Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Debian & Derivatives

Debian is one of the oldest Linux distributions and has spawned many of derivatives, with Ubuntu being the most notable of the lot. It, too, has a range of ports that include one using a BSD kernel (GNU/kFreeBSD) too. Mainly though, it is the x86 and AMD64 architecture Linux variants that get the most attention.

After all, I do have something of a soft spot for Debian, mainly because it was loaded on a backup machine that was pressed into service when my main home system went belly up on me in 2009. It may attract its aficionados (and there is an administrator’s manual so that gives you an idea of who gets attracted to the OS) but that does nothing to detract from its usability based on my experience of using it. Well, Ubuntu did start from a good base when it did.

That was not to be the end of my dalliance with Debian and I still have virtual machines loaded with it today. The fact that new versions of the operating system may not come around very frequently can be an attraction that is lost on those who always want the latest software. When it comes to GNOME Shell, maintaining the same version longer than six months and wondering if favoured extensions will get updated to a new version has something going for it. Long-term support helps too, a growing trend in the world of Linux.

The changes introduced with GNOME 3 have been contentious and the Debian team has toyed with using other default desktop environments yet always returned to it regardless. Still, the range of desktop environments that you can use with Debian has expanded with both Cinnamon and KDE being options that come to mind and there are others.

As you might tell, I do have a soft spot for Debian and its focus on stability is at the heart of that. Maybe that is why so it has so many variants, like Ubuntu and Linux Mint, to name just two. Whenever a new version does appear, it may not have the latest versions of software, but there are times when experimentation needs to be tamed and it is good to know that upheaval hardly is a regular occurrence either.

More Options Based on Debian

So many other distros are based on Debian that there needs to be a list of them on here. Ubuntu and Linux Mint are the most notable of the lot, but there are many others, as you will see below. Others may fall in more specific functional listings that you can find via the sidebar.


An up-and-coming Ubuntu derivative that uses the Enlightenment desktop environment.


This is another derivative of Ubuntu that is gaining favour thanks to the elegance of its desktop. That it’s essentially GNOME 3 is saying something about how GNOME Shell can be customised too.


When Debian changed from sysvinit to systemd for managing system start-up and services, there were those who disagreed strongly with the decision. Though the Debian team did vote for this under the bonnet change, the detractors set up Devuan as an alternative downstream project that allows them to continue as they were.

Elementary OS

It has Ubuntu at its heart, but a lot of work has happened to make it feel as if that isn’t the case.


What you have here is a Swedish respin of Deepin Linux. From the website, it appears that freedom is a concern but there needs to be more made of the reason for doing what they are doing.


This is not a full desktop option since it contains many system utilities for maintenance and recovery. What you get on startup is a root command line with everything available to you.


If you can forego the support that Linspire offers its customers, then this can come to you free of charge. The basis here is Ubuntu with different choices like the inclusion of Flatpak as well as a different software selection that includes the Brave browser and OnlyOffice.


This is a remix of Debian that uses the Zsh shell that runs exclusively as a live distro, either on a DC or on a USB flash drive.


If I recall correctly, this was the first-ever distribution to offer a Live CD version of itself and the innovation has taken off to the level that almost all of its competitors now offer the same. Its creator also writes a helpdesk column for Linux Magazine.


Until the 12.04, release this was sponsored by Canonical, but that has changed with Blue Systems taking over for the 12.10 release. It remains the KDE flavour of Ubuntu despite this and that seems to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

Linux Lite

As the name suggests; thus, Ubuntu variant is suitable for older computer hardware. Also, it is based on LTS releases of Ubuntu, so there is no need to upgrade every six months either.

Linux Mint

The main distro may be based on Ubuntu, but there is a Debian-based version, LMDE, too. The latter only comes with the Cinnamon desktop environment while the former comes with Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce. My everyday choice has been the Cinnamon edition based on Ubuntu even if the Debian version has been checked out for a time as well; LMDE felt a little clunkier to me so I am staying mainstream for my purposes. All in all, Linux Mint feels far more community-oriented with less drama, which is why it gets my vote for everyday computing.


One of the promises here is the running of Windows applications using Wine along with the running of Android apps. Also, the chosen desktop environment is KDE Plasma.


Debian & Derivatives

The first place I ever tried Lubuntu was on a now elderly Asus Eee PC netbook. LXDE is the desktop environment choice here too and it’s very lightweight and so fits the bill for netbooks and PC’s that are getting on in years. The included software is chosen for being lightweight, so Chromium appeared instead of Firefox, but the accessibility of Ubuntu repositories meant that LibreOffice and the aforementioned Firefox never took long to appear on where I installed Lubuntu. Originally, it was an independent project but it impressed Mark Shuttleworth enough to gain official support such that new versions now appear on the same day as the main Ubuntu release itself.


