[Web4lib] blue sky thinking

Francis Kayiwa kayiwa at uic.edu
Thu Jul 27 15:12:33 EDT 2006

Hash: SHA1

On Jul 27, 2006, at 1:22 PM, Keith D. Engwall wrote:

> And that's what made my jaw hit the floor with Ubuntu Server's LAMP  
> install.  And I don't mean to sound like an advertisement for  
> Ubuntu.  It's not a panacea, and it does still have a learning  
> curve, but it is a very good example of what can happen when the  
> focus of development is on how the product is used.
> The LAMP install comes with Apache2, MySQL, PHP, Perl, etc. pre- 
> installed.  Packages for software come out soon and often.  Package  
> installation, and even system upgrades can often be performed with  
> a single command, and does not even require a reboot.  The system  
> is pre-hardened for security.
> More significantly, there is a crazy amount of (often informal)  
> online documentation for just about every step in the process that  
> isn't clear.  For just about every moment of head scratching that I  
> had (I never got to fist-pounding), there seemed to be a wiki entry  
> or a blog post or some kind of step-by-step article covering it.   
> The community is responsive, vocal, and very inclined to help.
> I was absolutely stunned at how quickly I was able to get the  
> server up and running and production-ready, and I'm excited about  
> this use-oriented direction that open-source technology is taking,  
> the headway that is being made, and the size and strength of the  
> community.  There are other examples (Wordpress, for instance).   
> It's an opportunity to approach technology and gain experience with  
> it without having to be an expert first.
> Should you jump into something like this for a production server  
> with no prior experience?  Probably not.  The more I think about  
> it, and the more responses I read, the more I am drawn to the idea  
> of using a hosting service.  But I still think that there is a  
> benefit from having an inexpensive in-house server, at least for  
> development.  It provides a very good environment for trying out  
> products, technologies, etc., and getting comfortable.  And that  
> last bit is the most important part.  The more comfortable we are,  
> the easier it is for us to learn, and perhaps to innovate!

First off, everyone has their own way of doing things -- that's  
fine.  Do what works for you.

(Rehashing a message I recently sent to someone on this list  
regarding Debian. I then promise to exit stage left.)

The common thread here is that some potentially-inexperienced person  
sees two ways to do something -- an `easy way (GUI) and a `hard' way  
(command line).  When they pick the easy way and everything works how  
they want it to UNTIL the day that it doesn't. I am not sure this can  
be construed as a failing of Debian. A recent nightmarish experience  
with an Ubuntu user who heard that my Uni. had wireless is a classic  
case. In order to use our wireless network (which is *ahem*  
complicated) I mentioned that they would need to follow instructions  
that require comfort compiling programs.

So how does this tie into Debian?  Debian is a distro that doesn't  
cater to newbies.  I'll admit that. The time that most distributions  
devote to picking a good theme or desktop background (which new users  
see as "cool" and "functional") is used by the Debian people to make  
sure the packages aren't broken (read their QA procedure and tell me  
you like SuSE's better), testing security, perfecting apt, etc.  All  
in all, they spend their time and effort making the lives of people  
who are willing to learn easier.  If you're not willing to learn  
anything, then things like YaST make it at least possible to  
administer a Linux machine.  If you are willing to learn and  
experiment, you'll see that YaST (etc.) just make things more  
difficult.  This isn't elitism, it's a fact.

And just for the record, Gentoo is probably just as good as Debian,  
but it's not quite as mature, and it's not my cup of tea.  However, I  
won't criticize someone for recommending Gentoo (but I will chime in  
with my Debian plug, obviously).

Anyway, the reason I'm so passionate about Debian is that it's just a  
really really good piece of software and it's worked SO well for me.   
I've installed Debian on many, many machines and I've never had a  
problem, and with other distros I hit stupid little snags all the  
time.  So, unless you've installed and used Linux on machines ranging  
from 66MHz embedded CPUs to multi-processor Opteron servers (over the  
course of 8 years), then maybe you should consider that possibility  
that my advice is worthwhile.  Otherwise, ignore it and learn for  
yourself.  I'm just trying to save you some time.  (And yeah, that  
probably sounds elitist.  Sorry.)

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