Re: debian and ubuntu - answer from user not pretending to be guru
On Sat, 25 Apr 2009, prad wrote:
we use (and support) both, but i'd like to establish a rationale for
using one or the other.
are there situations where debian is preferable (eg older hardware)?
are there situations where ubuntu is preferable (eg picking up newer
what's better for use on a server? ubuntu has a server edition (with an
excellent guide), but is it any different from debian?
i personally like debian's slow cycle - i don't like to upgrade if i
can help it. my son, on the otherhand, likes to try the new stuff
i would like to see some opinions and personal experiences regarding
these 2 excellent systems!
In the responses that I have seen so far in this thread, the thread has
apparently degenerated into a one-upmanship battle; where the main
response sems to be "I know better and more than anyone else".
Well, I do not know better and more than anyone else.
I am a Linux User, and I will not pretend to be an expert (Definition:
"An expert is a drip under pressure").
I use both Ubuntu 8.04 and Debian 4.0.
I have been using Debian 3.0, 3.1, and 4.0. I have also got Debian 5.0
installed on my laptop.
I have tried Ubuntu 8.10, then upgraded it to 8.04 (yes, 8.04, not
I have been using Linux since Red Hat 4.0 (I think it was, and I
definitely remember having 5.0 and later that I was using, until Red hat
went the same way as Microsoft, and ended up putting out a version that
simply would not run on the software that its said it would run on
(version 9.0, I think), and that version of Slackware that was current
at that time.
When I started using Linux, it was the first derivative of UNIX that I
had used, with a GUI. before that, I had used BSD v4.2, and SCO UNIX VR2
With the question above, that involves Debian and Ubuntu, we have a LAN
that uses Debian on the servers (a gateway firewall server, and, a
mailserver), and Debian and Ubuntu on the nodes, which include this
desktop, and some laptops.
The gateway/firewall server runs a Smoothwall (Express, I think)
installation which has its underlying OS as Debian 3.0 or Debian 3.1 .
Due to the way that it is, I do not know how to properly upgrade it - it
is a "blackbox" kind of thing, and is basically left alone, as it is
neither clear nor simple, how to update and upgrade it to the latest
version of Debian stable, if it can be so upgraded.
The mailserver runs Debian 4.0. That runs fetchmail and postfix.
Updating that, is easy and simple, using apt-get update, and apt-get
On this computer, a desktop, I usually run Debian 4.0. I find it more
convenient, for most things, and I do not like the sudo that Ubuntu
uses; I prefer su - root. Before people start criticising that
preference, it it my preference, and, it is up to each individual, to
choose the person's preference, for whatever reasons that person makes
the choice. That is one reason for preferring Debian for the servers;
the requirement of a root password, for sysadmin, rather than being able
to do sysadmin using a user password is preferable, for me.
On this desktop computer, I also dual boot into Ubuntu 8.04. Ubuntu 8.04
can do things that I have been unable to do with Debian 4.0, such as
viewing .wmv files.
Each of the two distributions has its advantages on a desktop computer.
On my laptop computer, I multi-boot, between Windows XP, Ubuntu 8.04,
and now Debian 5.0 (previously Debian 4.0).
My laptop computer is an HP NX5000. It has a wireless network card
(a\nasty things - I would get rid of it, if I knew how). When we
initially installed Debian 3.1 on that laptop, which was purchased with
Windows XP installed, we had to use Mandriva to repartion it (Mandriva
had a dynamic (?) partitioning utility), then install Ubuntu on it, then
unistall Ubuntu and install Debian, as the wireless network card had an
interrupt conflict with the wired network card, and it was a problem
that was automatically (or, easily) resolved with Ubuntu, whereas Debian
simply would not work with it. I think that was done with Ubuntu 7.04.
When Debian 4.0 was installed on that laptop, it would not resolve the
interrupt conflict, and Ubuntu had to be used again, to solve the
With installing Ubuntu on that laptop, having a 10GB partition free, I
finally decided to install Ubuntu into that partition, and, installed
8.10, as the latest Ubuntu version.
