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Distro personal crisys (an open letter to myself... )


tl;dr I think this is something that happens from time to time but I think I need to change distro for a while. And I just realized this long post is for me, because I have to deal with my ideals and I am not really happy to do that, but I am not having fun with Debian recently and I need to solve it.


After ten years of #Debian I see Debian changing in something that I don't recognize or I don't feel comfortable with it. Many years ago Debian was also synonymous of innovations, on every fields, today what happens in Debian is, along to slow, behind the scene, like the Risc-V port but for the Desktop area there is nothing exciting and since the #systemd debate I had the feelings that Debian simply refused to lead in favor on just following the events. I mean I am really prone to think if tomorrow Ubuntu is shipped with Just snaps that Debian will follow the same, honestly... show more

I do not really understand, why you consider a Distro that brings all the stuff (like the snap nonsense), that is degrading Ubuntu, while you dont consider to take Ubuntu right away.
I also do not subscribe to the false analogy of SysV init and apt/dpkg/any Linux package management. Especially snap is absolutely not better than a classical package management, while systemd in fact solves some design problems of SysVinit quite good.

As far as I can see today, Debian will sty my No1 choice for the server, if Ubuntu would really choose to abandon apt/dpkg I would consider Suse and Arch (in that order) for the desktop...

The main is because I have a System76 laptop and Pop_OS! Is the its flagship OS and it is actively developed and well polished while Canonical, after gave up with Unity its clear that Desktop is not anymore the main priority.

I don't see a false analogy, today the Debian package system doesn't provide delta updates, roll back, confinement or per user install. It belongs to a different era, where the technology and infrastructure were totally different from today. It works but it is old, there are others package manager that are simply better just because are modern, like Nix or Guix. I am not a big fan of Snaps but with the snap you can keep your system base clean while you can install all the trash that you want per user and if something get wrong simply you roll back. Snaps target are server and embed devices, and it solves all the limitation of DPKG/APT.

The moment when the cloud began a business and companies started seriously to invest in it is also the downturn of Debian as primary choice for the server. It makes sense Debian is not a profit company hence it can... show more

@Hartmut Noack +1 for classical package management, +1 for systemd, +1 for "false analogy"

It's nice that everyone has a choice in what they use. It's also good to be able to try different things. I spent years doing just that. Then I noticed something. No matter what new system I decided to try, I kept coming back to Ubuntu. So that's what I use now all the time.

To some extent its similar here, @Don Little. The main advantage of Ubuntu is for me, that I can easily configure it to look and act as I wish (that is: differently as the Ubuntu default).
Ubuntu offers a somewhat modernized Debian with professionally maintained Repos, so, one can use it comfortably with XFCE (Fluxbox, Plasma you name it) its a top notch Linux if used without accepting all the Canonical stuff...

@Daniel
What, from my point of view, makes Debian superior respect the other distro available is because the DSFG, because it can’t be only about technology! Technology without ethic is dangerous for all us and produce pollution, weapons, etc… Technology with an ethical approach produces wellness for everyone and produces also free software and distros like Debian.
Very well said!

I don't really "get" what's so bad about systemd. It hasn't made my experience with Debian worse, and I do some weird stuff with custom init scripts for my RAMBOOT stuff (both from local drive and over nfs). I was pleasantly surprised to find that my bizarre custom init scripts ... just plain worked with systemd.

The bottom line for me is that Debian works well for me, and its repository system is unmatched - this really helps me out. In contrast, Ubuntu's repositories are lacking for me. If I need to go out into the "universe" ... well, it's hit and miss how well it's maintained and how well it just plain works without causing issues with other stuff. Debian's pretty good for that.

Bottom line is - Debian reduces the headaches I have to deal with.

If there are other alternatives which could reduce my headaches, then that's something I'll consider.

