Untangling Debian package dependencies


The author of debtree, a program that illustrates dependencies between .deb packages, has posted a brief rant about the size of Gnome desktop installations in recent Debian releases. Specifically, he notes that a default Gnome install in Etch (4.0) was 1,360MB - but in the upcoming 6.0 release it'll be over 3,000MB.

Quote: "One of the main reasons I switched to Linux was because it gave me back control over my systems, but with KDE4 and pervasive stuff like hal and all the various "kits" Linux is on a fast track that's giving priority to flashiness over real functionality and eroding that control." He has also produced some graphs showing the vast dependency chain for HAL.

What do you think - is such complexity merely a by-product of an expanding and maturing OS? Or do we need to step back for a moment and simplify things before continuing the battle for the desktop?

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Your comments

Keep it simple

Most computer users use just a small proportion of their machine's power. They need to access their email, trawl through the web and, may be, write the odd document or two, etc. The vast majority of users just want the applications they use to be at their command as quickly as possible, after they have requested it be started. The OS (and Desktop) should be intuitive, pleasant to look at and above all else, fast.

Please, all of you Developers of these vital elements of our computing world; remember KISS; Keep It Simple Stupid!

Missing the Point

While I can understand his frustrations, I don't see his point. He complains that the default install is huge and reduces the control he has over his system. Notice the word default in there. If he had been complaining that it was not possible to strip it down to be more minimalist then he'd have a valid point, but you can't complain that something's not under your complete control when you willingly surrender that control to the power of the default.

You can configure linux in many different ways, all varying along the balance line of control vs time-to-usefulness (which of course varies depending on the user). For the ultimate in control, there's LFS, quickly running through slackware, gentoo to more immediately "useful" (zero-configuration desktops in my case) RHEL, SUSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint etc.


While I don't agree that control has been lost I do believe flashiness has taken over versus simplicity. Most distros offer a minimal install so you can start with a very small installation. I agree with the above comment if you use the default option its out of your hands. But yes KDE4 and Gnome are getting very very large and it is getting out of hand IMO. Simplify and streamline is the way to go. viva le xterm!

I partially agreed with

I partially agreed with emorrp1, yes I can chose different flavours of Linux in accordance to my needs or desires.

But where I don't agree is that, and this is most clear in desktop managers (mainly gnome and KDE), is that even in a no default installation you get a lot of "trash", is like their building a pyramid so if you want application X you will need to use desktop manager Y period! And so the rant from Frans Pop, I believe, is about this huge dependency each desktop manager is creating.

For example I don't use Gnome but I like evince for document viewing, if you try to install evince you will get a lot of gnome dependencies, is like almost having Gnome itself. For me this is not good!
(Btw, I do use evince, but a patched version that eliminates most of the Gnome dependencies. I believe I shouldn't be needed to do this hack.)

As a fact, the unix philosophy is getting more and more forgotten, one program should do one thing and one thing only, but in an unbeatable way and you should be able to control the installation of each of this simple applications.


How about a little of both

A modern desktop OS must do things that are costly and to compete, so must Linux. But doing those things as efficiently as possible is the key to OS nirvana.

Dont forget stuff like Python

As Linux users we are in an incredibly fortunate position in that we can choose to have a handcrafted system if we have the skill, based on something like Slack, or a system which can be used effectively by non-techies, like Ubuntu, so I dont really see the beef. It should be seen as progress surely?
The Linux landscape would be hugely poorer if EITHER approach were to be abandoned or restricted.

Sorry about the Python Heading

Post started out criticizing having to have stuff like Python installed to run some programs, but I changed it as it read like a rant (which it was LOL)

These aren't Linux issues.

These aren't Linux issues. These are distro issues. It all depends on what the distro wants to focus on during development. Whether it be security, aesthetics, or speed.

HAL is being deprecated by the way...

And if you don't like bloat/focus on aesthetics, then either (a) don't install the bloat/flashiness, like a previous poster mentioned, or (b) install a distro that focuses on minimalism and function. Ever heard of Slackware, Arch Linux, Zenwalk, Vector, etc, etc, etc?

I see this whole "ordeal" as a non-issue to be honest.

Nothing new

I think the problem is that the big "newbie-friendly" distros seem to love Gnome and KDE, which in turn seem to love bloat and obfuscated configuration files.

It's nothing new: when I first started using Linux in 2001, one of my biggest breakthroughs was figuring out how to run X without a big DE. My hardware at the time wasn't up to running 80+ processes just for the UI, but Blackbox saved the day.

Over the years I've mostly stayed with (Black|Flux)box, but in Mandriva's case it's gradually become harder to do as more and more desktop functions are preconfigured only in the big DEs. (Things aren't helped by KDE's habit of re-inventing the wheel, but that's another rant...)

I can see why it's good to have a default to minimise the decisions a newbie has to make at install time, but I wonder how hard it would be for an installer to run a few simple tests (RAM, HDD speed, processor bogomips or whatever) and choose between 2 or 3 'default' installs.

"As Linux users we are in an

"As Linux users we are in an incredibly fortunate position in that we can choose to have a handcrafted system if we have the skill, based on something like Slack, or a system which can be used effectively by non-techies, like Ubuntu, so I dont really see the beef. It should be seen as progress surely?
The Linux landscape would be hugely poorer if EITHER approach were to be abandoned or restricted."

But what about the non-techies that do not want the bloat of Ubuntu and yet can not install Slackware due to the learning curve. Is there an operating system that works out of the box like Ubuntu but skips the bloat?

I like choices

I personally would like to see more choices such as a modular Gnome desktop. I like it but sometimes I only want bits of it. Like on older equipment 3000MB for a desktop would kill my oldest machine. Couldn't they simply break it down into modular chunks? And not just different themes.

More options is inevitable to go mainstream

I think that as Linux moves more to attract the mainstream user more options and widgets are going to be added because that is what a lot of the mainstream users like.
It seems to me that the issue (or non-issue) is just what emorrp1 stated in the second post. It is just the default install options. We are fortunate to have the option to select what we want how we want it.
Perhaps, if there was a web application that let users configure an install on the fly by picking options and then allowing you to download an install that contained those settings and attributes this would be an non-issue.

Option is the KEY

I think Desktop should keep as clean and fast as possible. All the default should be keep this philosophy in mind. Give an the option to easy to reach all the "COOL" feature. I think that would make everyone happy.

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