back to article No distro diva drama here: Penguinista favourite Debian turns 20

Today Debian marks a milestone not many pieces of software last long enough to see: its 20-year anniversary. Debian has become the foundation of dozens of other Linux distros. It’s the basis of all manner of embedded systems – which means many of the uninitiated use it without knowing – and it boasts a customers list spanning …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting ...

    I switched to Debian from Ubuntu, because I didn't like the Microsoft-like way Ubuntu switched the default GUI to Unity.

    Never happier.

    1. Jim 59
      Thumb Up

      Re: Interesting ...

      I switched to Debian from Ubuntu when Ubuntu stopped supporting the Sheevaplug (Arm v5). Debian is the ideal server OS.

  2. wolfetone Silver badge

    I switched to Debian about 3 months ago, and I've been impressed with it. I didn't think I would be, but I see myself as a refugee of Fedora - I gave it so many chances, but it just changed far too much and became far too different with each release.

    The article hits the nail on the head, in terms of how people get in to free software etc, and eventually find their way to Debian. Its human nature to want to be part of something, but to also have something stable. Debian offers this, and offers it well.

    Happy Birthday Deb!

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Happy Birthday Deb!

      And not to forget Ian, too :)

  3. hplasm Silver badge
    Linux

    I picked this as my first distro.

    I've tried others but never been happier!

    1. Spoonsinger
      Coat

      Re: I picked this as my first distro.

      Ok going to pick on you for this love in!.

      Never Happier? Really? I mean REALLY?

      Right in context on the article, yes Debian is nice, but Never Happier?!!!!!!!! Good grief.

      1. Graham Dawson
        Pint

        Re: I picked this as my first distro.

        I often wonder why some people have a problem with others being genuinely satisfied with the decisions they've made. It's almost as if the idea that a person can be happy is somehow evil.

        I just moved into a new flat. It is exactly what I want. I have never been happier.

        Is there a difference between that and a user getting the distro they want?

        No.

        Let the man be happy.

        1. Spoonsinger
          Windows

          Re: "I often wonder why some people have a problem with others"

          Ahh!, because you are basically a passive aggressive type. Getting people to emote is potential leverage. The original poster went there, but you went there, planted a flag, and then down thumbed raped your way to up thumb success. I hope your flat is nice though, (honestly, it did sound nice because you said so).

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: I picked this as my first distro.

        I'm happier now I've seen all those exclamation marks you've made...

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

    " ...some disdain for the gateway distros .."

    I've been snorting Mint for four months now but the thrill has worn off. I'm worried that I might move into trying Debian and then start installing from the CLI.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward
      Coat

      Re: It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

      You might even start growing a beard ;)

      1. launcap Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

        >You might even start growing a beard ;)

        Hmm..

        Started with pre-v1 Slakware (check)

        Likes CLI (check)

        Has beard (check)

        Has a server at home with multiple VMs (check)

        Haz cats (check)

        Is there any hope for me?

    2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

      It's when you start compiling your own kernels because the ones in the distro are too bloated that you know you are hooked, and you will be spending long evenings ignoring your family while you find that perfect combination of options which will give you exactly what you need and no more...

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

        And then when you eventually get to that point, you can actually do some work on your PC.

    3. Euripides Pants Silver badge

      Re: It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

      Be careful, this is where you'll end up.....

      http://xkcd.com/456/

    4. plrndl
      Linux

      Re: It's a slippery slope down that rabbithole

      Stay away from "Linux From Scratch". Just say "no!"

  5. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

    And it's still younger than Slackware

    http://lwn.net/Articles/559293/

    Hehe

  6. Joe Burmeister
    Linux

    Debian Testing is my favourite OS

    I started my computing life on RISC OS then moved to Windows 98 (but had run Windows 95 on my RiscPC's PC card). I finally left Windows after years of XP. I switched between distros (mainly OpenSUSE) for a while and then settled on Ubuntu for a few years, and then move on to Debian Testing. I love the rolling updates, I've never had to do a reinstall in the time (3 years now?) I've been running it. Debian packaging is more solid then anything else I've used. Even the build depenencies and source packaging are solid (making development quick and easy to get going). Multi arch is the best 32/64bit resolution I've come across. Debian supports lots of architectures, at home I run x86 and AMD64 and three flavors of ARM at home too (armhf, armel and Raspbian). On top of all the technical excelences, it's political entity is of considerable moral standing. It's like some crazy dream, only it's real.

    1. Nuke
      Holmes

      Re: Debian Testing is my favourite OS

      Wrote :- "Debian packaging is more solid then anything else I've used."

