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Old 05-29-2017, 08:02 PM   #1
ailhorns
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Question Need major distro recommendations for stability, security...


New linux user here. Clean installed Ubuntu 17.04 on a new laptop and new desktop, having stability issues and general unreliability and inconsistent behavior.

My goal is to setup the machines and not have to do a lot of care and feeding.

Here are my priorities:

security
stability
and to run/configure the following:
whole drive encryption
a firewall
firefox
chrome
keepassxc
truecrypt
syncthing
inkscape
private internet accesss (PIA) VPN
and virtualbox with extensions.

I've tried the Live CDs of Debian stable with all the flavors available, and I like Cinnamon the best.

If I do Debian stable, will I be able to upgrade/update PIA or Virtualbox or syncthing as newer versions come out?

What major distros would you guys recommend, given my desires? I say major distros to maximize my ability to search for help online.

Any help would be appreciated!
 
Old 05-30-2017, 07:13 AM   #2
dejank
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If you were more for stability, you should have installed Ubuntu 16.04. Those are LTS releases, 17.04 is like test edition, when it comes to Ubuntu. Anyway, Debian stable is both stable and secure. You should think of waiting a bit for new Debian version, Debian 9 will be released in some 2 weeks, or so. Though you can install it now, or install jessie and upgrade to it. As for upgrading your packages to newer versions on debian stable, answer is both yes and no. You will be able to upgrade some packages, if you know what you are doing, to newer versions. But in that case, you are not running pure Debian stable anymore, which might, or might not effect stability. But, all in all, if I have to recommend some distro based on stability and security, as well as potential ability to run newer software on it, it would be Debian. Slackware too, but it would require much more work and you would have to do much more things manually.

edit: Oh, yes, for Cinnamon. It looks nice, on Debian stable it can be pretty stable too, but it is not glitch free. If you are looking for really stable desktop environment, it might not be for you. At least in my experience with it.

Last edited by dejank; 05-30-2017 at 07:15 AM.
 
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:54 AM   #3
Shadow_7
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With debian stable (the only one that is actively patched for security), you would probably have to compile the newest of the things from source. Although a lot of the heavy hitters target debian stable with pre-built packages. Otherwise ubuntu LTS if the source has requirements that need newer libs and stuff than offered in debian stable. Stretch should be stable soon, so less of an issue, but give it time.

The last time I used slackware I had to slap a debian kernel on it to boot. And was otherwise horrified that you had to build distro specific packages as actual root. Debian offers a fakeroot route to generate the .deb's, so you only ever install .deb's as root and can build the .deb's as a lowly user. As long as the ./debian/ stuff is available in the sources. You can still make install as root, but I prefer to use the package system as much as possible since it's easier to uninstall in a kind of trusted way, and conflicts with other things don't go unnoticed. How odd, this seemingly simple text editor sure has a lot of lib_overly_complex_VPN.so stuff going on, and replaces libGL.so with lib_totally_not_the_NSA_GL.so. Versus make install, this editor sucks, make uninstall, no rule for target uninstall.
 
Old 05-30-2017, 08:13 AM   #4
hydrurga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ailhorns View Post
New linux user here. Clean installed Ubuntu 17.04 on a new laptop and new desktop, having stability issues and general unreliability and inconsistent behavior.
Could you expand on this please? It doesn't really tell us a great deal about what problems you experienced.
 
Old 05-30-2017, 08:25 AM   #5
Turbocapitalist
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ailhorns View Post
Here are my priorities:
[snip]
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS will meet those and it is good until April 2021. Between now and then you'll have the chance to hop off to 18.04 LTS or 20.04 LTS should you deem them better.

Non-LTS releases are somewhat experimental and given your requirements you should avoid them.

Cinnamon 2.8 or around that is available for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. You also have the option of adding bleeding edge versions of Cinnamon via Ubuntu's PPA's, but then you get back into the experimental zone.
 
Old 05-30-2017, 09:49 AM   #6
JeremyBoden
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ailhorns View Post
New linux user here. Clean installed Ubuntu 17.04 on a new laptop and new desktop, having stability issues and general unreliability and inconsistent behavior.

My goal is to setup the machines and not have to do a lot of care and feeding.

Here are my priorities:

security
stability
whole drive encryption
a firewall
If I do Debian stable, will I be able to upgrade/update PIA or Virtualbox or syncthing as newer versions come out?
Any help would be appreciated!
firefox
chrome
keepassxc
truecrypt
syncthing
inkscape
private internet accesss (PIA) VPN
and virtualbox with extensions.

