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If I go with debian, which has a much different release cycle as ubuntu in general, what are the ramifications of this choice?

From what I understand, I will not be able to use the package management to automatically install software/patches correct?

So that means I will have to download and install whatever I need manually then? (install or actually compile?)

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3 Answers 3

Debian and Ubuntu use pretty much the same package and update methodology as each other. Ubuntu is based on Debian (very very closely, initially) and still remains very close to it, and feeds back into Debian in certain ways too. So from an install/update/patch point of view you will not notice much difference really.

The differing release cycles are key. If you want the latest and greatest package versions then you either want the latest Ubuntu or Debian Unstable (the latter not being recommended for beginners or any machine that serve important roles as it can break often). If you are looking for long term security patch support without upgrading to a new full distro version (which is more risky than just applying security updates and bug fix release) every year or two when an old release is EOLed then one of Ubuntu's LTS releases is a good idea (the last one being 8.04 from nearly-two-years-ago, the next is due this April). For anything between Debian may be the way to go as a much larger range of packages are "officially" supported with regard to timely patches and so forth, where-as only the core repository (i.e. not universe or multiverse) carry any guarantee what-so-ever.

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I want this server to basically run java servlets/jsp using apache/jetty/nginx, and maybe some svn/git. With those requirements, does it really make a difference? –  user2659 Jan 15 '10 at 23:33
    
The only difference that you might see is if the version of java you want isn't in the standard repositories for the stable version of Debian. Even that doesn't have to be a barrier. You can look for a backport or create one yourself. –  Zoredache Jan 15 '10 at 23:54
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If I go with debian, which has a much different release cycle as ubuntu in general, what are the ramifications of this choice?

It means you don't have to upgrade your machine every six months.

From what I understand, I will not be able to use the package management to automatically install software/patches correct?

No, that is completely incorrect. Debian provides security updates and critical bugfixes as long as the OS is supported (which is significantly longer than most Ubuntu releases).

So that means I will have to download and install whatever I need manually then? (install or actually compile?)

Not in general, but it's an important skill to know regardless of what distribution you run, because sometimes you need to run something that isn't packaged for your distribution. I consider it a core sysadmin skill.

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6 months is a little disingenuous - Etch is approaching EOL (which IIRC will happen shortly after Sqeeze is promoted to "stable") more than 2.5 years after release so someone installing Lenny now would presumable have a chunk more than a year (possibly approaching two years) of security patches. For a system that needs to be the same for a long time and won't need much by way of feature upgrades, Ubuntu LTS releases are the way to go. Some of my Debian installs are likely to switch a month or few after 10.04, the next LTS release, goes live. –  David Spillett Jan 16 '10 at 21:26
    
No, on average you need to upgrade your Ubuntu installation every six months. You need to upgrade to each release to get to the one after it, so you're either doing one upgrade every six months, or 3 upgrades every 18 months -- same average. If you only want to use Ubuntu LTS, then that's a whole different comparison -- in that case, it's just like using a low-quality Debian release, with all the same benefits (stationary target) and downsides (updated packages are your own problem). –  womble Jan 16 '10 at 22:04
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I found Ubuntu easier to use that Debian, because more attention was spent organizing Menu panel applet.

In Ubuntu, pretty much every application seems to install a Menu launcher. In Debian, it seemed that every 3rd or 4th package installed without a menu option.

In Ubuntu, I feel that I can find the menu launcher - I have an expectation where the launcher will show up. With Debian, I would need to hunt for a while, and then I would sometimes find the same launcher in multiple places - expect 33% - 25% of the time when I couldn't find any launcher.

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I doubt differences in a GUI menu will be noticed on a system used as server. –  Zoredache Jan 15 '10 at 23:55
    
yeah mine is a server, so not GUI. –  user2659 Jan 16 '10 at 0:11
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