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Linux beyond the forks - My experience with pure Debian
Avehicle7887 commented on 26 October 2017 at 11:02 pm UTC

So where to start, this is more of a rambling / first impressions / review, probably a good bed time story for those who are on the fence with similar thoughts.

I've been on Linux for the past 3 years and have been with Mint this whole time mainly because it provided lots of features out of the box, modern packages and it's probably the best beginner-friendly distro I've ever used. I was happy but in the back of my mind I always wondered how would it be to run something a bit more complex.

So last week I downloaded Debian 9, full DVD not Live media. As far as installation goes, I found the graphical installer well detailed and straightforward. At one point during the installation I felt quite out of the water having to choose which desktop environment to use (I'm used to install from Live media). Despite the difference compared with Live Media installers, it's still relatively easy to navigate. I went with Xfce since it's for a low-end i3 laptop with just Intel HD graphics.

Overall the installation went very smooth, it's also worth mentioning that it recognized all my hardware straight away, with the exception of the Wifi card where I had to install the non-free Atheros firmware. The system in question is an Acer laptop with an i3-5005u processor.

Desktop, gaming and stability - Xfce is snappy, very clean and has lots of options, pretty happy with it's performance as well, although I did replace a few default programs with my own favorites, namely the file manager Thunar with Caja (from MATE desktop) and the text editor "Mousepad" with Pluma (also from MATE).

By default, Debian 9 comes with Mesa 13 so it's not quite as gaming optimized as let's say Ubuntu 17.04/17.10 but for a system with Intel HD, it wouldn't not matter much. Everything considered, I was able to run Pillars of Eternity, Divinity Original Sin (using the Shim file), some 2D games (Hollow Knight was tested but stutters and low fps), Shadow Warrior also works but at 20fps, has long loading times and frequent stutters. Not bad for a non gaming system.

In conclusion, It took me some effort to get around the commodities Mint has, I had to install some more software and libraries post installation, and ran a few terminal commands here and there, it served me as a learning experience so no regrets.

To Sum It up: Debian 9 offers great control, privacy and flexibility, as a desktop OS it's great, and if you have an Nvidia card it's also good for gaming. That said it does have a few shortcomings too: Uses dated libraries in some areas, running modern MESA versions can be a hassle (but not impossible). It comes with Kernel 4.9 (LTS) and should work fine on most hardware of yesteryear (Intel 5th Gen and lower / AMD Pre-Ryzen).

Colombo commented on 27 October 2017 at 12:27 am UTC

How would you compare difficulty between Mint and Debian? Is Debian more difficult to set up?

slaapliedje commented on 27 October 2017 at 3:45 am UTC

Avehicle7887So where to start, this is more of a rambling / first impressions / review, probably a good bed time story for those who are on the fence with similar thoughts.

I've been on Linux for the past 3 years and have been with Mint this whole time mainly because it provided lots of features out of the box, modern packages and it's probably the best beginner-friendly distro I've ever used. I was happy but in the back of my mind I always wondered how would it be to run something a bit more complex.

So last week I downloaded Debian 9, full DVD not Live media. As far as installation goes, I found the graphical installer well detailed and straightforward. At one point during the installation I felt quite out of the water having to choose which desktop environment to use (I'm used to install from Live media). Despite the difference compared with Live Media installers, it's still relatively easy to navigate. I went with Xfce since it's for a low-end i3 laptop with just Intel HD graphics.

Overall the installation went very smooth, it's also worth mentioning that it recognized all my hardware straight away, with the exception of the Wifi card where I had to install the non-free Atheros firmware. The system in question is an Acer laptop with an i3-5005u processor.

What I'd suggest for anyone wanting to do this, download the net-installer with the non-free firmware. It'll copy the binaries over, plus you will get all the latest packages from the beginning, whereas if you do it with the full DVD, you get the versions on the DVD, then have to install all the differences between when it was rolled until current. Though this may not matter much today, since I think they dropped 9.2 about a month ago.