I've tried the Live CDs of Debian stable with all the flavors available, and I like Cinnamon the best.
Try LMDE - it's a rolling update of Mint; but based upon Debian, rather than Ubuntu.
You won't get the latest and greatest (because its based on Debian Stable/Testing) - but you will get stability.
 
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Old 05-30-2017, 02:26 PM   #7
jefro
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Almost no computer is tested with linux. The way MS works internally is different than linux so your machine may never be stable. Be sure to look for reasons why it may be unstable.
 
Old 05-30-2017, 03:09 PM   #8
trumpforprez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ailhorns View Post
security
stability
I use Debian and it's the most secure distro I know. (So if anyone knows more - please feel happy to chime in).

To use Debian on 'ultra-safe' mode, you'll need to have compatible hardware which allows you to run Debian on 'main' only.
Your Debian etc/apt/sources.list should not have entries for 'contrib' and 'non-free'.
Essentially, this means your hardware manufacturers must comply with Debian's demands for open source, non-proprietary drivers.
You will need an Intel cpu for starters and find out which motherboards and gpus are 'Debian-friendly'. If your laptop has an ARM processor then you'll need to find out if it can run successfully on Debian 'main' only. Sorry, I don't have a laptop.

I run Debian with main, contrib and non-free. It's ok.
However, pure Debian is meant to be run on 'main' only and that is its most secure state. In other words, security is not just about the OS - it's also about the hardware you use.
I don't think any other distro has this kind of idealistic philosophy when it comes to security. It seems, if Richard Stallman used a linux distro, then it would be Debian.

Quote:
and to run/configure the following:
whole drive encryption
a firewall
firefox
chrome
Why Chrome? It's actually called Google Chrome. That's not good news bro.
Consider Firefox with NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere add-ons. Also DuckDuckGo as your sole search engine.

Quote:
private internet accesss (PIA) VPN
and virtualbox with extensions.
VPN is obviously the best choice. I have had difficulty installing free OpenVPN and even free Tails (tor). So it's possible you can no longer get internet anonymity for free. You have to pay for it.

Also, free webmail is dodgy.

Quote:
If I do Debian stable, will I be able to upgrade/update PIA or Virtualbox or syncthing as newer versions come out?
It is best to install and upgrade all your programs from the Debian repository. That way, we know the Debian people have looked at the source code.
Of course, if the upgrade is not in the Debian repo, then you can go to a third-party website and download whatever software over the internet just like you can with Windows!

Quote:
What major distros would you guys recommend, given my desires? I say major distros to maximize my ability to search for help online.
Debian requires a learning curve and an acceptance of using the command line. But it's worth it. It's the future.
Windows teaches us to only read. Debian teaches us to read and write.
Ubuntu has very good help online and often sorts out Debian problems (IMO). But Ubuntu is not as secure (IMO).
Arch Linux is very well-known for its online help documentation. And I think Arch is secure like Debian too.
 
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Old 05-30-2017, 03:13 PM   #9
hydrurga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trumpforprez View Post
It seems, if Richard Stallman used a linux distro, then it would be Debian.
He uses Trisquel.

https://stallman.org/stallman-computing.html
 
Old 05-30-2017, 08:57 PM   #10
ailhorns
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Thank you all for chiming in. I need to learn more about pros/cons of stable releases vs rolling releases and how they affect security and stability - I'll plan to start another thread on that, but if any of you have some thoughts on it, I'd welcome them.

It sounds like Debian, Slackware, and Arch are the major distribution secure/stable choices. I believe Slackware and Arch are more than I'm bargaining for at present, so I'll focus on Debian, unless I find out that what I'm really looking for is a rolling release (I don't know).

@dejank and @turbocapitalist, thanks for the responses. I didn't realize that Ubuntu was based on Debian testing/sid until after I started having issues. I'm not especially interested in the LTS even now. I guess I will have to experiment with Debian's Cinnamon. And I think I'll probably do Debian's Stable - as the apps I've mentioned will probably be a newer versions if they just froze the testing in the last few months (at least I'm hoping).

@shadow - When you say heavy hitters, do you mean really popular software applications?

@hydrurga - logging in only to have the desktop go black and push you back to login again. or installing the same software on both machines, and sometimes it starts up and sometimes it doesn't (even after removal and reinstallation). or "system program problem detected". or inability to create a startup USB drive. or ....

@JeremyBoden - hmmm. Very interesting. I didn't know about a Mint flavor coming directly from Debian. When I looked it up, it looks like the user base is on the small side, and I will probably need more help that what is readily available. Thank you for presenting it to me though.

