Since the beginning of the Jabir Project in late 2011 and early 2012, there was a huge question in my mind that Why should I choose Debian or Ubuntu as the base operating system? Why not Fedora? and this question leads me to answers from me, and other people as well. For now, there is a decision of putting most of our personal/industrial products around Debian and Raspberry Pi, I guess the question is worth asking again.
In this article, we’ll review why Debian is the best option for a software platform and then why Raspberry Pi is the best option for hardware projects. This article includes personal opinions of Muhammadreza Haghiri (me, the founder of the project) and opinions from my friends and people around the internet. So consider this paragraph while reading the article.
It always has been a billion dollar question for me. Every time I made a Linux based project, I chose Debian GNU/Linux as the base. I could not answer the question, and not because I had no answer, because I didn’t have an organized answer for the question.
Now, let’s see why Debian is the best base for a new Linux based project, even in 2022?
Although a lot of people may say that the whole history argument is BS, I honestly disagree. The history of Debian is one of the richest histories in the whole computer world, and not only FLOSS. Debian has been started in 1993 and it’s almost 30 years of development and progress. No one can argue that this isn’t valuable.
In these years Debian became the main choice for most of projects and organizations. People made customized projects based on Debian and also installed Debian as their primary operating system. It means a rich history, will give you a good community.
As said in the previous section, the rich history of Debian created a very good community around the idea. A lot of people volunteered to help the project grow and become the project we know and love today. This is the greatest thing that can happen to a free software project, having a big and good community.
People develop and maintain projects and decide about what the project should become next. This is the respect Debian has for its community. Actually the first time I heard Debian is being developed by the community I could not understand what the sentence meant at all, but years later, I found what is the true value of a good community.
Stability (and technical advantages)
Let’s talk about technical issues now. If you’re using Linux for more than a year, you probably heard about Debian being amazingly stable, right? So this is why I still use Debian on my old laptop and also when I want to get a VPS, my first choice is Debian. Stability in general means that crashes do not occur repeatedly and a system modification or update won’t cause a serious crash in the whole system.
Also, Debian is famous for holding very old versions of packages in their stable branch, and they fix issues and bugs with some method called backporting. This is great, isn’t it? Although I never found stable packages super old, but they usually were a little bit old, so what was the solution? Using testing branch. In the testing branch, you can still find that amazing stability and also the newer versions of the software you’re looking for.
Although stability isn’t everything, it made Debian a great choice for most of applications. You probably have a Debian based Linux running on your smart fridge, or your smart espresso machine is running a Debian based operating system as well. This means not only Desktop/Server users, but embedded systems developers and others love the stability of Debian.
Now the time for truth. I have to tell you a memory of my teenage years. I owned an iPod Touch 3rd Generation. It was actually the very first Apple product I owned and it was really different from other devices I had before. I remember those days jailbreaking was actually a thing in Apple community.
Although it wasn’t (and still isn’t) encouraged by Apple, most people used that as a way to use their iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad easier. When you broke the jail of iOS, you could tweak it every way you wanted. Installing custom themes, send or receive files by Bluetooth, installing iPad features on iPhone (or vice versa). A whole new world would be opened for you. The jailbreak process, added a software store called Cydia to your iOS device. And guess what? It used dpkg and apt as the main tools for installing tweaks.
So you basically had a Debian based iPhone, and you even could use terminal emulators to install tweaks and apps using apt directly. This is the influence Debian had on every aspect of the computer world! It made computers much more fun and tolerable!
And even in recent days, I wanted to do some crazy stuff with my phone (Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro) and I installed termux on my phone. You know what? Even termux has an apt based package management system. Although it is known as pkg but it uses both apt and dpkg as backends.
Debian based distributions
Have you ever paid a visit to Distrowatch? If not, please click on this link. You can clearly see that 120 actively developed Linux distributions are based on Debian directly or indirectly. This means Debian is a good base. It provides everything you want, and you can mount your ideas on top of its core idea. Also Debian doesn’t change upstream software that much. They keep most of the code as it is and if they change anything, it’s usually on branding and stuff, not the function of the code.
And I am sure at this point, you are thinking of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is one of the biggest FLOSS projects in today’s world and it is based on Debian (although nowadays it has very major differences, but it still has a lot of inheritance from Debian). Do you know how this big project started? Ubuntu started because Shuttleworth (founder of Canonical, South African Entrepreneur) found Debian hard to install! So what he did was to make it easier for other people and that leads to what we know today as one of the biggest projects of all time.
Why Raspberry Pi?
Unlike the Debian Part, I don’t have a sectioned reasoning for Raspberry Pi. I just explain everything I have in mind about this piece of hardware. First of all, every computer enthusiast I know owns (or wants to own) a Raspberry Pi board. Isn’t it cool? But I have other reasons as well. Which are stronger than the popularity of the board among geeks.
Even with the chip shortages we’re facing (which is the result of a chain of events), A Raspberry Pi is still one of the cheapest options for a general purpose computers and it can be compared with other mini-computers you can find in the market. This makes Raspberry Pi a valuable asset in the current market.
This reason is a little bit personal, but it’s worth being explained here. Since Raspberry Pi came out, I thought of ARM based personal computers. It took a long time for companies to produce ARM based computers (with Apple announcing M1 based Macs in early 2020) but my prediction came true. ARM became the new big thing for the computer industry. So, why not having a well-made ARM based Linux computer then?
At this point, Raspberry Pi can be a good and cheap equivalent for most of those expensive branded computers companies like Apple or Microsoft may make. And there is one more thing! Have you noticed how versatile Raspberry Pi is? It can lead us to make everything we mentioned in Products page true. So this is why there is a huge focus on Raspberry Pi in Jabir Technologies right now.
Now it’s time to conclude. In this article, we just spent enough time to take a look under the hood of Debian and find out what’s happening there. To explain it as short as possible, I have to say because Debian has a rich history, an even richer community, has been the choice of a lot of people in years, has been influencing hackers and developers and at the end, became a good choice for the base of a lot of Linux distributions. This is why Debian is worth being the basis of a brand new operating system.
On the other hand, we talked about Raspberry Pi. We’ve explained how Raspberry Pi can be a cheap and reliable choice for a lot of projects and products we have in mind. So I hope I could explain everything as clear as possible.