Avehicle7887Desktop, gaming and stability - Xfce is snappy, very clean and has lots of options, pretty happy with it's performance as well, although I did replace a few default programs with my own favorites, namely the file manager Thunar with Caja (from MATE desktop) and the text editor "Mousepad" with Pluma (also from MATE).

By default, Debian 9 comes with Mesa 13 so it's not quite as gaming optimized as let's say Ubuntu 17.04/17.10 but for a system with Intel HD, it wouldn't not matter much. Everything considered, I was able to run Pillars of Eternity, Divinity Original Sin (using the Shim file), some 2D games (Hollow Knight was tested but stutters and low fps), Shadow Warrior also works but at 20fps, has long loading times and frequent stutters. Not bad for a non gaming system.

In conclusion, It took me some effort to get around the commodities Mint has, I had to install some more software and libraries post installation, and ran a few terminal commands here and there, it served me as a learning experience so no regrets.

To Sum It up: Debian 9 offers great control, privacy and flexibility, as a desktop OS it's great, and if you have an Nvidia card it's also good for gaming. That said it does have a few shortcomings too: Uses dated libraries in some areas, running modern MESA versions can be a hassle (but not impossible). It comes with Kernel 4.9 (LTS) and should work fine on most hardware of yesteryear (Intel 5th Gen and lower / AMD Pre-Ryzen).

You need a Shim for Divine Divinity: Original Sin? I thought it worked without anything like that, but maybe I'm thinking of the Enhanced Edition? Anyhow, it's good to hear that gaming worked that well on an Intel HD chipset. Not normally known for their performance. Frankly, I'm shocked that Shadow Warrior is running at all.

While some may argue that Debian has old libraries, they are fairly new. It used to be pretty spot on equal with RHEL, but this last release ended up with a newer Gnome and some other things. Though RHEL ended up doing something unprecedented and upgraded Gnome for their 7.2(maybe 7.3) release.

Please note that Ubuntu's releases are all based on a 6 month cycle of a Debian Unstable snapshot. So if you want newer libraries (and I'd suggest for desktop usage that you do), I would upgrade to 'Testing' which currently is code-named Buster.

Now why do I mention unstable, then suggest testing? Well testing is rather stable. Way it works is a new package gets pushed into Unstable, if there aren't any major bugs reported within 10 days, and it's passed the 'are the dependencies available to install' test, then it gets shifted into testing. Debian's release cycles are 'when it's ready' and has in the past had a 5-6 month freeze, which is as long as the entire Ubuntu release cycle. But then Debian is far more stable in my 20 or so years of experience with Linux. And since Mint and a ton of other things are all based on Ubuntu, and that in turn is based on Debian, you get a very stable system.

Granted I tend to run Unstable on my desktop systems, and stable on my servers. Sure I have the occasional breakage, but I'm weird and enjoy it! I certainly learn more that way.

I've been using Debian since 1.3 was released (so almost the very beginning). You should have seen the installer then.. absolutely ZERO auto detection, and the installer fit on 2 floppy disks, well it may have been 3. Was 12 years ago when I last had to install it on an old laptop that didn't have USB or a CD-ROM.

If anyone needs any Debian help, feel free to ask.

GustyGhost commented on 28 October 2017 at 4:03 am UTC

I started out as you had. Migrated to Linux Mint from Windows over two years ago. Everything was so much better. However I recall having to remove preinstalled Firefox addons along the lines of Mint Search and Media something something. Don't bother looking for those now, as they no longer bundle Firefox addons. That, along with the fact that a bunch of non-free codecs, firmware and Adobe Flash were installed by default encouraged me to explore Debian.

ColomboHow would you compare difficulty between Mint and Debian? Is Debian more difficult to set up?

Debian is more difficult to set up. There are no firewall rules out of the box, whereas I believe Mint comes with gfuw configured. And to get any software newer than stable release, you need to add the backports repository. Those who just want to play games and don't necessarily care about FOSS would be better served by other distros.

