Trying Debian Stable for everyday desktop usage

A few days ago I installed Debian Stable. I’d been using Sparky Linux, which is based on Debian Testing, and was happy with it. The tools it integrates make the life of a desktop user easier when managing the system, I had no issues with it and had a bunch of software available in the repositories.

Well, since Sparky is based on Debian, the “bunch of software available in the repositories” part was a given from the start.

Although happy, I was looking for an operating system a bit more conservative in terms of stability and reliability. I’d been inspired very recently by the short OpenBSD usage I had on a virtual machine and some readings about BSD systems, so I thought Debian Stable would be the best choice.

Here are my motives for choosing Debian over, say, CentOS or Slackware or even a BSD system:

  • It’s a Linux kernel based operating system and I’ve been mostly using Debian Testing or Debian-based systems for over a decade, so I’m familiar with it;
  • It prioritizes stability over the latest stable version of a software;
  • It has a lot of software available;
  • It has a very large community.

Almost a week went by and my fears of using older versions of any software (motivated almost exclusively by a potential lack of some functionality) are gone. The system is really stable and I have almost all the tools I need in the repositories. I only needed to install a handfull of apps from external sources (deb-multimedia, github, flatpak and snap) because they were not packaged in the distro’s repositories.

How to install an operating system to a USB drive

Sometimes, maybe for maintenance or data rescue reasons, you may want to have a USB thumbdrive with a GNU/Linux distribution installed. I’m not referring to writing a live ISO to a USB drive; I really mean having the distribution installed like it would be on an hard drive. An easy way to achieve this is using the virtualization software Qemu. Example:

sudo qemu-system-x86_64 -boot d -cdrom void-live-x86_64-20171007.iso -hda /dev/sdb -m 800

In this example, the -hda /dev/sdb part tells Qemu that the device /dev/sdb (the USB drive) must be used as an hard drive.

If you prefer Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch or any other distribution, you can install them this way too. There may be a need to adjust QEMU arguments, but in that case Google is your friend.

This also works with other operating systems that are not Linux based. OpenBSD, version 6.3, can be installed in a USB drive using the same parameters and booted after that.