Why I moved from Ubuntu to Debian

One year ago I began as a Linux user installing Ubuntu 10.04 in my notebook. Few months later I installed Linux in my desktop at job but that time I chose Debian (stable) and then I switched to Debian testing in my laptop.
In this post I will explain the reasons that made me change and my experiences since then.


  • I don’t dislike Ubuntu but…
  • I am reluctant to innovation in user interfaces (let’s say that I like “the classical way”)
  • I use Debian in servers at job and I wanted to follow the community, roadmap, news…
  • Why not? Most of my fears to use Debian for desktop/laptop were based on prejudices
  • Trust more in a community-driven distro that in a company-driven one (business is business…)

I was using Ubuntu because my sister recommended it and 10.04 because of the Long Term Support. I liked GNOME Desktop, I saw that Maverick (and later Natty) shipped with Unity (ok, you still can use the classic GNOME desktop, I know!) and I was not sure to like it.

I liked very much the software center and the ability to easily install drivers if needed. But I noticed that the information in software center about if certain software was libre software or not was not clear (specially when I began to find Spanish translations notes saying “gratuito” (“free-of-charge”) instead of “libre” (free as in freedom).

Then I read about this conference from Stefano Zacchiroli on Debian (and I liked it very much) and watched this one from Enrico Zini (and I liked it too). I began to feel interested in Debian community. I heard also several comments about (successfully) using Debian in laptops (sorry, I cannot link to the references) and I began to think: Ubuntu uses +85% unmodified Debian packages. Why not using Debian then? Let’s give it a try.

I know that Debian is famous for not shipping quickly last versions of software in the distribution. This is maybe beginning to change, but for now, for me, this is not a problem (“it’s a feature”) since I don’t get bored of my classical tools (in fact, as I said before, I was using Ubuntu Lucid…) I like to wait a little bit to try new experiences (and in the meantime, read what others say about them…)

So I installed Debian stable at job (silly Laura, installed Lenny few days before Squeeze was released, so later I made a clean install again).

For my notebook I chose Debian testing for several reasons:

  • I listened an interview with Debian Project Leader Stefano Zacchiroli and he was suggesting to help Debian by using testing in laptops and send feedback about bugs or anything you find interesting. He was also reporting that “testing” in fact was quite stable (there are “unstable” and “experimental” branches too) and I trusted him.
  • I wanted to have “more modern software” specially kernel and drivers, so my modern-but-small notebook works fine with GNU/Linux.
  • With stable in desktop at job and testing in notebook at home, it was easy to follow Debian roadmap, see the differences between the two branches, and have a wider experience to give advice, opinions or support to my friends or colleagues.
  • It was not necessary to sweep out Ubuntu. I made another partition to my hard disk and go!

What happened since then

Some bits of my experiences with Debian…

  • After installing (plugged my ethernet, netinst installation) everything was fine except the wireless. I followed the instructions found on Debian wiki wl page and it worked. However, each time I update Linux kernel I have to repeat the process.
  • Soon after installing Wheezy, Debian testing moved from OpenOffice to LibreOffice. My stable desktop stayed a bit more with OpenOffice, until the backport was completed. When I got the news, I followed the instructions and now I work with LibreOffice in both computers.
  • I only sent a bug report about the lack of iceowl translations in Debian. I didn’t know that they retired the packages, it is a pity that these language packages are not maintained. Of course I can install Lightning extension to Icedove and forget it. I could also learn a bit more and maintain myself the Spanish translations. From now, I stayed with the English version of the stable package. In the middle of this I discovered Emacs org-mode so maybe I will not use Iceowl in the future…
  • With Debian I did not experience some problems with jumping cursor (quite annoying in Ubuntu).
  • No need to make any special tweak to connect my notebook to a multimedia projector. Just select monitor, mirror view and go! (some friends with Ubuntu 10.10 and newer were having trouble with projectors).
  • Almost every day I have updates for my testing installation. It takes a little time because I like to stop and read the list of packages to update, but I am becoming more conscious of my Debian system.
  • Some packages that I installed after the initial install: Iceweasel, Icedove, Chromium (but not using too much), Emacs (just for org-mode, I am not an Emacs (nor Vi) user, but maybe I’ll learn someday), R, R commander, R studio, Multisystem (this one is not working ok, my live usb are not booting – Grub problem), OpenShot, PDFChain, Git, Kile (still did not find my “perfect” LaTeX editor, from now Kile is ok).
  • Some lists I am suscribed to: debian-news, debian-stable
  • I follow Debian and Debian planet identica groups, and several people from Debian community (Stefano Zacchiroli, Raphael Hertzog, Olivier Berger).

