Debian: Enjoy One Of The Most Stable And Trusted Linux Distributions

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stable linux distroThere are plenty of Linux users out there who are using distributions such as Ubuntu or one of the many distributions which are based from Ubuntu, including Linux Mint. However, no matter what you’re using, as long as it uses .deb packages, there’s one main distribution where it all comes from – Debian.

There are a good number of reasons why Debian is such a popular choice for people who have high expectations or want to fork their own distribution from it. But no matter if you’re using a Debian-derivative or the real deal, it may be a very suitable distribution for you.

About Debian

stable linux distro

Debian is one of the oldest Linux distributions that is still in active development, second only to Slackware, which is only a month older. There are a few key values that the Debian Project holds dear whenever they create new releases of their distribution. The top two include stability and freedom through the use of purely open source software that doesn’t have any restrictions on it. These two values make Debian into their self-described “universal operating system” that runs practically everywhere.

It’s available in a large array of different architectures, and one version even comes with the FreeBSD kernel instead of the Linux kernel.

Stability

stable linux distro

Debian has a couple of different “channels” just like Chrome has, where the primary ones include stable, testing, and unstable. The project promotes the use of their stable releases as they have the least amount of bugs and should provide the least amount of confusion and grief for users. The process the project goes through to really make their next release stable is pretty impressive, as they wait to release their new version as long as they need to until virtually every bug is eliminated from all packages. This takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort, but it does take away a lot of frustration in the long run.

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Once a new stable version is released, the developers only release updates for critical or security issues as to not disturb the stability of the system by introducing anything major. For some people this might be a bit boring to have a rock-solid system as nothing changes, but there are others who absolutely need that stability. A sacrifice for this high level of stability is that the software versions don’t become updated either unless they fall under critical or security fixes, so over the release’s lifespan of a few years, the software can very well become outdated. In fact, the current Debian 6 “Squeeze” release still uses Gnome 2.30 as its desktop environment, Iceweasel 3.5, and OpenOffice 3.2.1.

“Testing”

For those who can sacrifice some stability in favor of newer software, you may want to try Debian’s testing channel. It contains cutting edge software (but not bleeding edge) that should keep you happy with plenty of new features. The unstable channel is available for those who want to drift towards the bleeding edge packages, but most people should be fine with the testing channel as it is comparable to Ubuntu in terms of stability and versions.

Purely Open Source Ideal

Debian tries to remain pure by default so that users won’t have to worry about any legal issues while feeling secure that all of the software they’re using is open source. In case you want proof, look for Firefox. You won’t find it, but the Debian equivalent “Iceweasel” instead. Iceweasel is made from Firefox’s source code, so Iceweasel is still Firefox. However, the branding has been replaced because Mozilla holds trademarks on the Firefox branding. Debian looks at all of the packages and makes necessary changes. Don’t worry if you still want to use a package that isn’t “pure”. Debian has different areas in its repository so that you can still get “non-free” packages for installation.

Installation

There are a few ways in which you can install Debian. To try it out first, download the LiveCD. For installation, I would recommend downloading their network install disc so that you download the absolute newest packages during the actual installation. You can then burn the netinst ISO to a CD or write it into a USB drive, and then restart your system and configure the BIOS to boot off of that media. If you would rather download all necessary basic packages before starting the installation, you may need to look at downloading the “CD1″ for your architecture instead. Finally, you can find the weekly images for the testing channel as well as “testing” installers here.

Conclusion

While Debian isn’t exactly a user friendly distribution, it’s definitely a great one to try out if you feel pretty comfortable with Linux. Be sure to try out both the stable and testing channels to see which one out of the two you prefer more, and whether you prefer it to your current distribution. As a popular distribution with lots of support behind it, it may be worth looking at running on your own system. I mean, who wouldn’t want to run the same operating system that was used for a robotic submarine?

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24 Comments - Write a Comment

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Marian Cimbru

No support for Broadcomm wireless chipset. It seams I’ll never enjoy the taste of a Linux distro :(

Florin Ardelian

There’s lots of stuff on Google… http://bit.ly/Uwh2AO is there something in particular you couldn’t find?

Avish Kansakar

how about using a virtual box. You wont have any driver problems as you wont have to install them separately. I use my ubuntu in a vitual box and have never had any hardware issues. I will try debian in virtual box and let you know whether it supports Broadcomm wireless chipset or not.

Danny Stieben

Running an operating system in a VirtualBox will always “support” the hard drive because the guest OS only sees the “hardware” of the VirtualBox, not the actual hardware of the system. As long as the host OS can function with the hardware, any OS inside a VirtualBox will as well.

Danny Stieben

Sadly maybe not Debian, but others could work for you!

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Florin Ardelian

My advice: Go here http://www.debian.org/CD/http-ftp/#stable click on the architecture below CD that matches your system (probably amd64) and then download the businesscard ISO image. It’s 50 MB and it’s just the installer, it will download the packages it needs from the Internet. If I remember correctly, it comes with the Gnome graphical user interface, so if you don’t want that just disable it from the Installer (first option after the base system is installed) and then run “sudo apt-get install kde-plasma-desktop” and for a graphical package manager “sudo apt-get install synaptic”.

