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What's a good Debian-based distro for a long-time Ubuntu user?

TL;DR - I like Ubuntu, but I don't like the direction it's going in, so if you have any Debian-based distro suggestions, I'm all ears!

 

As much as I love Ubuntu - I truly do, after using it for 14 years - I think I finally need to move on from it. The increasing insistence on Snaps is just the latest in a growing list of things that I need to deal with when I upgrade my OS. Yes, I can add PPAs and circumvent Canonical that way, but that just adds to a growing list of changes to make. It's getting to the point where learning a different OS might actually be less of a hassle than setting up Ubuntu 22.04 on my laptop. The laptop in question is an old HP Probook 6470b, with a Core i5 3320M (2c/4t), 10GB RAM, and 240GB SDD - no dGPU. That is what the OS will run on.

 

What I like about Ubuntu:

  1. Encourages using FOSS, but doesn't actively hinder the use of proprietary software/drivers - I like FOSS, but if I want to use something non-FOSS, that's my choice
  2. Broad hardware and software support - it basically "just works" with the vast majority of hardware nowadays out-of-the-box, and if something has Linux support, it supports Ubuntu
  3. Tons of documentation - if there is a Linux guide for something, 99 times out of 100, the guide will show how to do it on Ubuntu
  4. Intended to be user friendly, but still allows for customization - I have the freedom to just use my computer, or to tweak it until it breaks, and I don't feel pushed in either direction most of the time
  5. It isn't a rolling release - I know that some rolling releases are relatively stable, but I like the stability of Ubuntu inherent in requiring updates to new versions - it has been almost a decade since an update broke something critical for me, and I want that experience to continue

What I dislike about Ubuntu:

  1. Tracking nonsense - just like with Windows, by default, there's a bunch of tracking stuff, and it takes work to remove it
  2. Snaps - they are so insanely slow to open and feel so bloated to use, and I don't do anything mission-critical on my laptop, so any security benefits are limited
  3. Gnome 3/Unity - honestly, I've grown to tolerate the Unity layout, and Gnome 3, but I've never been a fan of them, especially because of how bloated they are

I don't want to have to learn a new package manager, file system layout, CLI quirks, etc., so I want to stick with something Debian-based. Obviously, Linux Mint is currently at the top of my list. I had a poor experience with it about 7 years ago, as its hardware support wasn't sufficient and it felt really bloated, but I'm guessing it's improved somewhat since then relative to Ubuntu. Debian itself is also a consideration, but it always feels very outdated by its nature and its insistence on FOSS is annoying.

 

If you have any other suggestions, I'd like to hear them. The number of distros has grown a lot in the last 14 years since I picked Ubuntu, so I'm sure there's plenty of ones that I haven't been made aware of yet.

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6 minutes ago, YoungBlade said:

TL;DR - I like Ubuntu, but I don't like the direction it's going in, so if you have any Debian-based distro suggestions, I'm all ears!

 

As much as I love Ubuntu - I truly do, after using it for 14 years - I think I finally need to move on from it. The increasing insistence on Snaps is just the latest in a growing list of things that I need to deal with when I upgrade my OS. Yes, I can add PPAs and circumvent Canonical that way, but that just adds to a growing list of changes to make. It's getting to the point where learning a different OS might actually be less of a hassle than setting up Ubuntu 22.04 on my laptop. The laptop in question is an old HP Probook 6470b, with a Core i5 3320M (2c/4t), 10GB RAM, and 240GB SDD - no dGPU. That is what the OS will run on.

 

What I like about Ubuntu:

  1. Encourages using FOSS, but doesn't actively hinder the use of proprietary software/drivers - I like FOSS, but if I want to use something non-FOSS, that's my choice
  2. Broad hardware and software support - it basically "just works" with the vast majority of hardware nowadays out-of-the-box, and if something has Linux support, it supports Ubuntu
  3. Tons of documentation - if there is a Linux guide for something, 99 times out of 100, the guide will show how to do it on Ubuntu
  4. Intended to be user friendly, but still allows for customization - I have the freedom to just use my computer, or to tweak it until it breaks, and I don't feel pushed in either direction most of the time
  5. It isn't a rolling release - I know that some rolling releases are relatively stable, but I like the stability of Ubuntu inherent in requiring updates to new versions - it has been almost a decade since an update broke something critical for me, and I want that experience to continue

What I dislike about Ubuntu:

  1. Tracking nonsense - just like with Windows, by default, there's a bunch of tracking stuff, and it takes work to remove it
  2. Snaps - they are so insanely slow to open and feel so bloated to use, and I don't do anything mission-critical on my laptop, so any security benefits are limited
  3. Gnome 3/Unity - honestly, I've grown to tolerate the Unity layout, and Gnome 3, but I've never been a fan of them, especially because of how bloated they are

I don't want to have to learn a new package manager, file system layout, CLI quirks, etc., so I want to stick with something Debian-based. Obviously, Linux Mint is currently at the top of my list. I had a poor experience with it about 7 years ago, as its hardware support wasn't sufficient and it felt really bloated, but I'm guessing it's improved somewhat since then relative to Ubuntu. Debian itself is also a consideration, but it always feels very outdated by its nature and its insistence on FOSS is annoying.

