Life with Debian as the only OS
Posted by on March 18 at 02:32 PM
This is my first post, so let me introduce myself. I've been a GNU/Linux user for years (six if I remember well), but only about four or five of them have been on Debian. The first release I remember was Sarge, which I didn't discover it immediately at release. I had managed to wander into Kubuntu and OpenSuSE before (in the latter of which I'd spent a year), and also to pay a visit to Gentoo and some more obscure distros such as STX, Vector Linux or one of which name I can't remember but for sure it did come with EDE. Thus, I could say my choice was not completely random at that point.
What attracted me to Debian? I have no bloody idea. Could be the way that everything is integrated and fits in nicely together. The learning curve was steep, that's a thing I remember. But getting to know it seemed like fun at the time. Now, however, that the initial excitement is gone, I find myself stuck on the same system n-th year in a row.
Below are my observations of Debian as the only OS I use.
My perceived advantages are:
- + "Stable" really means it, both in terms of API and reliability. Here's a printout from a random host (OK, low load, it's Sunday and it's a router)
13:16:29 up 124 days, 18:34, 1 user, load average: 0.14, 0.26, 0.18
- + Lots and lots of software packages of great quality - unmaintained and buggy ones are simply dropped, yet hardly anything important is missing
- + Flexibility - you can trim it down to 400MB and run on a single CF card together with user files, or make it a multi-user netbooted diskless setup (more about it in later posts, I promise!)
- + Many alternatives to choose from - LibreOffice or Abiword+Gnumeric? Your call.
- + Sticks to upstream, only applies bugfixes and otherwise troublesome patches (example: aufs2 support by default, but no weird schedulers; or LXC is not broken by systemd, unlike Fedora)
- + Does not break backwards compatibility - nobody likes their LSB init scripts get obsoleted because "we're migrating to upstart tomorrow"
- + Easy access to proprietary software (NVIDIA, Flash player etc.) and firmware in convenient packages
- + Great support for amd64 (maybe even better than for i386? - this was different in Sarge times :P )
- + Comes with a user manual and IRC channel!
- + There is no single entity to pull the plug on me or decide against common sense (unlike in OpenSUSE, Fedora, Mandriva [does that one even still exist?], Ubuntu with Unity, Slack with its Dictator :) )
Now, using it also has its downsides - I know it's a community effort, but those are still facts:
- - Short "oldstable" support. I'm sure there are companies who still make their own security backports for Lenny - just none of them likes to put them up for the public to get.
- - Special hardware-specific packages are often not available - like samsung-tools (partially obsoleted in later kernels) or bumblebee (issue still persists)
- - Installer often breaks/panics on new hardware
- - Not nearly enough HOWTOs are Debian-specific
- - No clear-cut desktop environment policy - combined with "stick to upsteam", could potentially result in shipping the default GNOME3 (i.e. unusable)
- - *kit mess - PolicyKit? ConsoleKit? udisks? upower? ukiddingme? DBus is fine until it breaks, when it's a royal pain
- - No security support - SELinux is hardly there, grsecurity is out of the project's interest apparently, and essential binaries are compiled without hardening / relocations
Notice how I did not include "old software" as a disadvantage? Old software is proven software. Even at home, I prefer it to newly-released surprises. It's not that I can't deal with the occasional bug - I can't deal with my sister running into it.
I hope the above is as informative as possible yet still displays my point of view. Comments are welcome :)