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Debian vs. Ubuntu: What's the Difference?

Comparing the Fork to the Root

June 28, 2010

Bruce Byfield

Debian and Ubuntu are distributions that lend themselves naturally to comparison. Not only is Ubuntu a continuing fork of Debian, but many of its developers also work on Debian.

Even more important, you sometimes hear the suggestion that Ubuntu is a beginner's distribution, and that users might consider migrating to Debian when they gain experience.

However, like many popular conceptions, the common characterizations of Debian and Ubuntu are only partially true. Debian's reputation as an expert's distribution is partly based on its state a decade ago, although it does provide more scope for hands-on management if that is what you want. Similarly, while Ubuntu has always emphasized usability, like any distro, much of its usability comes from the software that it includes -- software that is just as much a part of Debian as of Ubuntu.

So what are the differences between these Siamese twins? Looking at installation, the desktop, package management, and community in the two distributions what emerges is not so much major differences as differences of emphasis, and ultimately, of philosophy.


Ubuntu's standard installer places few demands on even novices. It consists of seven steps: the selection of language, time zone, and keyboard, partitioning, creating a user account, and confirmation of your choices. Of these steps, only partitioning is likely to be alarming or confusing, and, even there, the choices are laid out clearly enough that any difficulty should be minimized.

The limitation of the Ubuntu installer is that it offers little user control over the process. If you are having trouble installing, or want more control, Ubuntu directs you to its alternate CD. This alternate CD is simply a rebranded version of the Debian Installer.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the Debian Installer is not particularly hard to use. True, its graphical version lacks polish...

Read the rest of this Debian and Ubuntu story at Datamation.com

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