Like the Split Enz song said, "That was my mistake". It ran okay, until
I did an update on it, and, basically, Ubuntu killed itself. Everything
broke. So, in response to a query posted on a mailing list, and as
Ubuntu 8.10 seemed to conform to the Debian Sid principle - from
http://www.debian.org/releases/unstable/ ; "Use it at your own risk!",
and, from http://www.debian.org/doc/FAQ/ch-ftparchives#s-sid ; "Sid was
the boy next door who destroyed toys", I upgraded Ubuntu 8.10, to Ubuntu
One very good justification for that, is the 8.04 was then, and, still
is, the latest Ubuntu LTS version.
"Ubuntu is designed with security in mind. You get free security
updates for at least 18 months on the desktop and server. With the Long
Term Support (LTS) version you get three years support on the desktop,
and five years on the server."
From http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu ,
So, if the user of a Ubuntu Linux system wants stability, the person is
best using the latest Ubuntu LTS version, in this case, 8.04.
With the Debian 5.0 on the laptop, I go and look at it, from time to
time, aund, update it from time to time, but, on the laptop, I generally
use the Ubuntu 8.04 instalation. It simply works better (apart from the
sudo thin, which I do not like), and is better with dealing with
instalation and use of applications, on that computer.
On this desktop computer, if I want to use Opera 9.2x, I reboot into
Ubuntu. Opera went wonky, when they released the later versions o Opera,
and it appears to be no longer supported by Opera, and does not have the
functionality that 9.2x has. And, Opera versions later than 9.2x, cannot
be properly removed from Debian 4.0, without a full, clean, operating
system installation, due to some nasty things that Opera appear to have
included in its later versions.
And, as I use Opera 9.2x, when I need a secure web browser, I then use
Ubuntu, whether on the laptop, or, rebooting this desktop.
Debian 4.0 runs okay (for the most part) on this desktop computer, which
does not have any horrible wireless stuff. It operates, like Ubuntu, as
"plug and play", if I plug something into it, like an external hard
drive, or, a Logitech webcam (which, unfortunately, only "partly" works
with Linux - it apparently works okay with Ekiga (which should be what
Linux users should be using, instead of skype), but I cannot record
video clips with it, othern than in the .wmv format, and, using the MS
Windows software for it.
I think that the major difference betwen Ubuntu and Debian, is that
Ubuntu is a bit more adaptable than Debian, and can better deal with
some hardare (especially the horrible wireless stuff).
And, I think that Ubuntu has later versions of packages, than Debian
stable - in some ways, Ubuntu LTS is, I think, halfay between Debian
stabl and Debian testing, and, Ubuntu STS (?) (the latest non-LTS
version of Ubuntu), is the equivalent of Debian testing. And, no, I do
not say that Ubuntu <any version> is equal to, or, exactly the same as,
any version of Debian. Similarities, not equal, I think.
Some people have made an issue of Debian being not so easy to install,
but Debian 4.0 and Debian 5.0, are easy enough to install, from an
intallation disk (thence downloading what is not on the disk, acros the
One disadvantage, in that, is that the Debian "Live" disk, is not
installable; the Ubuntu one is installable. So, in demonstrating th OS
to someone, only one disk is needed, to install Ubuntu - the "Live"
isk", and, with Debian, two disks are needed - the "Live" disk, to
deminstrate, and, the installable disk, to install.
It sounds a bit like the feminist thing, that men can't multitask - the
Debian disks are single use - either "Live" or installable, but not
both, whereas the Ubuntu "Live" disk, does both.
I think that the answer to the question, in terms of the computers that
are not servers, depends on the intended uses of the system. Debian has
its advantages, and, Ubuntu has its advantages.
For the inital installation of the operating system (apart from the
wireless isue, my preference is for Debian 4.0 (better for the system
type/use setup), but, for some other things, Ubuntu is better.
But, unless the system user(s) will be inclined to deal with system and
application failures, if Ubuntu is to be used, I strongly recommend
using the LTS version.
For a server, I recommend Debian, (and making sure that it does not
allow sudo - a server should not be allowd to be stuffed up by a user,
inadvertently or deliberately) - to me, Debian is a bit more stable, for
the most part.
But, as I said above, I am no expert.
I am a Linux user; pure and simple.
And, no doubt, many people will say, "quite simple".
"So once you do know what the question actually is,
you'll know what the answer means."
- Deep Thought,
Chapter 28 of Book 1 of
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
A Trilogy In Four Parts",
written by Douglas Adams,
published by Pan Books, 1992