About larjona

My name is Laura Arjona Reina, I am a libre software user and fan of the free culture. If you want to contact me you can write an email to larjona [at] larjona [dot] net I am @larjona at identi.ca in the Pump.io social network. --- Me llamo Laura Arjona Reina, soy usuaria de software libre y fan de la cultura libre. Si quieres contactar conmigo puedes escribir a larjona [en] larjona [punto] net Soy @larjona en el servidor identi.ca, de la red social Pump.io.
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16 Responses to Why I moved from Ubuntu to Debian

  1. Hi nice post , I would also recommend subscribing to the debian security mailing list. Some really useful information in that.

  2. Pingback: My experiences with KDE and other Linux desktops | The bright side

  3. Renato Rezek says:

    This is a nice post and helped a lot. But when I add a new field to the form, it doesn’t actually get sent anywhere how do you include this inside the confirmation e-mail or in the comment within the dashboard?

  4. The New Debian User says:

    I’m a longtime Linux user (12 years) and recently I’ve also converted from Ubuntu (10.04) to Debian Wheezy. It did not work out of the box however (no X), but to me that wasn’t a problem as I got it running after some fiddling. Now it’s running like a rocket.

    The initial trigger to try out another distro was the Ubuntu Unity debate. I’m aware that you could easily switch desktops on Ubuntu, but nowadays there are more issues with Ubuntu that put me off, like longtime bugs that never get fixed, and software bloat. After trying out some different distros I discovered the concept of rolling distros (I must be stupid because I really never knew about that before) 😉 and that’s what finally drew me to Wheezy. Switching to Debian must be one of the best descisions I ever made, I couldn’t be happier with it.

    • RED says:

      As far as I remember Canonical is planning on introducing rolling releases for Ubuntu too and also in the near future. I found this article very inspiring. Thank you for that. Almost finished backing up my data so tomorrow or the day after that Win7 will be gone and also Ubuntu 12.04 (kept Win7 for a job I was doing and required VisualStudio :D). The only issue many people might have with Debian is the outdated packages (not that relevant for Testing and Nightly builds though) since there are many projects that I’m working with (such as OpenRAVE, ROS etc.) that ship precompiled binaries only for Ubuntu. However this also has a huge disadvantage that I will discuss here, if people start shouting “OMG! So I have to compile everything from source with each new version?!”. Ready to use packages suffer from the fact that they have to be able to run on all computers that run Ubuntu and cover the bare minimum of requirements such as varios libraries and tools. This leads to an often painful (at least for me) punch in the face from Mr Reality – various flags that you can enable when you compile from source are disabled and you are indeed left with the bare minimum. I find it very sad how for example the packages for OpenCV are shipped with disabled Qt, OpenGL integration etc. Okay, Qt might not be on each installed distro (unlikely but still possible). However OpenGL is everywhere when it comes to Linux. So for all who are sad that they have to compile from source this and that applications thus making the update procedure quite tedious – fear not! 1) Compiling stuff is not that difficult (unless you get a chain of bad dependencies that you are also forced to compile yourself XD) and 2) you might find about features that you would have normally never discovered!

  5. Pingback: Reorganizing partitions and restoring Grub2 | The bright side

  6. Vlad Cocos says:

    Nice post, glad i found it! I’m a long time Linux user myself too, about 5 years, and in the past year i only use Linux, Debian Wheezy to be more precise. I have tried almost all the distros, dual booting with Windows, trying to decide which will fit me best. I have also read lots and lots of reviews and documentation about them, because not running Windows anymore it had to be very stable, i depend on my laptop for my work. One of the last one i used was Suse, and looked very stable and also very polished, with a out of the box feel, and for a moment i thought that’s the one for me, but after trying Debian, i uninstalled Suse, and never looked back. Couldn’t be happier, it’s everything one can ask from an OS, extremely stable, and runs like a charm.