 

If you have any other suggestions, I'd like to hear them. The number of distros has grown a lot in the last 14 years since I picked Ubuntu, so I'm sure there's plenty of ones that I haven't been made aware of yet.

Why are just use Debian? It's not all that different from just sitting on a Ubuntu LTS release.

As for yhe FOSS there's a ulunofficial ISO image available here

https://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/11.3.0+nonfree/amd64/iso-cd/

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https://spirallinux.github.io/
It's a Debian based distro, except it's 100% Debian meaning you won't be left stranded if the dev disappears or something. It's designed to be a preconfigured Debian for easy desktop use.

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Assume I'm using Linux as you would assume other people use Windows. Using since 2016, daily driving since 2018. 

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There's this obscure Debian-based distro called "Debian" you could try

Don't ask to ask, just ask... please 🤨

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What is scaling and how does it work? Asus PB287Q unboxing! Console alternatives :D Watch Netflix with Kodi on Arch Linux Sharing folders over the internet using SSH Beginner's Guide To LTT (by iamdarkyoshi)

Sauron'stm Product Scores:

Spoiler

Just a list of my personal scores for some products, in no particular order, with brief comments. I just got the idea to do them so they aren't many for now :)

Don't take these as complete reviews or final truths - they are just my personal impressions on products I may or may not have used, summed up in a couple of sentences and a rough score. All scores take into account the unit's price and time of release, heavily so, therefore don't expect absolute performance to be reflected here.

 

-Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - [8/10]

Spoiler

A durable and reliable machine that is relatively lightweight, has all the hardware it needs to never feel sluggish and has a great IPS matte screen. Downsides are mostly due to its age, most notably the screen resolution of 1366x768 and usb 2.0 ports.

 

-Apple Macbook (2015) - [Garbage -/10]

Spoiler

From my perspective, this product has no redeeming factors given its price and the competition. It is underpowered, overpriced, impractical due to its single port and is made redundant even by Apple's own iPad pro line.

 

-OnePlus X - [7/10]

Spoiler

A good phone for the price. It does everything I (and most people) need without being sluggish and has no particularly bad flaws. The lack of recent software updates and relatively barebones feature kit (most notably the lack of 5GHz wifi, biometric sensors and backlight for the capacitive buttons) prevent it from being exceptional.

 

-Microsoft Surface Book 2 - [Garbage - -/10]

Spoiler

Overpriced and rushed, offers nothing notable compared to the competition, doesn't come with an adequate charger despite the premium price. Worse than the Macbook for not even offering the small plus sides of having macOS. Buy a Razer Blade if you want high performance in a (relatively) light package.

 

-Intel Core i7 2600/k - [9/10]

Spoiler

Quite possibly Intel's best product launch ever. It had all the bleeding edge features of the time, it came with a very significant performance improvement over its predecessor and it had a soldered heatspreader, allowing for efficient cooling and great overclocking. Even the "locked" version could be overclocked through the multiplier within (quite reasonable) limits.

 

-Apple iPad Pro - [5/10]

Spoiler

A pretty good product, sunk by its price (plus the extra cost of the physical keyboard and the pencil). Buy it if you don't mind the Apple tax and are looking for a very light office machine with an excellent digitizer. Particularly good for rich students. Bad for cheap tinkerers like myself.

 

 

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8 hours ago, LloydLynx said:

https://spirallinux.github.io/
It's a Debian based distro, except it's 100% Debian meaning you won't be left stranded if the dev disappears or something. It's designed to be a preconfigured Debian for easy desktop use.

Man that guy has like no time these days, He also manages GeckoLinux

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Consider just using Debian itself if you don't want to deal with Canonical's nonsense. Else, your other options are Pop_OS! or Linux Mint. Linux Mint also has a Debian Edition if you want a friendlier Debian than Debian itself.

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16 hours ago, 10leej said:

Why are just use Debian? It's not all that different from just sitting on a Ubuntu LTS release.