      Yes, but what some might not realise is that the Debian package system, repositories (and many of its other good features) are also available in the many Debian based distros :-

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Debian-based_distributions

      ... most of which were born out of frustration with Debian's "political" characteristics which you mention.

      "it's political entity is of considerable moral standing"

      Maybe, but many trying it (as I did once) will be turned off by eg the absence of codecs for common media formats, the replacement of Firefox by Iceweasel, and other "political" issues about which they may not have strong feelings. Yes, this stuff can be installed afterwards, but it all takes time and research.

      I use Mepis, one of the Debian derivative distros created specifically to cut the frustration.

  7. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    Happy Birthday Debian! Thanks for keeping my servers running rock solid for so many years. You have made me look good!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gosh, this takes me back...

    I remember good old 1997 when Debian was but a babe, swaddled in nappies (ok, pull-on Pampers) and one of my friends decided that he'd abandon RedHat for this new distro.

    But back then I was still a Slackware junkie and Redhat 4 was still a mess... I moved on to BSD, but you know what, lately I'm faffing about with CentOS and Ubuntu, and it's still fun.

    Happy birthday, babe.

    1. launcap Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Gosh, this takes me back...

      Started with Slackware (kernel 0.99pl14 no less! - all those floppies..)

      Flirted briefly with Redhat

      Moved to Mandrake

      Stayed (briefly) with Mandriva

      Flirted with openSuSE

      Moved to Ubuntu

      Discovered Proxmox

      Moved to CentOS

      Still using Astaro Security Linux..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Started with Slackware

        Me too. But ... I'm still using it :-)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I just don't get is.....

    Previous commenters on this thread have already indicated, not all distros are created equal. People will argue "Debian is better than Ubuntu", Slackware is better than Fedora", or whatever.

    One of the arguments I keep reading is "Windows is s**t, use Linux cos it's better, and so your life will be better". OK, but does that not just set me towards the dilemma of picking the right Linux?

    If I pick the wrong one, I'll be missing something and my non-WIndows life won't be as good as it could be.

    If it doesn't matter which one I pick, then why do we need all these different distros?

    Given the effort that must go into maintaining all of the different distros, can't the penguintards combine their effort to make one super-duper, rule-them-all version?

    Not trolling, just asking....

    1. teebie

      Re: What I just don't get is.....

      Which distro depends on what you are using it for. There are different distros because a server user has different needs to a desktop user who just wants something simple, whose needs are different from someone who wants a desktop where they can dig around in internals. A super-duper rule-them-all would be a jack-of-all-trades,master-of-none. Also people are arseholes and like to argue a lot.

      For a desktop user who wants a simple journey away from windows I would suggest one of the *ubuntu distros - lubuntu or xubuntu for a slow machine, kubuntu or ubuntu gnome for a fast one. Try using a live disc, so you don't invest much if you don't like it.

    2. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: What I just don't get is.....

      "If I pick the wrong one, I'll be missing something and my non-WIndows life won't be as good as it could be."

      Stop worrying about an optimum world at the start, that is Windows top down thinking.

      Just jump in and start iterating. That is the Linux/Free Software/ bottom up way. Others have suggested practical first steps.

      The tramp: I have the beard!

    3. John Sanders
      Linux

      Re: What I just don't get is.....

      YACA = Yet Another Car Analogy.

      What you do not get its this: "All distros are the same operating system" In the same way that all cars are cars in the end.

      Some people prefers BMW, while other people prefers Audi. Other people just like a car they can tinkle with.

      Other people just like to try new cars all the time, tune them up a bit then change it for another.

      In the end it is all the same operating system with different degrees of conservationism (Stability).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What I just don't get is.....

        Hmmm...that makes it sound like the Linux "marketplace" (if that's the right word) is fragmented to f***.

        Is it even correct to refer to this thing called "Linux" as something you can use, i.e. "Windows vs Linux", when it should be "Windows vs Debian vs Mint vs Ubuntu vs Redhat vs.....".?

        1. cyborg
          Megaphone

          Re: What I just don't get is.....

          Do you also get confused between potato varieties? Just stick to the big bag of white and leave the King Edwards, Maris Pipers, Charlotte, New and Baking varieties to people who can actually deal with a "marketplace" with, you know, an actual range of items.

    4. plrndl

      Re: What I just don't get is.....

      Call me old-fashioned, but the old-skule way is still the best.

