Say what you like about Debian or Ubuntu, but I think the floppy installation option was the coolest thing ever. I might be alone in that assessment, but I’m a bit sad that it doesn’t seem to be around for newer versions. (Tell me if I’m wrong, please.) I’ve done two or three installations with Etch, and then jumped up to stable or testing, when I felt daring.
I’ve only run into a few problems, and most of them were hardware-related. The network card I used for the installation is the axnet-cs-driven card I’ve mentioned in the past, but I realize now that the card itself is untrustworthy. Pressure on the tip causes the plastic shell to gape, which in turn causes the connections to jitter and break. That can be a problem when you’re floating through the installer program, waiting to download the core packages that will get your system on the drive.
The other was some sort of inconsistency between the default Etch kernel and the hard drive controller in this Pentium; I was seeing strange DMA error messages that caused the system boot to be delayed by a minute or two. Those errors disappeared with a kernel upgrade, so I’m guessing the issue was solved somewhere between 2.6.18 and 2.6.26.
Compared to Ubuntu, Debian boots slower, taking more than a minute to finish between Grub and the login. I know that Ubuntu hotwires the startup process though, so that is something I expected. While it’s up, the computer doesn’t feel any faster than Ubuntu, or for that matter Slitaz or maybe even Crux, if we’re counting console-only systems. Really though, at the console, things are pretty much going as fast as they will.
I like Debian for being somewhere in between a beginner’s distro and an advanced distro. Many of the high-end, menial chores required by Crux et al. simply evaporate in Debian, and at the same time Debian doesn’t seem to “push your face in the plate” like Ubuntu sometimes can. You’re still responsible for managing a lot of what happens with your system … kind of like Arch.
If only it would run on less memory, I would have it first in line for the 560e. Which is in a holding pattern right now, while I solve yet another hardware issue: How to either (a), cram an old-style, slightly thicker hard drive into the contemporary-size bay on another laptop, or (b), figure out how to hijack the Debian floppy installation long enough to get me online, download the smallest Slitaz ISO available, save it, mount it and install it to the hard drive.
These are the things that keep me awake at night.