Whatever crosses my mind.


Debian Sarge - first impressions

So, Sarge was finally released - the apocalypse can't be far away now. I just couldn't resist trying it out right away. I've been running Sid for a long time now, so I didn't expect any groundbreaking new features over that, but I wanted to see how smoothly the new stable version works.

Downloaded the DVD image with BitTorrent in a bit over an hour, burned, booted. Picked a spare partition I use for trying out OS installs. It automatically detected the W2k and Sid partitions and offered to add them to the GRUB boot menu - nice. The install procedure was remarkably straightforward compared with previous versions of Debian. Also, installing from the DVD was _fast_ - a complete desktop system install with over 1.7 gigabytes of stuff (GNOME, KDE, OpenOffice etc.) was done in less than an hour.

X configuration could be improved a bit: you have to pick a driver for your display card from a list instead of it being automatically detected. IIRC Ubuntu was better in this respect. For some reason the X configurator didn't add any resolutions bigger than 800x600 into XF86Config-4 and I wasn't able to easily find any graphical tool for fixing that so I added them manually. The monitor was properly detected with DDC, though, so I wonder what the problem was.

The new system seems to be much faster than my old Sid install. Of course Debian doesn't gather cruft as badly as Windows does, but the zillions of services installed just to try them out add up eventually.

Some of the games in Sarge are quite impressive, like

  • Critical Mass, a really fast and smooth Galaxians style shoot'em up. It's great that the entire game experience in this is _fast_. You don't need to spend time looking at any "GET READY" text before starting a level and there are no delays when the game is over: When you die, you can start a new game immediately with just one click, which is really nice in a game such as this where you pretty much need to memorize the attack wave patterns to be successful.
  • Blob Wars. A game about a yellow blob with a bandana. And guns. Lots of guns.
The X server supports GLX direct rendering out of the box and I get 834 FPS in glxgears, but unfortunately the Radeon All-In-Wonder driver still has bugs: Sometimes programs that use OpenGL work properly, sometimes they start printing "radeonUploadTexImages: ran into bound texture" and slow to a crawl. Or could this be just my card running out of texture memory or something?

It's infuriating that after so many years there is still no X server available for this card that would support both TV-output and direct rendering. For the past year or so I've used an X server compiled from old sources where the TV output works, but direct rendering doesn't. By now I've pretty much given up hope of ever getting everything working on it, so I think I'll be buying a new display adapter sometime in the near future.

Anyway, minor bugs don't change the fact Sarge is still a wonderful piece of work and a major achievement for free software. A big thanks to all the Debian people for their efforts and congratulations on the new release!

And now on to gathering courage to dist-upgrade my Woody file and web server, uptime 232 days and counting...