Kwheezy 1.2

Debian has not always had a good reputation when it comes to being welcoming to new Linux users. Kwheezy is a Debian-based distribution that aims to change that by making Debian easier to install, and by offering the slick KDE desktop environment. Kwheezy is a blend of Debian 7.1 (Wheezy) and KDE 4.8.4.

Kwheezy 1.2 Live Desktop

Kwheezy 1.2 Live Desktop

What’s New in Kwheezy 1.2
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Incorporates a couple of remaining installer bug fixes.
Kwheezy Profiler, a new GUI tool to backup and restore user profiles.
Rekonq browser updated to 2.3.2.
Steam client installed by default.
PlayOnLinux installed by default.
Some open source games (kdegames, dreamchess) included.
deb-multimedia.org packages replaced by official Debian packages. The necessary codecs / decoders included from Kwheezy repo instead.
Some minor tweaking here and there.

System Requirements for Kwheezy 1.2
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

Minimum
CPU: Intel Pentium or above, AMD K5 or above
RAM (memory): 500MB (32bit) , 1GB(64bit) or above
HDD (free disk space): 18GB or above
Graphics: VGA capable of 1024×768

Recommended
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo or above, AMD K10 (Phenom) or above
RAM: 1GB (32bit), 2GB (64bit) or above
HDD (free disk space): 30GB or above
Graphics: 64MB with OpenGL 3.0 or above
Audio: 16bit audio, AC’97 or above

Kwheezy 1.2 Download
You can download Kwheezy 1.2 from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 4.05 GB, so it’s not the smallest distro to download. However, you do get a lot of software included by default (more on that below).

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox before running it on real hardware.

Kwheezy 1.2 Installation
One of Kwheezy’s strengths is that it is generally easier to install than vanilla Debian. Newbies will particularly appreciate this.

Be warned, however, that the install is not quick. It took quite a while to complete. I didn’t time it exactly as I had other things to do, so I took off to do them while the install completed. Given the amount of software it comes with, the slow install was not a surprise to me.

Please note that if you need to upgrade from a previous release of Kwheezy, you’ll find instructions here to help you.

Kwheezy is also a live distro, so you can run it off the CD before trying to do an actual install on your computer.

Kwheezy 1.2 Install Drive Selection

Kwheezy 1.2 Install Drive Selection

Kwheezy 1.2 Install Drive Partitioning

Kwheezy 1.2 Install Drive Partitioning

The Kwheezy 1.2 Desktop
Kwheezy has a very busy desktop, there are a lot of icons on the desktop. You’ll also see stats about your system on the right side of the desktop.

I generally prefer desktops without a lot of icons all over the place. I think it might make sense for some of the icons such as Apper to be placed in the panel and removed from the desktop. This would remove some of the clutter and give Kwheezy a tidier appearance when you first boot it up and see the desktop for the first time.

Kwheezy 1.2 Installed Desktop

Kwheezy 1.2 Installed Desktop

Linux Software Included in Kwheezy 1.2
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that Kwheezy comes with a lot of software. I generally type the apps into the categories below, but for this review I opted for screenshots to save myself a lot of typing. Note also the “More Applications” at the bottom of some of the screenshots. So you aren’t seeing all of the available apps in those screenshots.

There were also too many games to list them individually, so I just included a screenie of the game categories instead. You should note that PlayOnLinux and Steam are both included by default, so that’s good news for Kwheezy gamers.

Games

Kwheezy 1.2 Games Menu

Kwheezy 1.2 Games Menu

Graphics

Kwheezy 1.2 Graphics Apps Menu

Kwheezy 1.2 Graphics Apps Menu

Internet

Kwheezy 1.2 Internet Apps Menu

Kwheezy 1.2 Internet Apps Menu

Multimedia

Kwheezy 1.2 Multimedia Apps Menu

Kwheezy 1.2 Multimedia Apps Menu

Office

Kwheezy 1.2 Office Apps Menu

Kwheezy 1.2 Office Apps Menu

Linux Software Management Tools in Kwheezy 1.2
Kwheezy uses Apper as its front end for software management (it used to be called KPackageKit). Apper is functional but not elegant. It doesn’t come close to the Linux Mint Software Manager or Ubuntu’s Software Center in terms of ease of use or looks. But it is usable, and it will get the job done for you.

Just don’t get expect star ratings, user reviews and that sort of stuff. Apper hearkens back to earlier days in Linux software management tools. My hope is that it will eventually be on par with the other two software management tools I mentioned.

Kwheezy 1.2 Software Manager Categories

Kwheezy 1.2 Software Manager Categories

Kwheezy 1.2 Software List

Kwheezy 1.2 Software List

Kwheezy 1.2 Software Manager Install Chromium

Kwheezy 1.2 Software Manager Install Chromium

Problems & Headaches Found in Kwheezy 1.2
I noted the slow installer above. Beyond that I did not notice any problems while running Kwheezy 1.2. It seemed quite stable and reasonably fast while loading and running applications.

