In search of balance, a digital zen and everything in between

Debian on the desktop

5 minutes

Debian in the Linux world and the general tech world is considered to be one of the most stable mature distributions that exists in the world of Linux today. You find will it on servers, in the sciences, education and even NASA, the distribution of choice on the International space station and of course on someone home desktop/laptop.

A little while ago I decided to return to Debian as a desktop. It has been a few years since I have used Debian as an everyday desktop, though I always like to install the new version when released, I didn’t rarely stick with it for more that a few days to a week and return to usually a Ubuntu based system. I first discovered Debian with purchasing the computer magazine APC, it came with a DVD of Debian 3.0 code name Woody. I still have that DVD in my possession today.

At the time I was reading allot about Debian, it’s stability it very large repository of packages and the power of Apt! From memory I was using Mandrake Linux at the time and was very pleased with what I had, but as you do in the world of Linux, you want to try new things out. so I installed Debian and well, was hooked. At leased until some one gave me a set of Redhat 9 discs.

So after the discontinuation of Redhat 9 and Redhat moving to a non free model with RHEL, I went back to Debian for a while but found myself distro hopping between Debian, Fedora, Suse, Mandrake now Mandriva and back to Debian again. This continued until I discovered Ubuntu, which was a user friendly out of the box distribution based on Debian.

I have basically stuck with Ubuntu since or to be more precise with the Ubuntu family. I have allot of respect for Ubuntu and think it is still one of the best distribution out there.

So why Debian? Well I like simple things, I like clean minimal design, I like small footprints in the sand of technology and the freedom to shape and design my own space. But I can do this Ubuntu, why not just keep using that? Yes I can do it in Ubuntu to and extent, but Ubuntu is an enterprise distribution designed, owned and distributed by Canonical. They travel the enterprise path and there is nothing wrong with that.

What Ubuntu has brought to Linux over the years is truly amazing, It is rare these days to find hardware that is not supported by Linux. Ubuntu has allot to do with that, applications like Steam, again Ubuntu and it’s popularity. But as I said Ubuntu walks it’s own path and it is slightly different to mine, but like all paths they cross for time to time, we meet up say high and carry on.

But Debian has older packages and not bleeding edge! Agreed, the packages in Debian do end up a few versions behind, but this is also what makes it so well tested and stable. Also I think this is where use case comes in. What is your use case ? Is your hardware bleeding edge?

  • Do you need the latest versions of certain software?
  • Do you need the latest Linux kernel version?
  • Do you just become enraged when your distribution ships with one or two applications one version behind?

If you answer yes to the questions above then maybe Debian is not for you.

So who is Debian for?

  • Do you want stability security and longevity in your distribution?
  • Do you run hardware that has not just left the factory floor?
  • Do you enjoy the freedom of defaults where you create and design your on space?
  • Do you enjoy the balance of ‘out of the box ready to go’ and ‘some assembly required’?

If you answer yes to the questions above then maybe Debian is for you.

I could go on with these questions but I think this is enough.

A note on older applications within Debian. A few years ago this was more of an issue, where really the only way to get newer versions was to add a repository to your sources.list and hope it didn’t either shut down or break your system. Now you can still do this, there are many repositories out there for Debian and some very good ones too. But there are also other ways you can get newer packages on Debian and that is with universal package formats,

  • Appimages
  • Snap Packages
  • Flatpaks I wont go into what they are or how they work but to say they are an easy way to get new applications on your distribution without the need to upgrade the whole system.

My view on these package formats is they are a great way to get new software but use them sparingly and I mean put some thought into it. Ask the question, Why do I need the latest version of this software? The drawbacks of using these packages is they are quite bloated, they don’t integrate that well with the OS and personally I don’t feel they are up to the standard of the native package formats for your distribution.

In the wise words of Debian Don’t make a FrankenDebian! There is great article on the Debian wiki all about this. => Don’t Break Debian [html]

I’m not against these formats I have a few installed myself, again just put some thought into it before you decide to install them.

My current Debian install:

  • Debian: 11 (Bullseye)
  • Kernel: 5.10.0-21-amd64
  • DE Xfce: 4.16
  • WM: Xfwm4
  • Theme: Nordic-dark

Have I answered the question why I use Debian on my desktop probably not.Debian might not be for you, or it might be just what you are looking for. What ever distribution you use embrace it, hack it and most importantly enjoy it!