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Author:  Hollow
October 21, 2008



Debian (Lenny) Linux – Beta2

Debian (Etch) Linux Default (Fresh Install) Desktop Screenshot. Click to enlarge.

Debian (Lenny) Installer - Screenshot.

Forget taking the Linux world or even the AIX systems world by storm, Lenny is revolutionary and is going to be (Yes that’s right I’m asserting that it WILL be, not saying I think it will be) one of the singular most important distribution releases of Linux as a whole, EVER!

Let’s start out with the improvements over Debians previous release, Debian 4.0 Etch. Well we now have a very clear menu once the Live CD boots up, it’s unbelievably easy for new users and power users alike to choose which installation procedure they would like to follow. If you’re a completely new user to Linux, you can take the Lenny CD, put it in your drive, select the Graphical Installer as opposed to the options for experts, or simply text based, Then follow a few very simple instructions, click a few buttons and presto, you’ve got a fully installed, totally usable and perfectly working system. It really has never been easier, and I’m talking easier than Ubuntu here, now that’s saying something.

There is also another fundamental difference in Lennys installer options, you can choose an expert installation, WITH a graphical interface, this is brilliant. Just because I’m a power user and an I.T. engineer doesn’t mean I want to spend my life looking at text based installers, just to prove I’m a power user. I can now choose the expert installer, giving me the options I need to configure my system, exactly the way I want it, whilst still feeling that I am choosing this option as a power user, and that I have control over how my system will be installed. An option you don’t get with some other distributions like Ubuntu, and yet I can look at a relatively attractive (Although slightly too pink for my liking) installer at the same time. The expert installer is almost as detailed as following a Gentoo Installation Document, identifying all the really intricate parts of the installation, right down to asking if it should look for PCMCIA devices or not (Pre-empting the possibility that you may be using a laptop). For a graphical installer, I think I can safely say this is the most in depth you could get it, without risking the users options screwing up the installation with conflicts. Which if memory serves me correctly, Gentoo once did back in 2005 and I fell out with their installer from that moment onwards.

During the expert installation we did, we had an option to use a mirror to supplement the software already on our CD, this is an option we usually choose, if it’s given, with all distros, because it allows us less problems (usually) once the installation is finished, because it’s using the absolute, most up to date software out there and requires a lot less effort to get a fully working system. The downside to this however, is that the installation does take a lot longer while it downloads the software required and is very dependent on your connection speed to the internet.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny First boot - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

Lenny Grub2.0 - Screenshot.

On to the more important parts of the review. Debian Lenny comes with several installation CD options, a KDE CD, a Gnome CD or an XFCE CD. Since it’s our favorite desktop environment, we chose the KDE install CD, however I love the fact that you have the options available for those users who prefer Gnome or XFCE and want to install it from the first minute of installation, instead of having to install a Gnome desktop, then later once the system is up-to date enough, installing KDE or XFCE as well, which can cause clutter in the menus, excess baggage of programs you don’t want or need, etc. This again really shows how much effort and thought has gone into the Lenny release.

After the first reboot, I found a very much fully working operating system, there were still a few updates required, I had to manually upgrade the kernel so that I could install the VirtualBox drivers and enable seamless mode, but it’s not as if it’s as difficult as it used to be with having to completely re-compile the kernel, so no harm in that. Not great for new users but most new users won’t be using Virtualbox to install Lenny. Possibly the full release of Lenny (Remember this review is based on Beta2 and not a full release) may be a little more intuitive and automatically install the latest kernel during the inevitable apt-get update, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade, after an installation, which we all have to perform usually with every distro we install.

Debian (Etch) Linux Office pre-installed as standard Screenshot. Click to Enlarge.

