20 Jun 2017

Why I will not write a full-feature review of Debian 9

Debian 9 is out. It has been released on the 17th of June 2017.

Its codename is Stretch, which is yet another character from the Toy Story animated film.

It is available for download in both Install and Live versions, and Live version is available in many flavours: GNOME, KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, LXDE and so on.

I hope you will read the review of Debian 9 somewhere else, but I will not feature it on my blog.

There is a reason. Even more than one...

To start with, I wanted to write a review of Debian 9. I really did! I started with Debian 9 Cinnamon, which is a relatively new addition to the family. It is obviously not the default flavour of Debian, but GNOME is.

I “burnt” the ISO image onto the USB stick I have and booted the Live operating system from it on my Dell Inspirion 17 laptop.

And I was disappointed.

To start with, Debain 9 Stretch failed to configure the Wireless network card on my computer, which is Intel Corporation Wireless 3160 (rev 83). I understand that iwlwifi is a non-free component, but all the distributions I tried before on the same laptop managed that difficulty. And only in Debian...
[   10.699973] Intel(R) Wireless WiFi driver for Linux
[   10.701341] Copyright(c) 2003- 2015 Intel Corporation
[   10.702914] iwlwifi 0000:02:00.0: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   10.706207] iwlwifi 0000:02:00.0: firmware: failed to load iwlwifi-3160-17.ucode (-2)
[   10.707478] iwlwifi 0000:02:00.0: Direct firmware load for iwlwifi-3160-17.ucode failed with error -2
Then, when I looked at the bottom-right corner of the panel, I saw an empty space in the notification area. Strange, thought I and moved a cursor to that part of the screen. What was my surprise when I realised that was not an empty area! There was a keyboard layout indicator "en". It was written in deep-blue coloured thin font on deep-grey background of the panel.

Do you see the "en" letters?

Has anybody from the Debian team tried to boot this operating system at all? Do they have better eyes than I do? Have they even checked the visual design of their baby?

And finally… I wanted to create a folder in the Nemo file manager. It was created as Unnamed Folder and waited for me to rename it. But stop, how would I guess that I could edit that?

Ah, by typing some text on the keyboard… in a blind way!


I may be too picky, but Debian is not a distribution that can afford any glitches, either in software or design. It should be polished to the very fine detail.

Unfortunately, I have not seen that in Debian 9 Cinnamon. I’m disappointed.

Bye-bye, Debian… until next release!

PS. Another review on the same note...


  1. Yeah, sometimes Debian is not the best polished distro.
    Maybe you can get a better experience trying other desktops I think.
    Debian is well tested against bugs but some people doesn't count bad user experience as bugs... unfortunately.
    That's why Debian is so good being a base distro for other derivatives where things are more polished.

    1. My previous experience with Debian was also bumpy. Sometimes it works well, sometimes some strange issues come out of very unexpected places.

  2. First of all a simple Google search would tell you that error -2 is "File not found".
    Second, you should also know that Debian does not ship with non-free components whatsoever. You can add those afterwards if you want/need to.
    Third, the "EN" in blue is due to iBus, it is the same in every Linux distribution out there and it's iBus' fault, no Debian, for not letting the user change the color.
    Fourth, again your "folder creation problem" is due to Nemo, the Cinnamon file manager or your hands; I've never seen that "problem" you describe.
    Finally, Debian is done by humans so it can fail. If it didn't you wouldn't need new versions.

    1. Humans can make mistakes, but other humans need to test and point them out.

    2. I'm with you on that, but still I think you didn't understand the Debian concept.

    3. Yes, especially running my own Debian server for few years! :) LOL!

  3. I agree with your article. Debian 9 is beta-ware and not ready to use. Just look over the list of bugs I found so far ...

    • mate menu
    ◇ Ignores them color when hovering mouse over item
    • mate-menu
    ◇ Text-search-box loses focus after first character is typed in
    • mate mouse dialog
    ◇ sliders for sensitivity and acceleration do nothing
    • mate appearance icons
    ◇ Icon Theme Adwaita has many missing icons
    • mate mouse setting
    ◇ edge scrolling is missing from mouse options
    • mate System Monitor
    ◇ graphic scale for download speed is miles off
    • mate Reportbug menu item
    ◇ when clicked does nothing
    ◇ had to install reportbug and run from a terminal
    • mate workplace switcher
    ◇ no longer displays thumbnails in panel, if rows > 1
    • mate disk usage analyzer
    ◇ can not uncheck some partitions
    • mate-desktop appearance
    ◇ the color tab is missing in the customize dialog
    • menulibre
    ◇ the recommended menu editor for MATE is junk, it dose not work as expected
    ◇ adding a new menu will not allow naming the menu, it remain “new menu item”
    ◇ revert does nothing
    ◇ no drag and drop support
    ◇ when launched from a terminal
    ▪ issues WARNING "No menu prefix found, MenuLibre will not function properly
    • mozo menu editor
    ◇ create a new folder named Programs
    ◇ drag Accessories into it
    ◇ Mozo deletes all menu items in Applications

