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I run Debian stable, but occasionally my entire system freezes up -- the mouse doesn't respond to anything I do, etc. and it usually requires a restart.

Another minor issue is that Nautilus' search functionality seems to be totally broken.

These things aren't a big deal at all, but that makes me wonder what is meant by "stable" in the very first place -- I somehow doubt its supposed to mean stability for "home desktop users", as there are simply too many home desktop computers with different hardware/software configurations to ensure stability.

So, what does Debian mean by "stable"?

  • If you experience complete system freezes (not just the GUI failing but the console too) with Debian stable, there is a chance that your computer has hardware problems. – John1024 Jan 24 '15 at 21:53
  • @John1024 its just the GUI actually, I can access the text consoles -- since I'm a novice, I just restart my system at that point, since I don't know how to restart the GUI alone – user89 Jan 24 '15 at 21:54
  • Running Debian stable, I get GUI crashes maybe once a year. If you get it more frequently, my suspicion is that it might be because (a) you have some unusual & unreliable GUI program running or (b) it might be a hardware problem with your graphics card. – John1024 Jan 24 '15 at 22:08
  • Maybe you use non-free drivers for your hardware or installed software from different software sources like backports/sid . Debian stable without any non-free firmware installed, and not including experimental/different software sources is the most stable distribution compared to any. When checking the stability of Debian, excluding the above is must. Firmware bugs (specially non-free ones) are a hell. – Bharat G Feb 15 '17 at 12:57
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A stable release has no serious bugs in it, in a nutshell. Before a release, bugs that are deemed sufficiently serious are marked release-critical, which means they must be fixed before a release and usually are. This does not mean there are no bugs. I have personally not encountered any bugs I would consider serious in a Debian release.

After stable is released, the only fixes that are generally allowed are security related bug-fixes. This criteria has been loosened a bit in recent years, for large and complicated packages for which security related bugs are difficult to backport. The chromium web browser is an example. Another special category is -updates (earlier volatile), which contains packages that are time-sensitive, like packages related to spam detection. However, these are special cases that do not compromise the overall integrity of the system.

The major drawback of a Debian-style major release is that, because of the freeze period and the release period (typically 2 years in recent releases) the software can get badly out of date.

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    volatile was replaced with <release>-updates as of squeeze. – jordanm Jan 24 '15 at 23:23
  • @jordanm edited. – Faheem Mitha Jan 24 '15 at 23:35

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