Rant: Debian 5 Installation on AA1 and Other Nonsense

What started out earlier today as a relatively simple thing has mushroomed into a big retarded mess. Yea Linux.

I decided to install Debian on my AA1 via net install using the netinstall ISO running from USB with the help of unetbootin (one of the dumbest names ever, IMO, even though it’s pretty easy to use). I chose Debian because it isn’t tied to a reckless time-frame for releases, because it has repositories filled with plenty of software  choices (even though most of them are bloated with every possible dependency required), and because it receives frequent updates for security and bugs.

I also decided I’d go ahead and go through a full standard install. WTF, why would I do that? Because I remeasured some things while running Gnome in Fedora 10. My initial RAM hit at boot was low — much lower than Xubuntu running from USB. I’d trimmed things down a bit with a choice of more frugal applications, some of which (e.g., mencoder) work a lot better than the default choices did. I wanted to see if I’d see similar results with Debian.

I haven’t sold out, nor have I lost my mind. This decision isn’t permanent and in stone. If I can’t get resource use to a reasonable level, either I’ll use apt-get to remove a buncha BS or I’ll do a clean install (not Debian if things aren’t working at least as well as they were in Fedora).

I resized my XP partition for more room because I still anticipate using it more often than Linux. Then I repartitioned the rest of the drive to accomodate /, /home, and swap. Pretty simple, right?

I wish I’d pinged mirrors to find a fast one before committing! The install took several hours, which I guess is par for the course given how much stuff (800+ packages) was installed. Fine with me. I had plenty other stuff to do anyway. Still, it would’ve left me with more time to deal with all the other stuff that  happened afterward (never mind that I was going to use my computer to work on stuff today). It’s not very assuring looking at the estimated time as it jumps from an hour to three hours to over fifteen hours. It took close to four and a half hours. Next time, I just get the full ISO and get it over with.

After the install process finally ended, I was ready to reboot. I got GRUB error 17. Okay, I can deal with that. I still had a USB stick with Fedora 11 available. Fixed it, rebooted, got a GRUB prompt rather than menu. Okay, that’s an easy one: configfile /path/to/menu.lst. Voila? No, of course not. Reboot and go through it again, this time e to edit the entry. Ahh, once again installing from USB resulted in GRUB being installed to /dev/sda when that node is the USB stick — same thing happened in PCLOS when I installed it. So I edited the sdb to sda and I was able to finally boot into Debian 5 (Lenny or Squiggy or Laverne or Shirley or some such). Logged in and had a shiny new Gnome desktop. I yawned.

Still have to configure wireless. I tried once but it didn’t connect and I had shit I had to get done. I think I may need to install something else because of my router’s configuration. In fact, I was unable to pick up any SSIDs via iwlist scan even though lsmod showed that ath5k was loaded. That’s pretty fucked up because I’m using Windows now and there are six visible networks right here. Oh well, I’ll sort it out tomorrow. Along with making some more edits to the wacky menu.lst installed by Debian.

Speaking of which…

Word of advice to the GNU-tards who whine about Windows-related MBR issues and having to install Windows first, Linux second: when you get your own shit together, you can complain all you fucking want. Until then, I’ve had two distros install GRUB to a goddamn USB stick from which those respective distros were installed instead of the hard drive where the distros were installed. Don’t give me any FUD about Microsoft not playing fair — neither do you (I also had to edit the Windows entries beyond correcting the hard drive) — and no, you don’t get a free pass when people install from USB rather than optical drives. Can’t you script source and destination so that only destination gets GRUB?

I’ll also be switching some software around tomorrow if/when I get wireless working. That includes installing stuff that works right in spite of license issues. I have a rant to post about that (see below). I insist upon genuine closed-source Flash from Adobe because this swfdec is a lame POS that doesn’t work very well. Same for Gnash. Oh, I know there are often performance issues with Flash in Linux because different distros use a hodge-podge of mismatched libraries, which makes it damn near impossible for the nice people at Adobe to please everyone even though they go out of their way to give away their software to ingrates (only a handful of whom will ever demand the source). I installed swfdec in Fedora and my first hit at youtube made me cringe. It also made my CPU cringe as it raced like crazy while the audio and video were so fucked up that I had to kill Firefox. And then hunt down and kill the stupid fucking wrapper that persisted after closing Firefox and was overheating my AA1 while it tried to send distorted sound to my headphones through the abortion known as pulse audio. If swfdec and pulse audio are the answers, open source authors are working on the wrong friggin’ questions.

WTF, here’s the short form of the rant about license issues: if you can rebrand Firefox as “IceWeasel” to get around licensing issues, you can do similarly for ion and truecrypt. In the latter two, the authors don’t forbid you from doing whatever you want with their code; they only ask that you call it something else if you don’t distribute it as they release it. I can see their point, too. You’re not distributing what they release once you start changing it, so why should they field questions and be asked to fix bugs that come from your patches or other changes from what they recommend and/or require? These aren’t onerous requirements at all. The alternative is the way Opera, Skype, and Adobe handle it by controlling their own source, which means your users have to go around your efforts to restrict them to open source software with “pure” licenses.

I use truecrypt in Windows, I want truecrypt in Linux. I like ion but don’t plan on using it again anytime soon. One thing I hate about Linux is how ridiculously fundamentalist so many users/advocates and developers are. You know, the ones who preach at us to use Gnash instead of Flash because the whole fucking world will come to an end if we won’t stop using closed source software. Never mind that Gnash and swfdec will crash and die (repeatedly) before Planet Earth ever will.

More tomorrow. Maybe some love for Debian. Maybe some hate. Either way, it’ll be well-deserved.

And maybe I’ll also get to work on the Hard Drive Install Guide, which is why I’d hoped to finish this install and configuration earlier today. So much for that. Using a computer — regardless of OS — shouldn’t be a pain in the ass. Today it definitely was. And I have a feeling I’m going to go through it all over again soon.

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