Debian vs Ubuntu: Choose the OS That’s Right For Your Server

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Debian and Ubuntu have dedicated fans who have a long list of benefits of their favourite Linux distro. 

Even for seasoned Linux users, the debate of Debian vs Ubuntu is ongoing. Both these distributions have a history of introducing innovative features and options that make them an excellent fit for every scenario. In fact, the Debian vs Ubuntu debate has evolved from choosing a distro for your machine. 

For many newcomers to the Linux scene, Debian vs Ubuntu can be confusing because Ubuntu is based on Debian. Likewise, for many users unfamiliar with how forking works, choosing between the two can get very challenging. 

In this short guide, we’ll go into the details of the Debian vs Ubuntu debate and highlight the significant differences between the two popular distributions.

Debian vs Ubuntu: Introductions

Let’s start with a brief introduction of the two very popular distributions.

Debian

Debian is a Linux distribution with a long list of FOSS software. The first version of Debian was released in 1993. Over time, Debian has become the basis for many other distributions (including Ubuntu). That’s why Debian is also known as ” The Mother of All Distributions”. 

Debian was one of the original distributions that made Linux popular as the OS for servers and workstations. Because of its history and continuous innovation, it is still a great choice as the OS for projects that need performance and reliability for distributed, cloud, or cluster-based environments. 

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is based on Debian. This means that the Ubuntu team uses Debian’s packages and modifies them to work with Ubuntu installations. However, unlike Debian, Ubuntu has three distinct editions or flavours; Desktop, Server, and IoT. 

According to many experts, Ubuntu is a popular distribution that powers desktops and servers. In fact, Ubuntu tried to mimic the looks of macOS for their UI to ease the learning curve. This is just one reason behind Ubuntu’s rising adoption rate.  

Now that the introductions are out of the way let’s dive into the significant differences (and similarities) between the two popular Linux distributions.

Debian vs Ubuntu: The Major Differences

The debate around Debian vs Ubuntu is extensive. To sum it up, we have chosen the following points.

The Installation Process

Installation is the first time users come to use their chosen distribution. The installation process determines the first impressions of the OS. 

Between Debian and Ubuntu, many users consider Ubuntu to be easier to install. This is because the Ubuntu install package contains all the required proprietary drivers and software. This simplifies the process and ensures that users don’t miss an important file that compromises the installation process. 

Debian often requires users to download drivers separately, with a predictable impact on the users’ ability to use their Debian systems. 

On a related note, Ubuntu has a more refined-looking installation process with modern-looking screens. On the other hand, the Debian installer appears to be dated with more traditional screens. 

Release Cycles

The release cycle and the process of releasing a stable version are essential in the Debian vs Ubuntu debate. 

Debian has three different releases, Testing, Stable and Unstable. Ubuntu has two release versions, Regular and Long Term Support (LTS). Ubuntu LTS is released every two years with a shelf life of 5 years of support. Similarly, the Regular version is released every six months and provides nine months of support. 

You’ll find that Debian recommends using the Stable release for regular use, with the other two versions suitable for testing and evaluation. 

The release cycle is important because many organizations prefer a distribution that ensures stability and support for a predictable duration. This helps in planning and budgeting for both hardware and infrastructure planning. 

Package Management

Because of their similar roots, both Debian and Ubuntu use similar package management systems to download and install packages. The current options include APT and DPKG. The difference between the two is that APT is often used to install packages from remote repositories, whereas DPKG is used to download deb files.

Hardware Support

Linux is well known for working great with older hardware. This makes it an ideal choice if the replacement cost is considered. 

This is an important point of the Debian vs Ubuntu debate. You should note that Debian supports both 32-bit and 64-bit hardware, whereas Ubuntu no longer supports 32-bit architecture. 

Debian is a better choice for many users if you need sustained performance from older hardware. Ubuntu also does a great job working with legacy systems, but Debian has a better reputation for legacy hardware support.

SUDO Privilege Management 

SUDO users are non-root users who have superuser rights. As you can imagine, managing these users the right way is essential to the security and performance of the system. 

Debian and Ubuntu have their own way of dealing with SUDO users. The difference lies in the way the OS tackles the job. Debian requires manually adding a newly created user into the sudo group by the root user. On the other hand, Ubuntu adds the user to the sudo group by default.

GNOME Support

Both Ubuntu and Debian support the GNOME desktop environment. The difference lies in how GNOME is treated by default and how each OS makes use of the GUI. 

Debian comes with no default GUI, and you have the option to use GNOME as one GUI for your system. On the other hand, GNOME is the default GUI for Ubuntu systems. 

Latest Software Versions

Before we go into the details, it is important to note that the latest software version isn’t always the most stable. So if you are looking for stability and performance, you might want to go with the stable version instead. 

Debian prefers to opt for stability, and you don’t get the latest version of the preinstalled software. The Stable release means you get the best-performing version that isn’t necessarily the newest release. 

Ubuntu also prefers stability, but its release cycle brings in a more recent version of the preinstalled software. 

We believe this is not an essential point in Debian vs Ubuntu. Both OS includes an excellent package manager that you can use to update the packages to your preferred version. 

Conclusion  

Ubuntu and Debian are great operating systems that bring the best of Linux’s stability and performance. While Ubuntu has a more extensive fan base that uses it for everything from development, server management, and daily computing, Debian, on its own, is not used on the desktop side. However, that’s because the various Debian-based distros (including Ubuntu)have become more popular than Debian. The choice can be pretty simple – if you wish to go with the ease of user-friendliness and hardware compatibility, you can go with Ubuntu. Alternatively, if you want to choose higher stability for your applications with simplicity, Debian is always recommended.