The website for this project disappeared for a while but it seems to be back again, so the entry reappears in this list. It is yet another lightweight distro for use on an ageing computer, as if Linux does not provide enough of these already. However, each has their own aesthetics so that may have something to do with the number of available options.


In the first decade of the century, Warren Woodford created a distro called Mepis, but that project was discontinued in 2009. In response, members of the antiX and Mepis teams came together to create MX as a successor to Mepis. Today, the project remains active, and the latest version comes with XFCE, KDE and Fluxbox desktop environment choices. The antiX involvement adds a little extra computing efficiency too.


When Kubuntu existed, the need for this was lost on me, but the continued existence of this project will serve those who were left without an option after the official Ubuntu derivative. The effort is sponsored by Blue Systems.


Here is one of the strap lines for Nitrux: Powered by Debian, KDE Plasma and Frameworks, and AppImages. The last on the list refers to an ongoing trend for packaging applications within containers for desktop usage. All you need to do is drop the AppImage file somewhere, make it executable and run that.


There was a time when this Turkish distro made something of a splash, but those days are gone and I even thought the project was moribund only to get corrected. As it happens, both GNOME and XFCE desktop environments are offered for your choosing.

Peppermint OS

Both Debian and Devuan form the basis for spins of this distro. XFCE is the chosen desktop environment so that should be more than usable for most.


If you buy a computer from System76, then Pop!_OS is the operating system that you get with it since the project is orchestrated by the same company. You can download installation media for other computers too and the target audience includes those working in science, technology, engineering and mathematical sectors as those who are content producers. There is a bespoke desktop environment called Cosmic in place of more commonplace options.


Prague appears to be the development HQ for this distro these days. For desktop environments, it has KDE but also a unique choice in the less well-known Trinity, and it has dual desktop capability. Another interesting feature is the way it runs alongside Windows. It also runs on ARM as well as x86.


This is a packaging of software from Debian’s unstable branch, always called Sid and so the inspiration for the name of this distro. There are quarterly releases and five desktop environments are on offer, GNOME, LXDE, XFCE, KDE SC and Razor-QT. For whatever reason, there is a version with no desktop environment at all, but that might be for the sort of DIY enthusiast who enjoys the likes of Arch.


Using the testing branch of Debian, this rolling release distro comes in E17, LXDE, MATE and Razor-qt flavours. There’s also a command-line edition for those wanting to build their desktop environment instead of having it pre-packaged for them.


What you have here is a respin of Debian that uses its software repositories directly while adding a dash of added user-friendliness. It probably is for those who want to stay closer to the Debian base than Ubuntu does, yet a recent magazine review commented that Ubuntu does user-friendliness better anyway. Even so, Debian does not offer live DVD/USB images like you get here.


Debian & DerivativesIt was Ubuntu that steered me into the world of full-time Linux usage after a series of Windows XP meltdowns.  In contrast to earlier dalliances with Linux, all of my hardware was supported without any bother and everything seemed to work straight away. Whatever issues I faced in those early months, there seemed to be an answer in an Ubuntu forum or blog for my problem even if some needed a spot of thought when it came to their implementation.

Ubuntu Budgie

Budgie may be an upstart desktop environment, but that has not stopped an official Ubuntu spin from using it. Things look swish so it will be interesting to watch this.

Ubuntu MATE

In a sense, this is going back to how Ubuntu was before the arrival of GNOME Shell or Unity, both of which caused controversy, and it is a community effort and not one sponsored by Canonical. With Linux Mint having the MATE desktop too, you might be tempted to ask what this offers but the decision by the Linux Mint team to go exclusively for a long-term support model answers that. In contrast, the next release of Ubuntu MATE will be 14.10 so you get an intermediate release this way and in situ distro version updates should be a possibility too, another practice that the Linux Mint team reckons is undesirable. It will be interesting to see how many go for this.

Ubuntu Studio

This is a spin of Ubuntu for content creators. Here, the focus is on audio, graphics, video and photography. The main desktop is KDE but you also can add the Ubuntu Studio experience to other favours of Ubuntu, increasing the choices of desktop environment.


This is a French project with variants based on Debian and on Ubuntu. The website has sections about gaming and ChatGPT, among other things. For English speakers, text comes up in French before converting to English; patience is needed to avoid confusion.


This is a variant of Ubuntu using the Xfce desktop environment. As such, that makes it a bit lighter on computer power than the main distro would be. Having tried it a few times on various machines, it remains very usable and has a more conventional user interface too.


From the website, this would appear to be a mail server operating system that has a user-friendly feel to it. However, Linux Magazine has left me with the impression that its talents go beyond this and that activities like serving websites are supported. These are things that I have yet to explore with the VirtualBox instance that I have set up to see what it can do.


This distro is mocking up its desktop environments to ape those of Windows and macOS, and is its major selling point. That’s not all, since they are selling laptops with the OS installed on them too. Additionally, enterprise management services are another product line here.


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