back to article 30 years on, Debian is at the heart of the world's most successful Linux distros

Debian is an island of stability and sanity in the constant swirling chaos of Linux and open source. Long may it continue to be. Ian Murdock announced the new distro on August 16, 1993. Three decades later, Debian is arguably more important and more pivotal to the modern Linux world than ever before. The project calls the …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It's an impressive heritage, especially when the Ubuntu spin-offs such as Mint and Zorin are included.

    Also remember Devuan - Debian freed from the clutches systemd. The Daedalus release, based on the latest Debisn stable, is just out. My daily driver is already updated. My test laptop had the RC release installed from the ISO a few weeks ago after Debian itself had been upgraded. SWMBO's laptop comes next.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      A couple of notes on the upgrade:

      1. I went the advised route of apt upgrade followed by apt dist-upgrade. In the middle of the first phase it ground to a halt with missing dependencies for gdal3 relating to ODBC packages. It's the sort of thing that apt -f install should sort out automatically but I had to work out the dependencies myself and install them. I suspect that the missing packages would have been included in the dist-upgrade phase as at least some of the applications depending on gdal were installed then. Have the testers done their installs with only dist-upgrade which would have hidden this?

      2. It replaced keepassxc. The version in use had been built from source. The new version has the fuggly Breeze icon style as does the latest downloadable source. Grrr. No matter, I'll rebuild the latest version with the icons from the earlier source.

      1. Citizen99

        Thanks for the 'heads-up' :-)

      2. Gary Stewart

        There are two upgrades needed. The first is for your current version. Then you change the repositories to the new release to do the second. Did you change your repositories before doing that upgrade?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          First you upgrade the current version with apt update followed by apt upgrade

          Second you change the repositories in /etc/apt/sources.list

          Third you run apt update to get the new list of packages to be changed

          Fourth you run apt upgrade again - at least this is what's advised

          Fifth you run apt dist-upgrade

          Sixth you clean up with apt autoremove --purge

          See the first answer here:

          1. t245t

            Regarding Doctor Syntax comment ..

            I've always had problems with upgrades, best to do a clean install and add in your own customizations.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    free (as in beer)

    I started using Debian back when servers were pets, not cattle. Even back then, the free (as in beer) was attractive. Sure, saving a few bucks was nice, but for me it was also great to not have to track licenses, figure out upgrade paths, or decode licensing agreements.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: free (as in beer)

      "when servers were pets, not cattle"

      I always thought of them as work horses - and I don't want to eat horse meat.

    2. Groo The Wanderer

      Re: free (as in beer)

      Personally I've used some variant on Debian or Ubuntu for about the past 10-15 years. They run in Windows hosted VMs (for gaming sake), but all my work is in Linux. I've only done very limited windows programming in 30+ years of programming, and that was through a portability toolkit called Neuron Data, not native Windows APIs. About the only thing "Microsoft" was our compiler and IDE for debugging that particular port.

      The rest of my career was spent coding proprietary *nix variants - Solaris, SunOS, HP-UX, AIX, etc. There were very few flavours that were used in North America that I didn't deal with at some point or other. I even helped debug the QIC tape driver on SCO Unix for the first few IBM PS/2 386 based machines to hit Canada. That was fun. Debugging hardware interactions over a phone line...

    3. cdegroot

      Re: free (as in beer)

      I switched to Linux for the same user level. Before, starting on a new Unix box always meant a couple of days of installing a lot of the GNU toolchain, as I wanted to use Emacs and assorted utilities that really wanted to compile with GCC.

      Linux gave me all that for no trouble at all!

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: free (as in beer)

      I started playing with Linux because it was a free (as in beer) way of practicing my UNIX skills, for the day when I'd be let loose on the big beasts of AIX, HP-UX or Tru64 (yes I know that dates me).

      How ironic that the "sandbox" OS I was using turned out to be their successor.

      I do like the fact I don't have to manage a complex set of licenses and sub-clauses too. No count of processors and quibbling about cores. Or wondering whether the shifting sands of T&Cs have been massaged to make me owe the worlds 4th richest man a substantial portion of my company's net worth.

  3. karlkarl Silver badge

    Pretty much every SoC uses Debian. Raspbian, Armbian, etc

    The others also tend to "use Debian" by proxy of downstream distributions like Ubuntu, i.e Jetson Nano, pcduino, etc.

    Even strange experimental things like Intel Galileo tend to get a Debian port first.

    I personally find Debian's base (and minbase) to be a bit... well, random compared to the BSDs. But there is no denying, it is a really safe bet when putting together an appliance.