(I use Ubuntu for my Microsoft Azure cloud VMs, because they come with off-the-shelf images. Just a few clicks to spin up. So, for them Ubuntu reduced my headaches compared to Debian. But for these headless VM s... show more

I don't have anything about piece a code, it is what there is around that code that is quite annoying for me.

However it seems we are missing the point here. I use Debian only as Desktop OS, I use it with testing and with the pinning enabled. I use a FrankenDebian there's no way for me to wait 2 years for use application that are available now, I can handle the crash it is just my computer.

I already reported as Debian is loosing ground as distro for server, but as distro for desktop is even worst, unless you are totally insensitive to any improvements, like my brother, but it is also insensitive about Debian Xfce or Xubuntu, he just uses what I installed for him. But this is not my case! I use Debian because the social contract and because it can run also a rolling distro, however I think it needs to redefine its objectives and bringing back a clear identity that it is not just being stable. There are a plenty of stable distros that are rock solid.

My little HP Mini is at the moment running MX, which is Debian based. It's only got two Gigs of ram, so I needed something light. It seems to work really well on it, although I use my desktop computer most of the time. It's way faster.

Thanks to all to reply, now let me go one for one...

If you dislike systemd, then you may want to take a look at the Gentoo family (Sabayon, Calculate, Funtoo, Redcore, Gentoo itself, and a couple of others I don't remember now). Among them only Sabayon uses systemd by default. Gentoo-based distros are fast and really stable. With time, you really grow fond of emerge too. It is not that hard.

I already gave up with systemd but I haven't stopped to complain about it, I am pretty concerned that all the distro you mention aren't Desktop oriented like Ubuntu or Pop_OS! do.

I think that people who want to use more current software than Debian Stable typically use Debian Unstable.

Debian Testing is more something useful for people who want to help Debian development - in particular help development of Debian Stable. It is not as well supported as either Stable or Unstable, and you have periods like the current status - during a freeze you have to live with having no more non-security updates while things are prepared for the release of the next Stable.

I use Debian mostly as a desktop OS; even my main server is used as a desktop PC attached to my main TV. I generally prefer Debian Stable as it reduces my headaches. But if there's some killer feature not available in Stable I'll use Unstable.

I have been always using Testing toward Unstable, Experimental and Multimedia just because if something got wrong with the display server in Unstable you will find this fixed in Testing, most of the time.

Debian is supposed to use as stable but I like the rolling way, I am not a developer I just like the rolling system but I always find Arch too much extreme and beside the social contract I have always preferred using community distro.

But if Debian would be, hypothetically, available only in the stable form probably I wouldn't use it as main distro.

Interesting thoughts, @Daniel
Anyway: I do use Debian on the server and as of now nobody could explain to me, how I would be better off with CentOS or Ubuntu. On the contrary.
See: most Linux servers, that are more than just ad-throwers, are not running infrastructure but applications. Solid software programs that compute data and manage documents based on Java, Python and in most cases: PHP.
The demands for the OS are: stable, secure, flexible. The latter means: flexible enough to run 3 different Java Servers on the same machine plus a dozen websites interactin with these that are build on either PHP or Python and use Apache as their httpd.
Debian meets these demands perfectly well, especially the first 2.

I have an application that is in development state (not perfectly optimized, that is), that gets a complex large dataset from a JAVA GIS and renders it to 30.000 lines JS code for Leaflet in about half a second. It starts shivering, when I ask it to do about 7 or 8 tim... show more

Just to clarify... there is nothing wrong in Debian it is just my relationship with Debian that is having some trouble. I think that Debian needs to change something to make it modern, it needs to define its role because Debian is for server is, in my opinion, quite washed as label.

As I wrote you can constantly changing yourself if you follow your principles, Debian can be fluid, it doesn't have any income budget to reach, it is not for profit hence is free to do whatever it decides; but I look around and I see the people are happy with Debian as is, so it is my personal issue, and since the moment I can't change Debian probably I had better to change distro instead. This is eventually the point.

What alternatives are you considering?

