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Why the DCC Alliance needs to love Synaptic

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Debian users have always boasted that their Advanced Package Tool (APT) was the best and fastest way there has ever been to install and delete software. They were right, except for two details: First, many computer users are scared of the command line -- and APT is a command line utility. Second, even for users not afraid of the command line, setting download repositories and other parameters was not easy unless you spent enough of your time administering computers to remember all the text commands it took to make APT do what you wanted. Then came Synaptic, which promised to make Debian software installs GUI-friendly. Not long after that came a version of Synaptic that didn't crash every time I tried to use it. And finally, in late 2004, Synaptic became so lovable that I would no longer want to have a desktop computer without it.

We can go on and on about how the GUI (Graphical User Interface) administration tools are only for lame users, but the reality is that most people use their computers as office machines, Internet terminals, and entertainment devices, and have no more interest in learning their inner workings than most car owners have in learning how to balance tires.

As long as it took command line skills to administer Debian, it was not a good distro choice for most computer users. If they wanted to have Debian's benefits they were better off using commercial Debian derivatives such as Xandros or Linspire, which worked to hide Debian's complexities behind a friendly face. Otherwise, they were probably better off sticking with SUSE, Mandrake (now Mandriva), and other RPM-based distros that made administration as easy as they could for the technically unhip.

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