Debian vs Ubuntu: What are the differences?

When we talk about Linux distro, we inevitably have to talk about the most popular ones. Some of them are Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Linux Mint, and others. However, two of the most influential Linux distributions are Debian and Ubuntu. Mother and Daughter are highly popular and take a large portion of Linux users with them, but what are the differences? Which one should you use? Well, this post Debian vs Ubuntu will help you answer these questions.

First, we go with the mother Debian

Debian is a veteran Linux distribution since it began its adventure in 1993. Thanks to Mr. Ian Murdock that after studying in the university, he would create an amnesty that would serve as the bases of what it wanted for its distribution. This was also possible thanks to the contribution of numerous enthusiasts who accompanied him on the way.

The distribution started to grow and grow and is free and community-based, it managed to stand up to distributions with commercial support like Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE Linux. This thanks to the solidity that offers the distribution that makes it very popular in servers as the base of many world services.

Debian also has as main characteristic the stability. And the fact that it wants to be “the universal operating system” makes it compatible with many processor architectures. It also has support for many desktop environments which further customizes the user experience.

It is no exaggeration to say that Debian is one of the most influential Linux distributions around.

Like mother, like daughter

Debian was always very stable and powerful but had earned a reputation for being very difficult to install and use. And then in the Linux community, a man named Mark Shuttleworth created Ubuntu to make Debian, and therefore Linux, easier to use.

Ubuntu is derived from Debian shares many features but over time it has evolved and become more and more distant from its mother. But in many senses for good.

With Ubuntu, we find a more approach towards the novice user. Therefore, the distribution is thought to be easy, elegant but without stopping being stable. It also has a more secure version focused on servers so it is also planted in this sector.

Like all open-source projects, Ubuntu introduces changes to improve user experience. Unlike Debian, it has a pragmatic approach over the idealistic open-source package. For Ubuntu, the main thing is that the user has the best possible user experience.

In both cases, Ubuntu and Debian have similarities and differences between two mature, stable, and popular distributions.

Debian vs Ubuntu: Differences

Comparing Debian to Ubuntu from a technical point of view is not so easy. Therefore, we will focus on those differences that are easier to detect, and that can affect the decision to use it or not from a novice’s point of view.

1.- Supported platforms: Debian supports many more architectures than Ubuntu. For example, in Debian, we find support for amd64, arm64,arm, elarmhf, i386, mips, mips64el, mipsel, ppc64el, and s390x. This means that Debian can be installed on many devices from computers to tablets to mobile devices.

In the case of Ubuntu, only supports for the amd64. Of course, in the field of servers, it supports more like ARM and IBM. But it falls short compared to Debian.

2.- Packages: Debian offers three big groups of packages called main (only open-source software), contrib (partially open-source package. Not maintained by Debian), and non-free (closed code packages). And during the installation, Debian only enables the main packages. Then, it is possible to enable others.

On the other hand, Ubuntu divides them into main (packages that are part of the Ubuntu repositories), restricted (non-open-source packages), universe, and multiverse (third party packages). The main difference is that Ubuntu enables them during installation.

The main consequence of this is that by default, Ubuntu will recognize more hardware than Debian, because it includes many proprietary driver packages.

More Differences…

3.- Development cycle: Debian releases a new version every two years approximately. They have the support for more or less 5 years. So it is not a problem for many.

In the case of Ubuntu, a new version is released every 6 months. However, every two years an LTS version is released with support for 5 years. So, the short-term versions are for enthusiasts hungry for news and the LTS for work and daily use.

4.- Package versions: Here there is a big difference. Debian is too conservative to include packages in its repositories. That is to say, they have to be quite stable and carry the whole line of development of the distribution. For that reason, Debian is very stable because its packages have passed many security tests but it also brings as a consequence that many of them are old.

Ubuntu is something less restrictive in this sense and it is for that reason that every time we see more and more packages within the Ubuntu repositories. They pass less testing and are therefore more novel.

5.- Desktop environments: Debian during the installation allows you to choose a desktop environment. This indicates that Debian treats each of them equally.

In the case of Ubuntu, the desktop environment is GNOME with some modifications made by the distribution. Of course, there are other versions of Ubuntu with other DE’s like Kubuntu (plasma), Ubuntu Mate (Mate) but strictly speaking, Ubuntu only uses GNOME.

6.- External Repositories: In Ubuntu, it is possible to add PPA (Personal Package Archive) which is a personal repository that each developer can create to host their programs and dependencies that are not in the Ubuntu repositories. This makes it possible to install many additional programs for Ubuntu.

Debian does not support these repositories as it considers them a security hole.

7.- Snap – Flatpak: Ubuntu supports both but focuses mainly on Snap as it is a project of the same company. Debian bets on Flatpak and it is not so easy to use snap on it.

Debian vs Ubuntu: Conclusion

Both distributions are great exponents of what users want from Linux: stability, customization, and program compatibility. In this sense, they both fully comply with this.

Even though over time Debian has gained in ease of use, the fact that it does not support PPA and that the installation does not recognize much hardware because of the policy of offering only open-source packages makes it not suitable for novice users.

On the other hand, Ubuntu does since its creation has had the objective of making as many users as possible use Linux. And this translates into many facilities for the novice user who comes from Windows or macOS.

So, I hope this Debian vs Ubuntu will help you get a broader perspective on both Linux distributions.

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