I have now been using Debian for a few weeks and it is therefore time for me to write a review of my experience thus far.
Debian has been around for what seems like forever now and it is the base for so many other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint, SolydXK and Knoppix.
I think that the general consensus amongst Linux users is that Debian is stable, dependable and a good environment on which to build upon.
Does that mean it is suitable for Everyone?
A couple of weeks ago I put my hand firmly in the hornets nest and started waving it around. My article “3 ways to improve Debian and I haven’t even booted it yet” received a very mixed response on Reddit.
In summary the 3 points I made were as follows:
- The website is hard to navigate
- I couldn’t get the live USB to boot with UEFI
- The installer is a little bit convoluted with similar option spread over a number of screens
As usual the responses to my points were somewhere between complete agreement, to disagreement and of course to be called “a retard” (Their words not mine).
Here are a few quotes to prove my point:
Debian is not for noobs and shouldn’t dumb itself down for the sake of “usability”. Different users have different needs
project can not call itself “the universal operating system” and then
be satisfied when only a small minority of people have the knowledge,
patience and motivation to actually make use of it.Telling people to “go back to Ubuntu” is admitting defeat, plain and simple.
Just use Ubuntu if you want all that stuff. Isn’t that why Ubuntu was made in the first place?
Yes, removing or separating all of the options to an options section and
just having one download on the main section will make it better.
Ubuntu is for ease of use, Debian is for choice. Its really not that
When I first came to Debian I was confused about which ISO to download. I
thought net install was a PXE utility and thought it bizarre that they
would offer that as the default.
I thought that exact same thing. They don’t do a good job of explaining the differences between the different ISO options.
You aren’t alone… I’ve tried 3-4 times, and somehow I’ve actually
succeeded once. I guess it was just a lucky day. It has really
disencouraged me from using it, and the time I tried I eventually got
rid of it because of the hard-to-use documentation.
Hope the Debian website maintainers notice this post. I’ve been using
Debian for 10+ years and the website has never once been a pleasant
Debian is not Ubuntu, the argument is invalid. Debian is for people who
know how to play with it and want to play with it. You want Ubuntu? Go
The thing that bothered me about a number of the responses is that Debian isn’t for everyone, if you aren’t happy, use Ubuntu. There are clearly enough people for which this is a problem. The quote where it says “hope the Debian website maintainers notice this post” had 56 upvotes. That is 56 potential Debian users who probably went elsewhere.
So where does that leave the rest of Debian? Well you might be surprised. Read on.
I have already covered much about the installation experience with the comments above.
The issue isn’t really with the installation itself. There are a lot of screens to get through though and I think some could be condensed.
For instance there is a screen for entering the root password, another screen for entering the default user’s name, a third screen for entering the username for the default user and a fourth screen for entering the passwords for the default user. Clearly this could be fixed with just one screen.
All in all though the actual install from the network installation download on the main Debian homepage made it simple enough to get a system dual booting Windows 8.1 and Debian Jessie.
I chose to install the GNOME version of Debian because at the moment GNOME is my favourite desktop environment. (I do have a growing admiration for Enlightenment however).
The thing I like about GNOME is that it doesn’t matter whether you use Debian, Fedora or openSUSE you know that the basic applications are going to be the same and the look and feel is going to be the same.
When you get used to GNOME’s keyboard shortcuts it is incredibly easy to navigate and integrates well with other applications such as GNOME music and the Totem video player.
Connecting To The Internet
Once Debian is installed you will find that in the main it is as easy to use as Ubuntu or Mint.
Connecting to the internet using the GNOME desktop is a matter of clicking on the little arrow in the top right corner and selecting the relevant wireless network (assuming you are connecting wirelessly). You will of course be asked for a security key unless you are using an open network.
Flash and MP3
Flash isn’t natively available within Debian but it is fairly easy to install.
I wrote a guide showing how to install Adobe Flash in Debian. It also shows how to use a free tool called Lightspark which does pretty much the same job. I used it to try out most of the Flash games that I like and it worked a treat.
Playing MP3s caused no issues whatsoever and no further codecs needed to be installed to get them to play. Potentially easier than Ubuntu then.
The applications installed with the GNOME version of Debian include everything the average person needs to get started.
The web browser is called Iceweasel which is an unbranded version of Firefox.
For email there is the Evolution mail client which has the look and feel of Microsoft Outlook. (Click here for a full guide to Evolution)
Rhythmbox is the default audio player which is the perfect client for listening to your music collection, podcasts and online radio stations. It can also be used as a DAAP server. (Click here for a full guide to Rhythmbox)
If you want to watch videos you can use the Totem video player. I had a few issues with playing online videos via this tool but I could play DVDs and local files.
LibreOffice is completely installed including the wordprocessing tool, spreadsheet package, presentation tool, database package and all the other surrounding tools such as Math.
If you need to burn disks you can use Brasero and for editing images GIMP is installed.
There are various other games and applications installed such as chat clients and bittorrent clients.
The default package manager within Debian is Synaptic.
One of the only things I don’t like about Ubuntu is the software centre and I really appreciate the simple interface that Synaptic brings.
There are a list of categories in the left pane and applications for the category in the right pane. Selecting a package brings up a description.
To install applications place a check in the boxes of the applications you wish to install and click “Apply”. Simple, easy, straight forward. The best bit is that all the applications in the repository are listed when you search for them. That may sound silly, but I have found the Ubuntu software centre hit and miss in this regard.
I am using a fairly decent Dell Inspiron laptop and it runs incredibly well even though I haven’t installed any proprietary drivers.
Generally when nothing else is running 650 megabytes of memory is used and my CPUs are hardly taxed at all.
As you would probably expect from running the stable version of Debian, the system is very stable indeed. I haven’t received any odd messages, there is no performance degradation at any point and the experience has been largely positive.
The Totem video player has an issue when trying to play Youtube videos but I have seen this issue with other distributions running GNOME and Totem.
Some of the comments that I posted from Reddit at the beginning of this article are quite correct. Debian isn’t Ubuntu and should not be seen as such.
I don’t particularly understand some of the comments that suggest that Debian isn’t for everyone and specifically not new users. Debian with the GNOME desktop has to be on a par with Ubuntu GNOME edition or very close to it.
Now that Debian is installed on my system it runs very well and has all of the software that I need.
If you don’t for whatever reason like Ubuntu then Debian would be a really good alternative to go for.
The only real let down for me is the website and the installer. I would be interested to find out how many people out there are using Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu or a distribution based on Debian simply because they found the first stage of getting Debian too hard in the first place.
Thankyou for reading.
Click here for my Ubuntu vs openSUSE vs Fedora article where I compared the GNOME editions of all three distributions.