Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Jun 2007 19:05 UTC
Debian and its clones FreeSoftwareMagazine takes a look at Debian as a desktop system, and they conclude: "I feel that Debian Etch is as good on the desktop as it is on the server. It has a long rich history, a strong community, is amazingly stable and is a great fit for both my servers and my laptop. I urge everyone to give it a go on the desktop."
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Good stuff
by moleskine on Tue 5th Jun 2007 22:35 UTC
moleskine
Member since:
2005-11-05

There aren't many articles on desktop Debian so I was pleased to see this one. It struck me as very fair though perhaps a little optimistic.

In my experience, Debian Stable dates too quickly to be ideal for the desktop except for, perhaps, 3-6 months after first release. Testing is really better for a desktop and usually has very few issues. Once you know your way around Debian then Unstable is pretty OK too and is very up to the minute. Unstable does go through dodgy periods in my experience, but that's when apt-listbugs and apt-changelog come in. Running those two will give you the option of aborting an install or update of software with critical or grave bugs still outstanding.

Debian issues everything as "plain vanilla" so it does require a bit more work to get a nice desktop with decent eyecandy and everything "just the way you like it". However, I've never found it that much work and it's quite instructive anyway. Where ready-made distros score, though, is on things like ACPI, hibernation/sleep, wifi and more complicated stuff. This requires a lot more sorting out than eyecandy and distros like OpenSuSE (and I expect Ubuntu) do all or most of it for you.

On the other hand, you can argue that the work done or inspired by distros like Ubuntu and OpenSuSE is now filtering through to Debian. In fact this article shows that, when it talks of the Gnome Network Manager and of stuff like Automatix adapted for Debian. In this sense, Ubuntu has been good for Debian despite all the rancour. I suspect that Debian would not have added these user-friendly options to the desktop had not the work already been done by others, and had not the success of Ubuntu (and of OpenSuSE) put general pressure on all distros to raise their desktop game.

I've been running Debian as my daily desktop for about three years now and really don't see any point in changing. I've found the "Debian Way" distinctly superior to rpm. It's not only apt and dpkg, but Debian's modular approach to packaging and where config files go in /etc/. It's the many, many neat little touches and helper scripts that have grown up over the years, even if that just means an easy way to enable or disable Apache modules for your webserver or auto-generate an ssl certificate for Exim. It's also Debian's strict packaging guidelines which mean quality stuff and overall creamy smoothness to the whole OS. Debian is no slouch. And it's the fact that becoming a Debian Developer means training over time: yup, real hard work and you have to want it.

Finally, there is the ideal behind the whole Debian Project: a universal operating system free in every sense to anyone anywhere who wants it. This is a noble ideal that's worth sticking up for, imho. No disrespect to Ubuntu, but the efforts of a single philanthropist will never compare with that, no matter how well his efforts are intended (and they are impeccably well intended, I'm sure). Debian is the high point of Linux for me, and is one of the high points of computing generally - but you can like Debian while also liking and respecting Ubuntu, I think. There should be space for both.

For all that, if you want a fairly easy "click and go" desktop then Debian probably isn't right and maybe something like Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS would be far better. But if you want a bit more and are prepared to invest a bit of time in learning, then Debian can't be beat.

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