    TL;DR; Great job Debian team! ${BEER}

    1. Sudosu Bronze badge

      ...and Proxmox, on e of my personal favorites.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        [Author here]

        > Proxmox, one of my personal favorites.

        I am considering a review of this, but in my homelab I have very little use for a dedicated VM host and I am, TBH, wondering what to do with the thing, and indeed, what to run it on.

        If I were to review it, what sort of thing would you like to see examined?

        I am also wondering what I could compare it against. VMware ESXi and XCP-NG seem the obvious candidates to me, but that may be a wrong impression.

        1. Andy 68

          I'd happily read a comparison of Proxmox and VirtualBox - especially under the situation you describe.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Proxmox vs. oVirt vs. "roll your own" KVM/qemu, perhaps?

          Realistically though, the roll-your-own path is likely not an apples-apples comparison people would want most. That is, if you're considering Proxmox or ESXi or oVirt (or RHV, I guess) you're already looking past most of the self-rolling, at solutions which are more or less packaged already for you, nice UI and all.

          Wrt ESXi, can you do a 1-node sort of VMware anymore? Without a vCenter, that is? I know you can self-host the VCSA on the ESXi hypervisor metal, but that's essentially just compromising VMware's architecture and practices.

          To me, that tends to make ESXi less suitable for home lab sort of R&D hobby work. To be fair, that was largely true of oVirt/RHV as well last time I looked. Not sure about Proxmox in that area these days. But maybe other home lab folks don't think twice about running multi-node clusters and vCenters and whatnot in the basement. :-)

          Frankly, any review, whether a heads-to-head comparison with competitors or not, is welcome. And if you've never really build or run a Proxmox rig, the new user perspective is equally valuable.

          1. DJohnson

            Sure, with the free license ESXi runs quite happily by itself. The only real downside is limitations on what APIs are available for things like backups. Getting a vCenter license is going to set you back a pretty penny, I wouldn't expect a home lab to pony up for it.

            If you do though, remember that vCenter doesn't _do_ anything directly so having it hosted in the cluster it manages is fine. In fact, that's pretty normal. My only caution would be if you plan to run a Distributed vSwitch: Do us a favor and pre-create an "Ephemeral" portgroup. That saves a bit of hassle in certain failure recoveries.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Can you clone VMs in a standalone ESXi without joining a vCenter these days?

              ISTR that functionality went away a long time ago, circa ESXi 5.x or so?

              To me, cloning is a pretty fundamental feature of VMs over metal, so I'd be more inclined to deploy a Proxmox server or Linux KVM with qemu/libvirt/etc than pay to license a vCenter for cloning capability.

              What other features have VMware stripped out of standalone ESXi which now require a vCenter connection? I confess I'm out of touch.

            2. Roopee Bronze badge

              From my experience, free standalone ESXi is a very limited-feature product. It costs thousands in VMware licence fees to get the feature set of Proxmox even without buying support - money (if you had it) that would buy a lot of Proxmox support.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Proxmox with a pfSense VM for your firewall and then load it up with things like Nextcloud, Plex, FreeNAS, etc. Ofc if you are going to do a virtual pfSense node you need something with multiple NICs, maybe something like a CWWK N305 (i3) with 32GB of RAM in it *drool*.

          1. Sudosu Bronze badge

            I used to run IPCOP, but moved to Endian which has been a good replacement.

        4. Roopee Bronze badge

          For my money...

          How about a review of free (beer) type 1 hypervisors, particularly their suitability for a homelab setup?

          I was thinking along the lines of one to a handful of nodes, a few to a few tens of VMs, some sort of backup.

          Points of interest might be ease of setup and management, ability to run on cheap/old hardware including laptops and other lower-running cost devices, ease of troubleshooting and backup, availability of help, that sort of thing.

          I've already made my choice - Proxmox - but not before going down a blind alley with non-vSphere ESXi for a couple of years. A useful comparative review highlighting the likely problems and pitfalls would have saved me a lot of time and heart-ache!

          For my (lack of) money, Proxmox VE is head and shoulders above its competition in all the above respects, especially when combined with Proxmox Backup Server, although the latter is somewhat more challenging to setup.

          Hope that helps.


        5. Sudosu Bronze badge

          I actually moved to Proxmox for my "lab" when VMWare was pushing for licenses to be able to perform backups.

          Proxmox was chosen after researching a lot of the options available at that point.

          Had about 40 various servers and desktops running for around 8 years I think, though the number is down to about twenty now.

          I keep my old physical desktops and servers, beef up the RAM, which is usually very cheap at that point, and add them to the cluster.

          So far, from my experience, if it can run Debian (or dodge a wrench), it can run Proxmox.

