Why I’ve finally ditched Ubuntu

I’ve been using Ubuntu as a daily driver since 2006, and I’ve been hosting most of my personal websites on Ubuntu servers since around 2010, but that all changed recently.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how I’ve seen the light and come around to Windows, I still think Microsoft sucks, and I am too cheap and cynical to buy into Apple’s hype.

Reasons for switching

Snap Sucks

I have two issues with Snap, I think they are pretty common: Firstly, it frequently does not play nice with Gnome desktop apps. Secondly, it is super-bloated and has a noticeable overhead.

I was running this blog on an Ubuntu 20.04 box, I used Snap to install certbot, just certbot. This site runs on a very small server, but I don’t get much traffic so I really don’t need anything too beefy. I don’t run much software: I run WP, so I need the basics for a LAMP stack. I tone down MySQL and I configure fpm for PHP management to keep things in check. It works well enough for a low-traffic blog.

After a software upgrade about a year ago, I started seeing daily outages. Without fail, at least once a day for 30 minutes – sometimes longer – the entire server would go fully unresponsive. No web server, no ssh, nothing.

I spent a fairly significant amount of time looking at error logs, tweaking PHP and MySQL config, and access logs trying to determine what the root cause of the issue was. This section is titled “Snap Sucks”, so I’ll bet you can guess what I eventually tracked it to.

Snap was running a daily service, checking for updates, which was completely crippling my server and often totally filling my swap space. The update service had been running previously, but something changed with a recent update that made it much more aggressive in terms of resource usage. Admittedly, I could have purged Snap when finished installing certbot, but Ubuntu has fully embraced it in newer versions, baking it into core functionality, so ultimately I’d be fighting the OS going forward.

Companies Suck

2023 was an interesting year for having faith in companies. The biggest news was probably the Unity Game Engine debacle, but Red Hat also shook up the Linux community with their bashing of open-source “moochers”.

I’ve always been leery of corporations and, while Canonical admittedly has done nothing specifically yet to make me feel that they are malicious, I have had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that they could at any time. Further to that point, running a community distribution just feels better to me personally.

Maybe you don’t care and that’s fine, we’ve all got our own point of view. Personally, I find it frustrating how quickly companies are willing to throw their entire user base under the bus for the sake of profit margins. The worst part is how often they manage to get away with it because they have a tight grip on the market. Some would say, “Yeah, they are a business, that’s the point. What’s the problem?” The problem is that what you allow will continue. This is true in general, beyond software companies.

To some degree I see the futility in something like boycotting a brand or product, lots more people probably don’t care and will do it anyway. But if it is no major inconvenience to swap it for something that benefits you, the consumer, more then what is the harm? At least you will be one person who doesn’t get screwed when they decide how much you are worth to them. They don’t really care about you, so I say screw ’em right back.

What did I switch to?

For the Web: Debian

Only what you need – For a simple, stable, and secure web server. Why bother with the added bloat of Ubuntu or, really, any other distro that is just a pretty bow that somebody wrapped around Debian?

If all you need is a web stack of some kind (server, database, interpreters/compilers) then Debian has what you need in its software repository, and you can be pretty confident that it’s all stable.

Less frequent updates – Critical security patches usually make their way into standard system updates fairly quickly, and PPAs work for anything that you absolutely must have completely up to date, as long as you don’t abuse them. Other than that, enjoy less frequent and less problematic software updates.

For Desktop: Mint

Cinnamon is a great DE – Mainly because while I was searching for something else I did some distro and DE hopping, and out of everything that I played with, I liked Cinnamon the best. I prefer Gnome to KDE, so I knew that I was looking for something based on Gnome. Cinnamon delivered a good classic Gnome feel, with a modern approach to configuration. Coming from MATE previously, I definitely noticed some of the customization limitations with Cinnamon but, for me, the pros outweighed the cons.

Debian is a solid work environment – I knew I wanted to stay in the Debian family because it is what I am most used to and in my personal experience, it is the most plug and play, low maintenance option. I’ll run Arch on a hobby machine any day, but for a day-to-day workstation I choose Debian every time.

Mint has a good community – People are helpful on the forums, there are a good number of people using and working on it, a lot of problems already have solutions.

They have a backup plan – Mint is based on Ubuntu, though they’ve made some core choices based on what the community prefers vs what Ubuntu is doing. That being said, if the day comes when Canonical decides to be evil, the Mint team maintains a purely Debian-based version as a backup plan. You could also simply choose to run LMDE from the start if pure Debian is more your thing.


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