10 Apr 2011

Do I Have Bad Karma for Debian?

Do I have bad karma to run Debian? I have 6 posts about Debian so far, and only one of them relates to full success, where I was able to run a full-power Debian on my laptop. Maybe I myself and Debian are just creatures of different worlds and we cannot live together?
Let me try one more time.
This time my attention will be taken by Aptosid. This is Debian-based distributive, slightly adjusted by team of developers. It is based on Debain Sid, which is classified as unstable sandbox. How unstable it is actually? Let's see.
Aptosid offers several options of its distributive: KDE-full, KDE-lite and XFCE. My choice this time was for KDE-lite version, which fits to USB stick. Latest release of Aptosid is dated February 2011 and has code 2011.01.
So... iso is downloaded and "burnt" to USB stick using the Unetbootin tool.
Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

First try of Aptosid was... unsuccessful. Simply because Live device could not be found. You can see results of this boot on the screenshot - taken in Qemu, but exactly the same as in cold run. Maybe that's because Aptosid is not working with Unetbootin?
Let's try the way which always works with iso images: burn it to CD.
So, CD-RW is burnt. Reboot. Let's try again!

This time I managed to boot Aptosid. First welcome screen is quite usual for different Linux systems. It allows you to choose different parameters, like say screen resolution of language. I selecter Enlish (UK) there.
There were no additional screens where I had to interact with the system before Aptosid was finally booted into KDE environment. This is nice, because some distributives simply annoy you even before you see it working.
As I said before, I selected English (UK) language at boot screen. This brings GB keyboard layout and even indicator showing it. Very nice and useful feature!
Adding Russian keyboard layout is easy, as it is usual in KDE. And it is even easier when indicator is already on the panel. You do not need to go to Configuration panel. Just click on indicator and select "Configure". The small issue is that sections with the list of available layouts is very narrow, it could definitely be wider.
Generally speaking, KDE interface in Aptosid is very similar to KDE 3 which you can find, for example, in SLAX. But it is actually KDE 4.4. Why did developers revert back to previous version-looking default theme? I don't know. But I liked this "comeback", because I like KDE 3.

Right after boot, I was presented with window with Release Notes. They also contain list of firmware supported by Aptosid. That is very handy, because you do not need to search for this list, or do hit-and-miss guessing. List itself is quite impressive actually. My Broadcom 4311 WiFi card is listed there. Unfortunately, in order to enable firmware you have to 1) connect to Internet and 2) change the sources lists. Even if I can do 1st by connecting laptop to LAN cable, I cannot do second. Edited files could be saved.
That means I was not able to connect my laptop running Aptosid to Internet. What's the point to take it to LAN cable if it does not help with WiFi card activation?
Absence of WiFi meant I did not try network drive mounting and music playback. My gut feeling is that default Aptosid does not have codecs for MP3 files, they are to be installed separately from non-free repositories. But, again, this is only my guess.

What is included into Aptosid KDE-lite version? I would say "basics". You could expect this from the "lite" name, but I hoped for more, because I previouse saw similar-sized distributives better packed.

  • There is no office package included. Though, there is KWrite to make notes. KWrite is the only text editor, at least in graphical world. Even Kate is not included into Aptosid KDE-Lite.
  • Graphical applications are only represented by viewers. I did not find any editor there.
  • Kaffeine is the only media player. Plus K3B for burning.
  • Konqueror is default browser, alternative is Elinks (text browser).
  • Lots of tools included. Aptosid has separate tools for installing to HDD and USB, for kernel removal. I would say these tools are handy. Of course, there is a way to remove old kernels via Synaptics in other Debian-based applications, but separate utility would be helpful anyway. Separating USB and HDD installation tools, developers protected us as potential users from accidental installation to HDD when only USB-stick is required. By the way, USB install utility allows create persistent USB stick! That could be useful. Unfortunately, I could not to create any USB stick, neither persistent nor normal. Utility  did not work and failed to "user abort" error after requesting root password. Maybe that's a Live distro issue? Maybe that's my karma again?

As you can see, Aptosid has required minimum in every aspect to start using it, but then you have to add functionality per your taste. I'd say this is good position. You don't have default applications which you do not need, and also you have some basics to start working. This is different to, say, Knoppix which is over-packed with different tools, and to Bodhi Linux, which comes naked. On negative side of this, as I mentioned before, distributive could either be lighter in download size, or still better packed with applications.

From my perspective, Aptosid is well-balanced Debian based distributive, which can fit to most purposes. Even though it is based on unstable Sid, I have not noticed any unstability there. Does it mean that even unstable Debian is solidly stable? Or that was my karma failed this time? Or I just spent not enough time working with it?

Coming back to my karma, I still believe that I am not best guest in the world of Debian. This is the seventh time I was trying something Debian-based, and again I was not able to do what I usually do: connect to my network, check music playback, browse Internet a little. Yes, I was very close this time, but "close" does not mean task is complete.

If you want to try Aptosid yourself, why not order a disk with it from Buy Linux CDs page?


