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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Mon, 22 Aug 2011

Newer X for Debian Squeeze now in Backports

One of the main reasons not to run Debian Stable is that you have newer hardware that doesn't respond well to the older packages in the release. For those with Intel Sandy Bridge and other newer chips, the X server as it is packaged in Squeeze can be a problem, which can be solved by running Testing or Sid, or now with X in Squeeze Backports.

This is a great thing. While many users prefer Testing or Sid, or the six-month releases of Ubuntu (or Arch, or your favorite often-released or rolling distro ...), it's nice to be able to run Debian's stable distribution on your newer hardware.

I'm doing this, in a way, with my newer Liquorix kernel -- version 2.6.38 instead of the 2.6.33 that ships with Squeeze. With the newer kernel, my Lenovo G555's sound chip behaves much better.

At this point in the Squeeze cycle, a newer kernel is now available in Squeeze Backports (and currently 2.6.39), so Squeeze-running users can get a newer kernel directly from Debian. And now they can get a new X server, too.

I hope this newer X server in Squeeze Backports allows many more people to run Debian Stable, and I once again thank the Debian Developers responsible for continuing to make Squeeze -- and Debian in total -- even better than it already is.

This brings up a question: Should you run Debian Stable?

Many consider Stable a server distro only, one not appropriate for desktops due to the age of the packages (old and getting older).

In my opinion, the solid, unchanging nature of Debian Stable on the server can be just as valuable on the desktop if the release runs well on your hardware.

Say you've tried Squeeze, either from a live image or an installation, and you find that all the hardware is properly detected and configured, and everything is working fine.

If you instead decide to run Debian Testing or Sid, or Ubuntu, you run the risk of breakage along with the potential reward of better hardware detection and newer, better applications. Things don't always turn out so good, especially when your hardware stays the same.

One thing I've learned is that upgrading an entire distribution just because you want or think you need a new web browser/office suite/media player can cause more problems than it solves.

What I'm doing for this Debian cycle is using Backports and various other repositories to add and update some key packages (web browsers, office suite, kernel, Dropbox) while retaining the Squeeze base that has served me so well -- like Lenny and Etch before it.

I'm running the ext3 filesystem (the default in Squeeze, though ext4 is available) and GNOME 2 (I won't have to worry about GNOME 3 until Wheeze goes stable some time in 2013 if I don't want to). I happen to like Rhythmbox. I have Google Chrome, updated by Google, though I rarely use it.

Between Backports, the Debian Mozilla team APT Archive and other sources, Firefox 6, Thunderbird 5, LibreOffice and Dropbox make my Debian Squeeze system functional, shiny and new in all the right places.