Have you mooed today?

May 15th, 2004 Comments Off

I have. No, it’s not what you’re thinking about: I have not gone insane while I was away from the blogosphere. But if you think I’m crazy because I mooed, you’re probably think I’m beyond all help when I tell you that I’m using a tool that has super cow powers.

It’s really true. For the past fews weeks I’ve been using Debian’s apt-get package tool, and it really rocks. Apt-get is powered by a super cow and it’s the answer to all of your Debian problems. If you don’t believe me, run apt-get moo in a Debian box you have access to. I’m not mad.

Anyway, I’m been using Debian in this server and I’m loving it, thanks in part to apt-get. When I was kicked out of my former hosting provider, I decided I would get a server with root access. I was planning to get a dedicated server with some friends, but that didn’t work and I had to find something else. Then I found about Bytemark, which provides user-mode Linux hosting, and I quickly signed up with them. I now have access to a full Linux installation with root privileges to run as I see fit.

Bytemark provides four flavors of Linux, two of which I had previous experience with. I’ve used Red Hat for a time in my home machine, and I run Gentoo in a machine at work for some time as well. I could have used them, but I decided to go with Debian instead. Debian has a reputation for stability and reliability. As I never had administered a Linux box all by myself — and never had touched a Debian box — I was quite anxious about the whole thing.

To make the story short, Debian proved to be a extremely easy distro to manage — thanks to its package system, of which apt-get is the gatekeeper. Apt-get is quite an incredible piece of work. After two years using RPMs to upgrade my Linux distro (Mandrake), apt-get is a breath of fresh air. I’m truly impressed with the way it handles conflicts and dependencies — and all automatically. Updating the whole system is just a matter of typing a single command at the root prompt.

A example of how apt-get makes an administrator’s life easy can be seen in my decision to use a mail server different from the one provided in the default Bytemark Debian installation. Bytemark prepackages Debian with exim, but I wanted to use postfix instead. Exim is tied to apache and other packages that I didn’t want to remove. I was wondering what to do when I decided to simply ask apt-get to install postfix. To my surprise, it correctly identified that exim should be removed and proceeded to delete it from the system, cleaning all related files in the process. I don’t think package installation can’t get more easy than that.

I switched to Linux as a primary desktop about ten months ago. When I moved away from Windows, I never locked back. I still use it for a couple applications and games, but its usage represents less than one percent of the time I spend in front of a computer. Debian’s apt-get is one of the things that proved the move was worth taking. There are some things in Linux for which there nothing comparable in Windows land. Of course, open source has its problems. But it’s able to produce some things that not even a multi-billion cash reserve can. That’s more than worth the occasional trouble I run into.

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