Running Debian Testing (a.k.a. Jessie)

Debian is known for its rock solid, stable releases. Unfortunately these releases tend to contain packages that are somewhat dated, because they have been stabilised for a while before they were finally added and Debian is released. This can be somewhat frustrating.

Recently “rolling release” distributions have become more popular. I believe that this is in large part due to ArchLinux, which is a popular rolling release distribution. ArchLinux is a fine distribution, but it tends to be somewhat low level. Installation for example is limited to (text mode) terminal commands. A good learning experience for sure, but not for everyone.

Another option is to use Debian Testing.”Testing” is now what is going to be the next release of Debian once it has stabilised.”Testing” contains newer packages than the current release and depending on the type of application this often means the newest release.When the freeze happens,”Testing” will stop including new packages in order to stabilize to become the next release. The stabilization period is supposed to be short, although this is not always the case. You can help with this by running testing and reporting bugs as you find them.

After the release has happened you can decide to keep using the current release, as the package manager is often configured to get packages based on the name of the release which by then has officially been released. Or you can change this to ‘testing’ to keep yourself on “Testing” indefinitely.

My experience thusfar is that even Debian Testing is pretty stable. I have not had a serious breakdown in quite a while, although I have temporarily had a program that segfaulted. This was quickly fixed however. As you understand you should not do this on a computer that is of critical importance. Basically, if you require this computer to work at all times, don’t take the chance.

Debian Testing contains packages that have “soaked” for a few days in unstable. If within that time problems are detected, the package will not be promoted to Testing. This helps to ensure that you do not get caught by biggest/baddest mistakes. If this is enough insurance for you and you want Debian with newer packages than what is currently available in Debian Stable, give it a try!

Also: Start updates with ‘apt-get -u upgrade‘ in order to: 1. see what’s being offered, and 2. prevent accidentally deleting packages that get removed due to missing dependencies. Do ‘apt-get -u dist-upgrade‘ once in a while when you have some time to carefully check wat is being proposed. ‘dist-upgrade‘ is more enthusiastic and will remove packages if required.


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