          I have one NAS running OmniOS on server hardware due to HCL limitations that is sharing a ZFS of 5 smallish SSD's (enough acronyms yet?) for the live servers and another with spinning rust for the backups.

          There are some nice HA auto fail over features that are great for older hardware, I treat mine like a RAIS (S being servers instead of D for disks), one node fails toss it and build a new one.

          Proxmox also has a free separate backup solution you can install on bare metal as well. Played with it a bit and it seems decent but I don't use it yet though I may move at my next NAS refresh.

          For a good test you may need 3 nodes to provide a solid quorum if you are testing failures etc. Possibly 4 if you do separate NFS or iSCSI storage.

          Proxmox also does ZFS and some form of replication but I have not leveraged that since I already have dedicated boxes for file storage.

          Recently I tossed in a "cheap" unmanaged 10GB backbone for my storage VLAN which made a big difference in backup and restore times, but it worked just fine with 1GB.

          Gotchas and Notes

          - Make sure you build the hosts file with all the nodes on each node - I've had the cluster go bonkers once as my DNS failed and when I rebooted at one point they could not find each other.

          - Make sure the time is set the same on all nodes or you will get the "no no cat" error as I call it it, something like ohahnahnahnah

          - On old hardware I have had to install from a DVD drive vs a USB stick on occasion.

          - Make sure to limit the backup bandwidth of each node if you are using a NAS or you will crush it during competing backups.

          - Try and have at least 16Gb of RAM per node if you want to run a few machines and play.

          - For CPU I try and keep it above 2.5GHz

          - Use separate NIC's for each VLAN and definitely a dedicated one for storage

          Anyway, I am not an expert on Proxmox, but it has served my needs very well for a long time.

          Have fun!

  4. Caoilte


    In 1998 I installed Debian Hamm, Postgres 6 and JDK 1.1 on a new AMD tower and started learning them all. They weren't the most popular at the time (that would have been Slackware or Mandrake or Redhat / MySQL, Perl and Pentiums) but they felt like the future.l and I'm glad they've all done well.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I started with RedHat

    But after several sessions of RPM dependency hell, I installed Debian Potato and never looked back.

    They did chase me away with systemd, so I'm using Devuan now.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: I started with RedHat

      Can't recall the order, but I messed around with RedHat, SuSE and a few others for some years before Debian finally took me away from RISC OS and Windows 98SE. Open licensing and do-one-thing-but-do-it-well were the foundation, while GNOME2 was the special sauce that finally pulled the trick. So yeah, today it's Devuan - with the MATE better'n'ever fork of GNOME2 - all down the line.

      If Debian could just remember that here is a reason to do-one-thing-but-do-it-well...

  6. wolfetone Silver badge
  7. Tim 11

    We should distinguish between server and desktop

    For servers, it wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say Linux (and therefore Debian) has been a runaway success - as the author points out, FOSS enabled a hitherto unimaginable amount of scalability which is what has made the IT world what it is today

    On the desktop unfortunately, the huge number of competing distros and variants on those distros, makes it a baffling and sometimes unreliable experience for many users (and I say that as a veteran of Windows, Mac and Linux who uses Ubuntu every day)

    1. ianbetteridge

      Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

      I don't want to come across all "this is the year of desktop linux" but I think as people become more conscious of privacy and the degree to which Microsoft (in particular) wants to use personal data harvested from it for advertising, Linux will become more popular. Similarly, as the desire to treat computers less as throwaway devices and extend their longevity comes into play, the more appealing Linux becomes – you can take an eight year old machine and get at least another two years out of it by dumping Windows and installing Linux.

      It's never going to be the biggest platform, unfortunately, but there are more opportunities for increased numbers of desktop users than I can remember.

      1. bikernutz

        Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

        Only 8 years! I expect to be able to run my computers for at least as long as my current car is old! It's a 59 plate :) Which for none Americans is second half of 2009 it might not be possible to run Linux on it if it were 64 years old:)

        1. ICL1900-G3

          Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

          59!? Luxury ! My Mercedes is 55 and still looking fabulous and going well.

          1. Anomalous Cowturd
            Thumb Up

            Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

            You and your "new" cars. My Volvo is a couple of months shy of 25 years old, and still runs like a dream.

            My same age IBM Thinkpad 600, not so much, although it does still work.

          2. Roopee Bronze badge

            Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

            I bet your 1968 classic car is a bummer to keep running though!

        2. Roopee Bronze badge

          Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

          > for none Americans

          Assume you mean "for Americans"?

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

        I think along the opposite lines.

        More and more a PC is just a way of accessing the internet, particularly the web, so all people care about is that it can run a browser. Soon they'll realise that with linux they can run a browser on linux and not have to put up with all the crud that Windows chucks at you.