If you’ve run into any problems with Kwheezy 1.2, please share them in the comments section at the end of the review. Another reader might have a solution or might benefit from your solution if you found one. Thanks in advance for sharing.

Where To Get Help for Kwheezy 1.2
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the DLR forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the Kwheezy wiki, and the Kwheezy forum. You can also contact the Kwheezy developers on their support page.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on. You can also save lots of money with deals on laptops and tablets, desktops and monitors, components, and computer accessories.

Final Thoughts About Kwheezy 1.2
I’m impressed with Kwheezy, although it’s only at version 1.2 it’s clear the developers have put a lot of thought into this spin of Debian. Kwheezy will be particularly appealing to those who want to combine the KDE desktop environment with the power of Debian.

Kwheezy’s enormous range of applications is both good and bad. Those who want everything installed in one fell swoop will appreciate the convenience offered by Kwheezy. This comes at a price, however. Kwheezy takes up quite a bit of disk space after being installed. Minimalists who prefer to pick and choose which applications are installed will thus probably want to avoid Kwheezy.

Kwheezy is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on Kwheezy 1.2? Tell me in the comments below.



Debian 7.0 Wheezy

Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) is out and it’s time for another review of this venerated linux project.

Debian is the granddaddy of Linux distros, it forms the basis for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many other desktop linux distros. Yet many folks who are new to Linux might not even have heard of Debian. This is a shame because it has quite a lot to offer in its own right, aside from everything it provides to other desktop distros.

There are three main branches of Debian:

Stable
Testing
Unstable

Debian 7 is the latest stable release.

Debian 7 Preinstall Boot Menu

Debian 7 Preinstall Boot Menu

Wikipedia has a very good background article on Debian that you should read if you’re new to it. It will give you much more information than I can provide in this review.

Here’s a sample:

“Debian is one of the most influential open source projects known as a Linux distribution, and maintains repositories with over 29,000 software packages ready for installation. Its repositories host large numbers of software packages for multiple architectures, more in number than any other Linux distribution project[citation needed]. Debian hosts software in additional repositories called “non-free” but offers its distribution setup without it. Debian is seen as a solid Linux and has been forked many times (Debian derivatives).

Debian hosts experimental kernel choices for its distribution while pushing the boundaries to support more hardware devices. There are development packages for architectures for the FreeBSD kernel (kfreebsd-i386 and kfreebsd-amd64) and Hurd kernel, making Debian the only operating system that offers three different kernels; Linux being the most adopted for stability. Supported architectures range from the Intel/AMD 32-bit/64-bit architectures commonly found in personal computers to theARM architecture commonly found in embedded systems and the z/Architecture found in mainframe computers.[12]

Debian includes popular programs such as LibreOffice,[13] Iceweasel (a rebranding of Firefox), Evolution mail, CD/DVD writing programs, music and video players, image viewers and editors, and PDF viewers. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 5.0 lenny (323 million lines of code), using the COCOMOmodel, has been estimated to be about US$ 8 billion.[14] Ohloh estimates that the codebase (54 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost aboutUS$ 1 billion to develop.[15]

The Debian standard install makes use of the GNOME desktop environment. There are pre-built CD images for KDE Software CompilationXfce and LXDE also.[16]The remaining discs, which span five DVDs or over thirty CDs, contain all packages currently available and are not necessary for a standard install. Another install method is via a net install CD, which is much smaller than a normal install CD/DVD. It contains only the bare essentials needed to start the installer and downloads the packages selected during installation via APT.[17] These CD/DVD images can be freely obtained by web download, BitTorrentjigdo or from online retailers.[18]

What’s New in Debian 7.0

Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

  • Apache 2.2.22
  • Asterisk 1.8.13.1
  • GIMP 2.8.2
  • an updated version of the GNOME desktop environment 3.4
  • GNU Compiler Collection 4.7.2
  • Icedove 10 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird)
  • Iceweasel 10 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox)
  • KDE Plasma Workspaces and KDE Applications 4.8.4
  • kFreeBSD kernel 8.3 and 9.0
  • LibreOffice 3.5.4
  • Linux 3.2
  • MySQL 5.5.30
  • Nagios 3.4.1
  • OpenJDK 6b27 and 7u3
  • Perl 5.14.2
  • PHP 5.4.4
  • PostgreSQL 9.1
  • Python 2.7.3 and 3.2.3
  • Samba 3.6.6
  • Tomcat 6.0.35 and 7.0.28
  • Xen Hypervisor 4.1.4
  • the Xfce 4.8 desktop environment
  • X.Org 7.7
  • more than 36,000 other ready-to-use software packages, built from nearly 17,500 source packages.

For desktop users, the updated software in Debian 7 will be quite welcome (see the software section for a list of bundled applications in Debian 7).

Multiarch support is included in Debian 7, thus allowing users to install packages from different architectures on the same machine. So you can install 32-bit and 64-bit versions of software on the same computer, and the dependencies will all be resolved automatically for you.

Debian 7 also offers software speech installation, a particularly helpful feature for those who are visually impaired.