As for yhe FOSS there's a ulunofficial ISO image available here

https://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/11.3.0+nonfree/amd64/iso-cd/

8 hours ago, Sauron said:

There's this obscure Debian-based distro called "Debian" you could try

2 hours ago, deltatux said:

Consider just using Debian itself if you don't want to deal with Canonical's nonsense. Else, your other options are Pop_OS! or Linux Mint. Linux Mint also has a Debian Edition if you want a friendlier Debian than Debian itself.

I mentioned that I don't like Debian's insistence on FOSS - it means that there needs to be unofficial images for disks that include proprietary firmware and that you have to jump through a few hoops to get non-free software installed, which I don't like dealing with. I like the FOSS philosophy, but I need my computer to work, and sometimes that means using proprietary software. Hindering my efforts to do so is annoying and, in my opinion, unrealistic for the vast majority of end-users. This is why Ubuntu just gives you a single check box during install for the "ubuntu-restricted-extras" that install proprietary codecs, fonts, etc - because normal people are going to want those things 99 times out of 100. Debian is not a distro designed for the average person who wants to run Linux - it is designed for users who want to run GNU/Linux.

 

Also, the installation for Debian sucked the last time I tried it, with Buster, and not only because it uses a horribly dated installer. There is no definitive version of Debian - you are expected to pick and choose what elements you want during the installation. This freedom can be nice, but it does complicate documentation if the documentation doesn't involve using the command line, because there is no default desktop environment or set of programs and applications. Again, it is not designed for the average person, who just wants their computer to work. It is designed for tinkerers. There is nothing wrong with that, but that's not what I'm interested in right now.

 

I'll download the latest net install for Bullseye and throw it into a virtual machine on my main desktop to see if that's improved at all, but Debian itself has never had the ease-of-use philosophy that I liked in Ubuntu. Yes, the default Ubuntu install has some things I don't like in it, but it's super fast and easy to install, I'm able to get a full version that doesn't require a netinstall, and it doesn't feel like I'm installing something from 1993.

 

As for the Linux Mint Debian Edition, I paid no attention to it when it first came out as it was a rolling-release based on Debian Sid, but apparently that's no longer the case as of 2014, and the newest version is based on Bullseye. That actually might just be the way to go. I'll definitely give that a look as well.

 

15 hours ago, LloydLynx said:

https://spirallinux.github.io/
It's a Debian based distro, except it's 100% Debian meaning you won't be left stranded if the dev disappears or something. It's designed to be a preconfigured Debian for easy desktop use.

This is an interesting choice. One of the things I most dislike about Debian is the installation process, so if this is basically just Debian with 90% of the configuration taken care of out-of-the-box, then that sounds great to me. I'll also download that one and try it out in a VM.

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25 minutes ago, YoungBlade said:

I mentioned that I don't like Debian's insistence on FOSS - it means that there needs to be unofficial images for disks that include proprietary firmware and that you have to jump through a few hoops to get non-free software installed, which I don't like dealing with. I like the FOSS philosophy, but I need my computer to work, and sometimes that means using proprietary software. Hindering my efforts to do so is annoying and, in my opinion, unrealistic for the vast majority of end-users. This is why Ubuntu just gives you a single check box during install for the "ubuntu-restricted-extras" that install proprietary codecs, fonts, etc - because normal people are going to want those things 99 times out of 100. Debian is not a distro designed for the average person who wants to run Linux - it is designed for users who want to run GNU/Linux.

 

Also, the installation for Debian sucked the last time I tried it, with Buster, and not only because it uses a horribly dated installer. There is no definitive version of Debian - you are expected to pick and choose what elements you want during the installation. This freedom can be nice, but it does complicate documentation if the documentation doesn't involve using the command line, because there is no default desktop environment or set of programs and applications. Again, it is not designed for the average person, who just wants their computer to work. It is designed for tinkerers. There is nothing wrong with that, but that's not what I'm interested in right now.

 

I'll download the latest net install for Bullseye and throw it into a virtual machine on my main desktop to see if that's improved at all, but Debian itself has never had the ease-of-use philosophy that I liked in Ubuntu. Yes, the default Ubuntu install has some things I don't like in it, but it's super fast and easy to install, I'm able to get a full version that doesn't require a netinstall, and it doesn't feel like I'm installing something from 1993.

 

As for the Linux Mint Debian Edition, I paid no attention to it when it first came out as it was a rolling-release based on Debian Sid, but apparently that's no longer the case as of 2014, and the newest version is based on Bullseye. That actually might just be the way to go. I'll definitely give that a look as well.

 

This is an interesting choice. One of the things I most dislike about Debian is the installation process, so if this is basically just Debian with 90% of the configuration taken care of out-of-the-box, then that sounds great to me. I'll also download that one and try it out in a VM.

