1. Debian is much more cool. It is a co-operative. People are motivated by doing excellent things. 

2. That motivation should be nurtured. Many Debian contributors like to contribute to a product called Debian. Ubuntu relies on Debian but disguises this.  I didn't feel good about it, as someone who has been a volunteer and community contributor over the years. 

3.  The Ubuntu release cycle results in pretty severe compromises. Debian has "testing" in which a continuous stream of quite mature packages are introduced. The bulk of the effort of the Debian and Linux developer community ends up in testing quite soon, but nothing goes into testing without some time in an oak barrel.

Every six months, Ubuntu takes a snapshot of Debian "unstable", spends a maybe three months trying to get this working well, sends out a release, and then does it again. There is not much capacity left to update the last snapshot, so if something is broken you basically have to wait until the next release. It's like the Debian cycle, except compressed greatly. Feisty had some problems that really made it clear to me that the Ubuntu model may not be reliable enough for me. I don't mind problems, but the fact that they are not fixed annoys me. 

I think the reputation that Debian is very conservative and Ubuntu is more cutting edge is seriously misinformed. I think the Debian release cycle, which is the result of a great deal of experience, is superb. You can choose your mix of agressiveness vs stabilty. Testing is an excellent compromise. 

Ubuntu paid Debian a great compliment. The money behind Ubuntu could have more directly changed Debian: instead there is a healthy cultural firebreak. Canonical could have used another distribution, but I really believe that the community spirit of Debian was greatly admired. Reading about developers who have left Debian to focus on Ubuntu, it seems clear that the more centralised leadership model of Ubuntu could be a good benchmark for Debian.  Also, I think the Ubuntu community support is better. Finding help for Debian is a bit like navigating a old harbor at midnight on a night with no moon. You have to steer around a lot of web pages and howtos which are old hulks that should really be sent to the bottom of the ocean. So I have to nominate this as an area I cancontribute to.

 I'll update this after some more experience, but after two weeks on two machines, the experience so far is excellent. Ubuntu was on balance very good: it was Ubuntu that gave me the confidence to move away from Windows (the packages for vmware server and for Nvidia made it so convincing, and I was amazed that suspend and hibernate finally worked under Linux)


Arena is a free chess client (http://www.playwitharena.com). Free as in free beer, not open source.  However, it is really quite impressive, and it runs flawlessly under wine which is a bonus since we don't use Windows at home any longer. I'm not very good at chess, so the race to get more and more powerful engines leaves me bemused. However, there is a version of Crafty in which someone has spent a lot of time thinking about smart ways to dumb down a computer engine.

You want Crafty SE. I got it from here: http://wbec-ridderkerk.nl/html/details/Crafty.html  ; scroll down and download this link

Here is a "special" Crafty SE with personalities, modified/compiled by Mike Byrne:
Crafty 19.17 SE(SSDF)

 Put it into the Arena engines folder and install it as usual with the install engine wizard.


To choose a personality, take advantage of the Engines -> Manage -> Special tab; look for the field called Init string

Here you can choose from a range of predefined personalities (you will see text files with all the names in the Craft SE directory you unzipped).

You can simply enter 

krafty novice

into the Init string

To see what it does, bring up the engine "debug" window (F4). You will notice that the crafty engine is so kind as to specify exactly what the personality does. Personalities can be handicapped by the use of the opening book, piece values etc. The SEversion also allows randomisation of search depth, and other smart ways to dumb down the machine. It is funny that the real test of AI for computer chess is emulating the strengths and weaknesses of human intelligence. 


After many years, I will stop using a PocketPC PDA. For many years I have used a phone + a separate PDA, and I left Palm for the Microsoft platform 10 years ago. In the last few years it has been clear that the dedicated PDA is dead: the value for money is very poor, and the capabilities of 'smart phones' have been fast increasing.

Now I have a Nokia 6120 for me and one for my Tris. I like the Java emphasis of Symbian, and while Windows CE/ Windows Mobile has clearly improved in the ten years, it is still not stable enough for me, and the interface is not simple enough for a mobile phone. I don't want a phone that needs a stylus, for example. 

It is an excellent phone, and surprisingly fast. My PocketPC (A Dell Axim) now seems slow. To replace my Pocket PC, I need a good PIM (I never find the built-in ones good enough: I was using the excellent PocketInformant on the Pocket PC), good sync (my requirements are somewhat complicated), a good chess program, and a good code vault/wallet for storage of data. 

First, the PIM. There are two leading contenders at a reasonable price; AquaCalendar and Papyrus. Papyrus is my choice. It looks good, and the default settings are excellent. I've used it for a couple of weeks, it is stable and effective.

Chess: Convekta Chess Champion is the best chess program. Chess programs on the PocketPC are well ahead. Pocket Grandmaster is very good, and the free CE Board is quite remarkable, since it supports some very strong engines, and the fun Crafty Special Edition (with personalities). However, the Convekta program uses an interesting engine (the commercial version of Delfi which means good control over strength) and support for hand-built opening databases will be added soon, the developers tell me.

 Code vault/wallet:

I will try using a generic solution via a database program. HandDBase looks the goods.  

If you use Debian like me, and if you want to read wsj.com, you will have noticed that the pages don't render well: lots of white space before article text begins. wsj.com doesn't recognise that iceweasel is really firefox. It's easy to fix. You should install the firefox extension called User Agent Switcher, and then make a new entry. Copy every field from the default setting. I call the new setting "firefox". In the "firefox" setting, edit the field "User Agent". Go the the end of the string and put the word "firefox" (without the quotes). That's it. I've told the wsj team about this silly browser detection, but they show no urgency in the simple fix they need to make.

Debian setup Dell D420

This will be a lenny machine.

Installed testing with kernel 2.6.22 and then upgraded to 2.6.24 from sid

added modules

  • laptop-mode-tools
  • i8kutils