Nothing could be further from the truth. The Debian developers have put together a titanic number of software packages, and done the work to make them function together like... "...like an enormous clock."
"The finest clocks have jeweled movements. Cogs that fit, and work together by design. I'm being metaphorical, Bob."
Several fine tutorials and demos have been posted of Debian since the release of Squeeze, 6.0, on Sunday. Here's one I particularly like:
But there is something more that I believe needs to be addressed. Just what do you get with one disk of Debian anyway?
I used Debian DVD#1 to see just what kind of variety a user could get out of it.
Edit: I forgot to mention that I downloaded DVD#1 using the Bit Torrent method, the most efficient way to distribute large files. It also puts a thorn in the paw of the RIAA/MPAA that Bit Torrent gets used to any extent for perfectly legitimate purposes. Two good reasons to use it.
Here we go:
Those are the ones for which the Debian developers have created explicit installation routines within the installer. If you choose CDs, you have to pick ahead of time which you want, CD#1 (the default GNOME), CD#1-KDE or CD#1-LXDE-Xfce. There just isn't enough room on one CD to fit them all, which is why I chose DVD#1 for this demonstration.
I think encryption is wonderful. Even though it adds the step of putting in a password before the computer will boot, having your file system encrypted can be a great comfort.
Debian makes that wonderfully easy, and its an option in the normal installation procedure. Fear not, the worst possible thing that could happen would be to have to start the install over again with a quick reboot.
Edit: I forgot to say, what I installed was the default "Graphical Desktop", GNOME, with no additional options. This is the "click through" installation, easy-as-pie. Debian's ancient reputation for being "hard to use" hasn't been true for a decade.
Even though not one additional option has been added to the base Debian installation, there is already a choice of entering the GNOME or twm desktops.
Let's log into the different Window Managers and see what they look like.
Also, make sure to remove NetworkManager if you install WICD. They conflict if they try to run at the same time. I think I will open a Debian bugreport on that fact and suggest that they make them conflict officially so you must choose one or the other in the package managers. Debian package management does that very efficiently when there are such conflicts.
This is the KDE Display Manager (kdm), which will also launch GNOME, as gdm will also launch KDE. What a nice list of choices we have, all from one installation DVD.
Debian flexibility makes all that possible. Remember, this is NOT accomplished only after pointing to the mighty Debian repositories, famed in song and story for their size and scope. This is just DVD#1.
4.5GB. Could be more, if I'd added the web, ftp, dns and other servers, but this was a desktop comparison.
Debian has a reputation for size, and it is possible to overwhelm your system to some extent with such ease of adding packages through the apt front ends like aptitude, dselect, synaptic or just "apt-get install foo" from the epic Debian repositories.
But the real flexibility of Linux systems can be seen in how easy it is to customize an install to the needs and desires of the end user.
Even on "obsolete" hardware, such applications as Firefox, GIMP and OpenOffice/LibreOffice can be installed and run just fine, with the help of a frugal window manager. Before I finally retired a 1998 laptop in the summer of 2009, I was running the latest Debian unstable with the 2.6 kernel, OpenOffice, Firefox and Konqueror web browsers, Kmail, even Battle for Wesnoth, on a machine with 128MB of RAM and a 350MHz K6 CPU.
How, with only 128MB of RAM? By not trying to run KDE or GNOME. Just twm and olwm, launching only what I needed when I needed it. Still for all that, it rarely used its swap space.
I just didn't expect it to be snappy, or do full motion video or YouTube flash. But it was my backup laptop, and it worked just fine.
Flexibility. Go ahead and try a new desktop environment once in a while, see how things feel. You never know what you may find.