        Obviously there are exceptions - gamers in particular - but once there's a critical mass of desktop linux users, the game companies will probably start targeting linux as well.

        It seems even most business-critical software is now either web based or remote applications, so the desktop OS is mostly irrelevant.

        1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

          I used to believe this, but from watching my non-geek family and friends, the big problem is Mail.

          Online mail apps (even including Gmail) are CRAP! And Linux ones are EVEN WORSE.

          Sure, people mostly use their phones. But from mid-teens onwards (when they start using computers as well as phones) they expect a good Mail experience on their PC - particularly for dealing with important email, and long-term storage and finding. Microsoft's mail programs are still way ahead of everyone else for "serious" mail (work-related, keeping important documents and receipts, searching, etc).

          Mail is the main reason most of the Microsoft users I know don't switch to just an online experience. Or stick with Microsoft if they do.

          1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

            Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

            Outlook for the Web PWA.

            I run it ever day on a Linux desktop. It brings everything you need with none of the pain. To me it is more reliable that the Outlook app on Windows.

            Unfortunately it is only available with a Microsoft email account!

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

            "And Linux ones are EVEN WORSE."

            Could you be specific? At least some of the GUI email clients are cross platform and, from what I've seen of Outlook aren't very different in UI and capabilities. I'd agree that even the best email clients fall short of what I'd want but this applies across the board. I haven't seen one that I wouldn't want to replace with something better.

            1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

              Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

              I use Thunderbird as my main mail program (and Claws on my laptops). Thunderbird is the best FOSS mail program in my experience but it is a long way from the combination of Outlook and Exchange in terms of daily usability.

              Before I retired, I virtually lived in Outlook (with Exchange behind it). I relied heavily on rules, on things like archiving, on flexible tagging and prioritisation, and on many other capabilities. It is just a much better power-tool than any of the Linux mail programs. And it is even scriptable in some ways from PowerShell.

              I have never really used Outlook on the web so I don't know how well that compares.

              I am a Linux user through and through - my first kernel patch was submitted 20 years ago. I have no Microsoft software at all now that I have retired. But I am still willing to acknowledge that Outlook & Exchange are the best mail system I have ever used.

          3. LionelB Silver badge

            Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

            > But from mid-teens onwards (when they start using computers as well as phones) they expect a good Mail experience ...

            Heavens, where have you been? I have yet to encounter a teenager these days who uses email at all (except under duress for unavoidable school/higher education usage). Then when/if they get to the gainful employment stage, they will most likely have the appalling Outlook foisted upon them.

      3. Mage

        Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop

        It's only because of a few applications (and QT?) that 32 bit old machines are now a problem.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop - and mobile

      Don't forget that Linux has a huge share of the mobile market, in the form of what should really be called (Stallman-style) Android/Linux. Debian has never been able to compete in this space, because the GNU bit of GNU/Linux has never really been up to the job. Perhaps one day that will change.

      1. Groo The Wanderer

        Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop - and mobile

        I think you're deluding yourself if you think Android got rid of "the GNU bit". It's kind of core functionality across the board, hence the licensing on the kernel. Or were you planning on running Linux without the Linux kernel in any size, shape, or form?

        As to mobile, it is almost entirely *nix based - BSD heritage for Apple, Linux heritage for Android. The remining players are jokes.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop - and mobile

          What OP refers to as Stallman style is $Userland/$kernel. Hence Debian, Red Hat & the rest are GNU/Linux with a largely GNU userland if "you" (FSF) conveniently disregard the likes of KDE. But Android provides the userland on phones hence Android/Linux. Linux is not GNU.

          1. Grogan Bronze badge

            Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop - and mobile

            I've always refused to say GNU/Linux. Not that I don't appreciate GNU userspace and toolchains (I prefer to work with them even), or the GPL just that I think it's vain and inappropriate. We have distributions, where Linux is the operating system kernel. GNU makes up a lot of the fundamentals, glibc interfacing with kernel API to define system calls, data types etc. for software to interface with.

            If anything, wouldn't that make it "Linux/Gnu"? It's really the kernel API headers that define this behaviour. Linux isn't the only kernel GNU software can interface with.

            Moreover, Linux doesn't have to be bootstrapped with GNU. You'd be hard pressed to find any distribution that has no GPL licensed software whatsoever, but you don't need to use the gcc compiler, GNU glibc, GNU core-utils etc. One Linux distro off the top of my head is Chimera that has ported a lot of BSD userspace.

            Nobody is required to call it "Gnu/Linux". Request denied.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: We should distinguish between server and desktop - and mobile

              I quite agree. There's a lot of userland that isn't GNU, especially if when a non-Gnome desktop manager is used.