  1. Sid is going to be rough over the next few months. so many big changes coming down the pipe. XFCE 4.8 coming any day now. gnome3 will be along soon enough.

    I've been using a different Debian derivative called SalineOS. Based on Squeeze with XFCE and easy installation of multimedia codecs. I change the sources.list to Debian testing so I get constant updates plus Mint's Debian repo for firefox. www.salineos.com

  2. @bohu: I reviewed KDE, not XFCE version of Aptosid here. And I haven't seen GNOME version of it available.
    Nevertheless, you're right that Sid will be changing soon a lot.
    I wrote about SalineOS previously: http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/02/easy-as-mouse-quick-as-thought.html

  3. One of your problems with Debian based distributions and your laptop is that the Broadcom (and any other binary distributed drivers) which are not GPL or equivalent released are NOT, repeat, NOT included in the release. When and if the Broadcom drivers which have been released as 'free' software, as defined by the Debian contract, are released with the kernel, Debian will include them.

    Of course, that also includes patent encumbered codecs, like the MP3 decoders, as well.

    Only some Ubuntu derived distributions of the Debian family, such as Linux Mint, include the drivers and codecs which you expect.

  4. @Carl
    Yes, I know that Broadcom drivers are not available as open source and therefore are not included into distro.
    You're slightly wrong about the Ubuntu though. First of all, Ubuntu 10.04 has driver in restricted repository, but it is activated by default. Then, it is easier to get the driver. I appreciate that Debian is purely FOSS, but then I need ability to edit list of sources to activate the driver. Unfortunately, this option is not available, thus driver cannot be used at all.
    Second, Ubuntu 10.10 has Broadcom 4311 driver available on CD, which means no Internet connection required at all for driver activation.

  5. Pure Debian and Aptosid and Mint Debian are not distros for beginners. You cannot just install a Broadcom driver. If that is you goal it will not work, you need Ubuntu or a derivative for that.

    To install a Broadcom driver you have to add the source and compile the module and add it to the kernel.


    Everything is done from the command line as su or superuser and you have to edit your sources list and activate non-free and contrib. And you will need an ethernet connection to grab the code required. Aptosid have a utility in the menus to automate this, but it is a few years since I have used Sidux/Aptosid so I do not remember the name.

    That is the Debian way. If you want the easy way then you move to Ubuntu.

  6. @Greg
    I have Debian Squeeze installed on my laptop (http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2011/02/riding-milky-way-with-tux.html), so I can for sure tell what is procedure for Broadcom driver activation there. Yes, I had to change sources file. But no compilation and kernel changes. Just download and activate.
    From my perspective, inability to change sources file in Live run stops me and other users from full-blow check of equipment before installation. And after installation it can be little bit too late.

  7. I have been using Debian Sid for past 4 years now. Until recently(read 3 weeks ago) I never ended up with broken package after a apt-get dist-upgrade which is unrecoverable. But this time, I ended up with not even being able to install gnome. After 3 weeks of trying I thought of taking a break from Debian and installed Ubuntu 11.04. Guess I will return to Debian soon :)

  8. @Sivaram,
    Sorry to hear that simple operation broke your system. But that's Sid, you knew it before installing. Hope you'll be OK soon.

  9. I agree with Greg above.
    If you want as much automaticity as possible, then you go with Ubuntu and its direct relatives (other than Mint).
    If you want things much more refined and WORKING, then you go with Debian Squeeze or non-Ubuntu distros based on Squeeze; SalineOS, Crunchbang,...etc.
    Sure, you'll have to edit your sources.list and do other modifications as necessary with these, but they WILL work.
    OTOH, if you want things refined and you wish to play around alot with a Linux distro that may or MAY NOT WORK, then go ahead and try Debian Sid and Aptosid....maybe multiple iterations of each of these until they stop breaking!

  10. I use both pure Debian and Ubuntu- Debian on my resource poor computers and Ubuntu on my high end machines. Debian takes a lot of tweaking, and so I avoid using it if the machine can handle Ubuntu without slowing down too much. But if you have an older machine, Debian net install with xfce is absolutely great.

  11. @itfactor36
    You did not get my point. The point here is that I do not mind editing sources file. BUT! It is not allowed in Live version of Aptosid.
    As for Ubuntu, then restricted sources are active there by default - no need to edit anything. That's major difference from my point of view. Even of driver is in restricted repository, it CAN be added in Ubuntu, but CANNOT be added in Aptosid. Since it cannot be activated, I have no chance to check whether Aptosid works or not for my equipment. Hence, I am doubtingly install it.

    And imagine that I am not alone who might have this issue.

  12. @Bob
    I have Debian (GNOME), Ubuntu and Kubuntu installed on my laptop (1.6GHz Celeron M, 1Gb RAM). They all work relatively well. Debian maybe the fastest, Kubuntu the slowest. Inspite of this, I still prefer Kubunru.
    I wrote about this before:



  13. Not every distribution works for every person. It would be interesting, considering how long I've been using Debian Sid, to see what kind of success/failure I had with the same hardware.

    Too bad we don't live close enough to try it out, it would make interesting copy.

