[kwlug-disc] What's the best desktop distribution?

Khalid Baheyeldin kb at 2bits.com
Sun Feb 7 19:37:38 EST 2010

>     I can see your point is some (?) years as Drupal settles down.
>>    You've pointed out that Drupal is currently still in rapid
>>    evolution. In your experience / expectation, is LTS, today, reasonable?
>> Ubuntu LTS is indeed viable. I never had something break on me on a server
>> because of an apt upgrade. Shouldn't say "never", but at least I don't
>> recall such
>> an incident.
> You took me the opposite way. What I meant was, if you're in the middle of
> frequent updates anyways, does non-'LTS' really add any significant effort?
> Do you gain / lose much?

Sorry, now I take the question to mean: "If non-LTS forces frequent
upgrades, then what is the value in using them at all?" Hope I got it right
this time?

First, a bit of background: One thing that Ubuntu does which is
disconcerting is that after a while the repositories of non-LTS versions
will be made unavailable, meaning
that you cannot install anything some time after the release becomes

The reason I use non-LTS releases on the desktop is Ubuntu's decision with
8.04. That release was meant to be an LTS release, supported for 5 years for
servers and 3 years for desktops. That was true for servers and the Gnome
Ubuntu. For KDE, the release of KDE 4 caused the Canonical team to decide
that 8.04 will NOT be an LTS release for Kubuntu. I decided to skip 8.04 on
the desktop. When I got a new laptop I installed 9.04 on it since it was the
latest available. That was a very buggy release, and had lots of problems.
Now with 9.10 out, things are back to being both stable AND functional. But
it is not LTS and hence I have to keep upgrading until an LTS comes out.

>  Drupal will not slow down in the foreseeable future, just because the pace
>> of web technology is fast. Even if it does, core may stabilize a bit, but
>> modules will always be in flux.
>> There is nothing stopping a Drupal company from backporting patches to
>> obsolete versions. This has been discussed several times in the community,
>>  but there were no takers.
>>    Or/and is Debian stable a more reasonable platform for production
>>    than Ubuntu LTS server (in these particular circumstances)? Either
>>    way, you're still updating Drupal more frequently / more often than
>>    just 'OS' releases?
>> I have not managed a Debian server long enough to form an opinion,
>> although I helped a few clients with specific aspects of it.
>>  From what I understand Debian stable and Ubuntu LTS are close enough, but
>> I just happen to use the latter.
> I guess what I'm wondering is what Ubuntu LTS gains you over Debian stable.
> I take your points, recently, about Ubuntu vs. Debian. (In fact, I just
> experienced it myself on the new laptop - I had to pull Debian testing off
> in favour of Kubuntu 9.10 - Kubuntu just had more working out of the box,
> like network. Although, unfortunately, not wireless.)

I guess you nailed it: Ubuntu is easier to install, works well out of the
box, and
provides a better Debian.

Wireless depends on the specific cards. The only 2 I have had to do extra
to get working are the Broadcom on a Dell (notorious across distros, not
Ubuntu), and the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 with the iwlagn driver (I
think it
is new or something).

>  One factor is me using Ubuntu desktops,
> I hear you, but I wonder how that relates / matters? Familiarity? (But your
> servers are gui-less, so ...) Just warm fuzzy feeling comfort level? (Not a
> negligible thing, by any means.)

Yes, familiarity, and not having to find that things are not the same.

I use ssh for server, and a mix of GUI and command line for desktops.

aptitude update && aptitude full-upgrade works regardless of which machine
type I am on.

>  Debian's
>> slow pace of updates (perhaps not so much recently) and the reputation
>> that
>> Ubuntu has a few things that are more up to date than Debian's.
> Again, I hear you, but you're building servers. Presumably mostly based on
> rock-solid LAMP. I guess what I'm really asking is, since the desktop has
> more quickly moving hardware (e.g. wireless) than servers,  are there
> current frequent aspects where being more up to date was important (given
> the service / hardware nature of servers), even for servers (these days)?

A few years ago, Drupal was on php4 only. But eventually Drupal supported
php5, and there was a big push to get rid of php4 in Drupal and other LAMP
products. It was a case of ISPs not upgrading because their customers use
php4 mostly, and software products having to support php4 because customers
say ISPs have only php4. Developing object oriented stuff in php4 is painful
since it is not really complete, and for a product to get to the next level,
supporting both php4 and php5 was a real pain (lowest common denominator and
all that).

How is that all related to Debian vs. Ubuntu? Debian stable had only php4 at
one point and for one to get php5, they had to go out of the repository
(defeating the whole Debian stable idea).

This may no longer be an issue with Debian, but it was one reason Ubuntu
Server became popular. And the versions provided by Ubuntu are
current/recent, yet not bleeding edge: a nice tradeoff between freshness and

In most cases, I want a desktop or a sever to "just work". I experiment on a
test machine, but would like my live machines to cause me the least amount
of work possible, whether it is troubleshooting, upgrading, fiddling,

Hope this answers some of your questions at least.
Khalid M. Baheyeldin
2bits.com, Inc.
Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
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