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Re: What Linux distribution works best with Emacspeak?

   I have a friend who is seriously considering Linux, and we have not
   decided what Linux distribution to use.  ...

Red Hat is easier for a person with sight to install than Debian.  I
have installed both.  (I have never installed Slackware.)  

However, Debian is not hard to install; you simply have to know ahead
of time the details of your hardware.  Debian does less auto-probing
than Red Hat.  I myself use Debian.    I am writing this message from
a Debian-based system.  (If you want, I can send you some detailed
Debian-install commentary that is too long for a mailing list.)

After installation, both Debian and Red Hat are more or less
equivalent for ordinary use.  I suppose that Red Hat has more
graphical adminstration tools, but I have never used them.  
You don't need to.

In contrast to Red Hat, Debian offers far more packages.  However, as
a practical matter, if you are a "normal" person, you are not likely
to use many of the additional packages.  On the other hand, if you are
not within one standard deviation of the norm, you will find that an
advantage of Debian is that is does have the odd packages that
eccentrics like.

I also like the layout and control Debian provides, but that is an
aesthetic judgement; I am not sure I can explain it more clearly.
Also, I like the mostly volunteer, closer to the nub of free software
aspect of Debian, which is a political attraction.

(Let me put this another way:  I run Debian on my own machine, but I
have installed Red Hat and recommend Red Hat to my sighted friends who
know less about computers than I and who have fewer needs.  And then
there is the friend of mine who knows more about computers than I who
uses Red Hat because he `never has to think about it'.  Red Hat is a
good distribution; it is merely different.)

As for Debian's `dselect':  speaking as a sighted person, it is a
rather clunky but OK front end.  The Debian distribution has got too
big for it.  The lists of packages are too long.  It does not give you
the conveniences an Emacs user expects (rather obviously, `dselect'
was written by someone with a DOS/Windows95 background).

The `dselect' program is simple to use but I myself tend to use the
underlying `dpkg' program or the new `apt' program that is intended,
eventually, to supercede `dselect'.  I primarily use `dselect' when I
am installing lots of programs.  It is convenient to use `dselect'
when installing many programs at the same time.

However, you don't need to use `dselect' at all.  When installing
Debian, you will be asked which of eleven different installations you
want and you can pick one of them:

Admin        Administrator box (network tools, Perl, ...)           [~ 395M]
Basic        standalone system without development tools            [~  25M]
Devel_comp   Huge development environment (Perl, Python, C, ...)    [~ 404M]
Devel_std    Standard C development environment                     [~ 340M]
Dailup       Home machine (graphics, sound, X, ...)                 [~ 420M]
Server_comp  Server (add. Mailing list, Backup, News, Samba, Squid) [~  50M]
Server_std   Std. Server (FTP, Web, DNS, NIS, POP)                  [~  40M]
Standard     Compiler, printing, Emacs, and networking              [~  89M]
Work_sci     Scientific workstation (Tex, Math, plot, X, ...)       [~ 500M]
Work_std     Standard workstation (TeX, graphics, internet, X)      [~ 382M]
Custom       Select the tasks you will perform with this system

You only need to use `dselect' if you choose custom.  I myself pick
`Work_std' and then add individual programs with `apt' or `dpkg' or
`rpm'.  You might pick `Standard'.

Do note that Debian provides the `alien' program that lets you install
most RPM packages in a Debian system as easily as you install native
.deb packages.

For a character-only installation, which I expect you would install
for your friend, I would chose `Standard' which provides Emacs,
networking, compiling, and printing.  This installs nearly everything
that an ordinary person might want that is not graphical.

Best wishes.


    Robert J. Chassell                  bob@rattlesnake.com
    Rattlesnake Enterprises             http://www.rattlesnake.com

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