This release also supports booting and install using UEFI for 64-bit computers, but lacks support for Secure Boot.

System Requirements for Debian 7.0

Debian 7 is available for a number of different architectures, so it’s impractical to list system requirements here. See the install guide links in the install section of the review for the system requirements for your architecture.

Debian 7 System Settings

Debian 7 System Settings

Debian 7.0 Download

You can download Debian 7.0 from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 4 GB. You have the option of trying Debian as a live distro before installing, or  you can simply opt to download an install version right away. I did the latter as I intended to install and use it anyway.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox before running it on real hardware.

Debian is available for numerous architectures, I recommend reading the release notes for yours.

Debian 7.0 Installation

Debian 7 offers a choice between a text-based installer or a graphical installer. I opted for the graphical version.

The Debian 7 install routine is better than it used to be, but it still isn’t as comfortable or fast as Linux Mint’s or Ubuntu’s. Experienced Linux users will most likely have no problem whatsoever with it, but newer folks might stumble if it’s their first time trying to install Debian.

Here’s a list of install guides (system requirements are included) for the architectures that Debian supports:

The screenshots below will walk you through some of the Debian 7 install.

Debian 7 Install Root Password

Debian 7 Install Root Password

Debian 7 Install User Account

Debian 7 Install User Account

Debian 7 Install Partition Disks

Debian 7 Install Partition Disks

Debian 7 Install Disk Partition

Debian 7 Install Disk Partition

Debian 7 Install Network Mirror

Debian 7 Install Network Mirror

Debian 7 Install Archive Mirror

Debian 7 Install Archive Mirror

Debian 7 Install Software Selection

Debian 7 Install Software Selection

Debian 7 Install GRUB

Debian 7 Install GRUB

Debian 7 Install Complete

Debian 7 Install Complete

Debian 7 GRUB Installed

Debian 7 GRUB Installed

Debian 7 Login

Debian 7 Login

The Debian 7.0 Desktop

Debian 7 comes with GNOME 3.4 and GNOME Classic. Initially, I booted into the GNOME 3 environment. Ick, a few minutes of it was all I could stand. So I logged out, and used GNOME Classic instead. I found it to be much more to my liking.

I have tried to warm up to GNOME 3 several times, and always ended up despising it. To me it’s really a toss up as to which one sucks more: GNOME 3 or Unity. I suppose the one I dislike most is the one I’m using at a particular moment. Anyway, I digress.

So I recommend giving GNOME Classic a shot instead. But then again, I’m old school when it comes to desktop interfaces. Your mileage may vary considerably, so use whichever works best for you.

Debian 7 GNOME 3 Applications

Debian 7 GNOME 3 Applications

Debian 7 GNOME Classic Desktop

Debian 7 GNOME Classic Desktop

Debian 7 GNOME Classic Application Menu

Debian 7 GNOME Classic Application Menu

Linux Software Included in Debian 7.0

Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release.

Games
Logic Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Chess
Free Cell Solitaire
Lagno
Mahjongg
Nibbles
Quadrapassel
Robots
Tali

Graphics
Document Viewer
GIMP
Image Viewer
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
LibreOffice Draw
Shotwell Photo Manager
Simple Scan

Internet
Desktop Sharing
Email Settings
Empathy Internet Messaging
Iceweasel Browser
Remote Desktop Viewer
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Juicer Audio CD Extractor
Sound Recorder

Office
Dictionary
Evolution Mail and Calendar
LibreOffice (Base, Calc, Draw, Impress and Writer)

Linux Software Management Tools in Debian 7.0

If you are comfortable with the command line, you can use APT to manage your software in Debian 7. You can also use Synaptic. Synaptic is powerful, but potentially confusing for folks new to Debian.

Debian 7 Synaptic Package Manager

However, if you prefer a graphical software management tool that is a bit easier to use, you can opt for the Add/Remove tool instead. It’s not as slick as Ubuntu’s Software Center or Linux Mint’s Software Manager, but it will get the job done.

Debian 7 Add or Remove Software

Debian 7 Add or Remove Software

Debian 7 Software Updates

Just find the application you want to install, click the checkbox next to it then click the Apply button. Uncheck it and click Apply to remove it later if you want.

Problems & Headaches Found in Debian 7.0

One thing I found distasteful was how an ad blocker was automatically installed in Iceweasel. When I opened Iceweasel, I got a confirmation that it was installed. I was not asked if I wanted it, it just appeared there without any input from me.

This is an odd decision on the part of the Debian developers, assuming they were the ones who made it. It may be that the ad blocker simply comes with Icweasel. I don’t use Icweasel as my browser, so I’m not sure what the default configuration is for it. If somebody knows, please post your thoughts in the comments.

But here’s why I don’t like having an ad blocker installed by default in Icweasel:

First, it forces the ad blocker plugin on the user, without asking him or her if they want it in the first place.

Second, the use of such plugins indiscriminately often hurts sites such as this one that are not backed by big corporations. Independent sites depend on ad revenues to pay for hosting costs, domain names, and other costs associated with running sites. I’m always grateful to the readers who whitelist Desktop Linux Reviews in their ad blocker, it helps me keep the site running as I’m not a rich person.

