Get Back to Your Roots, Ubuntu Users

I used Ubuntu once, in Easterville. I did that because EdUbuntu was decent for schools. It was a mistake. Ubuntu has too much top-down baggage getting in the way of using the hardware the way it should be used.

Users of a distro of GNU/Linux need more clarity and flexibility. Ubuntu users should go back to their roots, Debian GNU/Linux. There they will find options are not closed out by some edict. Choice adds to the mix instead of taking away options. Ubuntu has gone its own way. If you don’t see the world the Ubuntu way, go back to Debian GNU/Linux and be free again.

The last week I have been playing around with Debian GNU/Linux’s “testing” branch which will become the next release. It’s about to enter feature freeze and it’s highly usable. There are supposed to be 1K+ bugs floating around in there but not a single one have I encountered. It just works. I do have some issues with using thin clients but there is always a work-around. I can strip the bloatware from the GUI and it works very well.

The answer to most of my issues with the choices made by developers at Debian or Ubuntu lies with the installation. Instead of accepting defaults, I manage the installation in detail and add only what I need. I avoid KDE and GNOME by choosing application that do not depend on those and I get a nice desktop based on XFCE4. Debian’s repository is so large that one can do that and make a lean, mean desktop machine with all the features I need and none that I don’t.

To convert to Debian GNU/Linux you could try using the APT packaging tool but you could end with a broken system since many Ubuntu packages aren’t compatible with Debian GNU/Linux. The procedure I recommend is to do a minimal install (clear all choices like “desktop environment” and “standard”). This will give you a minimal bootable system in which you can add packages.

If you have a CD drive you can download and burn to CD a minimal installation CD like the business card CD for stable x86, amd64, debian-6.0.3-amd64-i386-netinst.iso (works on x86 or amd64), or CD-1 of the 60-CD set for Wheezy/testing. You can copy the .iso to a USB drive if your machine can boot from USB. Just use the .iso as the image of the USB drive.

When you have installed Debian GNU/Linux to your hard drive or SSD drive, simply use apt-get to add the rest. You can use the list of packages I obtained with dpkg –get-selections or make up your own. For mine, use cat package.list_.mp3|dpkg –set-selections. (Note that this is a text file, not an .mp3 file. WP objected to text/something.) Also, note that I installed only the video driver for Cirrus which was used in my virtual machine. You could change “xserver-xorg-video-cirrus” to what you need (lspci can show that) or you could install them all by changing to “xserver-xorg-video-all”. apt-cache search xserver-xorg-video will show you what’s available. My list is 833 packages some of which are already installed in the basic system. Still, it’s 4.1gB, a lot of good stuff. The software not on the CD or USB drive will be downloaded from the web as usual so you should have a local repository or a fast Internet connection.

Of course, if you are reading this and using that other OS, you could try setting up the basic installation by downloading the installer from It’s always fun to use that other OS for it’s own demise. You can keep it in a separate partition but why complicate your life? Note that this procedure can overwrite whatever you have on your hard drive so make backups if you want to keep any of it or know what you can do by partitioning your drives. In Debian GNU/Linux you can install on one partition and keep your data safe on another if you skip the part about “using the whole disk” and choose manual partitioning.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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