So scrapped FreeBSD on my secondary computer. I figured I don't need to play with yet another source-based OS. I was a bit confused by the odd mixture of packages I had to compile myself, and packages I could install in binary form. There were also a large number of tools that could be used as an interface to installing packages.
So I went with Debian. It has a reputation for stability etc. right? We'll see. I'm also sort of testing the waters again for a potential jump-ship to Ubuntu. We'll see. The Debian install was mostly uneventful. I installed from a single DVD. There were two DVD ISOs available for download; I couldn't find anywhere that indicated the contents of either one, so I figured the second probably only had additional packages on it, or whatever. I guessed right, I imagine.
After booting from the DVD, the installer died after about a minute, complaining about a corrupt package on the DVD. I ran the "Verify CD contents" and it confirmed, corrupt disc or package on the disc. (bochs, I think.) I know the ISO was fine, I checked the md5sum. So I rebooted. Same DVD, second run, it worked fine. Some kind of ghost problem? Flaky DVD-R? Who knows.
I don't like that Debian installed an X server by default. I chose to do a "server" install, and I picked File, Print, Web, SSH server from the options. Somehow this still installed X. I was happy though at how easy it was to uninstall. apt-get remove xfree86 or something similar, and it removed all the dependencies. A nice change from what I'm used to. The whole install took maybe 45 minutes. When I boot, I get a ton and a half of kernel module errors though. That's the price you pay when you don't compile your own kernel, I guess. Everything still works, so I don't know how much it matters. For now.
A very minor observation: For some reason I like Debian's networking config file much more than Gentoo's.
auto eth1 iface eth1 inet static address 192.168.15.7 netmask 255.255.255.0 gateway 192.168.15.1
config_eth0=("192.168.15.7 netmask 255.255.255.0 broadcast 192.168.15.255") routes_eth0=( "default via 192.168.15.1" )