Third, some users might indeed want an ad blocker (and that is their right and their choice), but they might not want the one that is installed in Iceweasel by default. Not all ad blockers work the same way, some are more effective than others, and I’m sure that Debian users are aware of this. One size does not fit all when it comes to ad blocking. So this is an inconvenience to those people as well. They have to uninstall the ad blocker forced on them in Iceweasel, then go get the one they want and install it.

Debian 7 Ad Blocker in Iceweasel

Debian 7 Ad Blocker in Iceweasel

My nitpicking about the ad blocker aside, Debian 7 worked very well for me whether I was using GNOME 3 or GNOME Classic. The system seemed speedy and stable while I was using it. I didn’t notice any over issues with it. If you did, please post your experiences in the comments below so other readers can benefit from them.

There is also a list of known issues with Debian 7.o that you should be aware of before installing it:

Security issues

Debian security team issues updates to packages in the stable release in which they’ve identified problems related to security. Please consult the security pagesfor information about any security issues identified in Wheezy.

If you use APT, add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list to be able to access the latest security updates:

  deb http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main contrib non-free

After that, run apt-get update followed by apt-get upgrade.

Point releases

Sometimes, in the case of several critical problems or security updates, the released distribution is updated. Generally, these are indicated as point releases.

There are no point releases for Debian 7.0 yet.

Fixes to the released stable distribution often go through an extended testing period before they are accepted into the archive. However, these fixes are available in the dists/wheezy-proposed-updates directory of any Debian archive mirror.

If you use APT to update your packages, you can install the proposed updates by adding the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list:

  # proposed additions for a 7.0 point release
  deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian wheezy-proposed-updates main contrib non-free

After that, run apt-get update followed by apt-get upgrade.

Installation system

For information about errata and updates for the installation system, see the installation information page.

Where To Get Help for Debian 7.0

If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the DLR forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the Debian support page for documentation, known problems, wiki, mailing lists, newsgroups, bug tracking and other support resources.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on. You can also save lots of money with deals on laptops and tablets, desktops and monitors, components, and computer accessories.

Final Thoughts About Debian 7.0

Debian remains one of the most important projects in Linux. Debian 7 offers some significant improvements, and it certainly warrants an upgrade if you are using an older version of Debian.

No doubt that some folks will be disappointed by the lack of support for Secure Boot, but I don’t think that that should be a deal breaker. The support for UEFI in 64-bit PCs is a step forward that will be built on later, so I try to take the long view on this issue.

Some will take issue with my comments about the forced inclusion of the ad blocker in Iceweasel, but I think it’s something worth talking about since Debian 7 is such an important Linux project. I fully understand that some folks hate ads and will block them, that is their right. However, advertising remains the basis for free content like this review, so it’s worth noting and thinking about the ramifications of browsers having ad blockers installed by default.

Debian 7 is best suited to intermediate and advanced Linux users. However, I urge beginners to learn more about it. Don’t be afraid at giving it a try in a virtual machine or as a live distro. Understanding Debian can teach you a lot about Linux, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn why it is the foundation for so many other distros.

What’s your take on Debian 7.0? Tell me in the comments below.

Debian 6 Squeeze

It wasn’t too long ago that I did a very late review of Debian 5. I’m happy to say that it didn’t take me nearly as long to get around to the latest release, Debian 6 Squeeze. If you aren’t familiar with Debian then this release is a great chance to learn about a distro that is the foundation for a lot of other distributions including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and others.

Debian has three main branches:

Stable
Testing
Unstable

Debian 6 is the latest stable release. For more background on Debian in general, please see the Wikipedia overview article.

The Debian Project is governed by the Debian Constitution and the Social Contract which set out the governance structure of the project as well as explicitly stating that the goal of the project is the development of a free operating system.[8][9] Debian is developed by over three thousand volunteers[10] from around the world and supported by donations through several non-profit organizations around the world. Most important of these is Software in the Public Interest,[11] the owner of the Debian trademark and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.[12]

Thus, the Debian Project is an independent decentralized organization; it is not backed by a company like some other GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 4.0 etch (283 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, has been estimated to be close to US$13 billion.[13] As of April 2, 2009, Ohloh estimates that the codebase of the Debian GNU/Linux project (45 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost about US$819 million to develop.[14]

There’s some very informative and interesting background there about the entire Debian project, so be sure to read it after you finish this review of Debian 6.

