Learning in Debian

It’s kind of funny. I’ve played with GNU/Linux systems for ten years now, but only in the last three years did it go beyond play and towards work.

I think the first thing I had was some version of Red Hat (can’t remember what but it came on a pile of floppies my house mate gave me) and I used it to learn C++ on. Then there was Suse, and at some point someone gave me his old Mac with a terrible version of MacOS on it (8 point something) and I installed Debian on that.

All this time, I never really “got in to the system”. I just figured out how to run gcc and get my network connection up, that was about it. Every now and then, I’d try and learn some more, break the system, and then mistrust it too much to just fix it and go on – instead leaving it for days or weeks, to then come back, not remember what I’d been fiddling with, and fresh-install some other flavour of OS (I had FreeBSD at some point too, but the most exciting bit I did with that was setting up partitions/slices…).

So that was all play, and everything else was done with tools I felt more confident using – all were built on MS Windows. Actually, I think I would still be quite happy with that – both Windows 2000 and XP were excellent products in my personal experience.

Then came Ubuntu (5.10 I think), and for whatever reason, after checking it out I felt confident enough to switch to using that as my main platform. Working in GNU/Linux everyday, rather than every now and then on a free evening, you learn much faster. Several generations of Ubuntu later, I think I know my way around a lot better than I used to do in Windows.

Somehow, now was the time to find out about Debian Etch. So that’s what I’ve switched to two weeks ago, and of course, coming from Ubuntu, I feel right at home. Tonight I was wondering, how is it different, if at all? The answer, I think, is in the documentation. The amount of information, the style of writing, and the nature of topics of how-tos are all adjusted to another audience.

Surely, there’s also the difference that Ubuntu will support more cutting-edge hardware and sports newer versions of packages, but I’m running an older machine and for my purposes everything is new enough in Etch – python 2.4 does all I need (and actually 2.5 is in the main repository, too), so to say.

So really, the difference to me is just in the documentation – a change of level that I think I like. Debian Etch it is then, from here on. And this time there’s no uncomfortable feeling using it.

Lots of people already blog on how they configure their Debian boxes. I don’t think I’ll add anything exciting, but at the very least this place will be a good reference for myself. I could do that in a log in my home directory of course, but let’s hope some of this stuff will help one or two people – my very minuscule contribution to free software ;)


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