Advantages of the Debian Distribution
Debian (http://www.debian.org), and hence Ubuntu, is an
excellent distribution of GNU/Linux. The releases of Debian are rock
solid stable and come highly recommended. The Debian packaging system
is well developed and acknowledge as an excellent body of software
engineering. You can purchase the CD-ROM distributions of Debian
inexpensively (see http://www.debian.org/distrib/vendors for a
list of vendors) or burn your own CD-ROMs from images available on the
Internet. This latter option is described in this chapter.
Here are some specific advantages and benefits that distinguish Debian
from other distributions:
- Debian GNU/Linux makes it very simple to install new
applications, configure old ones, and administer the system. The
administrator does not have to worry about dependencies, library
problems, or even overwriting previous versions of configuration
files. These are handled by the packaging system.
- As a non-profit organisation Debian is more of a partner than a
competitor with other distributions. Anyone can sign up as a Debian
developer, and after being vetted for their skills and principles,
they are granted the same privileges as anyone else on the
project. There are currently over 3000 active
Debian Developers supported by
Debian maintainers (registered developers supporting Debian who are
not full members). New work developed for Debian is available for
all of the other Linux distributions to copy as soon as it's
uploaded to the Debian servers.
- The Debian Free Software Guidelines are a critical component
from a business standpoint. They specify the requirements for
licenses of any package that is to be included with Debian. Debian
conforms to the official GNU version of free software which means
that every package included in Debian can be redistributed freely.
- Debian is driven by policy. The formal and publicly available
Debian policies have been developed over many years and are a mature
response to dealing with the large task of maintaining such a
distribution in a distributed manner. Various Debian tools (such as
dpkg, apt-get, and lintian) effectively implement the policy and
provide a guarantee of quality in the packaging.
- Debian is an excellent choice for the development of software
for all distributions of GNU/Linux. Because Debian's
processes, in terms of policies and packaging, are fair and visible
and open standards conforming, Debian is a very clean and very
carefully constructed distribution. Developments that occur on a
Debian platform can thus easily be delivered or transferred to other
GNU/Linux (and Unix) platforms.
- Debian provides simple migration paths from one release to
another that are well tested and trodden. No more re-installing the
operating system just to upgrade to the new release, though that
always remains an option. From experience it is extremely difficult,
for example, to upgrade a system from one RedHat release to another.
- Debian's tools have the ability to do recursive upgrades of
- Debian deals with dependencies and will identify the required
packages and install them and then install the package you want.
- Debian packages can Suggest other packages to be
installed, and it is left to the user whether to follow the
suggestions or not.
- Multiple packages can Provide the same functionality
(e.g., email, web server, editor). A package might thus specify that
it depends on a web server, but not which particular web server
(assuming it works with any web server).
- Debian has a utility to install Red Hat packages if you need
to. In fact, the tool has been extended to provide basic
transformations between various package formats.
- Debian does not overwrite your config files nor does the
packaging system touch /usr/local except perhaps to ensure
appropriate directories exist for local (non-Debian) installed data
- Red Hat packages rarely fix upstream file locations to be
standards compliant but instead just place files whereever the
upstream package happens to put them. Many upstream developers do
not know about or conform to the standards. A minor example is that
for a while the openssh rpms created /usr/libexec for the sftpd
daemons, but libexec is a BSD standard and the Linux
standard4.1 says such things
should go in /usr/lib/<program> or /usr/sbin. Debian packages
generally enforce the standards.
- Debian packages are generally created by “qualified”
developers (and there are thousands of them) who are committed to
following Debian's strict policies requiring such things as FHS
compliance and never overwriting config files without permission.
Only packages from these developers become part of the Debian
- Debian runs on more hardware platforms than any other
- The Debian packaging philosophy is to keep packages in small
chunks so that the user can choose what to install with a little
- Fedora reportedly interferes with its distribution to make it a
less free offering. It is reported, for example, that its libraries
are modified to disallow the compilation of applications that
conflict with commercial interests of the MPAA/RIAA.
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