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Why I love Debian

3 years ago · 4 MIN READ

Back in 2002, I was launching my second business and needed to install about 30 machines to run servers and users machines. Users machines were running Office package, a home made software to control login sessions, and games. Servers were dedicated to hosts mails, web projects, files transfer and games (Counter Strike HLDS, to relax after work).

For users machines, the choice was simple:Micro$oft. For servers machines, I took an advice from a friend of mine, working as a sys admin at a newly startup, to setup a Debian environment. The sales pitch was: well, this OS is free and will be for ever! That kind of commercial argument sounds loud and clear in an entrepreneur's hear :)
I will not explain what is Debian. Follow this link to get the answer

Some times you can read, Debian is not for newbie and that it requires some technical skills to be installed. That could be true in the earlier releases, when self compiled kernel skills were required to make some part of your hardware work. I cannot remember how many times I had to recompile my kernel to install my nvidia video card, or make iptables suitable to my needs, and finally end-up with a kernel panic at boot...

Installing Debian 8.6 with a kernel 3.6 takes only minutes and is very easy to use. Only a Internet connection is required and the installation works smoothly on any hardware.

I've found some answers on Reddit I totally agree:

  • It is really simple to use, yet it allows you to do advanced things if you want to.
  • Very complete.
  • Wonderful community.
  • Multi-arch/kernel support.
  • Respects your freedom by default, also allows you to manually-add nonfree repository for propietary firmware/drivers (handy when using laptops).
  • Most stable distro I've ever used. I find even debian-testing more stable than Ubuntu

Let me explain below, why I'm a Debian addict.

A real project

The first thing to understand is that Debian is a ‘Project’.

What it means is that there are neither any commercial obligations or considerations to any company or commercial establishment which in any way tries to influence the development of the project or have a say in the functioning of the project.

This is unlike many of the other free software distributions who do have commercial interests backing as well as influencing both development and support.

The implication of such a difference is enormous, as Debian tends to dog-food whatever it needs for itself while most other ‘free software’ distributions do it for their commercial offerings (OpenSUSE, Fedora). They will come out/develop according to the needs of their paying customers, while everybody else is a tester to test as to whether something works or didn’t work in the free software distribution.

The idea in Debian that everybody is equal (both users and developers) while encouraging meritocracy. This is done by giving more responsibility to people who are tested both on the philosophical understanding and underpinnings of what Debian is as well as technical skills.

The idea and the implementation of it in Debian context become all the more incredible when you discover that it has been 23 years since the Debian project started. Debian is still as strong as ever, even with all sorts of “Commercial” distributions are around it. Debian was first announced on August 16, 1993, by Ian Murdock and Debra Lynn.The word "Debian" was formed as a combination of the first name of Debra and Ian.

really free software

The Debian Social Contract is the main binding instruments which show the way how Debian works. The Debian Social Contract is a legal document which tells that Debian will always remain ‘free’ in all senses of that word for all eternity. The Project will never hide problems (exceptions are security issues where early disclosures and non-patched software could do more harm than good) which is also a kind of grey area.

The community makes sure that any improvements that happen to the software are given back to the wider free software community. This helps keeps the delta down between the official upstream release and Debian, while at the same time Debian keeps patches which the upstream may not want/like to have but is relevant to Debian alone.

Also, Debian does not make discrimination between users either for support or in any other way. I have filed around 300 odd bugs in my more than a half-decade relationship with Debian and more often than not, have had timely, fruitful discussions with the Debian Developer/Maintainer of the package with more often than not a patch or/and a new update/point release of the package which solves the bug.

Debian software archive

The Debian software archive is huge. The archive has somewhat in range of 45k+ applications for a single architecture and Debian serves 17 odd hardware architectures (officially and unofficially both).

To install the whole distribution it would require north of 100 GB if all applications are to be installed. This is for packages only, not sources, nor space required for database or databases to put user data.

awesome team and its volunteer

To simplify things and keep it sort of sane and simple, Debian uses various teams, and apart from that there are huge numbers of volunteers and enthusiasts to help Debian at every point.

Stability and rolling release

The biggest luxury is that Debian is inherently a mixed rolling release distribution with a change/twist at the end. While most distributions have a time-based cadence for release, Debian follows a cadence for freeze and not actual release although some estimates can be made.

This gives Debian an opportunity to release when no RC (Release-Critical) bugs remain. Debian gives enough ‘baking’ time so most release critical bugs are taken care of or if it’s not possible to care of, it is no longer part of Debian.

There are many, many examples of this. The easiest way to have a sense of which packages would be removed (if no help comes) is to install how-can-i-help package and do a run.

This way, the developer or volunteers for the ‘troublesome’ packages would know before time, that they need to take care of their business else they miss the release bus.

Well connected community

Last but not the least. While Debian is neutral, many of the volunteers also contribute to big companies. Now this might be in form of a small narrow contract for specific work or part-time or/and full-time employees.

some screenshots of my installations:

My laptop Debian : debian_desktop.jpg

My virtualized Debian with windows 10 as host Desktop.jpg


Pascal Bibehe

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