  14. I suppose you could edit the iso to add to the sources.list before burning the CD. It would be a real pain, but might work.

  15. In my view your 'bad Karma' is not exactly running the Debian on the Laptop, but rather not being acquainted fully with the things.
    For example, what was the original OS of the Laptop (XP or whatever)? Hence the next question: What are the measures that the OEMs have taken against 'intruders' (like for example people who think that they could change the original OS 'just so, for breakfast').
    Then: What is the Debian compilation you are using - let me guess: you don't know. What is your computer architecture - IA-32, IA-64, Itanium, AMD - 86x64, or most probably 'unidentified'.
    After that: How did you 'come to know' that this Debian distro you are trying to install (unsuccessfully) is the most appropriate linux distro for this computer architecture in this world?
    I don't know whether your Karma is to install Debian on this Laptop or not, but your Karma that you have not wished and that the Gods have predestined to you is to become the most acquainted person with the things (in computer science & software engineering).

  16. The attitude of Anonymous seems to be rather normal for Debian fanatics. Your fault, dummy! It isn't that Debian is only for masochists who are willing to spend weeks to install it. Nope, if you can't make it run, or don't like it, it's because you are stupid and/or lazy.

    Several years ago, before I got Internet here in Mexico, I burned a large number of Debian CD's, thought I'd use my idle time to learn Debian. When I installed, I quickly discovered the eth0 driver was only available on floppy. This was well after 2005, and few computers had floppies any more.

    When I posted this on the Debian forum, the person who responded was much like Anonymous. My fault! I did not do my research.

    It took me a while to understand what he meant. You do not get Debian and install it on an existing computer. What you do is study Debian at great length, then build a computer which will run it. If you don't, you are stupid and deserve to be flamed.

    Or, perhaps both lazy and stupid.

    I expect two things from a Linux distro. First, it must work on my computer within reasonable amounts of efforts.

    And, second,the support forums must be civil and polite.

    Debian takes two major hits right there. I suggest crossing off your desire to succeed with Debian from your action list. There are too many good distros out there.

    Pardon me, your system will not take my valid openid account.

  17. I have bad red hat karma.

    I've only managed to install red hat once (plus a white box based astrix machine) out of an unknown (double digit) number of tries. Last time was a "linux survivor" challenge when each distro that annoyed me got deleted off the disk. Fedora didn't even boot, thus being the first to get deleted.

    * I think this involves some sort of nonstandard partition scheme. If I create partitions with anything not made by red hat, it wants to wipe my disk this is not acceptable. This has nothing to do with the latest Fedora failure, that was just my curse.

  18. RE: 'Fedora didn't even boot'
    Fedora is highly specialized in terms of computer architecture. If you have booted some AMD compilation on Itanium machine, for example, no wonder that the OS 'showed you a SK'.
    Sit down at the computer and make your homework. Write in Google the model of your Laptop and see what is the processor, what is the bus architecture, whether the computer processing is CISC or RISK, how is organized the BIOS (some of the older laptops have BIOS placed on special track on the hard-disk, not on EEPROM), ... in that direction.
    Then search for appropriate linux distros. Write in Google the name of the distro and your laptop model next to it, to read some success stories.

    If you have identified your computer architecture find linux distros compiled for that architecture, ... and nothing else (like for example i686 for Xeon, Quad i7, on Itanium; 86x64 for 64 bit AMDs, etc.), and avoid downloading everything that you come across (for this is not Bad Karma - it is Ugly Karma from any point of view).

    The approach of making feasibility study is called Good Engineering Practice and has nothing to do with the Theory of Karma. Anyway.
    Goof Luck.

  19. @Anonymous1:
    of course I could edit iso. I could even add more to it. Eeeeehhhhh, I could even create my own distro as LFS or from sources. But would it be Aptosid?

    Original OS for the laptop is XP. But I am not sure Hewlett Packard would make such a silly thing link intentionality protect laptop from other OSes. The best protection I've seen so far is this f***d Broadcom WiFi card. Everything elst works like a charm in Linux.
    My architecture is IA-32. And Debian is definitely good enough for this architecture, as well as Slackware, Fedora or any other popular Linux distro. I guess >90% of computers in this world are IA-32.

    I see your point. Other then Debian community itself, there are many other forums where you can get friendly advice. I would recommend LinuxQuestions. I also like Kubuntuforums, but I am not 100% sure you get Debian-related answers there; most likely you will though.

    Do you want to share your RedHat experience with readers of this blog as guest poster? Bad experience is also experience, and if you tell it to somebody, they can avoid same issues.

  20. @Anonymous5
    I think Fedora does not have RISC and other exotic variations. It only shows 32 and 64 bit options on the download page http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-options
    As I stated before, >90% of computers on this planet are IA-32 architecture compatible, being that Intel or AMD processor inside.
    Have you ever seen laptop with RISC processor?
    Why are you so inclined in hardware issues?

  21. @d_roberts
    I cannot disagree with you. Debian itself is great. Even Aptosid which is based on Sid is stable enough.
    But there are some fallbacks in Live version, which I highlighted in this post.