Debian in the News: Debian 2.0 'Hamm' Review

September 15th, 1998

[Summary written by Michael Below <> Thanks!!]
[Note: This review is not available online.]

German Magazine Compares Six Linux Distributions

In issue No. 19 of September 14th, 1998, Dr. Oliver Diederich of the German computer magazine c't compares six Linux distributions: Caldera OpenLinux Base 1.2, Debian 2.0, DLD 5.4 Classic, Red Hat 5.1, Slackware 3.5 and SuSE 5.3. He focuses on the question of how the different distributions manage to fulfill both the needs of newcomers and of more experienced Linux users. Especially he compares the installation procedures, the system management tools and the usability of the initial configuration.

For Debian, Mr. Diederich commends the start up screen of the configuration program that presents the installation steps and recommends what to do. He remarks that hard disk partitioning using cfdisk demands quite some knowledge, even given the descriptions in the CD booklet. He disapproves of a question for the location of resc1440.bin during kernel installation without any hints on this in the booklet or the help file. He assumes that a Linux newcomer would become definitively frustrated when confronted with a list of kernel modules. Then Debian installs Lilo in the Master Boot Record of the 2nd EIDE Hard Disk, giving a warning message that it might not be able to boot from there. This happens, and Mr. Diederich assumes that even the most dedicated Linux newcomer would give up at this point. Using a boot disk he continues the installation.

On the following software selection via dselect he reports that it's not possible to return to the preselection menu, so the user is inevitably confronted with 1500 packages to choose if he picks custom installation. In general he disapproves of the complex interface of dselect, but he acknowledges its functionality, the dependency/conflict checking and the immediate configuration. He remarks that the user is left alone by the explanations in the CD booklet after an introduction to dselect, so answering the configuration questions is difficult. Also the setup of X11 and the printer demand knowledge and work to an extent that exceeds the demands of other distributions.

The author compliments the menu system, the online help system and the adherence to the Linux File System Standard. He notes the modern glibc library but reports problems with certain libc5 programs.

All in all he describes Debian 2.0 as a solid distribution for users well accustomed to Linux, offering a big choice of software and no license problems for the price of higher configuration efforts. He groups Debian together with Slackware into a class of distributions for experienced users, within this class Debian is the more current and innovative distribution.