Install Boot Menu

Install Boot Menu

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new stuff in this release:

  • KDE Plasma Workspaces and KDE Applications 4.4.5
  • an updated version of the GNOME desktop environment 2.30
  • the Xfce 4.6 desktop environment
  • LXDE 0.5.0
  • X.Org 7.5
  • OpenOffice.org 3.2.1
  • GIMP 2.6.11
  • Iceweasel 3.5.16 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox)
  • Icedove 3.0.11 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird)
  • PostgreSQL 8.4.6
  • MySQL 5.1.49
  • GNU Compiler Collection 4.4.5
  • Linux 2.6.32
  • Apache 2.2.16
  • Samba 3.5.6
  • Python 2.6.6, 2.5.5 and 3.1.3
  • Perl 5.10.1
  • PHP 5.3.3
  • Asterisk 1.6.2.9
  • Nagios 3.2.3
  • Xen Hypervisor 4.0.1 (dom0 as well as domU support)
  • OpenJDK 6b18
  • Tomcat 6.0.18
  • more than 29,000 other ready-to-use software packages, built from nearly 15,000 source packages.

I used the GNOME desktop environment for this review.

One of the neat things about this release is that it contains a truly free kernel. Non-free firmware files have been removed, but are still available to those who wish to use them. This makes Debian 6 perfect for Linux purists who do not want their desktop distros corrupted by non-free files. This release also promises faster start-up times due to changes to the boot scripts and dependency tracking.

Debian 6 also provides 10,000 new packages including Chromium and many other useful applications, and an overall total number of packages of around 29,000. I’ll have more to say about software in that section of the review. Suffice to say though that there are gobs of software available in Debian 6 and you should not lack for anything to run on your Debian-based system.

The Debian 6 installer has been improved with easier choice of language and keyboard settings, as well as better partitioning tools. The installer also supports ext4 and Btrfs file systems, and is available in 70 different languages. I’ll have more to say about the installer in that section of the review and the screenshots on that page will walk you through the entire install, from beginning to end.

Since this is a stable release, the emphasis was clearly on releasing Debian 6 in as rock-solid a form as possible rather than trying to pack it full of bloated features or cutting-edge software that could adversely affect that goal. My experience with Debian 6 indicates that the developers have pretty much accomplished what they set out to do in this release.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Since Debian 6 is available for so many different architectures, I’m not going to try to list all of the system requirements here. Please see the installation information for your particular architecture. You’ll find a list of supported computer architectures here. You should also look at the release notes for each architecture; they contain upgrade instructions if you are running a previous release of Debian.

Installation
The ISO file I downloaded was the 32-bit PC version and weighed in at about 4.69 GB. There are many other versions available, depending on your system. So check the installer page for download links. You can also buy Debian 6 on disc.

There was no Live DVD/CD available when I downloaded Debian 6. So this review is based on the non-live version, meaning that I couldn’t boot into a live desktop environment to use Debian 6 without installing it first. I didn’t mind that at all though; it saved me the bother of booting into the Live desktop first to start my install.

I decided to use the graphical install listed on the boot menu. The installer is pretty painless and relatively quick. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end. The install took about 15 minutes or so. I opted to include a network mirror during the install and I recommend that you do the same.

Don’t let the number of steps throw you; I found that installing Debian 6 is pretty much as painless as installing one of its derivatives such as Ubuntu. The Debian 6 installer is the best version yet and promises to make Debian accessible to those who are new to desktop Linux and who may never have heard of Debian before. That’s a significant accomplishment and the Debian developers deserve a pat on the back for it.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

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Install 7

Install 8

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Install 14

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Install 26

Install 26

Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot menu and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Debian 6 Squeeze desktop has the neat Debian wallpaper. It’s quite spacey and gives this distro a little bit more personality. I like the fact that the Debian developers haven’t lost sight with the fact that Linux should be fun as well as useful and the wallpaper reflects that.

The desktop itself is not cluttered up with icons, there are three included:

Computer
Home
Trash

Desktop

Desktop

Navigating the desktop menus and panel is easy and comfortable. It’s GNOME so if you’ve used it before you’ll be right at home in Debian 6 Squeeze. Applications are broken down into the usual categories:

Application Menu

Application Menu

The panel also has a Places & System menu as well as icons for various other things across it including your network, date and open applications & menus.

Panel

Panel

Administration

Administration

Preferences

Preferences

Themes
There are 21 different themes, with the default theme being Clearlooks. More are available online.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
There are 20 different wallpapers included, though none of the other ones is quite as fun or spacey as the default Debian wallpaper. You can get more online.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Chess
Five or More
Four-in-a-Row
FreeCell Solitaire
lagno
Klotski
Mahjongg
Mines
Nibbles
Quadrapassel
Robots
Sudoku
Tali
Tetravex

Graphics
GIMP
Inkscape
OpenOffice.org Draw
Shotwell
Simple Scan
XSane

Internet
Ekiga
Empathy
Epiphany
Evolution Mail
Iceweasel
Liferea Feed Reader
Remmina
Transmission

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Brasero Disc Burner
Cheese Webcam Booth
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Sound Recorder

Office
Dictionary
OpenOffice.org

As you can tell from the list, Debian 6 Squeeze comes with a pretty robust default selection of software that should meet the needs of most desktop users.

Software Management
If you find yourself needing more software, just click the System menu on the panel then click Administration to access the Software Center. The Software Center is very easy to use, applications are broken down into categories and you can search as well.

