Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Distro Review: Debian With Xfce

This review will be shorter than most and won't have any screenshots. That's because my troubles installing certain spins of PCLinux OS (which will be detailed in an upcoming review, along with that distro's positve features) forced me to wipe Debian from my desktop's hard drive. However, I did use Debian with Xfce long enough to notice a few things about it.


Installing Debian is easy and painless. The only minor inconvenience is that you can't install Debian from a live CD like you can Ubuntu and other distributions.


Speed. Debian with Xfce runs much smoother and faster than Xubuntu. In fact, it feels a lot like Crunchbang. This isn't surprising, since Crunchbang's developer has said that its Xfce version is little more than Debian with the Xfce desktop and a few custom packages installed.

Fonts. I'm not sure why, but Debian with Xfce seems to display fonts slightly better than Crunchbang. Neither displays fonts as smoothly as Ubuntu, but Debian seems to avoid some of the ugliest font rendering bugs of Crunchbang, especially in the Chromium browser.


Old Software. If you use the stable version of Debian, your software will become outdated (if it isn't already) unless you add third-party repositories to keep your favorite programs current. The most egregious example of this flaw is Debian stable's version of Chromium (still at 6 when Google just released version 12).

This problem can be reduced by installing Debian's testing or unstable versions. However, those versions, as their names imply, are less stable than the main version. My experience with distros based on Debian testing indicates that it's pretty stable, but your mileage may vary.

Dropbox. I was unable to install Dropbox on Debian with Xfce because of unsatisfiable dependencies. This is a huge difference with Crunchbang Xfce, which installed Dropbox with no problems. It's possible that you might be able to work around this problem by installing the main GNOME-based Debian Live CD and leaving GNOME dependencies installed after installing Xfce. However, this strategy risks losing some of Xfce's speed. Given Dropbox's recent security problems, some users may not object to this problem.

Overall Impression

Debian with Xfce is a fast, smooth combination. However, you may have problems installing some software. If you don't mind jagged font displays, you might find Crunchbang a better fit, as it seems to have fewer of these problems.

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