Debian and alternatives, what to keep and use and what to lose

This is just me and my thoughts about the distros I live with. It’s 3:30 am and I can’t sleep so I’m passing the time.

I got rid of Windows off all my personal computers in 2003, I had been using Linux since the turn of the millenium (certainly before SuSE was OpenSUSE). I remember RPM Hell as a real thing and my anti-RPM bias has never quite gone away. So, most of the time I’ve been a user of Debian based distros, probably Ubuntu for the longest. However, Ubuntu 17.10 trashed the BIOS of my newish i7 Thinkpad and I’ve wandered away from Ubuntu and Ubuntu based distros (again, probably an irrational bias).

I stuck with Debian based distros because, well, it was what I knew and was comfortable with. I will say Debian itself was getting better at the install process, but I was trying different distros when I stumbled over MX Linux - and I REALLY liked it. Partly because it shared a (maybe tenuous) history with my long ago favourite Simply Mepis, maybe not. But it really clicked for me.

When I compared MX-17 with Debian 9 (Jessie?), it was no contest, it was Debian polished and made for everyone to use. MX-19, based on Buster (Debian 10) is still my distro of choice.

While I was happy with MX-17 I decided to have a look at the then Testing branch of Debian (Buster) and liked what I was seeing and kept it about and was pleasantly surprised, despite what people said, that Debian Testing never gave problems, didn’t break and eagerly awaited for it’s release and MX adopting it. I haven’t been disappointed.

Moving on, when Buster became the new stable Debian I decided to monitor the new Debian Testing (Bullseye), I also found SparkyLinux 6 which is based on Bullseye (sort of the MX to to Debian Bullseye). I have to say Debian Bullseye is working very well for me and Sparky 6 is excellent, however it’s NOT really the MX to Bullseye for me.

I would take MX-19 over Debian 10 because of the extra effort and polish and utils that MX adds. Sparky does add a few extras and utils but not as many and not as much polish, it’s much closer to the stock Debian Bullseye, so that I prefer to stick with the Debian original. I’m not saying Sparky 6 is bad, it’s not, it just doesn’t add enough extra, for me personally, to be taking up partitions on my machines. To that end, when I need somewhere to install a new distro to try, it’s the Sparky 6 partitions that go, not the Debian Bullseye ones.

What has been replacing the Sparky 6s? Well, I’m enjoying the Arch based distros, not stock Arch, I can’t be bothered, but ArcoLinux, Manjaro and EndeavourOS have all found their way onto machines. I’m getting to grips with pacman (god awful systax for noobs) and pamac. The AUR and yay still make me a little nervous, and minor… interesting occurrences?.. are more frequent that I would expect from any .deb based distro, but hey, it’s just for fun.

I would not choose to install either Arco or Endeavour in an office setting, and Manjaro only is that office had a decent tech support, I’d personally br happy to use them on my machines if that was all that was available and I’m enjoying playing with all 3.

However, MX-19 is still tops for me. My hardware is NOT bleeding edge, the versions of the software packages available from the repos do what I want and need. If MX disappeared, I would switch to Debian Bullseye, a little newer, but so far, for me on my kit, stable and has what I need to do what I want to do. Your milage may vary.

Yes, I have tried other distros, OpenSuse (Tumbleweed - I still hate YAST), Fedora (29, 30, 31), OpenMandriva, Mageia(?), Bohdi, Peppermint, Mint, LinuxLite, SolydXK, Xubuntu, Devuan, Parrot and ever a couple of BSD. No, none of them stuck, none of them seemed to fit me, none seemed to offer any advantages ove what I know works for me.

I’m not stopping looking at other stuff, but it has some serious competition to beat for me.

I just can’t seem to get on board with Debian on the desktop. I’ve used it for servers in the past and it was great in that setting. I find myself needing to do too many things to work around Debian’s nature. It’s totally a personal thing and it has no reflection on Debian itself.

I typically run Ubuntu (easy) and Arch (flexible) based distros. The AUR isn’t bad, I’ve had very few negative experiences and all of them because of things not being maintained. The blessing and curse of a rolling distro is needing to be up to date so dependencies don’t become an issue. If I use something from the AUR I always go and read the page to see if it is (reasonably) up to date and others are using it. If you use DuckDuckGo this is particularly easy with their !aur bang (type !aur [package name] and it takes you straight to the search results).

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I didn’t know about the ! (bang) option, I do use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine so I’ll give it a go.

I’ve never had problems with Debian, but I’ve always gone with the unofficial non-free and firmware .iso images. I also have recently stuck with the Xfce desktop, and my daily needs are relatively simple. Horses for courses I guess and Debian is one of my horses.

I am enjoying using the Arch based distros, but I have had those interesting occurrences, all fixable so far. I don’t dabble with the AUR very much, I haven’t needed to for my daily use.

I do keep promising myself to give Fedora another, longer, try. What I have tried worked well (pretty much all the big distros work well in use once installed), I think it’s those traumatic “RPH Hell” experiences and the lack of timely therapy that holds me back.

I apologise to Nate but I just can’t be doing with OpenSUSE, I understand it’s solid and reliable and all that but it just doesn’t work for me.

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That’s a good point about the non-standard Debian images. If only they were easier to find on the site maybe more people would use them. :thinking:

Where I tend to need the AUR is for things like Cinnamon for example. I want to have the same login screen and setting as Mint and those aren’t in the default repos. There really isn’t an alternative to getting them from the AUR like there would be with a more common desktop application that’s available as a flatpak or something else. The AUR is pretty fantastic but I think in some ways, certainly for more mainstream software, it’s less necessary than it used to be.

I too have had my issues with openSUSE, particularly on my laptop. It does run very well on my desktop however and it has some very interesting advantages in the way it handles snapshots for updates and the file system. Their Open Build System is in some ways analogous to the AUR in that lots of software that isn’t available in the standard repos is available there. I like to see different approaches to what a Linux distro should be.

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