  • The "FOSS-only" issue can be solved with the contrib and non-free repos that Debian provides: https://linuxhint.com/enable-non-free-packages-debian-11/
  • Not sure what step of the Debian installer you're having trouble with. It sounds like Linux Mint Debian Edition or Spiral Linux is a better fit for you if you want a straight-forward, no thought required installer.
    • Debian's installer is meant to be flexible as Debian doesn't spin off tons of different editions that can do different things. While it's meant to be simplistic, they expect one to know what they want with their systems. For example, if you run a server, as a server admin, you will likely not want to install a GUI as they're considered unnecessary bloatware. However, for a desktop user, a desktop environment is critical.
  • As for LMDE being rolling release, they realized that it was a horrible idea to make a rolling release distro based off Debian as Debian was never meant to be a rolling release distro. Using distros like Arch is a much better distro for those who want rolling releases, one main reason why Valve chose Arch to rebase Steam OS 3 and why they recommend Manjaro Linux to Steam Deck devs before the Deck launched.
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1 hour ago, deltatux said:
  • The "FOSS-only" issue can be solved with the contrib and non-free repos that Debian provides: https://linuxhint.com/enable-non-free-packages-debian-11/
  • Not sure what step of the Debian installer you're having trouble with. It sounds like Linux Mint Debian Edition or Spiral Linux is a better fit for you if you want a straight-forward, no thought required installer.
    • Debian's installer is meant to be flexible as Debian doesn't spin off tons of different editions that can do different things. While it's meant to be simplistic, they expect one to know what they want with their systems. For example, if you run a server, as a server admin, you will likely not want to install a GUI as they're considered unnecessary bloatware. However, for a desktop user, a desktop environment is critical.
  • As for LMDE being rolling release, they realized that it was a horrible idea to make a rolling release distro based off Debian as Debian was never meant to be a rolling release distro. Using distros like Arch is a much better distro for those who want rolling releases, one main reason why Valve chose Arch to rebase Steam OS 3 and why they recommend Manjaro Linux to Steam Deck devs before the Deck launched.

I don't think you understand where I'm coming from. I understand that you can use repositories, just like you can use repositories in Ubuntu to by-pass the Snaps nonsense that they're shoving down people's throats. It's one of the best things about Linux: if you're determined, you can do whatever you want.

 

I've never had "trouble" with the Debian installer. I just think it's clunky, outdated, not user friendly, overly complicated, and that the lack of a standard, main edition with most of the the check-boxes checked by default is a downside. I understand why this appeals to Debian users, but I am not a Debian user. I am an Ubuntu user, and I like Ubuntu in no small part because the installation process is a breeze. Honestly, it's so easy, that I almost find it relaxing to do, whereas installing Debian is work. If Canonical hadn't decided to force Snaps down my throat, I wouldn't even be having this discussion.

 

As for rolling release, I've never cared for the concept. In certain applications, it does make sense, and I have nothing against people who choose it, but I like stability. I like the idea that I can just run updates and not even think about whether they will break anything. I like the idea of installing software and not having to fiddle with different versions of dependencies. I've even been burned by Microsoft now that Windows 10 is basically a rolling release OS - my Search hasn't worked for months following a bad update, and nothing that I've done has fixed it. The worst part is that, unlike with Linux, there was no long-term rollback option. After a few weeks passed, the bad update was forced upon me and I'm now stuck with this. At this point, I'm just going to have to either reinstall Windows or update to Windows 11. That hasn't happened with Ubuntu in nearly 10 years for me - it just works. I use my laptop almost every day and I never have a problem. Yes, every two or three years, I update to the newest version of the OS, but I can do that at my leisure - not because something went wrong and it forced me to do it.

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16 minutes ago, YoungBlade said:

I don't think you understand where I'm coming from. I understand that you can use repositories, just like you can use repositories in Ubuntu to by-pass the Snaps nonsense that they're shoving down people's throats. It's one of the best things about Linux: if you're determined, you can do whatever you want.

 

I've never had "trouble" with the Debian installer. I just think it's clunky, outdated, not user friendly, overly complicated, and that the lack of a standard, main edition with most of the the check-boxes checked by default is a downside. I understand why this appeals to Debian users, but I am not a Debian user. I am an Ubuntu user, and I like Ubuntu in no small part because the installation process is a breeze. Honestly, it's so easy, that I almost find it relaxing to do, whereas installing Debian is work. If Canonical hadn't decided to force Snaps down my throat, I wouldn't even be having this discussion.