Hi Man,

glad to see you here!

Since the moment my Laptop is a System76 one, the natural choice is Pop!_Os. I am already starting to compare Ubuntu with Pop! and I found the latter more intuitive than Ubuntu...

Hi Daniel, great to see you here too. The Diaspora pod I was on has been closed. So this is currently my only social media account.

I heard of Pop!_Os but never used it myself. I should try it sometime. I currently use Ubuntu MATE on my Desktop PC and like it so much that I want to install it on my (very old) laptop too but it never hurts to try something else.

We'll keep in touch.

I see...

I use Friendica as main account and Diaspora from my phone. Pop!_Os is pretty neat, I mean it is almost a carbon copy of Ubuntu but it has its philosophy...

https://pop.system76.com/docs/difference-between-pop-ubuntu/

I tried Mate on Debian but eventually I found Xfce4 more modular, along wayland that is not a priority for me, Xfce4 needs just an integrated dock and an expose-like function to be almost perfect. It has a bad copy of the Gnome-Shell activity that is completely useless and ugly.

You know what? I installed Devuan (testing/beowulf) + Runit on my working virtual machine and it is blazing fast, unbelievable, so fast that I would install it on my other laptop with Debian Testing. I am pretty sure the culprit is Lightdm however I really recommend it, I am not sure if with OpenRC is the same faster because I decided to use Runit.

@Daniel
Your description of the problem is very accurate in my opinion: Some people (not only you) would like to see different smaller or larger changes about what Debian is or how it works. But for every single small or large change, you will find both people in favour and against it. There was a majority for changing to systemd, but there is absolutely no consensus about moving away from apt and dpkg. Debian exists for more than ¼ century. I'm pretty sure, it will still exist in ¼ century from now. We need to be very careful about what changes we do.

Recently, one developer blogged about why he left Debian for not using modern, web based tools. Maybe others would consider leaving Debian, if such tools would be mandatory to use in Debian, e.g. myself.

Debian is conservative in many aspects. That's why I like it, but Debian can't be anything to anyone.

@Daniel
YMMV, but I don't run Debian in the same way as I did 20 years ago. 20 years ago, I had one or two servers with Debian stable, and all applications on top of it. That was the era of LAMP etc. Now I have a couple of servers with Debian stable and almost no applications at all. Instead, there are dozens of systemd-nspawn containers, again with Debian, which run the actual applications. The Debian containers can be stable, oldstable, oldoldstable, or in some cases even mixtures of testing, unstable and experimental. So far, this works well for me.

I use systemd-nspawn to play with a lot of crap however it was designed to run server-side applications. When I try to run applications that need to access to the GPU they crash because the Nvidia-driver. Probably with an opensource driver it would not happens. Anyway this is not a desktop solution. But yesterday I checked the Gimp available on Pop!_Os and because it wasn't the latest I simply installed snapd and did snap install gimp, this is desktop oriented.

@Daniel
Yes, systemd-nspawn is clearly for the server. Of course, you can apt install flatpak and apt install snapd on Debian. So far, I never needed that. Something, that I would like to see in Debian, is an easy way to run normal programs in flatpak like isolation. E.g. they would not be able to access my private keys etc. That's a security feature missing from standard Debian packages, AFAIK.

@Debacle

I see in the NIX system a great improvement, if you combine APT with NIX you don't need anymore to have 3 branches but you can have simply a stable version with all the testing packages always in rolling state until you don't decide to freeze your status for whatever reason...

@Daniel
Yes, the *ix stuff is neat. There was an interesting talk by Debian developer Vagrant at last years DebConf: My Crush on GNU Guix.

Soon, we will be able to apt install guix on Debian. Not so sure about nix, but let's see.

@Debacle Honestly I haven't understood yet the difference between the two but I think they work almost the same... 😅

@Debacle

Thanks for sharing that video, it was very interesting.

@Daniel Glad you like it!