Debian is a Linux distribution and operating system that was first announced on 16 August 1993 and later released on September 15 of the same year. American software engineer Ian Murdock was its initial developer. It was first called the Debian Linux Release and is maintained by the community-supported Debian Project. Nevertheless, more than three decades after it became first available to the public, it is now one of the most popular Linux distributions in the world. It is also the basis for other popular Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, PureOS, and Pardus. This article lists and explains the pros and cons of Debian.
Pros: Advantages of Debian and Notable Features
1. Free and Open-Source Software
A notable disadvantage of proprietary operating systems such as Windows from Microsoft and macOS from Apple is that they are not free. The main selling point of Debian is that it is a free and open-source operating system for personal computers and servers.
This operating system is free to download and is distributed according to a set of principles. The Debian Project is a community of developers consisting of volunteers who provide their skills and time to maintain and develop further the operating system.
Nevertheless, because its code is open-source, it has become one of the most popular basis for other Linux distributions. It is also worth mentioning that a sizeable number of developers have developed free software for Debian and other Linux distributions.
2. An Established Linux Distribution
One of the main selling points and notable advantages of Debian is tenure. It is one of the oldest and most established Linux distributions available to the public for free. This established tenure has more specific benefits for both users and software developers.
Remember that a community of volunteers maintains this operating system. The community is both expansive and mature. These facts mean that there is an exhaustive list of resources and support available for other developers and users.
A lot of reputable and competent software developers have established experience writing for this operating system. This translates to out-of-the-box and custom-made software and developer availability for individual and organizational end-users.
3. Supports Different System Architectures
It can run on different microprocessors based on the most common instruction set architectures available in the market. Main examples include the CISC-based 64-bit x86-64 and 32-bit i386 from Intel, and the RISC-based ARM and Power ISA architectures.
Support for an extensive list of architectures means that it can run on older and newer computer systems and processors. Take note that old personal computers that are unable to run the newest versions or releases of Windows can be refurbished to run Debian.
Other Linux distributions are not as compatible. Linux Mint and Fedora have dropped support for older architectures and now run on 64-bit processors. There is a higher likelihood that a processor would not run most distributions if it cannot run Debian.
4. Availability of Free and Proprietary Software
Those who are unfamiliar with Linux distributions or are accustomed to using either Windows or macOS might wonder about the availability of software applications. This is especially true for mainstream and industry-standard productivity applications.
Note that Debian is also a distributor of free software. It has more than 57200 software packages that can be downloaded for free. The OS also comes with a huge selection of free software upon installation. Examples include LibreOffice and Mozilla Firefox.
It is also important to note that there is a considerable selection of software available across all Linux distributions. These include alternatives to Adobe Photoshop, web browsers based on Chromium, and other free and paid video editing applications.
5. Specific Desktop and Server Use-Cases
Another advantage of Debian is that it is the most suitable option for those who are looking for an alternative to Windows and macOS or those who prefer using a computer based on Linux. Remember that this OS is free and has a decent selection of software.
The software selection and the presence of an established open-source community also make it an ideal Linux distribution for running servers and data centers. The main installer includes an option for selecting between a desktop or server environment.
A free OS provides organizations with cost and competitive advantages. Debian has become popular in government agencies and nonprofit organizations. It is also used in commercial organizations across the globe such as banks and tech companies.
6. A Note on the Stability and Security of Debian
Supporters of Linux can attest that one of the advantages of Debian over proprietary operating systems and even other Linux distributions is stability. The open-source community has been consistent in rolling out scheduled updates and providing support.
A core update to the operating system is released in an average of 2 years. The longer timeline aims to ensure that the newest version or release is stable and free from bugs and other instability issues. Each release receives official support for about 3 years.
The Debian Project handles security through public disclosure. It also maintains the Debian Policy Manual that details the inclusions of the package and how it can interact with others. Volunteers perform regular evaluations to check for vulnerabilities.
Cons: Disadvantages of Debian and Key Limitations
1. A Conservative Linux Operating System
The most latest release of Debian underwent a series of testing before it was made available to the public as a stable release. Software developed for this operating system also goes through an extensive assessment before becoming part of the official repository.
Several critics have noted that one of the main disadvantages of Debian is that it tends to be conservative and often lags in terms of introducing new features that are already available to other Linux distributions and proprietary operating systems.
It is also not as intuitive when compared to other Linux distributions. Some have claimed that it is designed with server administrators and software developers in mind. The graphical user interface is too basic and most complex tasks are done in the terminal.
2. Complex User Interface and User Experience
It is important to reiterate and underscore the fact that the terminal-based approach is another disadvantage of Debian. The entire user interface and user experience are not ideal for those who are not familiar with Linux and other Linux distributions.
Beginners will have a hard time using this operating system and navigating through its plain graphical user interface. Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint are more ideal for first-timers because of their straightforward and intuitive interface.
This operating system also has a limited selection of desktop environments compared to other Linux distributions. Those who prefer specific environments would need to install them. Some latest hardware drivers of newer components are also not supported.
3. Issues with the Established GNU Principles
The people behind the GNU operating system do not endorse selected operating systems and Linux distributions. These include Debian and its derivatives such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. The sage group also does not endorse Android and ChromeOS.
An explainer noted that these operating systems do not thoroughly follow the free distribution guidelines of the GNU and the Free Software Foundation. These include maintaining specific unaligned policies and including blobs in the kernel.
The specific issue with Debian is that it keeps non-free software applications out of its official repository while hosting free applications in its main servers. There are also free repositories that come with separately distributed proprietary programs.
4. Other Notable Drawbacks and Limitations
The installation process is straightforward but additional hardware configurations can become complicated. This problem comes from the same simple installation process. It can also be difficult to install drivers of newer and obsolete hardware components.
Another drawback of Debian is the absence of popular commercial software applications. The free alternatives are good enough for general-purpose computing but are not on par with the more established software available for Windows and macOS.
Individuals who want to learn about Unix would not be able to do so using Debian. There is no straightforward way to learn how to compile software, the internal workings of the operating system, and how to program a system on the source code level.
Rundown: Advantages and Disadvantages of Debian
Debian has an established reputation as one of the oldest and most stable Linux distributions that continues to receive regular and extensive software support. However, despite its advantages, it is not ideal for first-time Linux users. A potential user must consider their needs and preferences, and also factor in the notable disadvantages of Debian. Beginners who want to experiment with Linux or need a free operating system for general-purpose computing are better off using other Linux distributions with a more intuitive graphical user interface.