 

As for rolling release, I've never cared for the concept. In certain applications, it does make sense, and I have nothing against people who choose it, but I like stability. I like the idea that I can just run updates and not even think about whether they will break anything. I like the idea of installing software and not having to fiddle with different versions of dependencies. I've even been burned by Microsoft now that Windows 10 is basically a rolling release OS - my Search hasn't worked for months following a bad update, and nothing that I've done has fixed it. The worst part is that, unlike with Linux, there was no long-term rollback option. After a few weeks passed, the bad update was forced upon me and I'm now stuck with this. At this point, I'm just going to have to either reinstall Windows or update to Windows 11. That hasn't happened with Ubuntu in nearly 10 years for me - it just works. I use my laptop almost every day and I never have a problem. Yes, every two or three years, I update to the newest version of the OS, but I can do that at my leisure - not because something went wrong and it forced me to do it.

Yes, it can be daunting for new Linux users but the distro wasn't specifically designed with newcomers in mind. Debian is geared more towards power users, that's why Ubuntu exists, it was meant to be an easy version of Debian (but it has since veered off that original mission). Now you have other Debian-based distros that tries to do what Ubuntu used to do. As for the repositories, they are official repositories, not like the Ubuntu PPAs or Arch's AURs. Debian just didn't want to enable these repos by default as per their mission statement, that doesn't mean that they're not providing the software you're looking for, it's just not provided by default.

 

As for rolling releases breaking stuff, I think it's a bit overblown. I've been using Arch for years and it has been rock solid. Now would I use it in an enterprise environment where it's mission critical? No, but if you take the right precautions and not just randomly installing packages in AUR, Arch can be quite stable. Rolling release distros aren't really meant for new Linux users, it's really geared towards power users. Not going for a rolling release is perfectly fine but at the same time the fear about rolling release distros are a bit overblown from my experience.

 

Anyways, I digress, I still say your best bet is Linux Mint Debian Edition or SpinLinux if you want a no fuss distro that's easy to use as they're geared towards Linux users who just want to not think about their OS.

 

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As mentioned previously, Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop. I've installed over 50 and they work and the users don't have problems.

 

You don't say what you use your computer for.

 

There is a very good discussion forum specifically for Mint. If you are going to use it, join it. Otherwise a scan through it to see what it has to offer.

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1 hour ago, RollyShed said:

As mentioned previously, Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop. I've installed over 50 and they work and the users don't have problems.

 

You don't say what you use your computer for.

 

There is a very good discussion forum specifically for Mint. If you are going to use it, join it. Otherwise a scan through it to see what it has to offer.

I use my computer for mainly for web browsing and writing, I use SSH from it to another computer running a small website, and on rare occasion, I use it to run an application called QLC+ for controlling lighting as a wedding co-DJ. That's basically it - no gaming, no video editing, no streaming. I have my main desktop for those things. The use case for this is almost as basic as you can get; I just need something easy to use that isn't overly bloated because the laptop is 10 years old, and I'd prefer Debian-based because I've been running Ubuntu for 14 years and I don't want to relearn much.

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45 minutes ago, YoungBlade said:

I use my computer for mainly for web browsing and writing,

Laptops and age - we had donated a few years ago, 8 Toshiba Tecra M10s. We installed Mint Cinnamon 19 on them. The M10 series was first released Nov 2009. I have a donated ASUS T200 launched Nov 2014. It has 30GB of storage so obviously not suitable for Windows though that's what it had when it was given to me. Again, Mint Cinnamon 20.3. My "screwdriver", fixing other people's problems, emails, web, writing documents, spreadsheets, etc.

 

A lot of laptops I've fitted an SSD in place of the spinning hard disk. The Windows data has then been copied across using a SATA to USB cable and the hard disk then "on the shelf" as a back up if ever needed.

 

Moving files between computers is done with Dukto, easy to use and installs on everything.

 

Qlcplus (for lighting control) is available in the Software Manager (repository).

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5 hours ago, YoungBlade said:

I mentioned that I don't like Debian's insistence on FOSS - it means that there needs to be unofficial images for disks that include proprietary firmware and that you have to jump through a few hoops to get non-free software installed, which I don't like dealing with. I like the FOSS philosophy, but I need my computer to work, and sometimes that means using proprietary software. Hindering my efforts to do so is annoying and, in my opinion, unrealistic for the vast majority of end-users. This is why Ubuntu just gives you a single check box during install for the "ubuntu-restricted-extras" that install proprietary codecs, fonts, etc - because normal people are going to want those things 99 times out of 100. Debian is not a distro designed for the average person who wants to run Linux - it is designed for users who want to run GNU/Linux.

I literally linked to a iso that offers non-free repos enabled by default.....

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