Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: OpenACS on Debian pros and cons...

Posted by C. R. Oldham on
As far as running OpenACS if you are using Postgres, it doesn't matter.  If you are using Oracle, Oracle only officially supports Red Hat AS and Red Hat ES.  So in the absence of Oracle you should use whichever distro you like better.

Now, if you're not sure which distro you like better, here are a few notes from my evaluation of RH9 over the past few days.

Debian Pros:

- More consistency of system file locations
- Single, very good packaging system (apt)
- Easier to find packages if they exist.
- System scripts make more "sense" to me.
- Keeping system up to date with patches is free.
- One distro for desktop and server.

Debian Cons:

- Fewer packages (though you can use alien to convert .rpm to .deb, you always run the risk of breaking something)
- Stable distribution of Debian lags way way behind.
- No official vendor hardware or software support

RedHat 9 Pros:

- More packages
- Packages are MD5 signed
- Nice graphical admin tools (you may not care)
- Good integration with Gnome and KDE desktops

RH9 Cons:

- Multiple packaging systems (up2date, yum,apt) are confusing.
- RedHat has only just now got automatic dependency resolution with apt and yum.
- RedHat patches the heck out of their kernels.  I'm assuming they do QA testing before they release such heavily patched kernels, but even so they get far less testing than a stock kernel.
- Future of "free" Red Hat is in question right now.  "Free" Red Hat is now called "Fedora Core".  Red Hat will *not* offer support for Fedora.  See for more information.  Basically they are trying to create a Debian-like system where many people could contribute packages.  Fedora will be the proving ground for new technologies to eventually go into ES/AS.

The *only* reason we would switch to RH is support.  Vendors are getting tighter and tighter about support for Linux, and who can blame them?  It's not enough for them anymore for you to just tell them "I'm running Linux, kernel 2.4.21".

Actually, I just thought of one more reason to use RH--if you purchase a server from a vendor that offers RH preinstalled.  If that is the case, then you should stick with RH.  We just went through a horrible time with a vendor trying to figure out what was wrong with one of our servers.  Fortunately he never said "well I only certify my boxes with RH", but a large vendor (Dell?  HP?) definitely would.

In another case I replaced a default RH install with Debian on another server at a remote colo, and then RH released a technical advisory for the RAID controller on the box.  They offered to send a tech to flash the firmware on the card and update the SCSI driver to go with it.  When the tech arrived he realized that if he tried to boot the box with the RedHat patch CD he very likely would render the machine unbootable because the machine didn't actually have RH on it.  Fortunately we realized this in time.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Debian.  I'd hate to leave it, but the Red Hat install base is reaching critical mass.

The Fedora thing really worries me.  Lots of RH advocates are saying "don't worry, it is just opening up the development and Fedora packages should always work on AS/ES, and vice versa", but time will tell.  Before Fedora I wasn't worried because you could always guarantee that the "Free" and the "Pay" versions of RH were pretty close.  Now I think Fedora is going to zip way out in front of AS/ES.

I've rambled enough.

Posted by Roberto Mello on
A few comments (note: I have nothing against Red Hat, I use Debian most of the time but would not mind using Red Hat if requested):

Debian Cons:

Fewer packages? I have currently 16651 available packages. I haven't counted Red Hat's packages, but last time I checked it had much less than that. Now if you include packages built by who-knows-who-and-how-that-can-screw-up-your-system...

"No official vendor hardware or software support". Not true. HP is one vendor I know that certifies its hardware on Debian. In fact, Debian is the Linux development platform at HP ( More vendors _in the U.S._ likely support Red Hat though.

About MD5 sums for packages, at least on sid packages have their MD5 sums.

For "nice graphical admin tools", pretty much all of the good admin tools of other distributions have been packaged for Debian, so if you want them, just install them. I packaged the PostgreSQL administrator graphical app that Red Hat wrote, for example, although it's not really an OS admin tool (