Lenny Control Center - Screenshot

A couple of updates, reboots and a virtualbox kernel module compilation later, (Not as difficult as that sounds in all honesty, some more apt-gets and a little research if needed into the packages available and how to issue the right commands if you’ve never done it before) and we’re up and running, but wait, installation of the VBox kernel module and drivers has caused an issue with the resolution, it’s defaulting to 1280×768. So I start looking for the control center, only to realize, Lenny still uses the default KDE one, just as etch did. Now although that’s fine for power users who know where everything is already, that’s not the case for new users. In this particular instance for example I wanted to change my screen resolution, so you start opening up the menus, as shown in the screenshot, and you eventually find the display settings under “Peripherals”. Now this hasn’t changed from Etch and there are other distributions that do this as well. But in terms of Lenny for new users this is a real let down to me. I would expect a distribution that is this polished everywhere else, and had this much development put into it, and is this easy to use for all the other things it includes, to have the control center side of things sorted out by now.

Kubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mandriva and several other distros, have a customised control center, which for new users is much much easier to navigate if they want to change simple settings like the resolution, or keyboard settings. Lenny is still lacking the “noob proof” setup here. However from a power user point of view it’s incredible, the control center has just about every setting you could want it to have, plus a few you don’t really need. Short of things which still require command line hacking in EVERY distribution out there, the abilities of the control center in Lenny FAR out weigh those of the distributions which have made it easier to navigate for newer users.

Unfortunately the display configuration is still quite limited as well with the VBox drivers and I had to go back to command line hacking to give my new system a resolution above 1280×768. This is no reflection on Lenny however, as I was in a VirtualBox VM and did not have the NVidia or ATi drivers installed that I inevitably would have, were it on a real system, giving me better configuration tools to configure my display with. This being a virtualbox installation is also the reason we didn’t get to play with any of Lennys really cool new toys on the wireless front.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

Lenny KDM Screen - Screenshot.

It’s worth a mention that Lenny, once installed, comes with a full compliment of programs, both fun, professional and functional. I honestly don’t think you could find a Linux distribution that came this well equipped out of the box.


I can definitely say that Lenny is a big step forward in terms of desktop computing, I haven’t tried out the server installation for Lenny just yet, but you can count on me doing so as I always use Debian for my servers :D . I’m exceptionally happy to see that the KDE release of Lenny is geared around KDE3.5.9 and not KDE4.1, I think choosing the more stable, better known and tried & tested Desktop Environment was the way to go. They’ve ended up with a better product than the distributions who are already incorporating KDE4.1 into their default setup. Don’t get me wrong here, KDE4.1 is a great product, and is getting better all the time, but I still don’t think it’s really all that ready for new users who are booting Linux for the first time. Mandriva did a good job with KDE4.1 in their 2009.0 release, but it was nowhere near as powerful as the Lenny installation is and if KDE4.1 is your default desktop you may well need another desktop installed as well, to configure things that KDE4.1 can’t handle yet, I think Debian made the right choice here.

Overall I think Debian have surpassed themselves with this release, I was extremely happy to see the much needed new features, such as the graphical installer, the option to install Grub2.0 (Which I did and was very impressed with) and overall just how well the system installs itself. Well done Debian, I can’t wait for the full release of Lenny. If I hadn’t JUST migrated everything from my Kubuntu 8.04 x86 installation to my Kubuntu 8.04 X64 installation, ready for the Intrepid Ibex (8.10) release, I’d be installing Lenny on my desktop right now instead of writing this review. As it is, I’ll have to resist the temptation for now in order to assure I have a fully working system and am not just “playing around with my system”. :D

For an Operating System release this would be amazing, for a Beta2 release, this is excellence!

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One Response for "Lenny Set to take the I.T. world by storm!"»

  1. csmith

    I like Debian a lot, and after fubaring my server install of Etch, I decided to start using Lenny. It is a nice os, even though I don’t see much of the Gnome/KDE/XFCE side of it since I use it primarily as a web server (the website listed above, though it only has a quick and dirty place holder there now). I am partial to gnome, personally, but that is only because I think it is slightly less clunky to use. And even though I remotely work on it a lot, I do mess around with it sometimes with VNC so i can actually play with the GUI end of the system. I am a Linux newb, having only been working in Linux for my job and on the side since about March of this year, but I am defiantly hooked. I would defiantly recommend Debian Lenny to anyone wanting a server or a good desktop.
    Great article/review!

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