      1. What do you want to do with your computer?

      2. What software do you need to do this?

      3. What hardware/OS do you need to run this software?

      If you're mainly emailing, web surfing and a little light office-ing, any of the mainstream distros will do equally well. If you're a media creator, look at AVLinux, Dream Studio, Ubuntu Studio etc. If you want a secure server, also consider the BSDs. Distrowatch is your friend here.

      Most people try several distros before they commit. You can multi-boot several distros if you have a decent sized HDD. Use a different user name for each, and put /home on its own partition, and they will remain independent of each other but will be able to read(-only) the home directory of other distros. DON'T use the same user name for multiple distros unless you really know what you're doing, because the shared home directory will get filled with conflicting configuration files, causing endless grief and confusion.

      There are different versions of Linux for the the same reason that there are different cars, there can never be a super-duper fits all version.

      Haver fun, and don't take it too seriously, it's only a distro.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: What I just don't get is.....

      If you are interested in working on something more than just the OS, then I heartily reccommend Ubuntu. I am using it now and I am very happy with it. It is not all that much of a change from MacOSX or Windows and the new OpenOffice/Libreoffice package is more than a match for MSOffice. The only drawback that I can see about it is that I can no longer play Myst on my main computer, but then I am one of those people who get lost in the Myst Universe and stay there for days on end so you might say that not being able to run on Ubuntu is a good thing, right? It stops me from wasting all those hours on unproductive puzzle solving.

  10. Robert Moore

    Different linuxes for dirrerent purposes

    Debian for servers.

    Mint for desktops.

    CentOS for servers where I need to be compatible with RedHat.

    Windows for when I need to play Solitaire.

    Posted from my Linux Mint machine.

    1. Graham Dawson
      Coat

      Re: Different linuxes for dirrerent purposes

      Debian is fine for desktops too, you know. I use it.

      Ah but then I do almost everything in the browser anyway, so...

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Different linuxes for dirrerent purposes

        "Debian is fine for desktops too, you know. I use it."

        Well, in fairness, he's using Debian on his desktop anyway....

    2. R Callan
      Happy

      Re: Different linuxes for dirrerent purposes

      ""Windows for when I need to play Solitaire.""

      kPatience works fine on my Mepis (Debian based) machine and it gives me far more choices.

    3. plrndl
      Linux

      Re: Different linuxes for dirrerent purposes

      "Windows for when I need to play Solitaire."

      GNU Aisleriot is a vastly superior set of solitaire games (Freecell is particularly recommended). It also looks a LOT better.

  11. Johnny Canuck

    Debian

    Spent a lot of time distro hopping, sampling the various flavors of Linux, a few years ago. One day I found Mint 7 and was shocked at how well done it was. Mint 7 was actually a viable desktop replacement for Windows. In those days Mint was only based on Ubuntu, though a much improved version of Ubuntu. After Mint 8, I thought I'd try Debian as both Ubuntu, and consequently Mint, were based off that. Its the only distro I use now and has put the fun back into computing for me. I like being able to totally customize my desktop and use strictly XFCE.

    Happy birthday Debian!

  12. Matt Piechota

    Advanced

    Seems I made the opposite progression is the author would imply. I started out customizing kernels and hand selecting packages. Of course, in 1995 and Slackware (from floppies!) you kinda had to. Gentoo and several others along the way, I got to Ubuntu and ran that for quite awhile (2008-2012 or so). I got to the point that I didn't want to bother with all that any more. Why, when it just works? I moved to Mint after getting fed up with Unity, but I could see going with plain GNOME3 after using it for awhile on a few project systems. Work is almost entirely RHEL/CentOS.

    I'd say an Advanced User is the one that knows how to spend time wisely. :)

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: Advanced

      I remember my Gentoo days with fondness, but you can only be a ricer for so long before it starts to get boring. Still, compiling an entire system from scratch (even in the guided way portage handles it) was rather fun for a while.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Advanced

        I can remember a case, where full compile was a necessity. A laptop with a mobile P4, and about the best money could buy.

        Everything was dog slow - all Windows versions to date, all widespread Linux distros. P4 was never good at running i386-optimized code. Every pipeline stall resulted in a looong wait for a memory fetch.

        So Gentoo compiled with i686 options was pretty much the only OS to run well there.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can do anything I want on my Linux box except gaming and I do a lot of that.

    Set up Debian so I can play Far Cry 3, Skyrim, Dishonored, Metro First Light, etc. and I will move to that distro permanently instead of the dual boot I have now. Wine is OK, but not perfect so I still have Win7 for the moment.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Flame

      Gaming on Debian

      You know Steam runs on Debian now, right? And so does Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program, which are the only games worth playing aside from original HALO.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20 years old...