There’s a ton of applications available for you to download, far more than most desktop users will probably ever need. But that’s okay because sometimes it’s just fun to browse the Software Center and poke around to see what’s available.

As I noted earlier, there are about 29,000 applications available. Software junkies should be careful; if they aren’t careful they could go overboard installing software on their systems.

Software Center Menu

Software Center Menu

Featured Applications

Featured Applications

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to install or remove software. Find the application you want to install and click the install button (or the remove button if it’s already installed. The screenshots below walk you through a Chromium download and install.

Please note that when I went to install Chromium, Debian 6 defaulted to the CD rather than downloading it. I had to go into the software sources menu and uncheck the CD box so that Debian 6 would download it from the repository instead. This is a pretty minor thing but might throw people off who install Debian 6 in a virtual machine via an ISO file.

Chromium

Chromium

Chromium Download

Chromium Download

Chromium Install

Chromium Install

Chromium Installed

Chromium Installed

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
I had no problem running most YouTube videos in Debian 6. The Gnash SWF Viewer comes installed by default.

GNU Gnash is the GNU Flash movie player — Flash is an animation file format pioneered by Macromedia which continues to be supported by their successor company, Adobe. Flash has been extended to include audio and video content, and programs written in ActionScript, an ECMAScript-compatible language. Gnash is based on GameSWF, and supports most SWF v7 features and some SWF v8 and v9.

SWF v10 is not supported by GNU Gnash.

YouTube

YouTube

Gnash

Gnash

Multimedia Applications
The default selection of multimedia applications includes Audio CD Extractor, Brasero Disc Burner, Cheese Webcam Booth, Movie Player and Rhythymbox. There’s certainly enough to get you started and to perform many of the multimedia functions you might need.

I recommend checking the Software Center for more though. There are about 249 multimedia packages available there that might be useful if the default selection doesn’t cut it for you. VLC should definitely be on your list of installed multimedia applications; it’s incredibly useful to have on your system.

VLC

VLC

Problems & Headaches
One thing I didn’t like about Debian 6 is that it still comes with OpenOffice.org instead of LibreOffice. Given that this is Debian stable, it’s not surprising. However, I would like to see LibreOffice eventually succeed OpenOffice.org as soon as possible.

I noted earlier how Debian 6 defaults to the CD when you try to install a new piece of software. This is a very minor potential problem though and can be easily fixed by accessing the software sources menu and unchecking the cdrom box. You can access the software sources menu by clicking on the Edit menu link in the Software Center.

Beyond that, I don’t have much to note or complain about in Debian 6 Squeeze. My experience with it has been quite good. I did not notice any instability or application crashes while using Debian 6.

Please note that you can find a list of known Debian 6 problems on the Debian site. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot there yet though as I write this review.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Debian support page for links to documentation, known problems, wiki, mailing lists, newsgroups and other resources.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m very happy to recommend Debian 6 for most desktop users, particularly those who want a truly free distribution. Debian has come a long, long way from its earliest days and this release shines as a desktop option.

Even those totally new to Linux should give it a shot; I think they will be very surprised and pleased by Debian 6. I was very happy while using it and it will remain one of my regular desktop distributions. Give it a download and see what you think of it.

For more information about Debian in general, check out the Debian System, Learning Debian, and the Debian Bible.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and quick looks, and visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Debian 6 Squeeze
Web Site: http://www.debian.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Installer enhancements; updated software packages; non-free firmware files have been removed to a separate archive.
Cons: The installer has a lot of steps; additional software installation defaults to the CD.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Debian 6 Squeeze is a great step forward for the Debian project.
Rating: 5/5

 

Debian 5

I’ve written a lot of reviews of distros based on Debian, but never a review of Debian itself. So this time around I decided to look at Debian 5 (Lenny). Debian, if you aren’t familiar with it, is the rock upon which popular distributions like Ubuntu and MEPIS are built. Sometimes folks who use a Debian-based distribution aren’t even aware of what it is based on, and that’s a shame because Debian itself has so much to offer.

If you want a really good overview of Debian, be sure to read the Wikipedia article about it.

The Debian Project is governed by the Debian Constitution and the Social Contract which set out the governance structure of the project as well as explicitly stating that the goal of the project is the development of a free operating system.[8][9] Debian is developed by over one thousand volunteers from around the world and supported by donations through several non-profit organizations around the world. Most important of these is Software in the Public Interest,[10] the owner of the Debian trademark and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.[11]

Thus, the Debian Project is an independent decentralized organization; it is not backed by a company like some other GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 4.0 etch (283 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, has been estimated to be close to US$13 billion.[12] As of April 2, 2009, Ohloh estimates that the codebase of the Debian GNU/Linux project (45 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost about US$819 million to develop.[13]
[edit] Features

Many distributions are based on Debian, including Ubuntu, MEPIS, Dreamlinux, Damn Small Linux, Xandros, Knoppix, BackTrack, Linspire, sidux, Kanotix, Parsix and LinEx, among others.[14]

Debian is known for an abundance of options. The current stable release includes over twenty five thousand software packages for twelve[15] computer architectures. These architectures range from the Intel/AMD 32-bit/64-bit architectures commonly found in personal computers to the ARM architecture commonly found in embedded systems and the IBM eServer zSeries mainframes.[16] Prominent features of Debian are the APT package management system, repositories with large numbers of packages, strict policies regarding packages, and the high quality of releases.[14] These practices allow easy upgrades between releases as well as automated installation and removal of packages.

