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. I agree 100% with the author and this commenter. Every time Debian has a new release I give it a try. Every time I run into similar issues. I have a lot of different hardware to test on. It's pretty much the same regardless. I love testing new distros, I want to see advancements in Linux. Debian always disappoints. Now, Debian apologists will come back with "Well that's not their fault, that's the fault of program x or program y". That may be true. But there are about a dozen Debian derivatives out there and most of them have found ways to compensate. In fact, that is why they exist. Debian cares about what's under the covers and efficiency. When I first tried Linux in 1996 PC hardware was expensive, so small and tight was best for any OS, even if that meant a few bumps in the visuals. It's now 2017, PC hardware is cheap, even a low end machine has 4gb RAM, so what's an extra 100-300 more mb used if it means a better user experience? Debian is always high on Distrowatch's list. People want to see what new features Debian comes up with. Not to use Debian, but because they know within 6 months it will start to show up on the derivatives, but with the rough edges taken off and some shine added.

  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!

    4. Come one, be a bit more realistic here. Debian has lots and lots of testers who tear this Distro down so it can be built better, which is also the reason why their cycle is so freaking long to release. It seems to me that these issues were possibly ignored in order to push out Debian 9.

  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....

  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. :)

  9. Yeah, this is a rough release for Debian. I can say from personal experience that I had the best go at Debian with Debian 8 and GNOME. I run a lot of tests inside VirtualBox. My host O/S is Macos Sierra, and I always install the Guest Additions for getting the 3D visuals and shared folders. Debian 8 w/GNOME has been a good experience in my opinion. Now I am testing Debian 9 but haven't gotten to GNOME yet because I wanted to try something different. First up was KDE for me since it is the second "big" DE, and it's a glitch fest. No taskbar in the bottom, no right click on the desktop; oh my goodness. When Googling the issue, I get articles dating back to 2015 and earlier. Really? So I tried Cinnamon. First off, I couldn't get on the Internet because somehow the network settings got messed up. I use two virtual NICs: Adapter 1 is in NAT mode and Adapter 2 is using Host-Only Network. Well, guess somehow the host-only NIC got prioritized over the one that actually would have access to the outside world. Bummer. After some fiddling with the Network Connections, I got on the Internet in order to download DKMS and then install the Guest Additions. Once 3D was enabled, the desktop got really sluggish. like 30fps sluggish instead of 60fps refresh.

    Everyone also be aware the Debian 9 is now switching to Wayland away from XOrg. I am almost 99% certain that this switch is at the root of a lot of problems. It is such a core piece of software and so new, it's bound to have some bad code. I wish there was some kind of option in the installer to choose between XOrg, which is still available, and Wayland. It would also raise more awareness that such a switch is happening. I for one found out by accident and didn't even know there was a switch going on in the open-source community. So there's that!

    I want to say this: I love Debian for its philosophy and the fact they don't put the most bleeding edge (as in it hurts bleeding edge, like Ubuntu) software on their repository. I can also deal with the absolutely vanilla looking flavors of the desktop environments because that is what having Linux all about: customization. But, I should expect to at least not run into glitches and errors for a distribution that touts itself as STABLE!!! Are you really making me install Ubuntu again, Debian Team? And have updates handed down to me every single day because it's such bleeding edge software? I'd rather stay with you, Debian; but not in such a desolate state. Now I will go and test GNOME and hope it is better... Otherwise, back to Debian 8 and GNOME it is for me.

    1. Thanks for your long comment, Derkay. Appreciate it! At least I am not the only person who got into same troubles with Debian 9. :)

  10. "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."

    Here we go again...

    We can have this problem solved in let's say Debian 10.
    Then in Debian 11, we get an dark green "EN". Like really???

    Sometimes, I have a feeling the Linux world is filled with some Trojan horse that sabotage every build.

    It's not about about Linux, Debian or whatever you may called isn't perfect, It's just that some bugs/sabotage/jock like a dark blue "EN" on a Dark theme shouldn't exist in this ERA. Period.

    By the way, I am here cause my wifi refuse to connect and Google bring me here. I like the review. Some purist Linux may not like but it's very constructive actually, I see as a way to say/cry that those kind of bug are unacceptable/shouldn't exist in 2017.

    imo, all this is due to hundreds of distros out there. If all that effort/time was merged into just 5 or 3 distro, Linux would be everywhere (nah am not talking about server only).

    1. Thanks for your comment Asme! It is very emotional!

  11. Why did you not activate the non-free and contrib repositories? If you would have done that your wireless card would sure have worked just fine. Also Debian offers unofficial installation cd / dvd images which do contain non-free firmware and drivers. Those disk images are available on Debian site just in the same way as official images which do not contain non-free stuff. I have been using Debian on desktop over 20 years now and it has always worked wery well. And by the way if you want to complain about theme in desktop environments then you really should blame developers of that desktop environment because Debian uses mostly default themes offered by those desktop enviroments, Debian mostly just changes the desktop wallpaper.

  12. One thing which you should understand is that when you install Debian then Debian does not install non-free stuff by default. That is the reason why e.g some wireless card may not work after installation. However THAT DOES NOT MEAN that thosewireless cards would not work wery well on Debian releases like Debian 9.0 "Stretch". You just need to activate Debian's contrib and non-free repositories. Then you can install all the non-free firmware and drivers you need.

    After activating contrib and non-free repositories you can e.g install this meta package which installs lots of both free and non-freee firmware:

    apt install firmware-linux

    In the contrib and non-free there is also lots of non-free derivers like e.g non-free NVidia nd AMD etc drivers as well as e.g drivers for the wireless cards etc.

    The reason why some other distros have those wireless cards working after installation is that those distros install non-free stuff by default. Debian does not because Debian wants to be free, that is not any secret it is said on Debian site. Before you install any linux distro you should read the installation manual, did yu read it? However it is wery easy to install those non-free drivers and firmware if you want. You just need to bother to understand how Debian works, if you do not bother then you can just blame yourself. And as I said earlier Debian even offers unofficial installation cd / dvd images which do contain non-free stuff. Those images are same as the official images except that unofficial images contain non-free firmware etc too. So all you need to do is to bother to read what is said on Debian site and then download the right installation media image.

  13. Next time please read the Debian installation manual and try to understand that Debian does not install non-free stuff by default but you can do that after installation. If you try to understand that then stupid rant articles like yours is not needed.

    1. Appreciate your long and very detailed comment. Next time you start your explanations, please check the environment. The article was written about the Live version. Activation of additional repositories would be useless. They are mire for the installed system with wire connection enabled.
      Appreciate that...

    2. You don't understand the Debian concept.

    3. True, being using it on my home server for dew years... No idea of Debian concept...

    4. My kid can install Debian as a server, and doesn't need a GUI.

      You don't understand that Debian by default is FOSS. You have to dig a little deeper to work with non-free elements, such as some wireless cards and GPUs.

      But by all means, keep bashing Debian while you undoubtedly use another distro that wouldn't exist without it. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy Debian on all of my devices.

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