I hear Debian is hard.

Story: If you run Linux, you can run Debian. At least give it a tryTotal Replies: 20
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Mar 11, 2013
9:16 AM EDT
By Crom, if I had a dime for every time I'd seen variations of "I hear Debian is hard", I'd buy a hot chocolate.


Mar 11, 2013
11:27 AM EDT
I had only been using Linux -- mostly Ubuntu 6.06 and Puppy 2.13 (that I remember the release numbers attests to the impact those releases had on me) -- for a few months when Debian Etch went stable in April 2007.

I decided to try Debian, and I was immediately amazed how much it was just like Ubuntu in almost every way. Of course it was the other way around.

The installer wasn't (and still isn't) that cryptic, and in those days, GNOME was GNOME (was GNOME).

And Debian was more blue, less brown. But that doesn't matter so much.

I thought it was some kind of well-kept secret: Debian wasn't at all difficult.

There is no Linux system with which you won't run into problems that need solving, and Ubuntu is no different in that respect.

It didn't hurt that Debian would boot, run and install on all of my ancient hardware. Not the case for Ubuntu.

(Let us observe a moment of silence for Fluxbuntu.)

I mention this about once every eight months, but what kept me going in those "early" days was @tuxchick's O'Reilly-published "Linux Cookbook," in my opinion still the best Linux book of all time.

If I had a piece of the Shuttleworth fortune, I'd break off a million to get her working on a new Cookbook for a new era.

To some extent (and for many people, I suspect), Debian and Slackware are their own "in case of fire, break glass" distros that will always be there when things go pear-shaped in the popular distros of the day.

And they are.


Mar 11, 2013
1:02 PM EDT
Agreed. I was weaned on Suse 9.1 and Mandrake something or other. Been running PCLinuxOS for years. Did an occasional server install with Debian Woody, then Sarge, then Etch.

About six months ago, decided to go with Wheezy desktops to replace PCLinuxOS. It's been almost as easy as a walk in the park. Download the netinstall iso, pick your desktop flavor, and away you go. After first login, install Synaptic, and you're like a kid in a candy store. Doesn't get much easier than Debian. None of the Wheezy installs have had a bit of a problem.

Oh, yeah, and I have Carla's Cookbook, too.

Mar 11, 2013
1:18 PM EDT
Debian gets "easier" with every release. So do most distros, but it's more pronounced since Debian only releases every two+ years or so.

Mar 11, 2013
2:17 PM EDT
I think the source of the "Debian Is Hard" myth is the installer. It still presents options and asks questions where things like Ubuntu just "do it for you".

And as as side-effect, Debian doesn't assume it's being installed only on recent hardware, so it will install on older machines without any hesitation.

Could the whole mystique of it being difficult be because of this difference in "the first thing the user sees"?

I think so.

Mar 11, 2013
2:36 PM EDT
Very true.

Also the huge publicity Ubuntu gets as being easiest to use and more complete doesn't help and also creates the perception of Debian along with other distros being harder to use.


Mar 11, 2013
2:48 PM EDT
Nobody is excited about reading the documentation, and I've done many dozens of installations without reading the manual, but eventually you need all the information and help you can get.

It's not so much "you must read the manual," as it's important to do lots of installations so you can learn by doing.

Expecting to do one installation of anything and get it right for the ages is an unrealistic notion.

Plus: Backups are your friend. Don't install without them.

Mar 11, 2013
2:59 PM EDT
> Expecting to do one installation of anything and get it right for the ages is an unrealistic notion.

In 2003 I did a forensic examination of the install I did likely in 1996, and then just updated and updated and updated.

Wow, it was astounding to see how the locations of data had changed over time, as well as realize that apt-get update;apt-get upgrade had been able to deal with it over so many years.

For example, when I built it, there was no /etc/network/interfaces file. I don't remember where that config had been put, but it was still where I put it and the system had continued to use it. I think the assignment of IP address was right in the /etc/init.d/ip script.

Anyway, I agree with Steven, doing several installs will teach what an install requires better than any manual. If for no other reason than my priorities are not going to be your priorities, and vise versa.

Mar 11, 2013
3:14 PM EDT
Debian is only "hard" if you are installing proprietary drivers for graphics or wifi, or other "non-free" firmware, codecs and similar software. Since Debian was my very first Linux distro (back when they still had only the text installer) that doesn't scare me (and open graphics drivers suit my needs, anyways).

But I was expecting difficulties (a.k.a. a learning curve), and so was willing to read the installation guide, first. Most newbies today are scared off by that; but the real cause of the "tough" reputation is the people who already "know computers" and can't imagine that they just might meed to learn a few new things, to install and set-up a "modern" operating system other than Windows.

Mar 11, 2013
3:28 PM EDT
> To some extent (and for many people, I suspect), Debian and Slackware are their own "in case of fire, break glass" distros that will always be there when things go pear-shaped in the popular distros of the day.

