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This website measures the power consumption on default Ubuntu server vs default Debian server, which finds that Ubuntu consumes about 8 watts, while Debian consumes 14. Since Debian includes non-free firmware, is there another reason for Ubuntu's lower power consumption?

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    The tweet is over a year old, and based on Debian Buster, and it’s not clear whether non-free firmware was used or not. Dec 8, 2023 at 9:45
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    The website has an embedded video which explicitly states that the non-free firmware version of Debian was used
    – Capybara
    Dec 8, 2023 at 15:35
  • Oh, OK, the video doesn’t show up for me... Dec 8, 2023 at 17:01
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    Since this is a single datapoint on one particular laptop, it's hard to say anything conclusive. It's entirely possible that Debian 11 happens to come with a driver that has suboptimal power management for one piece of hardware in his laptop. It could be the other way around on another laptop.
    – marcelm
    Dec 9, 2023 at 11:37
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    "default install" - so probably different daemons running. A closer look is needed. Dec 9, 2023 at 12:47

2 Answers 2

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Part of the reason Ubuntu has gotten a reputation for being easier to install is that it has contained a lot of non-free firmware for a long time. That site even says so (indirectly though).

As @StephenKitt mentions in a comment that post is so old that the Debian installation should have been based on Debian Buster (Debian 11), and non-free firmware only became included in Debian Bookworm (Debian 12).

And in any case firmware is unlikely to be the reason for such a massive difference.

I don't have the time to read through his entire blog (or whatever it is), so I'm just going to point out two major problems:

  1. He doesn't explain how he installed Debian
  2. He doesn't explain how he made the measurements

The tweet claims both are minimal, but we can't know. And "Debian Server" is not a well defined things, so the Debian might have had quite a few more things running.

My conclusion: That is as usable as a comparison between apples and oranges.

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  • The website has an embedded video which states at the 5:43 mark that Debian with non-free firmware was used (since even before Bookworm it was possible to use non-free firmware on Debian). Does Ubuntu include out of the box significantly more non-free firmware than even non-free Debian?
    – Capybara
    Dec 8, 2023 at 15:50
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    The firmware packages ship the same firmware (at a given point in time), but Buster was released in 2019, so comparing it with an Ubuntu release from 2022 doesn’t seem particularly meaningful. Dec 8, 2023 at 17:05
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In Linux, power management is completely user-configurable. Without knowing how the power management was configured in each case, the comparison is meaningless.

It is possible, for example, that Ubuntu's default configuration sacrifices performance for efficiency whereas Debian's default configuration sacrifices efficiency for performance. That is, assuming that the default configuration was even used.

It is also possible that the author configured the Debian system wrong. Or, the author configured the Ubuntu system for power saving but not the Debian system.

Or, the author did the measurements wrong.

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  • Given the author talks about "Debian Server", I think your default power settings may indeed be a good point. I could definitely see a "personal" OS to be tuned for efficiency and a "server" OS to be tuned for performance, out of the box. Dec 11, 2023 at 12:16
  • What's a default server? Dec 13, 2023 at 19:39

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