This post is a reflection on at least the past 10 years of my life, how Debian fits into it all. This post goes into a lot of personal issues (including mental health) so if those topics are sensitive to you, perhaps skip this post. With that said our story begins…
How I discovered and installed Linux for the first time
I started using Linux sometime between the ages of eight to ten years old, this is an estimate as I don’t have exact dates only my memories of the events played out. My primary computer at the time was an HP netbook style computer. The netbook came installed with Windows 7 Starter Edition, a somewhat downgraded version of Windows 7. This was common for netbooks at the time. The netbook was small, light, and packed a punch for the time.
Many of my issues with the netbook getting slower probably came from installing sketchy programs. I was into the online video game Club Penguin and had installed a random program that could trick one of the mini-games into giving me unlimited coins, it was pretty cool. Choices like that probably contributed to slowing down my netbook.
My cheating in online video games turned out to be rewarding in ways I wouldn’t understand until much later on in life and lead to new unique discoveries. Even if not under the best circumstances I’m thankful for these experiences as things turned out okay.
I read some blog posts about how Linux could make old computers faster. I became curious as to what Linux is and how it’s different from Windows. As a result, I started looking into how to install Linux and discovered my first and still current distribution of Linux, named Ubuntu. Ubuntu is Debian Linux with user-friendly features added on top along with commercial hardware drivers built into the image and available out of the box. There is some controversy that Ubuntu is not completely free and open-source software because of this change, however, it is a nice mix for the average computer user. The version I started with was Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal), I remember this because it was one of the first versions (Ubuntu netbook edition already had Unity before Ubuntu 11.04) of Ubuntu to use the Unity User Interface.
What has changed since April of 2011
Quite a few things have changed over the past many years. The most important thing to me is I’m a lot more comfortable using the command line making me a more effective Linux user. You can use the command
apt instead of
apt-get to install software (see apt vs apt-get). Ubuntu has made significant progress on its user interface since then. They switched from their custom user interface Unity back to Gnome3 and added their own unique tweaks and elements on top of it. This allows them to take advantage of Gnome’s development team and let them work out the hard part while they focus on designing a better user interface and building it on top of Gnome3.
Debian and Ubuntu have kept up with the latest Linux kernel releases and has continued to support exponentially more difficult hardware due to changing vendor requirements. They both continue to make their operating systems as a whole more secure.
Ubuntu added a new software deployment system called Snappy which adds further isolation to software and automatically keeps it up to date. No more clicking “install update” it just works in the background.
Canonical, the developers of Ubuntu, is a for-profit business that makes money by selling software support services to enterprises. They added a software component called LivePatch to remove the need to reboot to apply critical security updates. It’s an optional service and is not enabled by default.
I became interested in hosting websites and managing virtual private servers
Over time as my interest in Linux grew, I became interested in making simple websites and managing servers. All of these servers ran Debian Linux. My laptop and server management skills both grew over time. I remain super comfortable with the command line and Debian’s unique features and quirks.
I started learning Linux systems administration by learning about Apache and Nginx configuration. Until the end of high school, I preferred Apache. The configuration syntax of Nginx was overwhelming. Over time I overcame this struggle. Today, Nginx’s high speed and advanced configuration are essential tools for developing and deploying web applications.
A brief history of my Linux Distribution Usage over time
Throughout middle school, my primary Linux distribution was Ubuntu Linux. In high school, I had begun seriously struggling with anxiety and depression. A side effect of the mental health issues and medicines was that I became super paranoid.
When you mix these issues with someone with an interest in information security things get interesting.
To protect myself I used a Linux distribution called Backbox Linux. Backbox is a Linux distribution designed for security researchers. It is based on Ubuntu and has built-in full disk encryption. Backbox Linux has a built-in stealth mode. This mode enables special security features and forces all network traffic through the Tor network to hide your identity.
Backbox was a daily driver for me. I learned a lot of cybersecurity, in a mostly negative way, as a result of these issues. Some may say I learned the hard way but with skills that will last a lifetime. This was arguably way more security than I actually needed but it served it’s purpose and served it well.
Since then I’ve moved back to standard Ubuntu Linux on my computers.
What I currently like about Debian Linux
Aside from the my personal history of how I came to use Debian Linux, let’s take a look at what I like about the operating system. The most upfront benefit of Debian Linux is it’s strong security and speed. Debian runs very few programs in the background by default. This makes it very secure as well as fast. It provides a peace of mind as I continue to work through out the day. I like the software Mozilla Firefox and LibreOffice that is bundled with it, and there are a variety of tools available for various programming tasks.
Do I prefer Debian or Ubuntu
This is somewhat of a trick question as Ubuntu is based on Debian. I prefer Ubuntu on my personal computers due to their opinionated user-friendliness tweaks. I also appreciate the amount of commercial driver support Canonical added to it. In order to remain a productive software developer I have to make compromises between freedom and productivity. I lean towards greater productivity. Canonical is working hard to improve the enterprise adoption of Ubuntu. With the Ubuntu Advantage program, it’s easier for large enterprises to adopt Ubuntu. I imagine we will see more computers ship with Ubuntu by default. As more applications are turned into websites, needing Windows or macOS will be less necessary to access commercial software.
Here’s to the next 10 years…
For better or for worse I know Debian and Ubuntu will continue to be around. They will improve my life and computer use as a whole. I can’t wait to see what happens next.