Bad experiences with distros (was Re: [H-GEN] CRUX (A programmers linux distro))

Russell Stuart russell at
Mon Aug 9 20:37:58 EDT 2004

On Mon, 2004-08-09 at 16:20, Greg Black wrote:
> I'm not a newbie.  I've been building Unix systems (including

I know you aren't a Unix newbie, and didn't mean to imply you
were.  But you were a Debian newbie.  Every variant of 'nix
has it quirks, and Debian is no exception.  These quirks
always take time to learn.

Still, I hadn't realised you persisted with it for several
weeks.  If you couldn't get it working to your satisfaction
in that time, I doubt it was every going to.

> But I loathe user-friendly installers.  They never know the
> stuff that they need to know in order to complete the kind of
> install that I want.  This has been true for ever and shows no
> sign of getting better.

User friendly or otherwise, I like an installer that produces
something that works.  Debian woody doesn't.  It doesn't
make any real attempt to auto-detect your hardware, so I
invariable have bits on my machine that need custom tweaking.
And on many occasions I have had it install packages that don't
work after installation, usually because the configuration files
either weren't installed at all, or weren't customised correctly
to the other installation choices I made.

If you have something that works, that it is easy enough to
keep it working by making incremental modifications.  If it
doesn't work out of the box it can takes hours or days to
figure out why.  I really begrudge that lost time.

With Debian, this happens to me all the time.  Recently I
installed Debian on a laptop. The screen doesn't work under
XFree86, despite several days of on and off tinkering.
The really frustrating thing is I know it can be made to 
work - I just haven't figured out how.  I know it works
because Knoppix works, and Knoppix is Debian based.

Others in the office say "you should just use Fedora - it would
just work".  That are right - I am sure Fedora's installer
work create something that "just worked", but I have other
reasons for choosing Debian.

> The following night, when we were finally ready to do some real
> work on these machines, we smelt smoke.  My colleague joked that
> the magic smoke had probably escaped from the IBM boxes.  It was
> actually the very heavy and expensive screens that were smoking
> and then, one by one, burst into flame.  They looked real pretty
> after that.  And the IBM men arrived very early in the morning
> and took them away in body bags so nobody would see what nasty
> stuff had happened.  But we told everybody ...

Ahh yes, the 60 floppy install.  You haven't lived until you have
done that.  If nothing else, it proves that 3.5" floppies weren't
always the unreliable pieces of crap that seem to have devolved

On a personal note, I have yet to see a computer burst into
flames.  But I have burnt myself (as in blistered finger) on
a CPU, because I had used "1$:  jmp 1$" instead of "halt" for
the idle loop.  I avoided halt because it didn't work on some
other "compatible" versions of the same CPU.  The incident was
of notable (to me anyway), because it was the only time a
coding bug caused me physical injury.

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