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Following Bleeding Edge Software and still using Debian Stable //at 23:04 //by abe

from the opposites-attract dept.

Many Linux fans know that Debian Stable usually already lost the “b” when it’s being released. ;-) What seems not so well known (especially not by some DesktopBSD Marketing guy at last year’s LinuxDay.at :-) is that there is really a lot of people who really like this “stale” software collection — because it’s rock solid — especially compared to the ports in FreeBSD or DesktopBSD *evilgrin* which unnecessarily follow every new feature upstream introduces. This is really annoying in a server environment where you want as less changes as possible when updates are necessary due to security issues. My personal favourites here are Samba and CUPS. *grmpf*

Although I belong to those people who run Debian Stable even on brand-new hardware, I sometimes have to use the newest beta or alpha versions of some software to get it even only running. And doing so is fun but feels strange somehow, though. Currently I follow the pre-releases of three software makers quite close, due to a new laptop:

At the beginning of last semester I bought a brand-new Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2,2 GHz Intel Core2 Duo T7500, 4 GB RAM, 160 GB HD, 1440x900 14” Widescreen) without preinstalled operating system (possible thanks to the ETHZ Neptun Project) and installed — of course — 64-bit Debian Stable on it.

While the Debian Installer from Etch worked fine even on such new hardware, not all features worked out of the box because some components were just too new.

So the first thing I did was installing 2.6.22 from Backports.org, quickly moving farther to vanilla 2.6.23. Nearly everything I needed worked except the wireless network card. It needs the iwlwifi driver which is officially in the Linux kernel starting at the upcoming 2.6.24 (said to be released during the next few days). So I run 2.6.24 pre-releases on the laptop since the first release candidate, always eagerly waiting for either the next RC or the final release. (And 2.6.24 looks impressively stable to me — even since the early release candidates. :-)

I even got the fingerprint reader working for login and sudo (but not xscreensaver) using libthinkfinger backported to Etch from Debian Experimental. I’m just not sure if this is a good idea since the back of the screen already has enough of my fingerprints on it. ;-)

The next software of which I’m currently running an alpha version is 64-bit Opera 9.50 (aka Kestrel, available at snapshot.opera.com) because no earlier Opera version is available for 64-bit Linuxes. Here I had different experiences: The builds from October and November were already quite stable, but since December it crashes usually several times a day.

At work I also run the 64-bit Opera on my workstation, but stalled updating it when I noticed that it became so unstable. So my Opera at work has currently an uptime of nearly four weeks — and would have probably more if I hadn’t rebooted my workstation in Mid-December.

Somehow this hunting for new versions and eagerly waiting for every new (pre-)release makes me really fidgety sometimes. And my understanding for people doing this for there whole userland or even operating system has grown, but I still prefer to have stale but stable software on all my productive machines, even on my laptop — just with some few and handpicked excpetions.

The third but less thrilling thing I’m following are nVidia drivers for X. Since the free nv driver of X.org doesn’t support (and not only just doesn’t know) my graphics card yet and nouveau isn’t ready yet, I run the binary only and closed source driver from nVidia, waiting for that one release which supports Xen since I really would like to run a Xen guest with Debian Unstable for testing purposes and package building on my laptop. Until then I have to content myself with the much more unwieldy QEMU respectively KVM.

Anyway, I’m very happy with the T61 and Debian Stable and can easily connive at the few not (yet) perfect issues like missing Xen support by nVidia, broken ad-hoc mode in the wireless card, no internal card-reader (as announced in the Neptun specifications) and no native serial port.

Some useful links regarding the subject of this post:

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This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the Network Security Group (NSG) of the Central IT Services (Informatikdienste) at ETH Zurich.

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