    ...and only used by 20 people.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: 20 years old...

      Why do we need to know about your sex-life?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: 20 years old...

        I want to hear more!

  15. Eldnah

    Debian (w/ apologies to the Beach Boys)

    Ah, da da da da Debian

    Da da da da Debian

    -----

    Oh Debian, take my hand

    Debian

    You got me surfin' and a-Snortin'

    Surfin' and a-portin'

    Debian da da

    da Debian

    -----

    Package expanse, stable elegance

    Thats Debian, so I thought I'd take a chance

    With Debian, Debian

    Take my hand

    You got me surfin' and a-Snortin'

    (Oh! Oh!)

    Surfin' and a-portin'

    Debian da da

    da da da da stays free

    -----

    Da da da da Debian

    Da da da da Debian

    -----

    Debian, take my hand

    Debian

    You got me surfin' and a-Snortin'

    Surfin' and a-portin'

    Debian da da

    da Debian

    -----

    Tried Suse Sue

    Tried Fedora too

    Tried ev'ry *buntu

    But I knew they wouldn't do

    Debian, Debian

    Take my hand

    Debian

    Debian

    You got me surfin' and a-Snortin'

    Surfin' and a-portin'

    Debian da da

    da Debian

    -----

    Da da da da Debian

    Da da da da Debian

    Debian

    Take my hand

    Debian

    You got me surfin' and a-Snortin'

    Surfin' and a-portin'

    Debian da da

    da Debian

    -----

    ermm ... mine's the wetsuit with the surfboard

    1. The Man Himself Silver badge

      Re: Debian (w/ apologies to the Beach Boys)

      Po-ta-to-ohhhhhhh!!!!!!

      http://youtu.be/wCkerYMffMo

  16. JB

    I remember about 2007 getting fed up of Windows and asking a Linux-using friend to set me up. He chose Debian, and threw me in at the deep end. Hooked up my MP3 player...wouldn't mount..had to learn about fstab, permissions, etc; installing packages, missing dependencies, etc...it was totally frustrating. Eventually moved over to Ubuntu for a while, and am now using Mint XFCE and am very happy with it. Yes, it was all very frustrating, but thoroughly educational.

  17. btrower

    Gold Standard

    For me, Debian is the Gold Standard for a workable, ethical ecosystem. I have had to use downstream distros like Ubuntu or other distros like CentOS for various reasons, but I am now moving to Debian and hope to shift everything over there.

    Debian has rock-solid integrity. As the years go by and more of your work accumulates on systems, the more important this basic integrity becomes.

    Right now I work on Win7 for desktop and notebook,Android for tablet, iOS for phone, Ubuntu, Windows 2008R2 and Windows Server 2003 for local servers and CentOS, Win2008R2, Win2003 and whatever mutant variants of Linux or Window is currently running on Amazon. I want to shift all of those to Debian based distros and to only use Debian stuff wherever possible.

    I trust Debian. I do not trust any of the rest of them. To me, anything that cannot drop back to a vanilla Debian release is a risk and I hate being exposed like this.

  18. johnnytruant

    I started on Debian in 2001

    Took me many slow, small steps, lots of time reading man pages and mailing lists and so on, but now it's so familiar it's like home.

    Derivative distros like *buntu/mint/etc will come and go (anyone remember Knoppix?) but Debian is always there and always dependable. I don't always run it on my machines (although always on servers) but it's nice to know it's there.

    Cheers, Debian, and thanks for all the awesome. Here's to another 20 years.

  19. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Another debian user here. Experimented with a few different distros in the 90s, but have stuck with deb for at least the last 10 years.

  20. Mike Pellatt

    An Rh/CentOS convert, me

    Whereas I started with Slackware, found rpm a better packaging medium (Around RedHat 2, IIRC) and (obviously) gravitated to CentOS once RHN went payware.

    Also, RH was more System-Vy whereas Slackware was more BSD/SunOSy around the init stuff, which I felt more at home with having learnt SVR2 in depth in '84.

    ARM systems ('specially the slug) got me familiar with Debian, certainly came to understand and like the philosophy, Now that CentOS 6 is a full re-install rather than an upgrade (despite remaining at 2.x kernel, whereas squeeze to wheezy is 2.x to 3.x kernel, but only needs an upgrade), the inertia keeping me on CentOS on the '86 architecture is gone. Despite being a long time RH/.rpm guy, I'm sold on Debian/.deb now. Overall, it definitely does it better - maybe even "right". Wheezy multiarch is neat, too.