If you want to play around with it before installing it on your computer, try it in VirtualBox first http://www.makeuseof.com/pages/how-to-use-virtualbox it works like a charm with 512 MB RAM (should work fine with 256, too).

Danny Stieben

Is the business-card ISO image also the netinstall ISO?

Florin Ardelian

Here are the businesscard images: http://www.debian.org/CD/netinst/ (got the wrong link above). It’s like the netinstall, only smaller and doesn’t contain anything except a kernel and the installer.

From the website: “This image contains just the bare necessities to start a Debian installation, i.e. those parts of the installer which are necessary to configure networking and download the rest of the installation system.”

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Stephen Mitchell

We use Debian at work (a small software development company) for exactly the reasons you describe in this post. Even the testing channel (Wheezy at the time of writing) is very stable, we’ve had machines that are being actively used for development work stay up for several weeks at a time with very little loss of performance.

I like it so much that I’ve moved my home machine over to Wheezy, and am encouraging my Linux-using friends and family to do the same. As long as you don’t mind doing a bit of reading from time to time, I don’t think it’s any less user-friendly than other Linux distros

Danny Stieben

I agree that there isn’t much difference between Debian and Ubuntu (at least when it still used the default Gnome desktop). Then again, there still feels like a difference. I guess it’s some of the small things.

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Zhong Jiang

I’ve been using Debian since October, and one key thing to point out was, unlike Ubuntu, which have everything pre-packaged and installed for the everyday user, you have to tailor your needs. I’ve learn more about the system, using its wireless interface and certain commands to use for specialized purposes. However, due to older softwares existing, it caused conflicts with my computer’s hardware, for example the kernel. It’s unable to support proper power management for my radeon card and leads to high temperature readings which stressed me out for weeks.

Many things didn’t work out when I first installed Debian, and same as usual with the moment I started with Ubuntu, I took my time to research my issues then execute the solution. So months passed, everything went smoothly and now, I’m just hungry to know what I can really do with the system.

Danny Stieben

Debian definitely lets you do more to configure the system to exactly what you need. I’m glad that it is finally working for you. :)

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Ashwin Divakaran

Yes Absolutely! Debian is the distro ive been using for 2 years now! although its a bit harder to configure

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Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’ve seen some people who are interested with this distro but gave up because the major portion of the userbase is die-hard purist, demanding only the use of truly open source software to keep the distro ‘pure’. They also have problem with Iceweasel (not sure if fixed now) and the way Debian ISO is so strict that some wouldn’t find their preferred software right out of the box. It’s a nice distro in itself, but the stigma persists, sadly. The stable version is perfect for office use, though.

Danny Stieben

That’s how some projects’ goals are. Fedora is similar, although not as stringent in some regards and more stringent in others.

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Victor

Im use ubuntu but i like the simply how i use linux, but, debian its very dificult for me and not contains realtek wireless drivers!

Maybe on few months im installing archlinux on my laptop or maybe the same debian.

Grettings!

Evzen

I use Linux Mint Debian which is easier to configure.

Danny Stieben

If Debian is difficult for you, then Arch most likely won’t be any better for you. Just a word of advice.

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Dragonmouth

For those that do not care about being “purists”, there is SimplyMEPIS Linux. It is based on Debian and tracks its development. When Debian releases a version, MEPIS follows shortly after. For all intents and purposes, MEPIS is Debian but with non-free packages included by default. For example, instead of Iceweasel, MEPIS installs Firefox by default. MEPIS is just as stable and solid as Debian. It is also just as far from the bleeding edge.

What I like about native Debian and SImplyMEPIS is that, unlike in Ubuntu and all its derivatives, application packages do not have system packages as their dependencies. Therefore you can remove the unwanted packages (such as unneeded language packs and unneeded drivers) much easier from Debian/MEPIS than from Ubuntu derived distros.

Danny Stieben

That’s a great tip! Thanks!

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Bernard Cohen

Debian, admittedly, is *not* the easiest distro to install but it is one of the most
flexible and is for die hard users who really want to play with their system & have
it look & do as they want. One myth is that Debian does permit non-free software.
While it is segregated in their repositories, (i.e. non-free) it is fully accessible. Just
select that you want it during the install. You can have non-free firmware detected and set up during the install by downloading and unzipping ( or untarring ) the firmware tarball and having them on a USB key plugged in during the install process. This includes afaik support for Broadcom wireless chipsets.
For software that is more controversial, proprietary or is not permitted in some countries there is the deb multimedia repositories:
http://www.deb-multimedia.org/
Having that in your sources.list file allows fetching the equivalent of what comes
with the “ubuntu-restricted-extras” packages.

Danny Stieben

Thanks for the tip, Bernard!

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Beirapadua Greaser

my next target after linuxmint :D

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Earl John Dela Cruz

Since I’m running a server with a Debian in my VMWare Workstation 6, I’d like to tell you that Debian is an all around operating system, You can use it for both desktop and server computers.

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