Why I love Debian

My frequent inquiry into Google Blog Search with the key word “Debian” reveals me this intriguing post, which is titled “Why I love Debian“. Unfortunately, I could not access the page and view its contents for some obviously guessable reasons ( /me casting a wary eye at G.F.W).  Persistent as I am, I used a online proxy and read the post any way. The following is the entire post I copied, and salute to its author. Cheers to all Debian fans.

Ubuntu and Linux Mint are great for new users, but I’m not a new user. I’m not trying to be snobby, and I don’t think I’m better than anyone else; I just have different needs than most people. I don’t want polish. I want to see and work with the guts of my operating system, because I like to be in total control of my computing experience. I don’t like my hand to be held. I’m not extreme about this. I like user-friendly things as long as they don’t get in my way, or cover up what I want to see. Debian makes everything as easy as possible without getting in my way, holding my hand, or hiding the details.

I also value different things than most people. I don’t want the latest bells and whistles, pretty graphics, or fancy features. I want stability and commitment. I hate when vendors take liberties with my computing experience for their own nefarious ends. I hate bugs, crashes, upheavels, insecurity, and having my privacy disrespected. Linux in general tends to be refreshingly free from many of these, but Debian takes it all a step further.

Debian has been around longer than most other distributions, and the system they have in place is the same basic system they’ve had for the last decade. They did it right from the beginning, and while they add features, improve security, and add the occasional bit of polish, they never try to fix what ain’t broken.

But they don’t depend on their reputation alone. They also offer a social contract outlining their values and promising to its users that these values won’t change. This is the kind of commitment you don’t get from most software vendors.

Debian has a reputation for being the most stable and secure distribution in existence. Indeed, this thing is like a rock. It never crashes or locks up, and I haven’t had a single security exploit ever since I installed it in 2004. This is true for Linux in general for the most part, but Debian is better at it than any other distribution.

Debian dubs itself the Universal Operating System. Debian is more than just a Linux distribution for the PC. It’s more like a free software distribution system for all architectures. They offer three other operating system kernels than Linux, and they distribute thousands of other software packages that go far beyond the basic operating system. They offer this for 10 different hardware architectures. What I get with Debian is a complete software solution for all of my needs, no matter how they might change in the future.

Debian has three different software repositories, with varying degrees of maturity: stable, testing, and unstable. All three are actively maintained. Unstable has the newest of everything. After software in unstable has undergone a certain minimum of testing for a few months, it is moved to testing. Stable only gets updated about once every 2 years, after rigorous testing. That’s the one I use. I like to stay behind the curve, and I like that I’m given this choice.

Debian values software freedom. In each repository, they have different sections: main, contrib, and non-free. Non-free is software that doesn’t satisfy its free software, non-proprietary guidelines. Contrib is free software but depends on non-free software to run. Main is entirely free software. That’s the one I use. I like that they give me the choice of how much freedom I want in my software.

Last but not least is the Debian community. It’s probably the single biggest and most diverse free software project in existence. It has thousands of developers from all over the globe. It’s entirely non-profit and volunteer-driven. It operates as a true democracy. They use the Condorcet method for counting votes, and the election process is completely out in the open. So, in a way, Debian is more like a huge social experiment than a mere operating system.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Debian can be fussy about some things. It usually detects most hardware, but when I added a sound card recently, it didn’t detect it. After messing with it a bit, I switched it to a different slot, and it worked. That’s kind of stupid.

And sometimes, very rarely, staying behind the curve like I do causes me problems. I recently had a problem with a piece of software, and after much searching, I found that there’s a bug in the version I’m using. The bug is fixed in recent versions. So, I have to either wait for the next version of Debian, or switch to the testing branch, which is a big compromise to make just for the sake of one program. Luckily, Debian has a “backports” system in place for situations like this. Unfortunately, this program didn’t exist in their backports, and I had to hunt around for a backport somewhere else.

But these annoyances are rare and not really a big deal. The benefits far outweigh the burdens. I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with this operating system.

2 Replies to “Why I love Debian”

  1. Yes, I am a long time Linux user, and I finally settled down for Debian after I had tried many distros.

    But due to my current task on hand, I have to resist the temptation not to tinker with Linux until I finish off the task. Unfortunately, I just installed Debian Lenny on my desktop, and now I am replying your message under it.

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