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Mon, 20 Dec 2010

5 Reasons why Debian Unstable is Not for End-Users

Debian unstable is not conceived as a product for end-users, and for very good reasons. There seems to be some misunderstanding and people trying to push end-users to use unstable. This blog post tries to address the claims raised and put them into proper light.

1. It contains mainly stable versions of the software

The critical part here is the term mainly. Yes, developers are advised to only upload packages to unstable that they deem to be suitable for the next stable release. This is no hard requirement though and no one actually playing a gate-keeper enforcing this recommendation. Also, there is a fine amount of packages that follow either VCS snapshots or development branches, and only time can tell how stable those releases actually are. That's actually why there is a delay of several days before a package can transition over to testing.

2. It doesn't break badly every other day

That's right—but if you look at it, it also means that it does break badly eventually. And if you don't know how to move on from there, including knowing the location of maintainer scripts and how to edit them in those cases, or even resort to a rescue system, you are in troubles.

3. It's the basis of other distributions

That's right in itself too, but it doesn't address the fact that those other distributions do put a lot of effort into quality assurance to work around the most nasty and annoying bugs that do affect unstable every other day.

4. It's not inherently less secure than Stable or Testing

It's not inherently more secure than stable or testing either. And this is also ignoring the fact that some security bugs don't even get into stable or testing, they only affect unstable and have to get addressed just there.

5. I use it on my main computer

This is the reason that you should ignore as most. People using unstable are often enough deeply involved into Debian maintenance, know how to write maintainer scripts, know where they are located in case of troubles, know how to use a rescue system in case of bootloader or kernel troubles. Just think about whether you would consider yourself to be at the same knowledge level than the person who wrote the blog article you read that used this as a convincing argument.

Conclusion: Stories always have several truths attached to them. If you feel adventurous, like to understand what's going on and have a tendency for digging into things that go wrong, you most probably are using unstable already anyway and are reporting bugs that you find along your way. If you on the other hand rather just want to use your computer and don't want to work around (smaller) bugs every other day, you rather should stick with the release that is actually provided as purpose to suit the needs of end-users: stable.

/debian | permanent link | Comments: 19

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