  7. bsdevil says:

    Hey there! Very nice post 🙂
    I used to have quite similar experiences [at some point]. I started from Slackware, Debian, then I jumped on a BSD bandwagon [I just LOVE BSDs to this very day, but they don’t offer such outstanding HW support as GNU/Linux], and then … I was so tired I just started to use Xubuntu [never liked Gnome. I was always kinda minimalist]. Recently I switched to Debian [my friend convinced me to check it out AGAIN ;)] and I actually never looked back. It works really, really good [and it’s TESTING!]. It does great job with suspend/hibernation [in *buntus I had to write some dirty hacks to make it working] and other stuff. Just love it.
    Nice to know there are other successful Debian adopters!

  8. gavenkoa says:

    > silly Laura, installed Lenny few days before Squeeze was released, so later I made a clean install again

    You can just point to Squeeze in /etc/apt/source.list and run:
    $ sudo apt-get update update
    $ sudo apt-get update dist-upgrade

  9. a says:

    It seems you made a good prediction (I’m talking specifically about the “business is business”) and I wish that I realized sooner. Right now Ubuntu is turning to adware and sending all search results in the lens to amazon to serve ads right on the desktop.

    Right now the choice is either Debian or Fedora, but I am leaning towards Debian because I’ve had enough with these privacy violations!

  10. Richfield says:

    glad to see another convert to Debian. I’ve been happily (well, with occasional snags according to changing hardware) using Debian for around ten years (usually the `testing’ version). Let me recommend Emacs with Auctex as a good LaTeX editing system: it’s kept me happy for years.

  11. oldnewbie says:

    I was an Suse/OpenSuse user for 15 years on and off but found the releases after version 10 to have a lot of unstable components and these outweighed the nice control center (YaST). I installed Debian on my desktop PC about a year ago and the stability is a revelation. I now use Debian for all my work on my desktop and eeepc notebook.

  12. Ben says:

    Thanks for the article and comments. I’ve been a linux fanboy for 7+ years, I’ve tried most of the main distros at least once. Ubuntu has lost me with it’s adware bs and unity. I was running Arch linux for a while, it’s a great distro for learning the inards of linux but being so bleeding edge breaks alot. Still gonna run it just not as a main. So I’ve decided to drift back to debian. Stable and libre/free.

  13. James Lloyd says:

    After I heard about Microsoft and Apple working with the NSA to code back-doors into their OS’ that would allow them to watch your screen at any time, I decided it was time to dispense with my solid yet aging Macbook and pick up notebook for Linux.

    Wow, have things ever changed. I hadn’t used Linux since high school, when “Breezy Badger” was the hottest thing going.

    All the major distros now seem more preoccupied with eye-candy they are about much else. The latest Ubuntu was almost a Windows 8 level letdown, and was so buggy on my Asus Laptop that I decided to switch to Mint, which never managed to boot at all.

    Arriving at Debian feels like arriving at quiet park. Debian is stable, open, and lovely, just as Linux had always been envisioned to be.

  14. Edgar Friendly says:

    I used Ubuntu for some time, but I had to leave when it would regularly update and bust everything. Call me old fashioned but I like to be able to get out of bed and know everything is just going to work. I switched to Debian 7 and I’ve been really happy.

  15. Chris says:

    I have also decided to make the jump from Ubuntu to Debian 8 Jessie. While Jessie isn’t officially released yet, it is in the RC phase so that is probably fine. I moved over because Ubuntu’s LTS releases are built from Debian Testing, and they are very solid. All I really needed to do to get the “non-free” things that I use on my laptop (DVD CSS decoding, mp3 encoding, those Broadcom drivers, Linux Mint Debian Edition repo just to install firefox/thunderbird) was to enable the “non-free” repos for debian and add the deb-multimedia repo. I really like Unity, but as stupid as it sounds, I can’t stand the color scheme of Ubuntu. I really like Linux Mint too, but there is nothing like the original. Debian Jessie gives the choice of desktop so you can select the Cinnamon option and end up with a system that is as good as Mint and in some ways better.

    At my job we use Ubuntu for some of our desktops and SLES for our servers. I personally do not care for Suse or the others that utilize RPM packaging, but to each their own.

    Cheers Laura!

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