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I recently ran into trouble when installing Debian on a netbook. There were three major hardware/kernel issues that I didn't feel like fixing, and since every single forum/wiki writeup reported the exact same problems with very few easy solutions, I decided to try something new.

So I just tried every distro I could get my hands on, hoping to find one that would work more or less perfectly out of the box.

To my surprise, the latest version of openSUSE works flawlessly and runs about as fast as Debian.

Unfortunately, many packages that are standard in Debian-based systems are not even installed by default in openSUSE. The repository of available software is depressingly small.

Is there any way I can get around this? Build a Debian-based system on top of the out-of-the-box kernel setup from a totally unrelated distro?

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can't directly install packages from one distribution onto another distribution.

Usually driver issues don't depend on the distribution, they depend on the kernel and driver versions. Try to find a more recent kernel or drivers for Debian.

You can install Debian in a chroot (either on a separate partition or with Debootstrap, and run it off the SuSE kernel. I've written a schroot and debootstrap guide for another purpose, but once you have a debootstrap binary on your SuSE installation and the schroot package installed, similar instructions should get you a running Debian or Ubuntu chroot.

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I think this is the first impression that someone has when coming from Ubuntu land to the Fedora or openSUSE: wow, repositories are smaller.

Both distros keep lean repositories, often due to strict open source policies.

On both distributions there are third party repositories that complements the official one:

  • For Fedora there's RPMFusion.

  • For openSUSE Packman.

Try adding Packman to your zypper configuration and you'll probably be more at ease with the number of packages available.

You should do this as root on the command line to add Packman to zypper:

zypper ar -f -n packman http://packman.inode.at/suse/openSUSE_11.4 packman

Check for the correct openSUSE version.

There's other repo for vlc. Take a look at it here.

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You can turn debs into rpms and vice versa with a program called alien, but by and large I do not recommend you try to graft packages from one distribution into another.

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Turning RPM files into DEB files has served me well in the past. I remember using them for Oracle-related packages: the DB, instantclient, and cx_Oracle (Python wrapper). –  Tshepang Jul 21 '11 at 20:25
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As long as you only do it with endpoint stuff - IE, packages that aren't depended on by other stuff - you're generally okay. "Generally" being the operative word. –  Shadur Jul 22 '11 at 5:52
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