  21. P. Lee Silver badge

    Ah Debian

    The only OS I could find which runs MythTV on a G5...

    Thank-you!

  22. Andyb@B5
    Thumb Up

    The only one for me

    Started with NetBSD on my Amiga4000 and tried Linux for the M68K when it became available in the development kernels in '98. At that time I only had two choices, Watchtower or Debian. Debian was simple enough and I really appreciated the main / contrib / non-free structure.

    It also made me lazy, I found over time that I was downloading less and less .tar.gz files and instead just installing and using software, I actually started spending more time doing things on my machines rather then just prepare them to do things.

    I've used SunOS/Solaris and AIX for longer as part of my job but they are proprietary and I'm at the mercy of their support processes/bug fix teams. With Debian Main I know I have access to everything, every last bit of source code and that has been useful.

    So fifteen years on and multiple architectures later and it just keeps on delivering and I expect it to do so for many more to come.

  23. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "when the lure of app stores and all manner of tightly controlled development encroaches on Linux from all sides"

    The only thing that encroaches on Linux are the cancers of "IP" litigation: passive-aggressive muttering about "patents" and "I own everything" copyright wankjobs like Daryl's SCO. Ok, you also have the hegemonistic/opportunistic Marshmallow Man that is Oracle.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Indeed. Linux in general and Debian in particular has had app store-like functionality since long before the smart phone market brought them to the mainstream. We call them 'software repositories'.

      Open Synaptic, search for what you want, click the checkbox next to the appropriate software, click install, done. When I first moved to Debian there was no easier software installation process on any platform. The only real difference (in other words, not just cosmetic) between this basic concept and Google Play or the iTunes App Store is that those two have a payment system. With the software repositories for Debian and other Linux distros it's all FOSS, so there's no need for such a system.

  24. Jim 59

    Power cut...

    ...in my street last night, Debian server killed. Power returned, server continued as before with no intervention. LAMP, and many websites running as normal.

  25. sisk Silver badge

    I started my journey into Linux with Red Hat (which was the #1 distro at the time) then switched to Mandrake because I was thoroughly unimpressed when Fedora came along and replaced the community version of Red Hat. Then I switched from Mandrake to Debian after about six months on the recommendation of a good friend. Yes, Mandrake, not Mandriva, which should give you an idea of how long I've been running Debian. I've tried a few other distros over the years but I keep coming back to Debian. No other distro I've tried comes close for intermediate - advanced Linux users in my opinion, though I don't give it to Linux noobs (I get them set up with Mint or Zorin, depending on my mood).

  26. IGnatius T Foobar
    Linux

    All roads lead to Debian Linux/Linux

    As a 20 year Linux veteran and a 30+ year Unix veteran, I have to say that over the last couple of years I've come to depend on Debian as the Linux distribution that will always be there, always be dependable, and isn't going to suddenly turn itself into a bad smartphone. It's my standard now.

    The only significant bug is in the name. For some reason they insist upon calling it "GNU/Linux" -- an operating system which exists only in Richard Stallman's imagination. Debian is, in reality, a Linux operating system running on the Linux kernel.

  27. jumpyjoe

    Happy Birthday Debian! You've left the teens behind and the broad uplands of the furture extend before you.

    I switched from SuSE to Debian back in 2001. Between then and now I've tried a few other distros on a spare machine but none met my requirements like Debian.

    Long life to Debian!

  28. Cyfaill
    Linux

    Debian is king of Software

    In the sense that is is such a good foundation... Or if one is so inclined as a distro all by itself.

    I am going on 15 years of using it... started with red hat 4.1 Linux leaving MS Windows for good, And I will thank Intel for the heads up on the viability of Linux... At Intel CV lab 6 Jones Farm Campus, Intel Oregon

    Hillsboro, OR... Linux was the future. Yes it was a task to install once long ago... Those days are gone forever now... Linux pretty much installs itself, if you give it a chance... Debian rocks

    Then tried SUSE Linux for a little while and then straight up Debian.

    now... I use aptosid - a Debian, SID distro variant and it does everything I want... well this says it all:

    michael@Eyland0:~$ infobash -v3

    Host/Kernel/OS "Eyland0" running Linux 3.10-7.slh.1-aptosid-amd64 x86_64 [ aptosid 2013-01 Ἑσπερίδες - kde-lite - (201305050307) ]

    CPU Info 8x AMD FX-8120 Eight-Core 2048 KB cache flags( sse3 ht nx lm svm ) clocked at [ 1400.000 MHz ]

    Debian, 20 years... nothing but growth forward... great software, the best.

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