As the oldest surviving and purely community-based Linux distribution, Debian has become incredibly mature. It has contributed plenty to the Linux world, from the first package management tool dpkg (built upon by APT), to the foundation for a huge range of distributions. Ubuntu (and its many derivatives), Knoppix, and SteamOS, among many others, are based on Debian.
As a result, the release of a new version is more than just a milestone for the project itself -- its also an event that affects all the projects that depend on it, and the Linux community as a whole. On a personal level, I even remember using it when I was a kid, and was impressed at the time with the amount of games I could freely download from its repositories. It was the distro that started me off in the Linux world!
Though Debian has a cutting-edge (rolling, due to the constantly updating nature of the packages in its repository) Unstable version, its stable releases attract more attention. There’s quite a bit to unpack in Buster; there are the expected upgrades from Stretch, such as kernel upgrades and enhanced UEFI support, to more revolutionary changes, like the switch to Wayland as the default display server.
At Codethink, we have been using Stretch (9.x) since its release in 2017, and a few of our staff have been keen to switch to the latest release. Some have even been on the testing branch for the last year!
“It’s just like Debian 9, but 2 years newer” -- Rob Kendrick (rjek), IRC
It’s not a revolutionary update, but that’s the point. Debian is known for being rock-steady and stable, not for being bleeding edge and experimental. That’s why it’s so popular; its users tend to seek an operating system that’s going to work for the next couple of years and remain stable during that time over others on quicker, more unstable development cycles. Debian is, for example, very popular for use in servers due to this. Q-Success measured that over 20% of Linux servers run on Debian (and almost 40% on Ubuntu).
So, what’s new with Buster? Well, Debian 10 ships with almost 60,000 packages, tested for stability and performance. These include all the essentials -- from the 4.19 kernel, to development tools like GCC and Python, to applications such as Firefox and Thunderbird. They may not be bleeding edge releases, but they can be expected to work flawlessly on a fresh install -- and they are certainly an upgrade from the aging ones included in Stretch.
I asked Ben Hutchings, Codethink developer and Debian contributor, what he thought of Buster. “Most of the big changes are in individual programs [...] I’m pleased that my work over [the last two years] is now available in a stable release.” Though he uses Debian’s testing branch rather than its stable one, he’s happy to see some much-needed improvements in Buster over Stretch: “we finally support Secure Boot [which took] far too long…”
All-in-all, it seems like a solid update.
If you want to give Buster a whirl, you’ll also be pleased to hear it runs on a number of architectures from Intel, AMD, ARM and MIPS, in 32bit and 64bit versions. You can use CDs, DVDs, Bluray discs, USB sticks, or the network to try it out live or to install it, so nothing’s going to stop you from getting it on your hard drive. If you’re running Stretch, then upgrading is easy; APT takes care of it. More info can be found in the release notes.
Download Debian 10 here.
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