Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology


Since version 6.0, Debian has been available with both Linux and BSD kernels, so this category has been needed. Apparently, Gentoo is in a similar place, though its BSD variant has a lower profile than its Debian counterpart.


For a (very) long time, you could have called Debian a Linux distribution without being wrong. The release of version 6.0 of the operating system changed that with the addition of a variant using a BSD kernel too. This new variant comes under the label GNU/kFreeBSD and could be an interesting alternative to PC-BSD.

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.

My time depending on Debian nearly six years ago exposed me to 64-bit computing for the first time and I was left with the impression that I needed to wait longer before trying again. Other than that, I found that it wasn’t too hard to make it satisfy all of my needs.

That was not to be the end of my dalliance with Debian and I still have virtual machines loaded with it today. When version 7.0 was current, I set up one for backing up files with my Dropbox account because I ran into trouble with doing this from live physical PC installations and synchronisation between PC’s was another bugbear. The fact that the world of Debian is slow moving aided the decision and the same VM has been updated to Debian 8.0 using an in situ upgrade that involved a little more nous than merely hitting the right button.

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, and version 8.0 will be supported until 2019, 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.

Another controversial change has been the rise of systemd as a replacement for sysvinit for managing start-up and system services. Though the Debian team did vote for this under the bonnet change, there remained detractors and Devuan has been set up as an alternative project that allows them to continue as they were.

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.

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