  8. Kurgan

    If only it had ditched the systemd cancer...

    Debian would have been perfect without the systemd cancer. But since now everyone uses systemd I'll have to use it too, sadly. I know there is Devuan, I love Devuan, but since EVERYONE ELSE is using systemd, I'll have to start using it too, or I'll become irrelevant as a linux professional and I won't be able to install almost any binary package on top of a non systemd-infected distro, because of its cancerous dependencies that have crept in everything.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: If only it had ditched the systemd cancer...

      Speaking as a systemd-free Devuante, I disagree profoundly with that. Debian needed only to continue offering the choice.

      You can install systemd in Devuan if you want to (though there is little point), but you cannot do it the other way.

      Systemd is only a cancer because the Debian project chose to make it so.

    2. Gary Stewart

      Re: If only it had ditched the systemd cancer...

      I started using Debian with the Sarge release and continued using it until they accepted systemd as the only "init+++" system they officially supported. There was at one time a supposed non-systemd version which I tried to install and then trashed after it failed to boot after installation (the first and last time that ever happened). Now I use Devuan most of the time for that good old Debian feeling and Linux Mint mostly so I can run the latest version of KiCad using its official Ubuntu PPA. I find that Mint is also a little better at playing DVDs and much better at playing Blu-rays. As a bonus Mint also allows me to gain experience with systemd which I would prefer not to but it has become way too invasive to ignore. Luckily for me I am retired and this is not a professional requirement, it's just a matter keeping up. As an added bonus I believe that Linux Mint is migrating away from its original Ubuntu base to Debian. They do have a release of the Debian based version now but I want to wait until it becomes official before I dive in.

      Devuan is my primary desktop but I also recommend Linux Mint when you need to run more up to date software, better multi-media support, and of course the use and abuses of systemd.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: If only it had ditched the systemd cancer...

        The Debian-based version has been present in Mint for a good while.

    3. Mage

      Re: If only it had ditched the systemd cancer...

      MX Linux seems to work, but my everyday workstation & laptops are Linux Mint version of Debian/Ubuntu with Mate Desktop.

  9. wmlive
    Thumb Up

    Debian is the big enabler of the Linux world

    No other distribution offers itself as foundation for creating a new distribution variant built on its solid fundaments!

    Because of this we have Ubuntu, MX Linux, lots of other smaller ones, and even Devuan. None would be possible without the solid foundation provided by Debian!

    Thanks to Debian it was possible to create our own spinoff 'Window Maker Live' more than 10 years ago and persist over time.

    Check it out at and let us know!

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Debian is the big enabler of the Linux world

      [Author here]

      > our own spinoff 'Window Maker Live'

      As Window Maker 0.96 is out now, do let me know when you catch up with that release and I may take a look. ;-)

      1. wmlive

        Re: Debian is the big enabler of the Linux world

        For the time being, it is preferable to stay with the well known prior version as it is fairly stable.

        We'll catch up with that 0.96.0 release once they fixed the new bugs introduced by it.

        For example, the history function is broken, and that really is a big shortcoming.

        See for more details.

      2. wmlive

        Re: Debian is the big enabler of the Linux world

        Here you go:

        Window Maker has been updated to current release version 0.96.0 and includes an additional bugfix.

        This release is based on stable Debian/Bookworm version 12.2 and contains Linux kernel version 6.4.4 as provided via Debian's backports.

        Almost the complete range of GNUstep components and programs currently available in Debian/Bookworm have been added. The Window Maker root menu has been augmented with a comprehensively arranged listing of related programs in its own top level 'GNUstep Apps' submenu.

        The primary aim is to raise awareness of the advanced maturity of GNUstep in order to attract more developers for this wonderful project.

    2. LionelB Silver badge

      Re: Debian is the big enabler of the Linux world

      > No other distribution offers itself as foundation for creating a new distribution variant built on its solid fundaments!

      Are there not a number of distributions built on Arch (and even a few on Gentoo)?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Deepin is the main distro coming from China. I use it and its very good with few problems..

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Devuan User here

    As far as I'm concerned, debian accepting SystemD was just about their only mistake. I'm not sure, but I heard somewhere there are moves to make it optional. Hope that's true.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Devuan User here

      I'd like to think with the efforts MX Linux are making showing what Debian could be like with how they've implemented systemd (as in, it's there to satisfy code dependencies) then it's a no brainer to make systemd optional.

  12. werdsmith Silver badge

    After trying and being frustrated with Fedora weirdness and awkward for the sake of it nature, I adopted Debian derivatives when Raspberry Pi appeared in 2012 and found it to be a huge improvement. It just made things more sensible. Though for me, OSes are generally just something that supports the application and I don't actually care about that layer, when something needs fettling I'll take the Debian stuff every time.

