Debian: Unrelenting Quality


I have mentioned before that I chose to cover Lubuntu, because Dan at PPC Luddite did such an amazing job writing about Debian.  I don't like to leave good software unwritten about, but if Lubuntu is good, then Debian is great.  I can no longer contain my unrelenting love for Debian, and its unrelenting quality standards for its software, and anything they package with it.

Debian is the poster child for what software standards should be, which is why so many distros are based on it.  The Ubuntu's, Mint, Crunchbang and Finnix (just to name a few) are all born from Debian code.  Debian have been setting the benchmark for quality, clean, reliable code since the mid 90's, and continue to do so today.  In 20 years there have only been 7 stable releases.  It's because when they release a stable build, they truly stand behind that.  The gap between 6 and 7 was quite short by their standards.  The project actually has about 1000 official developers overall.


This is pretty much how Debian developers operate:

1. Test
2. Test some more
3. Test some more
4. Test some more
5. Test some more
6. Check everything over again and again then test some more
7. Test some more
8. Test one last time just to be really really certain.


While these practices keep the stable build a good mile from the bleeding edge, the end result is stable, secure, never fail you code.  There is a reason Debian is usually a top choice for servers.   If you really desire the bleeding edge kernel and default apps then you can simply install Debian testing.  I honestly have more faith in their testing builds than the finals of pretty much every other distro.

Debian PowerPC is also about the last Linux distro with official support on the architecture still, and there are no signs of it ever stopping. Another thing Debain PowerPC does is allow apt to work perfectly.  In my experiences the Ubuntu's and other distros mess this up at some level.  As someone who prefers some command line on a daily basis this is a big selling point for me and I know it is for Dr.Dave also. 

I have been doing a lot of playing around and testing the newest stable release of Wheezy (7.1 currently) and several different GUI.  The memory usage difference between the various environments is quite significant.


Here are the memory usage totals for each GUI after simply logging in, and with nothing else running:

GNOME 3 - 188 MB

XFCE - 167 MB

Openbox - 101 MB (a bit higher than usual)

Fluxbox - 93 MB

LXDE - 81 MB (I have gotten it down to 69.8 MB now thanks to some trimming)

The system has 1.5 GB (1536 MB) RAM


LXDE is the reining champ, and is so much easier to use for Linux newbs than Openbox or Fluxbox, which use more memory.  I started with the Debian LXDE image and then installed the other enviroments.  LXDE, Fluxbox and Openbox fly while GNOME and XFCE sputter a bit on my G4 1.0GHz Sawtooth testing system.  GNOME and XFCE are still very usable but they simply can't compare performance-wise.  There is also a KDE offering but I have never used it with Deb7.  While KDE is very capable it's one of the most bloated GUI.  It's almost as bad as Unity in terms of system resource consumption.

I will be writing a lot more about Debian 7 soon but I wanted to get out some early observations on Wheezy stable which is only about a month old.  


A couple screens:






They all use the standard Debian installer, which is not a GUI like Lubuntu.  Don't worry though, there are no commands you need to know.  All you ever have to type are usernames and passwords you want.  Tab selects actions, arrows move selections, space makes selections and return/enter executes.  It's actually quite simple to use and should only take a person one use to learn.


It's good.  It's great.  It's all it should be.  It's all any OS should be.  It's free in every sense.

I put Debian on equal ground with BSD.  It's one of only 3 Linux distros I would say that about.  The other two would be Arch and Gentoo, but even they can't touch Debian in my mind.

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing about Debian. I use it on my G5 without any problem since the release of stable 6. I haven't upgraded to 7 yet simply because it still works as I want and I do not like much upgrading just for upgrading. I use Xfce there, because it just flies on G5.

    But when I tried various Ubuntu flavours, I noticed that KDE consumes way less memory than GNOME 3 or Unity on my machine - it's still twice as much as LXDE on your machine, but it's between your XFCE and GNOME3 measurements. I haven't tried it on Debian though...

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    1. Last time I used KDE (via Kubuntu) it used about 280-304 MB after login. I'm just not a KDE fan and never will be. I like lean and light GUI. Always will. LXDE and Fluxbox have been my preference in recent years for both BSD and Linux. It used to be GNOME but not since 3 came out. I hate GNOME 3 as much and any I have ever used.

      You should really consider upgrading to 7 stable. Better security and 7 adds automatic dependancy resolution. You really can't go wrong making the step up to 7.

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  2. Same as Logout, thanks for writing a bit more about Linux distros. It seems that you are going to talk a bit more about Linux in Powerpc machines in the future. It might be awesome if guys can talk a bit more about compatible Linux programs in powerpc and what are the alternates in case PPC platform is not supported i.e. Skype etc... Thank you guy for sharing all this interesting info.

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  3. Done, just install debian 7 on my powerbook, it seems that at first it works a bit worse out of the box than Lubuntu 12.04... lets give it a try!

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    1. Debian has less stuff pre-configured. Less audio codec/drivers is one example.

      Lubuntu and all the Ubuntu's are made with Debian at the heart so the real thing can't possibly be "worse". It's simply less pre-configured.

      The Debian irc channel is a great place for help or you can be more specific and I can try to help you. Dan the Luddite is a good person for Debian help also. He's one of the main voices for Debian PowerPC.