    1. At least there's somebody who actually tried the OS before submitting a comment here. :)

  4. Hi all,
    I find your post quite interesting! In my experience, when you look at all operating systems and tried them out, you'll experience, that ALL of them have more or less bugs you stumble upon when the OS is just released. I used to do OS-hopping to find what I like most, personally.
    It is true that also in my experience Debian is not the most fancy or stylish OS out there, but then, Debian tries to use the stock configuration of each part it is using, and in this case Cinnamon as well as iBus belongs to this. You can like it or not, but it is Debian's philosophy.
    And then, if you are looking for the best experience for a new OS, get the most tested, which will be the version including the stock desktop environment -- Gnome. KDE comes second. If you prefer Cinnamon, and want to have a rock solid OS, then use the old Debian.
    What the most OS doesn't offer you is the stability AND security Debian has at its core -- most OSes just go old, but never mature.

    I'm really happy with the Linuxmint's Debian versions, they "just" offer Mint and Cinnamon, and they also haven't released a version basing on Debian 9, but the deliver also closed source firmware and drivers if you want them, and deliver what I think it's a lot of eye candy!

    So, at last, we are all very happy, because we found Linux as an alternative for us, and you can see it as a burden or not, I like to have choices, and Linux offers plenty! So enjoy!

    1. I forgot to mention: there are always non-free isos that have non-free software included. But if you are using a debian server for that long, it should not be a problem to connect a network cable and install wlan.

    2. Thanks! I agree that Debian is good OS. But I expected it to be polished. Whether this is stock iBus and Cinnamon, or not - that's not relevant. They should work well and look well.
      My server installation is Xfce-based :)

  5. For me Debian ils Only a server distro. I could never use it as a desktop distro, i use Xubuntu for that, it is very polishes and Nice to use.

    1. Still some may use it for home use. I have it as a home server with Xfce DE for remote access.

  6. Man, stick with Windows, and don't bother others with your "reviews". I use Debian about eight years, on five machines (three servers and two desktops) and never ever had any problems with it...Debian 9 is the best Debian relese! And yes. In my opinion, any Linux distribution not for you....

    1. Oh really? After almost 6 years I need to dump Linux? Just because a little asshole told me about it? You're just a joker!

  7. Please, please, man. Don't write reviews, based on Live. Please, install it on the REAL hardware. And about Debian Live. Do you read this? https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2017/06/msg00335.html
    Live images serve a couple of specific purposes, and a limited audience. Debian Live images had serious installation issues long before UEFI, and long before the switch to "live-wrapper." Bugs that simply were not present in standard installation images plagued Debian Live images, and those bugs remained largely unaddressed.
    One of the audiences for Live images is people looking to "test-drive" a distro in order to assess features and/or hardware compatibility. These people aren't looking to do QA for Debian, file bug reports, or jump though lots of extra hoops (e.g., disabling UEFI) in order to achieve their goal. They download the Live image, it doesn't work, they don't care why, NEXT! This constituency has been unserved/underserved for quite some time now.

    1. Don't tell me what to do, and I won't tell you the direction you need to go to...
      Live images are also suitable for many other purposes than you just mentioned...

    2. I just lost respect for your "reviews". Testing live versions with presumably no non-free firmware and niche non-default DE (yes, my opinion on Cinnamon) with no objectivity and no understanding of DFSG.

    3. I had lost any interest in comments of people who cannot write a line themselves ages ago... You're #14353/98 in this list.

  8. I tried the Debian 9 from the Linux Format LXF227 DVD and had the same experience with Debian 9 where it failed to initialize my wireless Card with iwlwifi. The DVD however came with the Voyager flavor of Debian 9 which did the right thing and had a working wifi.

    1. Thanks! I am happy that I'm not the only person with the same problems. :)