I'm not very experienced with servers administration.
I want to give a try to Debian Squeeze for one of our servers (rather than an Ubuntu) to experience the real differences ;)
After reading a lot about those two distrib, I understand the basic difference that Debian is more stable 'cause well tested but not updated as often as Ubuntu...

I'm using daily techs like: Git, Nginx, MongoDB, Node.js, Rails, Django, Php5.3...

So my first expectation was to not find updated packages for these nice pieces of tech.

BUT, I found dotdeb repo where packages are updated often, and that is nice !

So my question is: Is it good to go with a Debian with packages mainly from dotdeb, or to go directly with an Ubuntu... ?
How dotdeb packages fit the philosophy of Debian long and stable releases ?


If you choose to use a third party repository you are kind of breaching the Debian way of thinking with having only very well testd packages in the repository.

I'd go with Ubuntu instead if I was not satisfied with the packages in Debian. Especially when you plan to use most of your packages from dotdeb.


dotdeb.org provides the latest software for php / mysql / etc. which has had littler or no previous testing. So it's good if what you are trying to do is help find new bugs in not very well tested software. Not something you want for a server. Ask yourself if you really need the absolute latest features and are willing to sacrifice stability.

  • Distrib is updated each 2 years approx, but how about packages? I mean, can I expect few updates on them during this 2 years ? :-) (Sorry if it's stupid question) – Jason Lince Jun 13 '11 at 18:17
  • You can expect only security patches which are backported to the version already released. you should not expect updates adding new features. – stew Jun 28 '11 at 16:29

Just as an aside. I hear what everyone here is saying with stable packages, but sometimes Debian stable is just way too out of date for some projects. I do not want to wait another 5 years before MySQL 5.5 is available in stable for example! Many times I have run into issues where packages are just too out of date for what I am trying to develop. Even in Ubuntu LTS this is can be an issue, and I don't want to worry about using the latest "non-LTS" ubuntu and distros going out of date every 18 months :P

I have used dotdeb packages in production systems without any problems so far, but ofcourse always use your discretion with these things. :)

  • This isn't an answer, at best, it should be a comment, although even that is stretching it for ServerFault. – EightBitTony Oct 19 '12 at 22:13

Using distributions such as Debian stable or RHEL means you are stuck to specific package versions for many years, only security patches, serious bug fixes and so on are back-ported to their updates. Debian, RHEL etc are all about stability: not only "we guarantee this will not crash your server" stability, but "we promise software API/kernel ABI does not change" level stability.

For bigger corporations and customers such as governments this is a blessing, since they don't need to be so worried if some update will break their $internal_critical_software.

For those of us who would like to use more recent versions of some software, or some completely new technologies, this is pain. You need to either use 3rd party repositories or compile software by hand if you want to install more recent versions of some software. Both methods effectively invalidate the point of using some "stable" distribution.

If you truly need to live dangerously, don't bother with the stable distros. Use something like Ubuntu (not the LTS), Gentoo, Arch, Debian unstable, Fedora ... and don't complain if something breaks, but be prepared to fix it by yourself. Choosing between stable and greatest-and-latest is all about compromises.

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