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  4. Zen what are your favourite distro for the everyday computing?Still lubuntu?
    I installed it today on a friends EEE pc and was very surprised!
    keep on sharing you knowledge and and power linux force =)

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    1. At the moment I am running Debian stable and testing on the same system. Lubuntu is getting less support on the PowerPC end these days so I am moving to Debian. I have been using Debian all along next to Lubuntu but only really writing about Lubuntu.

      Debian fully supports PowerPC as equally as x86 at the OS and default package level. People who claim PowerPC Linux is worse cannot ever claim that about Debian. There are some things that are still not ported to PowerPC at the app level but only in the third party software you would potentially add after install.

      At some point in the future I shall try to walk people through compiling source code for their distro and hardware so they can port whatever 3rd party stuff they need.

      The challenge is that many PowerPC users are overly intimidated just by simple Linux installs and use so walking them through compiling their own software will certainly be a challenge.

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    2. I forgot to add that there are currently 35,121 PowerPC packages available in Synaptic on Debian stable. There is obviously no shortage of software available for Debian PowerPC.

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    3. Tried Debian stable with XFCE and Gnome 3.Since I am used to gnome I liked it, but even in the quad g5/2Gb/7800Gt I noticed some "slowdown".
      This tweak helped it:
      https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/GNOME_Tips#Speed_Tweak

      I guess this is somehow an "issue" with version 3.4.X of gnome, newer versions seem to be much faster.
      Other than that the instalations was simple.Only audio didn't work (this solved it: http://bobjwoolsey.wikidot.com/getting-sound-working-linux-ppc ) and wifi (enabling a bcm43xx firmware in synaptics solved it) so I can't understand why people don't even try linux.
      About XCFE it was fast, but I don't like it.
      Zen is there any linux forum where you and Dr. Dave post?It was good to share some ideas.

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    4. I don't understand the point of running a more bloated GUI no matter how powerful the hardware. Any KDE or GNOME based app I have ever run is Debian or Lubuntu always works perfectly in LXDE.

      Even if you have a quad G5 you're still sacrificing performance to run KDE, GNOME or XFCE. I always use LXDE mostly and Fluxbox for a change of pace.

      Bloated eye candy rich GUI pretty much defeat the whole purpose of Linux. It isn't a simple and pretty motivated culture. People who want simple and pretty use Mac OS or Windows. There are Linux like Ubuntu and Mint x86 which are geared for pretty looks and simple use but they are the minority.

      As for a forum we frequent... we barely have time to post here. I used to post on occasion on the Ubuntu PowerPC board but have not in months.

      I do visit the Debian forum from time to time but have no account yet because I have not needed to ask things. My BSD background gave me about 70% of the skills I needed to use Linux. I'm about half way on the other 30%. It's more just personal use habit transition stuff left. Breaking BSD and Mac habits in Linux use.

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  5. I've tried numerous OS's on my ibook G3: Ubuntu, Lubuntu, MintPPC, Debian 5,6, and some odd ones. Debian 7 LXDE works the best! No Xorg problems, sound worked and by far, it is faster than the other OS's on this machine. Give Debian7 LXDE a try if you have old machinery. You'll be surprised! It works well on PCs too.

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  6. I got Lubuntu 12.04 running on my Quicksilver 2001 (G4 733MHz.) Ubuntu was my 1st Linux and so Lubuntu w/ its light desktop seemed perfect for this old beast. Thanks to your install guide post, it's back alive running 12.04. But now with this post, I'm considering going Debian 7 on it. Will there be a noticeable improvement in performance? Being a relative Linux noob (but very comfortable with CLI,) I'm wondering if it would be worth to go through another OS install?

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  7. I'm running Debian 7 Lxde on my Dual G4 since only two days but I can see I really love it. Every thing works very nice and smooth, no problem watching YouTube videos with the extension "watch video without Flash" installed. Debian Lxde flyes on this machine, plenty of features and a very snappy desktop. This old machine is very usable, I'm still astonished about how many things I can do with Linux and everything's FREE. This Mac is a Dual G4 FW800 1,42Ghz, 2Gb Ram, Radeon 9800 Pro 256. Btw Airport Extreme stock wifi card works flawlessy after downloading the firmware extractor.
    Absolutely PERFECT.

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  8. More.
    If VLC player is invoked for watching Youtube vids I can even run some (although only certain) 720p very smoothly without frame loss, almost as good as they play on my dual G5 with OS X and cpu monitor on this G4 shows less than 60 percent system load, allowing other tasks such checking and replying mails while the video is running. I can't figure out why I've been far from Linux until now. Zen, is there a way (e.g. some command line) to check cpu temperature? It would be great if there was an utility for Linux too....

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  9. Hey guys i have installed Debian Wheezy on my G5 Quad and i dont have audio any tips?
    PS:On Lubuntu I have a RadeonHD 4450 on G5 full working :)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp_IvG7h5_0

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    1. Add the following lines to /etc/modules and reboot:

      i2c-dev
      snd_aoa_i2sbus
      snd_aoa_fabric_layout
      snd_aoa_codec_tas
      snd_aoa_codec_onyx

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  10. @Luigi: I had the same audio problem with my G5 Quad. You need to disable a sound module and enable another one. A bit of googling will give you the answer. If you don't find it later, I'll dig that out for you.

    @All: Now I'm running Debian on my G5 Quad with 8GB of ECC RAM. It runs so smoothly and boots using less than 200MB of RAM. My Quadro is also working fine.

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