*Refering only to Debian Stable netinst.

Arehandoro commented on 28 November 2017 at 11:10 am UTC

AnxiousInfusionThere are no firewall rules out of the box, whereas I believe Mint comes with gfuw configured.

Do you know if there is there a way to load a preconfigured gfuw, let's say from the one in Mint, onto a fresh Debian install?

Thanks!

g000h commented on 28 November 2017 at 12:09 pm UTC

To be honest, out of the box, Debian doesn't need a firewall to be running. The reason being that there aren't any services (e.g. Apache2, ssh server, ftp, NFS, SMB) running to exploit. I guess it also depends on whether you are running anything dodgy on your machine, i.e. you want outbound rules in place. It is also quite a good idea to have your firewall separate from your desktop, anyway. That way if malware were to run on your desktop it couldn't affect your firewall rules.

I quite like using fail2ban as a safe-guard on my Debian (or Ubuntu or Mint) systems. I also like messing around with iptables or netfilter to customise the rules too, e.g. allow access to specific service from specific ip range.

stretch611 commented on 28 November 2017 at 10:24 pm UTC

I'll probably take a little of a smaller step... I like Mint, but I may swap from the Ubuntu derived edition to the Debian one.

debianxfce commented on 29 November 2017 at 5:59 am UTC

Use Debian testing Xfce with Oibaf ppa Mesa dev and a custom kernel from kernel.org. Then you will have bug fixes fast and games can cause many bugs. Debian stable uses years old buggy software. Debian testing Xfce howto, see the second message:
https://www.phoronix.com/forums/forum/software/distributions/926593-distro-for-linux-pc-in-living-room

Arehandoro commented on 29 November 2017 at 10:05 am UTC

g000hTo be honest, out of the box, Debian doesn't need a firewall to be running. The reason being that there aren't any services (e.g. Apache2, ssh server, ftp, NFS, SMB) running to exploit. I guess it also depends on whether you are running anything dodgy on your machine, i.e. you want outbound rules in place. It is also quite a good idea to have your firewall separate from your desktop, anyway. That way if malware were to run on your desktop it couldn't affect your firewall rules.

I quite like using fail2ban as a safe-guard on my Debian (or Ubuntu or Mint) systems. I also like messing around with iptables or netfilter to customise the rules too, e.g. allow access to specific service from specific ip range.

I'm not confident enought to play with iptables :/

Glad to know with Debian isn't so important, I don't have any weird configuration, and will try to give fail2ban a go, thanks

saildata commented on 29 November 2017 at 11:10 am UTC

g000hTo be honest, out of the box, Debian doesn't need a firewall to be running. The reason being that there aren't any services (e.g. Apache2, ssh server, ftp, NFS, SMB) running to exploit.


I am saying this in the most respectful way I know how -- I really wish that this old rumor was (1) true and (2) would fade away. It's not just about Debian, we've all heard it about Linux in general, and it's simply not true. Everyone needs some sort of firewall running on their system (along with other common sense practices/thoughts that you pointed out!)

Something as simple as UFW takes all of 5 minutes to set up, check up on it once a week, or month, and be done. I think Digital Ocean has a pretty solid walkthough last time I checked. Also check out the blog post from a couple years ago titled something like, "My first 10 minutes on a server". 5 minute read worth every second - bullet point, solid advice.

Oh, and be thankful that you don't have to deal with the M$ firewall GUI. That thing is a nightmare.

Cheers -

Edit: It was the first 5 minutes, not 10, which is twice as efficient https://plusbryan.com/my-first-5-minutes-on-a-server-or-essential-security-for-linux-servers

Shmerl commented on 29 November 2017 at 5:16 pm UTC

For desktop usage, I don't recommend using Debian stable. Use Debian testing (or unstable if you prefer). The reason is simply because Debian stable releases are really far apart, and it falls behind quite a bit.

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