Software engineer Ian Murdock first announced the Debian operating system on 16 August 2013. He initially called the system “the Debian Linux Release.” The first version was released internally on 15 September 1993. Based on the Linux kernel, it has now become one of the most popular and free-to-use Linux distributions available to the public.
Pros: Advantages of Debian Linux Distribution
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 readily accessible because they are not free. On the other hand, a key selling point of Debian GNU/Linux is that it is a free and open-source operating system.
The Debian Project consists of a community of developers who voluntarily provide their skills and knowledge to maintain and develop further this operating system. Specifically, it is also developed openly and distributed freely according to a set of principles.
Because of its free and open-source nature, this operating system has become the basis for other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu. It is also worth mentioning that a sizeable number of developers have developed free software for Debian and other Linux distributions.
An Established Linux Distribution
One of the main advantages of Debian is tenure. Released more than two decades ago, it is one of the oldest and most established Linux distributions available to the public for free. This fact has more specific benefits for both developers and users.
Remember that an open-source community maintains this operating system. The community is both expansive and mature. These facts mean is that there is an exhaustive list of resources and support available for developers and users.
A lot of reputable and competent developers have established experience writing for this operating system. For individual and organizational end-users, this means out-of-the-box and custom-made software and developer availability.
Supports Different System Architectures
The operating system can run on almost every architecture available in the market. These include the 64-bit x86-64 and 32-bit i386 0f Intel, the 32/64-bit arm64 of ARM, 64-bit PowerPC and Power ISA, and other RISC-based and CISC-based processor architectures.
Support for an extensive list of architectures means that it can run on older and newer computer systems and processors. For example, old personal computers that are unable to run the newest versions of Windows can be refurbished to run Debian.
Other Linux distributions have limited compatibility. The popular Linux Mint only supports 32/64-bit Intel chips. Fedora has dropped support for older architectures. Note that if Debian does not run on particular hardware, chances are, other distributions will not.
Availability of Free and Proprietary Software
Those who are not familiar with Linux distributions and are accustomed to using either a Windows or macOS operating system might worry about software availability. This is especially true for specific productivity software or applications.
Debian is also a distributor of free software. There are more than 57200 software packages that can be downloaded for free. It also comes with a considerable selection of free software upon installation, such as the office productivity software suite LibreOffice.
It is also important to note that there is a wide selection of software available in Linux distributions. These include photo editing alternatives to Adobe Photoshop, web browsers based on Chromium such as Google Chrome and Firefox, and other free and paid video editing applications, among others.
Specific Desktop and Server Use Cases
This operating system is ideal for individuals who are looking for an alternative to Windows and macOS, as well as for those who prefer an operating system based on Linux kernel. Remember that it is free and it comes with a sizeable selection of usable software.
In addition, because of its software selection, as well as the availability of the open-source community, it is also an ideal Linux distribution for running servers. The main installer includes an option for selecting between a desktop or server environment.
Using a free operating system can provide organizations with cost and competitive advantages. It has been used in government agencies and non-profit organizations, as well as for-profit or commercial organizations such as banks and tech companies across the globe.
A Note on the Stability and Security of Debian
Supporters of Linux distributions would note that one of the advantages of Debian over proprietary operating systems and other Linux distributions is stability. Remember that it is maintained by an established and mature community of developers.
It takes an average of two to three years for the community to release a major update to the operating system. The longer development timeline aims to ensure that the newest version is stable and free from bugs and other instability issues.
Furthermore, it is also important to highlight the fact that the Debian Policy Manual has been regarded as the most comprehensive guideline among Linux distributions. The manual details what a package may contain and how it can interact with others.
Cons: Disadvantages of Debian Linux Distribution
A Conservative Operating System
Remember that the most latest version of this operating system goes through a lengthy process of testing before making it available to the public as a stable release. Software developed for this system also goes through lengthy scrutiny for them to be considered part of the official repository.
Several critics have noted that one of the main disadvantages of Debian is that it is conservative and lags in terms of introducing new features that are already available to other Linux distributions and proprietary operating systems.
It is also not entirely user-friendly, according to others. They have claimed that this distribution is designed primarily for server administrators and software developers. There is only a basic GUI framework. Most of the complex tasks can only be done in the terminal.
Issues with the Established GNU Principles
The people behind the GNU operating system do not endorse certain Linux distributions to include Arch GNU/Linux, Canaima, CentOS, Fedora, Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Red Hat GNU/Linux, Slackware, SteamOS, and Debian, among others.
An explainer noted that these operating systems generally do not thoroughly follow the free system distribution guidelines set forth by GNU and the Free Software Foundation. These include having a specific unaligned policy or including blobs in the kernel.
The specific issue with Debian is that conscientiously keeps non-free software out of its official system while maintaining a repository of non-free software hosted in its main servers. There are also free repositories that come with separately distributed proprietary programs.
Other Notable Drawbacks and Limitations
Installation is simpler compared to other operating systems. However, additional hardware configurations can become complicated because of the same simplicity of the entire installation process. There is also difficulty in installing novel or already obsolete hardware.
Another drawback of Debian is the absence of popular proprietary or commercial software. While there are free alternatives, this can be a problem for an individual or organization accustomed to using specific software. Transitioning to this system can become a problem.
Individuals who want to learn about Unix would not do so if they are using this operating system. 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.