  13. Adam Trickett

    Been a happy user for a while

    I started with Red Hat Linux (boxed) version 5.2. I played with it for a while. At work we had some early RHEL systems, which were okay. I wasn't going to pay top dollar for Red Hat at home, so started with Debian Woody. Once Sarge came out, I switched full time on all my desktop/laptop systems at home, and my hosted VM. I've been with Debian ever since. Some work machines have been Debian when we weren't paying money for nothing, but they are usually Red Hat or SUSE (though I don't know why as we never actually used the support - it was just because we had to).

    I did Red Hat's formal training which did help me understand RHEL better than my previous hacks at it, but I've always got on better with Debian - but that's probably just familiarity.


    1. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

      Re: Been a happy user for a while

      Similar journey to mine - RedHat 3.0.3, installed from a Walnut Creek CD-ROM compilation, then stuck with that distro even after it became Fedora if you didn't want to pay for a license. Moved to Ubuntu early on, and when they started mucking up the desktop shell switched to Debian.

      Honourable mention to the BSDs as well - I've used Free, Net and Open variants mostly for servers and firewalls. Even ran NetBSD on a wide range of esoteric hardware for fun, including Vax, SPARC, M68k, ARM, MIPS and PA-RISC.

  14. Hans 1

    Why old computers ?

    FOSS OSes also work better on older, slower computers, which drives adoption among the billions who can't afford the latest laptops.

    FOSS OSes work better on all computers I have ever used, new and old, with the exception of the old Amstrad.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Why old computers ?

      [Author here]

      > FOSS OSes work better on all computers I have ever used, new and old

      Yes and no.

      1. Very new hardware causes problems, especially with conservative distros such as Debian, because the relatively elderly kernel version can't handle the latest CPUs and GPUs.

      This is why MX Linux offers an AHS edition. This is why Ubuntu does regular HWE upgrade stacks.

      2. Support for some not-all-that-recent tech, such as touchscreen devices, remains iffy to poor on most FOSS OSes.

      > with the exception of the old Amstrad.

      Which Amstrad and why? A PCW9512 and NC200 owner wants to know.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why old computers ?

      I think the first time I touched Debian was on Sun SPARC systems. An IPX and a SPARC10 or 20, iirc.

      $WORK at the time was a Red Hat (not yet RHEL back then) and Solaris shop, so old Sun hardware wasn't very hard to re-use from the storage closet or dumpster. Debian seemed like the obvious choice if you wanted Linux on the good ole' kit, but I also discovered NetBSD for those so Debian use faded away....

      Years later, after a long time with RHEL and CentOS, Red Hat did what they did, so I took a fresh look at Debian and kept going ever since. "Why, you can run Debian on *PC's*! Wondrous!" ;-)

    3. LateAgain

      Re: Why old computers ?

      That'll be the insistence on drivers that follow the actual spec rather than just trusting the manufacturer to provide a CD.

      And that was because of the Microsoft "pre install" on hardware which meant that was all they tested.

  15. Dave_uk

    POLL anyone?

    Am I the only one thinking of migrating to Fedora?

    We could do with a Poll to find out what TheReg users are using/considering to migrate to?

    I intend to migrate to a flavour of unix rather than put up with another crippled version of Windows, when they decide to PUSH it on us...

    1. Colin Critch

      Re: POLL anyone?

      I was about to migrate from fedora to Rocky, then big purple made their announcement, not sure what to do now?

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: POLL anyone?

        The problems caused by all the ever-changing licensing, costs and spin-off shenanigans of the Red Hat world only serve to highlight particularly good reasons (among many others) to pick something from somewhere within the Debian-based extended family. The Red Hat 'world' is a grove of trees now being strangled by its own creeping ivy, whereas the Debian world is an entire diverse and thriving jungle ecosystem.

        If you can admin or use a Red Hat system, you can admin or use a Debian-based system, perhaps with a little bit of RTFM where needed. They're not really so different, at the end of the day…

        1. Colin Critch

          Re: POLL anyone?

          Hi Dave,

          My journey was Windows XP -> Xandros -> Ubuntu -> Kubuntu -> Linux Mint -> Fedora Cinnamon which is where I am stuck now for the desktop. On my RP pi's I use Debian and on my intel NUC I use Ubuntu sever and Rocky 8. I love the Linux! My users are non technical and I need LTS with a good upgrade path. Fedora has always provided a upgrade path that was flawless compared to Ubuntu/Debian that I can manage remotely. Fedora has never had the the LTS which is why I wanted Rocky Cinnamon with Flatpak. I've recently investigated OpenSuse but it still looks like there is no viable LTS option, but will be interesting when they bring out there version of Centos.

