General Question

Thammuz's avatar

What should i expect switching from Ubuntu to Debian?

Asked by Thammuz (9272points) May 9th, 2010

I’ve been a Ubuntu user for little more than a year now, i liked the system layout and implementation up to this latest version, problem was it was really buggy, but all the bugs were promised to disappear upon the arrival of the new LTS version, 10.4.

10.4 has arrived and it is undoubtably faster and better in some respects, however it bugs me to no end that the designers decided they could do whatever the fuck they wanted with the workspace we users have grown accustomed to, without any chance for us to decide wether we wanted to switch or not.

What happend is that they decided the notification area has to go.

Which would be fine if the job hadn’t been done only a for half and if this didn’t lead to having two separate applets running simultaneously only to have the internet connection monitor and volume control visible.

Furthermore there’s (apparently) no way of customizing the whole thing so i can’t even pick what goes in one bar and what goes in the other.

So i decided i was using this as a chance to look around for other distros. And i was thinking Debian.

Mint is out for now because all in all it’s just windows-looking ubuntu and i don’t know how they’re going to manage this whole problem

What should i expect? in what is it different, in what is it alike, is it harder to manage, is it different when it comes to possibilities? (like DVD playing and the like, since ubuntu itself needed plugins that weren’t included due to the gnu license, and debian, i heard, is even stricter when it comes to license issues)

Keep in mind i know enough to get by using ubuntu but i’m not particularly experienced other than the bare essentials and some specific issues i needed to fix, so if you’re in doubt wether i could know something or not, just assume i don’t.

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10 Answers

jerv's avatar

I will have to ask my roomie for more details, but I recall that his brief switch from Ubuntu to Debian was accompanied by a lot of profanities… and he’s been using many flavors of Linux for over a decade.

My take on it is that any distro that gives him issues may not be suitable for n00bs or neophytes.

phoebusg's avatar

In one sentence, a lot less support, community or hardware wise. Debian is only good for specific uses, but given ubuntu is also debian based, that decision makes no sense. If he wants to be all haxx0r-like, even the penetration testing oriented distribution “Backtrack” is now based on ubuntu due to superior support.

There is also a build-it-yourself version of ubuntu as well. Or you could go the gentoo route.

Thammuz's avatar

@phoebusg There is also a build-it-yourself version of ubuntu as well.

Do tell!

Otherwise i might simply go with “fuck it i’m using kde from now on.” but i’d really rather not.

phoebusg's avatar

@Thammuz comes with the standard installation cd. Just select booting with “custom-expert”. For further support try their forums, they’re quite lively and irc on #ubuntu

tuxuday's avatar

First try this review on Lucid Lynx, especially the comments. It think it has solution to your problem.

Ubuntu is the mostly widely used Linux distro. So switching from it, is not advisable. There are different variations in Ubuntu, try to select one which fits your nature of usage. Kubuntu is one that comes to my mind instantly. But remember all are based on Ubuntu.

Debian is mostly for linux gurus, who are willing to spend time if things go awry.

Tobotron's avatar

I upgraded to 10.04 2 weeks before it hit general release and your right it was a bit buggy compared to 9.10 but now, after its been out a couple of weeks I can’t fault it. You boot intoa windows machine and you suddenly realise why you changed, crashes and slows left right and centre…

Il stick with Ubuntu, best support, most developed and progressive distro out there…a program ‘ubuntu tweak’ will 1-click get you around and through all the GNU hoops if you’ve not tried it out give it a go, nice apps on their install list too :)

koanhead's avatar

The experience of switching from Ubuntu to Debian will depend on which branch of Debian you use.
Debian comes in three distribution branches: Stable, Testing, and Unstable.
Stable branch is somewhat akin to Ubuntu’s LTS in that it is designed for maximum stability and bug-free-ness. This means that the packages in Stable tend to be older than in Testing or Unstable and can mean that there are fewer available in the repository.
Testing is roughly akin to “regular” Ubuntu releases. It is a compromise between providing fresh packages with the latest features and attempting to ensure that the packages are usable.
Unstable is somewhat like installing an alpha version of a future Ubuntu release. All the packages are the latest versions available and there is no guarantee of things working. Unstable is what you install if you are a tester or are going bug-hunting.

The big difference between Ubuntu and Debian in terms of versioning is that Debian’s three branches are constantly updated on a “rolling” cycle while Ubuntu is committed to a “release cycle” of six months. The Ubuntu release cycle makes it easier for some users to understand what they are getting, but it’s difficult to get everything together and integrated into the “Ubuntu way” within six months. IMO this is why new Ubuntu releases are so buggy when they come out, and it’s why I’m sticking with 10.04 LTS for awhile.

I hate to contradict @jerv but I actually did use Debian for about two years before switching to Fedora (FC2 at the time if anyone is interested in the time frame). Debian I found to be a pain in the ass to set up, especially on the flaky hardware I had at the time- but once it was configured it ran fine and worked as well as I could expect.

I feel your pain in re: the UI changes (well, technically I don’t since I am still using 10.04 with the Clearlooks theme, but I see it when I test Maverick and Natty). I think these changes are largely ill-advised and should have been tested in a different way. I think that once the whole “new UI” project has matured a bit it might turn out to be a good idea, but in the meantime Ubuntu users should not be subjected to this experimental BS no matter how cool Shuttleworth thinks it is.

Basically, Ubuntu is intended for newbies to Linux and is designed for ease of use. Things should “just work”. Notwithstanding the bugginess, etc I think Ubuntu does pretty well at what it is intended to do.
Debian is more flexible and is a better general-purpose distribution IMO. For running servers I much prefer Debian over Ubuntu. I’ve been contemplating switching back to Debian from Ubuntu for a couple of years now, but for the time being I feel the need to keep running Ubuntu so that I can duplicate problems and help support the Ubuntu community.

Thammuz's avatar

@koanhead in the “just work” respect i just need the basic hardware to work enough to allow me to find the right drivers and such. It would be nicer if it “just worked” to the point where i don’t need to go on a hunt for Red October to get all my hardware working but i can deal with it.

koanhead's avatar

All hardware drivers for Linux exist as kernel modules, and as such all drivers that are GPL compliant are in the kernel source tree. To my knowledge every modern Linux distribution has the ability to autodetect hardware and load the appropriate driver. Some distros, like Debian IIRC, do the autodetection during the install, and then offer the user the option to retain the ability to do it at boot. The cost of this is a few hundred megabytes of disk space and potentially a larger, slower kernel.
Hardware drivers that are not GPL compliant can not be included in the Linux source tree because the kernel is licensed by the GPL. Those drivers, therefore, need to be supplied in other ways. Examples include the “nvidia” and “fglrx” drivers for video cards.

So, for the most part, hardware should “just work” under Linux regardless of the distribution. Certainly there won’t be much difference between Debian and Ubuntu in that respect.

Linux hardware support has come a long way. It’s at a state now that I honestly never thought it would reach. Unfortunately, it’s still not good enough- and it won’t be until and unless manufacturers stop keeping secrets from driver developers and the kernel maintainers.

Thammuz's avatar

@koanhead Perfect then. I’m probably going to take Debian for a spin during the Christmas vacations.

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