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Difference Between Ubuntu and Debian

linux-dbUbuntu vs Debian

There are a lot of Linux distributions to choose from nowadays for those who want to use a free operating system. Debian is one of the earliest distributions that has existed for almost two decades and spawned a lot of other distributions. One of the distributions that spawned from Debian was Ubuntu. Ubuntu forked from Debian in 2004 due to concerns over the very slow cycle of Debian. Ubuntu releases a new version every 6 months which is a huge improvement over the 2 year gap between releases of Debian. But Ubuntu also marks a release for long term support that is relased every 2 years, matching the release cycle of Debian.

Aside from the release cycle, Ubuntu and Debian shares a lot of things in common; a direct consequence of Ubuntu being based from Debian. They use the same desktop environment called GNOME and have the same software installed like open office. Although both of them use software from Mozilla, Debian uses rebranded versions to address the modifications that they did. The Firefox installed in Debian is called IceWeasel and Thunderbird was rebranded as IceDove.

There is also a bit of difference when it comes to the development of both distributions. Ubuntu is backed by Canonical Limited and gets their funding from them. Debian, on the other hand, is developed by volunteers that number in the thousands. Canonical recovers their investment by providing technical support services at a cost to those who need it.

When it comes to the rankings, Ubuntu currently holds the crown as the top dog. Debian once held second place but has been knocked lower recently. This is quite ironic, considering that Ubuntu was developed from Debian. Part of the reason might be because Ubuntu is more user-friendly. And the fact that it isn’t too strict when it comes to proprietary software and drivers makes it a little bit easier for people to use, especially those who are not that knowledgeable in the inner workings of Linux.

Summary:
1. Ubuntu forked from Debian in 2004
2. Ubuntu releases a new version every 6 months while Debian releases every 2 years
3. Ubuntu comes pre-installed with Mozilla programs while Debian runs modified versions of the same
4. Ubuntu has a company backing it while Debian is decentralized
5. Ubuntu is the top Linux distribution with Debian coming in second
6. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution and Debian is somewhere down the list
7. Ubuntu is better for beginners compared to Debian


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8 Comments

  1. - Ubuntu has less QA than Debian
    - Ubuntu has less retro-compatibility and more breakage on upgrades than Debian
    - Ubuntu is not a democracy like Debian
    - Ubuntu is more user-friendly but less user-oriented than Debian
    - Ubuntu has not a social contract like Debian
    - Ubuntu is not as free software oriented as Debian

  2. You have some pretty big flaws here. 1) Ubuntu is not a fork of debian… its a derivative. They share the same upstream and ubuntu re-syncs with them periodically. Without debian, there is no ubuntu. 2) Debian has 2 years between “stable” releases, kind of like a certified level of stablity for mostly servers and mission-critical systems… The packages are however updates quite frequently… in fact, most of Ubuntu’s updates are from debians other branches. 3) Debian does not modify Mozilla applicaitons, just removes the signage (logos/artwork/title) etc over copyright concerns… The applications are identical though.

    Basically, the differences come down to Ubuntu being a branded, packaged, prettied-up version of Debian, that has more tolerance for different licensing. This focus on packaging and appearance often make it more suitable for beginners and newbies, but its important to note that under the hood they are pretty much identical.

  3. There is a major difference not mentioned. Ubuntu fosters community and employs a full time community developer. It has a code of conduct and a philosophy that is meant to be inclusive. Debian on the other hand tends to shun community and encourage eccentrics who come across as zealots and loose cannons. Their philosophy seems to be our way or the highway. People get a positive vibe from Ubuntu while Debian comes across like a prickly pear.

    I have never heard it expressed that Debian is concerned about its image or popularity, either by its users or by the leadership, if anyone even knows who they are. Some Debian users delight in taking potshots at other distros that they perceive to be more successful. That is the only visible sign that all is not well in that camp.

    Debian is a great distribution. Sadly, the same cannot be said for its community which desperately needs some leadership and controls. The weakness of Debian is its user base which is fragmented and fractious.

  4. May I point out that this “fragmented and fractious” way of doing things has enabled Debian to survive for 16 years? It is now the second oldest Linux distro still alive and well and has managed to stay this way in spite of any company backing it. The only other more senior distro, Slackware, has done so by superhuman efforts from one man, and has gone through some rough times when that man has suffered personal hardship.

    So, with respect to survival, out of the oldest and most popular distros out there (Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, SuSE, Slackware), my money will always be on Debian. One man is a single point of failure. A company can go bankrupt (almost happened more than once with Mandrake/Mandriva) or decide they want to shift focus (like Red Hat did when they abandoned the end-user distro to focus on the server side; and no, Fedora is not the same as desktop Red Hat used to be).

    By contrast, Debian has been built around a solid philosophy of survival and principles. You may discount them as “zealots and loose cannons”, but I see a distro with high redundancy, self supported, strongly believing in freedom software. Mark Shuttleworth may wake up tomorrow and decide to discontinue Ubuntu and that would be the end of it. There’s no way that can happen with Debian, precisely because the servers, developers, leadership and community is all decentralized.

    Debian will still be here in 10 years time, bar a massive change in copyright and complete dissapearance of freedom software. Nobody can say the same about Ubuntu.

  5. LinuxCanuck, you’re dead wrong about the community of Debian user. I’ve never came across any of those.

  6. love debian for server environments , love ubuntu for desktop environment , but i have to admit that i’m playing with 9.04 karmic server , testing my debian+gfs2+drbd+heartbeat cluster to see how it will run on a karmic cloud

  7. The rankings mean nothing, and I think Debian is better than Ubuntu, anyway…

  8. I have no experience working with Debian, and I totally respect their project and what they’re standing for
    but you gotta admit having a linux distro focusing on being user-friendly and being used for every-day-tasks and such, is totally essential.
    specially for keeping the image of all linux distros against MSWin.
    for example i’ve advertised ubuntu to 5-6 people, to use it instead of Win/Mac.
    they all love it now. It’s due to it’s working drivers, pre-installed programs , it being user-friendly, etc
    and I use it for simple programming and every-day-tasks myself.
    It’s the same thing actually. the effort that Debian team are putting into their project is going to Ubuntu too.
    I don’t think the Ubuntu community will ever decide to give up on it! it’s the most growing linux distro after all

    the free software idea is what that is important.

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