      2. coredump

        Re: POLL anyone?

        I suspect you are not alone.

        I further suspect that even Rocky Linux is still somewhat trying to figure it out, though they do seem to be making some moves, at least (Ciq, SUSE, et al partnership, or whatever you call it).

        Personally, I converted a couple CentOS 8 to AlmaLinux, not so much because I have anything for/against either Alma or Rocky, it was simply that at the time Alma had a release out sooner, with a conversion script that was pretty easy (run this, reboot, enjoy), so I went that way. It might have just as easily been Rocky instead, had the timing been a little different. Either way, it "felt like RHEL (really, CentOS)", and that was the goal at the time.

        Now that Alma has said they're not going to try to be a "clone" as a "compatible", the decision is potentially more interesting. If you simply _must_ have a clone or the bone fide thing, you essentially choose Rocky (for now) or go RHEL, possibly for money if necessary for your size and situation.

        But if your situation is more like "our engineers are used to Red Hat and CentOS, but we don't care about 100% compat with Red Hat" then Alma is a realistic alternative. And it might come with less corporate shenanigans causing problems downstream, though that remains to be seen.

        Of course, there are folks who decide to step away from Red Hat's family tree altogether. Debian and Ubuntu await.

        1. Colin Critch

          Re: POLL anyone?

          Hi coredump,

          I'm also considering AlmaLinux as they have more survival space because they have dropped the 100% compatibility pledge with RHEL. I'm not concerned about the 100 percent compatibility I just need a rock solid desktop with LTS and reliable OS upgrades. If I do go Debian based it will not be with an OS that it dependent upon one snap repository provider it is much more likely to be Debian with flatpak.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: POLL anyone?

            Devuan is currently listing nearly 65,000 packages. There's very little call for other repositories.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: POLL anyone?

            Fwiw I have a Debian 11 daily driver laptop (pending upgrade to 12), and a Debian 12 desktop in the office, neither has snaps or flatpaks, and both happily chug along with XFCE and all the desktop productivity fiddlings I use on a regular basis.

            To be fair, my main desktop application is probably xfce4-terminal. :-) Still, libreoffice, firefox, zoom, the desktop tools for screenshots, image viewers and media players etc. are all there with no extra effort -- standard Debian respository apt packages.

            Dunno if I'm typical, but IME it's quite possible to do stuff without add-ons, snaps, and flatpaks.

            Wrt reliable upgrades, this particular thinkpad laptop was originally installed with Debian 10.8 and it has been upgraded in-place to status quo 11.7 . I expect the 12 upgrade will be as pain-free as the others I've done, I still do backups and have rescue media available and such every time, but Debian has generally spoiled me for in-place upgrades. I also have a 32bit ITX PC for fun, which began life in Debian single digits (8.x I believe) and over time I upgraded it to 11 before putting it in storage for a while. I should unwrap it and upgrade that one too while I'm at it....

    2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Re: POLL anyone?

      I use Fedora every day, as I am an old RHEL guy. It works fine, but you need to understand the release cycle. It is quite fast.

      Though, with all the Big Purple nonsense, I am leaning more towards a Debian based distro. Maybe the Ubuntu rolling release as I've had issued with hardware on the LTS version.

    3. Dave_uk

      Re: POLL anyone?

      down votes as no one likes Fedora?!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: POLL anyone?

        I suspect that some of the downvotes are because butting in to discuss the woes of the RedHat-alikes in an article which is explicitly about acknowledging and celebrating the whole Debian ecosystem is a bit clunkingly rude...

        As for Fedora, no, I wouldn't recommend it, but that's for the same reason that I wouldn't recommend the non-LTS releases of Ubuntu, either. Life is too short to be pissing around with OS major release upgrades every 6 - 9 months or whatever, with a small (but non-zero) risk that you encounter problems with the upgrade (unless you like that sort of thing, but no one sensible will be running production systems in that fashion). And, at least with Ubuntu if you do 'need' to install a non-LTS version for support for newer hardware devices, you can step off that treadmill when the next LTS version comes around. There's no such escape route for Fedora, as far as I'm aware?

        (Also, genuine question: can you do a 'dist-upgrade' in Fedora, or is it a 'nuke and reinstall' each time you have to upgrade? Another big plus for (most) Debian-based distros is that a reliable in-place 'dist-upgrade' has been around for a long time. Install only once, then just upgrade it forevermore...)

        1. Alistair Silver badge

          Re: POLL anyone?

          FWIW AC, Fedora has dnf-plugin-system-upgrade.

