Some time ago I decided on pure Debian as my operating system of choice. It was powerful, flexible and definitely designed with Linux experts in mind. I managed to successfully install it from the netbootCD on multiple computers, regardless of the hardware. Also, compiling new kernels or recompiling existing ones was a breeze. Thanks to dpkg and kpkg, handling kernels became as simple as installing .deb packages. Admittingly, I greatly enjoyed Debian for the last few weeks. However, as one might expect at this point already, there was a ‘but’ (or rather several ‘but(t)s’)…
The readout of apt and aptitude tools was, is and probably will remain completely unhelpful. For example, none of those dpkg front-ends show crucial information when searching for specific packages via a terminal. Aptitude is slightly better in that regard, because it at least provides a brief description of each identified package. I am aware that I can always use ‘apt-cache policy’ to look up a specific package, but why should I be forced to do it for every single package? Also, only aptitude informs the user whether a particular package has already been installed. Apt once again requires apt-cache. Moreover, the syntax for installing software is long and overly complicated. For instance, why apt-get and apt-cache separately, when other distributions use a single program for everything? To top it off, quite often the “search” function fails to properly parse the input keyword and throws at the user a list of completely unrelated programs, simply because there was some remote connection between the searched keyword and a given package.
Installing applications is a Procedure. It takes more time than reasonably needed. Downloading, unpacking, setting up, installing, updating initramfs, etc. Does initramfs have to be updated every single time a minor package is installed? Somehow I doubt that…
Finally, dependency handling. When installing larger components, apt and aptitude would install a huge number of related, but not mandatory packages. Naturally, this is very thoughtful when you want to have a fully functional GUI set up as quickly as possible. However, I prefer hand-picking what I need and what I definitely don’t.
I love Debian. I really do! Unfortunately, it quickly became clear to me that dpkg front-ends are designed with a GUI in mind and a certain, predefined degree of user-friendliness. Most of my problems went away when I started using Synaptic (apt GUI).
On the other hand, there exists a distribution that very elegantly addresses all of my issues with Debian – Arch Linux. This time I decided to install it properly, from an Arch Linux liveCD, not Archbang or any other derivative.
Fingers crossed and hope for the best!