The Debian standard install makes use of the GNOME desktop environment. It includes popular programs such as OpenOffice.org, Iceweasel (a rebranding of Firefox), Evolution mail, CD/DVD writing programs, music and video players, image viewers and editors, and PDF viewers. There are pre-built CD images for KDE Software Compilation, Xfce and LXDE as well.[17] The remaining discs, which span five DVDs or over thirty CDs, contain all packages currently available and are not necessary for a standard install. Another install method is via a net install CD which is much smaller than a normal install CD/DVD. It contains only the bare essentials needed to start the installer and downloads the packages selected during installation via APT.[18] These CD/DVD images can be freely obtained by web download, BitTorrent, jigdo or buying them from online retailers.[19]

Debian has three main branches:

Stable
Testing
Unstable

The distro I installed for this review was from the stable branch (which has the name Lenny).

Boot

Boot

Debian 5 is available in KDE, GNOME, Xfce, and LXDE versions. For this review, I went with the GNOME version.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Support for Marvell’s Orion Platform for storage devices
KDE 3.5.10
GNOME 2.22.2
Xfce 4.4.2
LXDE 0.3.2.1
X.Org 7.3
OpenOffice.org 2.4.1
GIMP 2.4.7
Java Support (OpenJDK, GNU Java compiler, GNU Java bytecode interpreter, Classpath)

You might notice here that Debian 5 is not exactly cutting edge when it comes to software. Please note that this is to be expected since Debian 5 is based on the stable branch, and not the testing branch. I’ll talk more about this in the problems section, and at the end of the review.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
It’s important to note here that Debian 5 runs on a lot of different architectures. The requirements listed here are for the i386 version and may differ depending on what sort of system you want to run Debian 5 on.

Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

A Pentium 4, 1GHz system is the minimum recommended for a desktop system.

Table 3.2. Recommended Minimum System Requirements
Install Type RAM (minimal) RAM (recommended) Hard Drive
No desktop 64 megabytes 256 megabytes 1 gigabyte
With Desktop 64 megabytes 512 megabytes 5 gigabytes

The actual minimum memory requirements are a lot less then the numbers listed in this table. Depending on the architecture, it is possible to install Debian with as little as 20MB (for s390) to 48MB (for i386 and amd64). The same goes for the disk space requirements, especially if you pick and choose which applications to install; see Section D.2, “Disk Space Needed for Tasks” for additional information on disk space requirements.

It is possible to run a graphical desktop environment on older or low-end systems, but in that case it is recommended to install a window manager that is less resource-hungry than those of the GNOME or KDE desktop environments; alternatives include xfce4, icewm and wmaker, but there are others to choose from.

Installation
Debian 5’s install routine has a lot more steps than Ubuntu’s, for example. This is to be expected and it should not deter you from trying Debian 5. Note also that Debian 5 also gives you a lot more control than other distros, so the extra steps serve an important purpose.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Install 10

Install 10

Install 11

Install 11

Install 12

Install 12

Install 13

Install 13

Install 14

Install 14

Install 15

Install 15

Install 16

Install 16

Install 17

Install 17

Install 18

Install 18

Install 19

Install 19

Install 20

Install 20

Install 21

Install 21

Install 22

Install 22

Install 23

Install 23

Install 24

Install 24

Install 25

Install 25

Install 26

Install 26

Install 27

Install 27

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting & login screens look like:

Boot After Install

Boot After Install

Login

Login

The Desktop
Since I picked the GNOME version of Debian 5, that’s what I booted into after doing my install. The wallpaper is a bit bland but you can change that easily enough. Debian 5’s GNOME desktop is very simple and does not contain, for example, the huge amount of bells and whistles that you’ll find in Ultimate Edition or PinguyOS. It’s essentially a basic GNOME desktop environment.

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
The default theme is Clearlooks, but there are 12 altogether to choose from in the Appearance Preferences menu. Just click System in the top panel then Preferences to access the menu. I think SphereCrystal is a more attractive them so that’s what I ended up changing mine to after using Debian 5 for a while.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
As I noted above, the wallpaper is rather bland and uninspiring. The selection in the Appearance Preferences menu isn’t much better. Most of it is sort of generic colors or cheesy nature pictures. No problem, if you do a Google search you can find tons of cool wallpaper to use instead of what comes with Debian 5.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Admin Tools
Here’s a look at what you’ll find in terms of admin tools in Debian 5.

