I'm getting sick of Ubuntu's seemingly random changes. I'm thinking of switching to Debian permanently. Does anyone know if there's a list of changes between the two distros somewhere? I want to know what I'm getting myself into.
By list of changes I assume you mean major differences between the two distributions. I know little about Ubuntu, so I'll mostly write about Debian.
Probably the main thing that distinguishes Debian from pretty much every other operating system on the planet is Debian Policy, which is what drives Debian's famous quality control. Sadly, said quality control is looking a little frayed round the edges as the number of packages in Debian's archives heads north of twenty thousand. Just check out the RC bugs for squeeze. Ubuntu doesn't have anything like this, and its releases are noticeably buggier. I've run into problems despite my extremely light use of Ubuntu.
Another thing is that when you send a bug report to Debian you will, at least some of the time, get a response, and possibly a bugfix. (In general Debian developers, given that they are volunteers with little free time, are very friendly and helpful in my experience.) With other operating systems it is mostly a black hole. I used SuSE back in the 1990s for a couple of years. They had no real bug reporting system, but there was an address that you could send feedback to, and I never got a reply in all the times I wrote there. The only reply I got from anyone connected with SuSE during the whole time that I was using it was when I wrote directly to a packager's address. From what I have heard Ubuntu/Canonical is rather similar. I imagine fully proprietary systems like Windows are worse. It is also worth noting that in community developed operating systems like Debian, developers manage packages because they are interested in them, and not infrequently, are experts in the domain area. Eg. the PostgreSQL maintainer is a PostgreSQL developer, the Linux kernel maintainers are Linux developers, and so forth. This would be relatively unusual in a non-community OS.
Debian is hard to beat on their own ground, which is, roughly, making the world's best damn operating system. Yes, I'm biased.
If I had to point to downsides it is, obviously, that packages in Debian stable can get a little dated, but as the Linux kernel and its ecosystem moves towards maturity, it is less of a big deal that it used to be. I have nightmare recollections of Netscape 4.77 locking up my machine back in the day. Using free software took more dedication then. In any case, one can get stuff from backports, which is now an official service, or backport packages oneself, which is not really difficult. Ubuntu is much more focused on keeping software current with regular 6 month releases. Obviously, this can involve compromises in quality as noted above.
Also, Debian is completely dedicated to free software, which can occasionally cause inconveniences. Eg. the Debian kernel as of the squeeze release, no longer contains non-free software. One can use a netinst installer containing the non-free bits if you need non-free stuff, but there is no full installer with non-free. In contrast, Ubuntu/Canonical, have a much more... relaxed attitude towards non-free software.
Another thing is that the expected technical level in Debian is perhaps a bit higher, so the OS holds your hand a bit less than Ubuntu does. However, the underlying system is essentially the same, so I'm not sure how much difference that really makes in practice.
If you read changelogs, you will see a lot of collaboration between Debian and Ubuntu. Here is a workflow of the exchanges:
Security fixes not shown as they are everywhere except
The biggest difference between those siamese twins is how does a package leaves the unstable/beta state to join the releasable. In one case it is just time, in the other it is some form of quality assessment.
Personally, I choose Debian
For other person which ask for advise, I say "Ubuntu", for the sake of simplicity, people love to reinstall, I don't.
Here's more I'm aware of (on top of faif 's answer):
Go to the source:
Where did it all begin?
And then see: http://www.ubuntu.com/community/ubuntu-and-debian
So, differences are thousands, but in the core, we're talking about a strong distro as debian is, with a well defined methodology and rules to say: ok, now it's "stable"; and an easy-to-use desktop system, with defined time to release a system with mostly new and untested software.
If you're a common desktop user, then you'll love ubuntu. Debian isn't built to be a newbie-friendly system, or something like that... say it's power-user-friendly. But maybe you don't like Ubuntu, nor debian, then try OpenSUSE (Learn YaST).
BUT: If you're a relatively advanced Linux User, try Debian. It's better than Ubuntu for experienced users, and i'd never found it "hard" to use.
BTW: I'm debian user since 4.0 "etch", and I love it.
Sorry about my English, Cheers
I used to run Debian, but got sick of waiting years for e.g.
Of course, the benefit of Debian's patient release philosophy is that the result is more secure and stable. IMHO this is a large part of the reason that it is the upstream distro for a number of others, including Ubuntu. However, if you're not running a server or otherwise in a security-critical environment, and/or need/want to have fairly recent versions of apps installed, then Debian may not be the best choice.
There's also the option to run the unstable version of Debian, which will also give you more recent apps. I am not sure how this compares in quality to running Ubuntu; I would guess that Ubuntu falls somewhere between Debian stable and unstable in terms of security and stability.
I think that this article explains some stuff. In short: different installers, no proprietary software and no impressive GUI settings in Debian by default, Debian's major updates can last for years (this is for good IMHO), Unstable, Testing, and Stable repositories -- you choose what to favor (security vs latest versions of applications)...