As I've said before, it always comes back to Slackware and Debian. :) And amazingly enough, they both share the reputation of being hard, while neither really is.

Mar 11, 2013
3:38 PM EDT
It's a plot! False rumors planted by Canonical and Microsoft astroturfers to stop people from trying them!

Mar 11, 2013
3:39 PM EDT
Debian isn't even hard if you use a distro like SolydXK (Debian based) which has a tool specifically to do the driver malarkey for you.

SolydXK also benefits from some of the work of the Linux Mint community as well as it was originally built on LMDE.

Anyways I really like what I see in SolydXK especially the XFCE edition and have had no major issues as yet running it on the VM. I now intend to try it out on real hardware for a more thorough testing as my intention is to move away from Ubuntu based distro's, currently running Linux Mint XFCE.


Mar 11, 2013
4:13 PM EDT
Quoting:It's a plot!

It could be, but I don't thing so. It's just newswires prefer commercial companies more since that is where their ad revenue comes from. -:)


Mar 11, 2013
4:27 PM EDT
Quoting:It's a plot!
It must be coming from Microsoft. If it were coming from Linux people, it would be a GNU/Plot.

Mar 11, 2013
5:25 PM EDT
Even OpenBSD deals with firmware at install time now. I've never had a problem with Debian in this regard. Of course I always have contrib and non-free in my sources.list.

Mar 11, 2013
8:24 PM EDT
I really like Debian. It seems to be the fastest binary distro around, at least in my unscientific tests. The one thing that annoys me is I like newer packages to play with. I fully admit that this is my deficiency rather than Debian's but it is true. I want to try out the latest KDE, GNOME, or Xfce time to time, I can't help myself.

For instance in Wheezy I ran into a showstopper for me with Amarok. In the version of Amarok currently in Testing there is a bug when transcoding flac files to mp3 on the fly to my iPod that makes the song length show up as 30 minutes instead of 3 minutes. This is quite annoying and makes "fast-forwarding" through a song an issue. Seeing as a Freeze is in place there is nothing to upgrade to in Sid.

Mar 11, 2013
8:30 PM EDT

Your assessment is so insightful!

"To some extent (and for many people, I suspect), Debian and Slackware are their own "in case of fire, break glass" distros that will always be there when things go pear-shaped in the popular distros of the day."


Mar 13, 2013
9:18 AM EDT
My first Linux full-time distro was Libranet. The end of that distro was as tragic as it was disappointing for all Libranet users.

My point is that The Debian Way was implanted/ingrained into me and the Primacy Effect goes from theory to real life example in my case.

Everything outside of The Debian Way seemed foreign and clumsy to me. While "yum install foo" is drop dead easy, it just didn't feel right...kind of like a coat that's a 1/2 size too small. It just felt good to be out of it and into a coat that fit.

I suppose it just boils down to what you are used to. My second full time Distro was PCLinuxOS and I am sure that the fact you could use apt-get at the command line in PCLinuxOS had a lot to do with my acceptance of it early on.

Mar 13, 2013
11:34 AM EDT
Red Hat and Suse were my first. I stayed with Suse until Novell made covenant with MS and drop it like a hot potato.

Mepis was next and I got hooked on Debian in general and specifically APT but to me, Mepis seemed like a one man distro.

I tried PCLinuxOS after that and I stayed with it for a while but didn't feel right either and tried Kubuntu.

I believe one of the reason that Ubuntu is more popular than others is because it is based on the right combination that most users like and mostly because of Debian.

I would have moved to Chakra already if it was based on Debian.

Edited: Changed link to Blue-Systems I believe BlueSystems is going to be the next commercial sponsor and supporter of some Linux Distros and will replace Canonical/Ubuntu.

Linux would be much better of if it has a True philanthropist to help it flourish and advance, which Clemens Tönnies jr. seems to be


Mar 13, 2013
11:53 AM EDT
I have been using Debian since August 2000 on a single-boot system; prior to that I was dual-booting Red Hat for six months and Slackware for a year.

For about five years I used the stable stream and after that I switched to the testing stream. I have had just one breakage and that was due to an external package, CUPS.

The package management utilities are classy and I have never had to re-install apart from when I switched PCs. I did my first upgrade from Potato to Sarge on a 56k dial-up connection and the line cut off several times. But the upgrade simply picked up where it had stopped and continued. It took 44 hours in all but worked.

I use Debian for all my work and run my home server on it too. I have used the x86, amd64 and mips ports. And I am not a techie, far from it.

I simply cannot praise it highly enough, and, having met and interviewed a large number of Debian developers, my respect for those who are part of this project has grown by leaps and bounds.


Mar 13, 2013
12:25 PM EDT
Guys --

Debian can be hard, but it's easy to fix.

Put it in a large pot of water. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat.

It'll soften right up.

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