System Management

Admin

Admin

User Management

Users

Users

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Logic
AisleRiot Solitaire
Blackjack
Chess
FreeCell Solitaire
Gnometris
lagno
Mahjongg
Robots
Tali

Graphics
Cheese
GIMP
gThumb Image Viewer
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
OpenOffice.org Draw
XSane Image Scanning Program

Internet
Ekiga Softphone
Epiphany Browser
Evolution Mail
Iceweasel Browser
Liferea Feed Reader
Pidgin IM
Remote Desktop Viewer
Terminal Server Client
Transmission BitTorrent Client

Multimedia
Audio CD Extractor
Movie Player
Rhythmbox Music Player
Serpentine Audio Creator
Sound Recorder
Volume Control

Office
OpenOffice.org

Software Management
Debian 5’s software management tool is not as elegant or as sophisticated as the ones in Ubuntu or Linux Mint. However, it’s very functional and fairly attractive in its own right. While you cannot rate or review applications, you can see which applications are the most or least popular based on the number of stars in the popularity field.

Add or Remove Applications

Add or Remove Applications

Applications are categorized, as shown in the screenshot, and you can easily search for an application if you don’t want to spend time browsing for it. You can choose to show All Available Applications, All Open Source Applications or Installed Applications Only.

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing programs is very easy. Simply find the application you want and then click the checkbox next to its name and icon in the Add/Remove Applications tool. After that just click Apply Changes and you’re good to go.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Version 9 of flash comes already installed in the Iceweasel browser. Unfortunately it did not seem to work at all for YouTube videos. I did notice a message from YouTube encouraging me to upgrade to flash 10 though, when I went to play a video. I recommend upgrading to flash 10 before trying to play flash content on the web.

Flash

Flash

Also installed in Iceweasel are the iTunes Application Detector, QuickTime Plugin 7.2, Totem Web Browser Plugin 2.22.2, and the Windows Media Player Plugin 10. So it’s pretty safe to say that Iceweasel is locked, cocked and ready to rock when it comes to multimedia on the web.

You should note that you do not get the multimedia codecs available in Linux Mint Debian Edition or Ultimate Edition (for obvious legal reasons). So bear that in mind if that’s an issue for you.

Multimedia Applications
You also get a decent selection of desktop multimedia applications including Audio CD Extractor, Movie Player, Rhythmbox Music Player, and the Serpentine Audio CD Creator. If that doesn’t cut it for you, don’t worry. There’s a whole bunch of other multimedia applications (way too many to list here) that are available in the Add/Remove Applications tool.

Rhythmbox

Rhythmbox

Problems & Headaches
One of the drawbacks to Debian 5 is that you won’t necessarily have the most updated versions of applications. For example, it ships with OpenOffice.org 2.4 instead of 3.0. But it’s important to note that stability is very, very important to the Debian project. So shipping cutting-edge applications in Lenny is really not something to be expected. I note it here for those who care about having the latest & greatest of everything.

Beyond that, there’s not much to really note here in terms of problems. Debian 5 was rock-solid for me and seemed quite speedy as well. I did not see any application crashes, system hang-ups or other problems while running it. It performed extremely well for me and I was able to do all of my usual stuff while running.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the excellent Debian support page. You’ll find links to documentation, a Wiki, mailing lists, bug tracking and a bunch of other stuff. I highly recommend browsing the support page if you are totally new to Debian. Bookmark it and refer back to it if you find you have issues using Debian 5.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Debian 5 is perfect for those who want a very stable system that provides a great deal of control to the user. It is not well suited for those looking for the latest & greatest of everything. If you bear that in mind and proceed accordingly, you might find Debian 5 to be a very useful desktop distro.

Those who want things to be a bit more up-to-date should really consider Linux Mint Debian instead. Bear in mind that LMDE is based on the testing branch (also known as Squeeze) rather than on the stable branch (Lenny). So you may not have the same sort of rock-solid stability that you get in Debian 5. It’s a bit of a trade-off, to a certain degree and it’s something you should know when you consider choosing between the two.

My experience with Debian 5 was overwhelmingly positive. I’ll be keeping it around to use regularly, though I suspect I will still lean a bit toward Linux Mint Debian a fair amount of the time.

Debian 5 is probably best suited to intermediate and advanced Linux users.

However, because I like it so much, I want to qualify that recommendation a bit by encouraging users new to Linux to check it out anyway; try running it in a virtual machine via VirtualBox on your existing system. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot in a VM if you’re new to Linux; you might find yourself having some fun with it.

The worst that can happen is that you newer folks might decide that you don’t like it and then delete it from VirtualBox. But by running it (and reading about it), they will gain some very helpful desktop Linux experience and will have a better understanding of how much the Debian project has contributed to the well being and popularity of desktop Linux overall.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Debian 5 (Lenny)
Web Site: http://www.debian.org
Price: Free
Pros: Rock-solid stability; decent selection of applications; fast; supportive community.
Cons: Applications may be older versions; the install routine has more steps but also provides greater control; software management tool does not allow for application reviews & user ratings.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced users; although beginners might want to consider trying it in a VM.
Summary: Debian 5 is the granddaddy of many of today’s desktop distros, but it’s also a fine desktop option in its own right.
Rating: 4.5/5