          Essentially, make sure your system is fully updated to (now), run the upgrade download (pulls all update packages and dependencies, check for retired/replaced packages and run a pretest) then do dnf system-upgrade reboot.

          I've a rather complex install on my desktop and on a couple of those runs I've had to completely remove one or two self built packages, run the upgrade, then rebuild and reinstall, but thats my fault for doing slightly weird testing on bleeding edge crap.

          On three other systems I have hands on that *don't* to weird stuff, the last ?? 6 system upgrades have been fire and forget.

          The only gotcha, is that /var needs up to 8Gb of space free, depending.

    4. f4ff5e1881

      Re: POLL anyone?

      As someone who's been ensconced in the Windows world for more years than I care to mention, I’ve dabbled with Linux over the last few years, but it’s only recently that I’ve made a serious effort to migrate away from Windows. I’ve been subjected to Windows 11 at work, and to say ‘I really don’t like it’ is a colossal understatement.

      I’ve tried various Linux distros in the past, but the main stumbling block has always been compatibility with my own selection of hardware.

      The distro that finally ticked all the boxes for me, was Zorin. It works flawlessly on my older ‘spare’ laptops. On my main laptop, which admittedly is running Windows 10, I have Zorin running in a couple of VMs (Windows 10 is really only acting as a host for the VMs, doing little else). I was very impressed that Zorin recognised it was in a VM during installation, and helpfully installed the VMware tools – now that’s forward thinking.

      The ultimate goal, for me, is to have a Linux laptop, running Linux VMs, but that’s for the future. I think I need a bit more experience under my belt before I make that leap. For now though, I’m happy that I’ve mostly purged Windows from my home computing setup. And I have Zorin to thank for that.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: POLL anyone?

        You could try installing Linux directly in a dual boot setup.. Windows used to bully its way into taking over the entire drive IIRC and maybe still does so you may not realise that a Linux install can coexist if you have free space - you just have to install it after Windows. There may have to be some tidying up to be able to reduce your Windows partition but you should end up with an option to boot directly into either OS. I haven't tried it but I believe that the existing W10 can then be set up to run as a VM under Linux.

      2. hayzoos

        Re: POLL anyone?

        Most distros offer a bootable live CD/USB package. Very good for a trial run to see if there are any hardware issues. Many of those also provide an install option from the live version.

        Since you have stated that Windows is just being a VM host for your setup, the live option is a very good next step for you. If you do not like it you can just reboot.

        I think you are closer to Linux only than you give yourself credit for. I had to find alternatives for a couple of Windows apps before I could fully switch to Linux.

  16. Spoobistle


    I've got a box of (recycled) floppy disks on my office, marked Debian 1.2.8. I obviously didn't think the Toy Story names would catch on.

    Having been "out" of Linux for a while I'm now getting used to Bullseye on slightly more modern hardware. But I didn't have any more difficulty installing the recent versions than I remember of the old.

    Beer icon for all those people who made it so easy!

  17. nightflier

    apt magic

    Today we take package managers with dependency resolution for granted. In the early 2000's, not so much. After struggling for days to get an application working on RH 5.1, chasing down one .rpm file after the other, I decided to try Debian. "apt-get install packagename" did it in seconds. I was sold, and I've been using Debian ever since.


  18. LateAgain

    Ubuntu - 3rd time lucky

    Corel Linux and Progeny were, I think, the first two attempts to sell a Debian Linux version.

  19. Scene it all

    I have used RedHat, Gentoo, Ubuntu (various flavors) and now back to simple Debian12 with XFCE desktop. I will say this - it boots fast.

  20. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    With so many Debinistas here can I run this past you all?

    Is old age and my memory playing false that it used, prior to 11, to be possible to set up LVM2 from the installer and then use the logical volumes for the installation? And that now it doesn't?

  21. el_oscuro

    Ubuntu's killer app

    For me, the real killer app that Ubuntu has is the LTS releases. Besides the 5 year support, you can also upgrade them in place. I had a laptop that started with Ubuntu 6.04 and upgraded it all the way to 16.04 without ever having to reinstall. 16.04 ran fine on that 10 year old laptop, and I might still have it now if the hardware hadn't failed. Most other distros (including Debian) don't have that type of LTS releases.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ubuntu's killer app

      "Most other distros (including Debian) don't have that type of LTS releases."

      According to Debian 10 & 11 are both classed as old stable with 10 under LTS whilst 8 & 9 are under extended (commercially provided) LTS. You could have started using 8 when it still the testing release and still have it under extended LTS more than 10 years later.

  22. bitdusk

    Nowadays Deepin is a direct independent Linux distro. It is not downstream from Debian anymore.

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