Debian 9

Debian is one of the oldest and most respected distros in the history of GNU, and it recently released version 9, codenamed “Stretch”.  So since it has been a good while since I’ve taken a look at any version of Debian (I used to use the Unstable version as my main OS, but other distros became more appealing to me), so I figured I would install it in a virtual machine to give it a good look.

The Debian I am familiar with uses a text-based installer (an interactive one, not “here’s a command prompt, have fun installing” like Arch), and while Stretch gave me the option, I figured I would try its graphical installer.  I seem to remember trying Debian’s graphical installer before, but I didn’t remember much about it, so I decided to give this one a try.  As I was booting from a netinstall disk, it would have to download a ton of packages from the internet to install, but this was fine — it really didn’t take that long all things considered, and I was up and running fairly quickly.  One nice little bit on the installer was that it asked me which desktop environment I wanted to use, something that other distros should really consider doing.  I know that it might confuse some people, but at the very least, distros like Ubuntu would do a lot of good at least telling people that a default option (now Gnome) is highly recommended, but give them alternatives with some brief explanation of their benefits.  I chose LXDE, wondering why I was not given the choice of the newer and more slick LXQt (maybe they hadn’t made it available in Debian yet?), and everything installed easily and I restarted into a new desktop without any problems.

(Come to find out, Debian does have LXQt available, which made me wonder why it wasn’t offered over the older LXDE during install.  It was an odd choice given that LXQt is basically now the preferred choice over LXDE.  I ended up installing LXQt and using it instead of LXDE.)

After installation, I added the contrib and non-free repositories (what can I say, I’m a terrible person that cannot use an all-Free software distro) and set up everything needed for normal operation.  Since this was going to be a normal desktop, I opted for the use of sudo (if this was a server, I wouldn’t have), and after strugglinig with a stupid mistake in sudoers for a while that made me momentarily think that there was a problem with Debian’s sudo (I had left off the character that specified that the name was a group instead of a user), everything worked out fine in the end.

(An aside: why does Debian use the group name sudo to specify its sudo users rather than the more universally accepted group name wheel?  I mean, in the end it really doesn’t matter, I guess, but come on, Debian.)

My incompetence aside, everything in the end just worked and was remarkably stable, something Debian is long known for and the point of its long and carefully orchestrated release schedule.  This release was a long time coming, and the time between this release and the next major one will be yet another long wait, with packages mostly staying static in the name of stability (and security patches being backported instead of packages simply updated), so essentially, the stable branch of Debian is really not an ideal choice for a home desktop distribution, which mostly requires a system that keeps up with the latest package releases, but as a desktop for office desktops, rarely updated systems, and especially servers, it is an absolutely perfect fit.  Sure, you can roll the dice with the Unstable branch for home systems (there is also Testing, but its packages, when broken, generally stay broken until enough testing and updates are done in Unstable), but Debian is at its best on its Stable branch, and its latest looks like a gem.

Congratulations to the Debian team for bringing out yet another masterpiece that is the shining gold standard by which all other distributions are judged.