Friday, April 07, 2006

Apt - Debian's Killer App

In SUSE, Fedora or Debian for sys admins: A closer look Tom Adelstein says that in doing research for an upcoming book, he found that most Linux sysamdins prefer Debian. The reason? Apt.

Overwhelmingly, system administrators preferred apt-get for adding, removing and updating their servers. We also discovered that system admins added ports of apt-get to Fedora and SUSE. So much for yast -i. The preferred Debian administration utility drove people who used the non-commercial distributions to Debian.

I have to say I agree - I've used Debian for years and prefer it for everyday use over other Linux distros or BSD systems. The combination of dpkg/apt and the related Aptitude/Synaptic are at once easy to use for the most common sysadmin activities of update and install, but offer plenty of features for advanced use. While RPM and dpkg are pretty much equivalent in functionality, Apt offers many more features than yum, including package pinning and the ability to do major system upgrades. I also find yum to be rather slow when compared to Apt.

I'll add some thought on the various BSD's, too - FreeBSD's binary packages system is pretty easy to use, as is NetBSD's pkgsrc, but still both lack features when compared to Apt. The BSD's adherence to a unified system of kernel/userland makes it impossible to upgrade between major OS versions without going through a formal installation procedure, while Debian allows you to do it with two commands - you can even keep your old kernel with the new userland if you want. OpenBSD always recommends using the installer's upgrade option, with plenty of manual labor both before and afterwards.

There are other reasons to use Debian, too, like sticking to Free Software ideals, security, and ease of administration, but package management with Apt seems to be Debian's "killer feature" that keeps people coming back.

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2 comments:

Joe said...

Apt is definitely the best part of Debian. I'll sometimes have friendly jabs with friends about distributions and someone will always talk about Debians lack of updates (which is no longer true these days). I can always reply to that with how great apt is and everyone agrees.

G-Fresh said...

I used Debian for a couple of years, and when I tried other distros I always missed apt. However, after having used Archlinux' pacman the last year I can't say I miss it at all. Pacman rocks! :)