, they can require a fair number of adjustments if they so wish. Schools are required to modify teaching accordingly, though whether they do is a different matter. The late and unlamented Cyril Burt did a lot of really good work on that, before he went over to the Dark Side.)

      And if an operating system is developed that is too complex/unwieldy/unfriendly for everyday users that's a failure of vision if the developers ever want to see the Year of Linux..If they don't they should at least leave the route clear for those who do - and stop moaning about Microsoft if you've picked up the ball and walked off the field.

      1. yetanotheraoc

        Re: Debian is for left-handers

        It was a good analogy, but I see I have to spell it out for you. Right-handed = cares about usability. Left-handed = cares about freedom (as in pure software freedom like Richard Stallman espouses). The left-handers set up their distro to favor freedom, and the right-hander complains (as in the actual complaint made on the forum) that the link didn't tell him it wouldn't be usable. Note though that it's explained in the release notes. Your comment about "too complex/unwieldy/unfriendly for everyday users" is a right-handed argument which the Debian community has heard many times. And they may care about usability (as in pointy-clicky usability that a right-hander can appreciate) a little bit, but they care about software freedom a lot.

        The real problem is people trying to tell Debian what they should care about. And that my friends is the opposite of freedom.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Debian is for left-handers

        "An operating system is a way of making computers work. There aren't different kinds of OS people except by preference."

        Entirely correct. You have preferences including the following:

        1. I want it to boot up with everything working and I'm willing to accept anything for that to happen.

        2. I want to control everything and never have the OS do something without telling me.

        3. I want to have the OS handle all situations without requiring technical knowledge, even error cases.

        4. I want all the code that runs to be code that I can and have the right to modify.

        5. I want to take some of the parts and swap them out.

        6. I want there to be a convenient support line for any problems.

        7. I want it to run a piece of software which only works on <insert OS name here>.

        When preferences conflict or are just difficult, different options come up. One OS can't easily do all of those things, especially when the additional preference "It shouldn't cost more than the computer itself" is added in. So developers decide which preferences they care about and make an OS for those. People with the same preferences use it. People with different preferences find an OS that works with those.

  40. my cats breath smells like cat food

    It's pronounced gif!

    vi > emacs

  41. Dominic Sweetman

    As the man said, Ubuntu is available and has the explicit goal of being easy to get into at the cost of strict "free-ness" and less flexibility. So having Debian feeding Ubuntu (and in details, often vice-versa) works for all of us. Though perhaps the Debian install pages should note that wi-fi usually won't work on a laptop without fiddling, and the user will do well to invest in an ethernet cable to keep going until the fiddling is done.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've always liked Debian.

    I've not u sed it for a long time though. It's not user friendly - sure the apt-get and various repisitory explorers work/or are working better to work out dependencies etc. non-free winds me up as the Nvidia stuff used to be like that.

    It wouldn't be too hard to enable non-free and allow all the various other repo's. Editing sources to add them in manually can be prone to a bit of error.

    Only issue I ever had though was installing a package that knackered the window display manager - but it was very experimental package.

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