A quick look at the DistroWatch front page will tell you that there are hundreds of Linux distributions out there to choose from, and although that is a good thing, it also makes it difficult for newcomers to decide which one is the best for them.
Notice that I said the “best for a specific user”, not the best Linux distribution: given that each Linux distribution was created with a specific set of goals in mind, the perfect distribution for a user, can be just inadequate for another user.
Although not all Linux distribution are created equal, and some of them could use a bit more of polish, at the end, what it really matters in most cases, are the needs of the end user. Each distribution has its strong points, and its weak points: choose one whose philosophy matches the end user’s objectives and you are up to a good start.
Reasons to love Debian
Here it is a short list of points at which Debian excels:
- Stable, and reliable
- Great software repository
- Infinitely flexible
- Well documented, with a friendly user community
- Easy to use
Debian is an stable, and reliable system
Debian JUST WORKS, its stable edition is thoroughly tested before release: therefore system crashes, and bugs are a rare occurrence.
This is the stuff I like to avoid when using an operating system:
- Issues in the installations process: the system hangs, or crash mid installation.
- Applications crash continuously
- An upgrade breaks the systems
Some distributions make you feel like if you are playing a twisted game of wincrash/catch the bug.
I have been using Debian for years, and I cannot remember the last system the system went into panic, or an application included just crashed on launch.
Great software repository
In the end you install Linux to run software on it: installing software using a package manager it is quick , and easy since you just indicate the software that you want to install, and the package manager does all the job for you while you just watch 🙂
To be able to install software using the package manager, that software must be packaged in the distribution repository.
Given the quantity of existing software no distribution can cover the full spectrum, but Debian offers more packaged software in its official repositories than most other existing distributions.
On top of the already impressive official repositories, you can complete the offer of software with some unofficial repositories, and if still you cannot find the application in any repository there is still the possibility that the company/developer had made available for download on its site .deb packages to be used in Debian, or any distribution that uses .deb packages (like Ubuntu, or any Debian based distribution).
Stability comes at a price: the software in the Debian repositories contain slightly older version than other bleeding edge distributions. If for you having the most up to date software is worth the occasional bug, you can just use the unstable (for the most daring), or the testing releases of Debian.
Unstable is where active Debian development is done: it contains the newest software, it can also be more buggy since no extensive testing is done. On the other side testing offers a worth to take into account compromise, since it is pretty stable, and contains more up to date software that the official stable release.
Many Linux distributions out there offer a very simple to use installer that require little action from the user beyond clicking the Accept button. That works great for distributions targeting the less tech savvy users since the installation process becomes very simple, and the user is not overwhelmed with a myriad of options which does not understand, or care about.
Debian’s installer offers on the top of the simpler installer, an advanced option that allows you not only to install the system but also customize various aspects: support for additional languages, selection of the desktop to use, additional software to install, etc. You could do all that once the installation is completed, but doing it from the installer is easier since you only need it just by selecting some options, and clicking the OK button.
Customize your system to the tiniest detail
The combination of the Debian installer, and its software repositories results in a system that can be customized into anything you need: a LAMP server, a full featured desktop, a light desktop environment suited to run in old hardware, a rolling release with the newest kernel, and packages, or a purpose specific distribution like a pen testing system.
You just need to install the base system, configure it, and add the software that you need; with a bit of time, and patience you can build almost any kind of system (this is the reason why there are so many Debian based distributions out there).
Well documented, with a friendly user community
When you put together the Debian documentation, plus the documentation created for its children distributions, you end up with a big amount of information available: in Internet you can find an uncountable number of wikis, tutorials, how-to, blogs, post on forums, etc on how to use, and configure Debian.
Almost any problem that you may counter someone else has already encountered and solved it: leaving also documentation on how to do so.
Easy to use
And last, but not least Debian it is a very easy to use system:
- You can boot to a friendly Desktop IDE: you will not need to use the command line more than in any other system
- Tools to aid you to run your system more easily: updater, package manager, configuration scripts, …
- Enough software in the repositories so that you do not need to compile software from source (and if you need to, you can get the software/tools necessary to do quickly using the package manager )
- Stable enough so that you do not need to spent time trying to solve complex system issues.
- Tons of documentation, and a friendly community to help you out if you get stuck.
So what about you? what are your favorite Linux distributions? What makes you decide for one instead of another?
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