@jefro - while I don't doubt you at all, this is disconcerting, specifically, the "your machine may never be stable" part. I want the machine to turn on, let me log in on the first correct password, not freak out and hang if I lock the user session or log out, and generally run/execute the programs that are supposed to run/execute at boot or login, without exception. I hope that I can find a distribution that will do this on my desktop and laptop.

@trumpforprez - thanks for answering whether or not I'd be able to install software from a third-party. for all I could tell, Debian Stable might block it somehow. I have heard about Arch, but it's beyond my learning curve at the moment.
 
Old 05-30-2017, 10:27 PM   #11
RadicalDreamer
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Stable release = Windows prior to Windows 10, rolling release = more like Windows 10 insider but more stable. There is CentOS which is a free build of RHEL. PCLinux OS is another rolling release like Arch. There is Gentoo if you want to compile from source. I think most of the stuff you want would be found in the official and trusted community repositories of whatever you choose. I can only advocate for what I use. Distrowatch is helpful in seeing whats in the official repositories.

How old is the hardware in the computers? It is best to stick to Linux LTS Kernels unless using really new hardware. I think Linux 4.4 was released early 2016 and 4.9 was released late 2016. After the code freeze they fix bugs and security issues while providing long term support for these branches. Linux is on 4.11 now.

Last edited by RadicalDreamer; 05-30-2017 at 10:28 PM.
 
Old 05-31-2017, 05:56 AM   #12
JeremyBoden
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A rolling distro is one that is continuously updated, so it never needs to be reinstalled.
A non-rolling distro, whilst continuously updated for minor updates & security patches, is intended to be reinstalled periodically - 2 years seems to be common.

Stability is just a reflection of how severe the testing is, before release of any software.
Expect stable software to be from an older release than a less stable distro.

I'm not sure that using recent Kernel releases is all that important - I'm still using a kernel released 3 years ago.
 
Old 05-31-2017, 06:38 AM   #13
wpeckham
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The most stable distributions are very conservative and are stable and supported for longer periods.
Think Debian stable with the oldest desktop out there. (Value in avoiding the newest, but go for the oldest supported desktop). Examples of stable distibutions: suse (paid), RHEL (paid), CentOS.

These maintain stability be using an older kernel with backports only for security. They use older application packages that have a proven record of stability instead of trying to keep up with the latest options. They are excellent, and both perform and serve well: perfect for business use.

In the free and far more exciting distributions you can either sacrifice a LITTLE stability for significantly newer and more powerful software options on a more recent kernel, or sacrifice a LOT of stability to run the cutting edge versions and newest kernel.

Most people go for the compromise, some of us live on the cutting edge, and a few run multiple environments: selecting the amount of risk we are willing to live with for each different install and purpose.

In your case, Debian Stable (the pending release) or CentOS 7 seem excellent options. With CentOS I would stick with the default desktop and always take the most default options: this gives the greatest stability. (And the most boring desktop, but if you want stable then that is the right option.) With Debian I would go with something like GNOME by default if I have lots of memory and CPU, but for a thinner and faster desktop that uses less memory perhaps LXDE.

Personally, I run the most stable distributions on servers WITHOUT a desktop (no X.org or other xwindows replacment). When I build a workstation or laptop, I am willing to go for a bit more risk and get newer and more exciting options.
For a little risk and different desktop options think Void, Sparky, Q4OS, Elementary, Mint (I prefer MintDE, but all mint is good), VSIDO, Fedora, or any of a dozen others that make an excellent and attractive desktop with SOME stability but also some risk of instability. But I like loading and reloading new distributions every little bit. (YMMV)

I hope that helps.
 
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Old 05-31-2017, 08:59 AM   #14
Shadow_7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ailhorns View Post
@shadow - When you say heavy hitters, do you mean really popular software applications?
I mean distros and companies with PAID staff. The kind of awareness for vulnerabilities these days is not something that one person who made their own distro can keep up with over a dial-up connection on their spare time out of the goodness of their heart.
 
Old 05-31-2017, 11:35 AM   #15
DavidMcCann
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1. I don't think that Ubuntu LTS actually undergoes any more testing than the other releases; it's just the one they keep supported.

2. Arch is not famed for stability: it's very bleeding-edge. It can be reliable, but for experienced users who know what they're doing.

3. On the question of getting more up-to-date software, the practice of backporting helps.

For Debian, this means making newer versions available in a form that is compatible with the Stable release:
https://backports.debian.org/

For CentOS, it means incorporating security fixes into older versions
https://access.redhat.com/security/updates/backporting
In this case you don't get the newer programs.

4. For you, I think Debian Stable is the best bet. Don't forget that there are distros that use the Debian repository, but will set you up with a different user interface if you dislike Gnome: MX for Xfce and Point for Mate.
 
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