I have been using Debian stable for the last few months, but it has not always been a blast. Often times, I have had to look for backports, and in some cases, I have been presented with only two options: 1) make a backport (maybe not something I want to do in the moment because of time) or 2) upgrade to Debian testing.

I am a novice Unix user, who mainly uses the computer for a lot of programming/TeXing so sometimes, its difficult for me to see why I should keep on sticking with Debian stable. If I don't understand the advantages, is that an indication that I'd be better off with Debian unstable?


Debian stable is, well, stable. Nothing breaks. Most of the changes are security fixes.

Testing and unstable may break. Packages in testing have already spent some time in unstable, so in general, testing is a slightly better choice if you are trying to avoid major breakage. Unstable is more likely to break. It doesn't break often, but when it does, you will need to know what you are doing to fix it.

In general, beginners are better off using stable. I take your point that having to backport stuff can be a pain, and is not ideal, but it is a choice between that and having your system break occasionally.

Personally, I use stable, and have done so since 2001. I backport stuff when I need to. Yes, sometimes it is a nuisance to have to do so. Occasionally it is very difficult or impossible.

Having said that, right now Jessie (the current testing) is frozen, so if you want the most up to date packages, you probably won't find them there. On the other hand, the packages there are more recent than wheezy, and testing stability is probably quite good during a freeze.

  • Faheem -- doesn't backporting compromise the stability of stable? – user89 Jan 24 '15 at 18:03
  • Also, could you explain what you mean by "stable. Nothing breaks"? – user89 Jan 24 '15 at 18:09
  • @user89 not if you backport carefully and selectively. – Faheem Mitha Jan 24 '15 at 22:42
  • Be careful with debian/testing, especially in a frozen state. The frozen state doesn't imply a working state, but a state that only changes when packages migrate from unstable into testing. I have had testing be totally broken before, during a freeze, waiting on a python transition that involved 100+ packages that all had to pass muster before migrating in one large chunk. During a freeze, you could run unstable, because it is frozen with respect to what will enter testing, but will be more usable because you don't have to wait for large package set migrations. – umeboshi Jan 26 '15 at 16:30

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