Is it time to move from a Ubuntu base to Debian?

Saw an interesting video this morning on Youtube from Switch to Linux. I usually don't pay much attention to this guy, but this one caught my eye.

He was discussing whether it was time for distro's to stop using Ubuntu as a base and move on. I have to say I agree with him on the points he made.

  1. The software in Ubuntu is outdated and what is updated takes forever for them to update
  2. I don't like snaps and they are moving everything to snaps. Including the things that are being updated

Perhaps it is time for the next update of Zorin that they perhaps look at moving away from Ubuntu and using Debian as its base. What are your thoughts?


I would be 100% all for it.
Removing Snapd and Flatpak are the first things I do when I reinstall Zorin OS.

I suspect there is a deliberate effort in neglecting repositories in order to push Snaps.


Would making a Debian-based distro help with this? I always thought Debian's purpose was stability so packages are not being updated as quickly. And would this hurt hardware support compared to the current Ubuntu-based project?

I would very much like this as well, I rarely use snap packages and would prefer to have full control (and awareness) about this.

Yes, the system itself is more stable because they don't rush out the latest the greatest. But software is more updated than Ubuntu is. Debian is already testing Cinnamon 5.2 as stable, Ubuntu is still on version 4.4 with no signs of updating.

Ubuntu is based off of Debian, which means once Debian releases their stable you then have to wait for Ubuntu to release their stable. Going to Debian itself will cut out the middle man, which is Ubuntu. So no it would not hurt hardware or software support.

Ubuntu is moving more and more software that they do update to snaps as well. So if you don't like snaps, you're out of luck.


Just out of curiosity, who would be in charge of making this decision and what factors do you think should be considered when making it? While I would most likely vote for this change, the fact still remains that ZorinOS works great for people new to Linux, and those who simply want things to work out of the box.

Could it be argued that multiple choices of the same program in the Software Center actually hurts the user experience? Are there any factors that create the need to move on to a Debian base?

The Zorin brothers and very little factors in regards to any consideration

None of this would change, Zorin is already built on Debian.

There are already multiple choices of the same program, deb, flatpak and snap.

I'm not sure you are understanding. Ubuntu is already Debian, therefore Zorin is already using Debian. The only thing that would be happening is instead of waiting around for Ubuntu they would only be waiting for the Debian release from Debian itself.

Going from Ubuntu to just Debian is easy and you would not even know it, because it is the same system just minus all the stuff Ubuntu adds.


Precisely, nothing would change and the target audience for this distribution (a.k.a.: most people using it) wouldn't notice nor care. Which begs the question, why bother changing things up if there is no need for it?

The question was if this a detrimental to the end user experience? I think it might, if it confuses people when searching for something and are presented with multiple options.

I understand that, but maybe there is a reason why Ubuntu was chosen over something else. Maybe hardware support? I don't know how many people actually use brand new hardware to install Zorin, but it maybe a factor to consider.

There is a bit of a contradiction here...
Stating nothing would change and no one would notice, so why bother... to stating it would change things that people would notice, making things difficult.

I think that DeanG outlined his case quite well. Yes, some things would change. But they would not create hardships.
Debian has as much hardware support and you would not need to wait for Ubuntu to adapt what Debian releases, allowing for Earlier Acquisition of patches, security and updates / upgrades.

Ubuntu is based on Debian.

As far as the end user - Many would notice certain changes and not notice others. APT would not change, for example.
Packages in Launchpad would need to link over to the Debian repo...

Choosing Ubuntu as a base probably comes down to ease of use and developer support - at one time.
However, these are things that fluctuate over time. And it is worthwhile to examine other sources as a base.
Devuan Linux and MX Linux are to Top Distros. Very good and solid - and more directly Debian based.

As it is currently, all the Desktop Environments and the peripherals available to Zorin OS would be just as available were it based on Debian. Nothing would be left out.
Given the Multitude of sound issues Ubuntu users experience - as well as the notorious Kernel Compiler bug... Switching could resolve some of these issues, even.

The only thing detrimental I can think of... Would be what work would be required of ZorinGroup to act on the idea.
I am not certain if it would be much work, either. Perhaps it would even make things easier on the developers. I really am not sure.

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There is no contradiction on my part, I'm fully on board with the idea, but this conversation has to happen and so I'm simply asking the tough questions.

I have no idea how easy it really is to change the base from Ubuntu to Debian, but if it slows down development or bug fixes, then it might not be such as good idea after all. There was a thread not too long ago asking opinions about adding a KDE desktop for Zorin. I voted against, because that would be additional work on the developers and add little value to the target audience.

And I'm specifically saying target audience because those who know or are willing to learn how to e.g., change desktop environments, uninstall snaps, etc. will do it. But in my experience most people just want things to work right away.

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This makes sense. Hashing out objections is a great way to examine the merit of the idea.

I really think this would be the opposite, actually.

I admit it.
I do not like KDE. It is way too Windowsy for me. It's cluttered, very heavy and hard to navigate.
But... it is highly configurable. For me, personally, switching to KDE would do me no favors. But for Zorin OS; it could be nice boons. KDE can be configured to resemble Windows much more closely, matching the stated M.O. of Zorin.
And it comes with a lot of great perks in the desktop environment and file management that is lacking in Gnome.
And while it would do me no personal favors - I hardly would be left out in the cold, either. I could do what I always do with Zorin OS anyway... Strip it down and install the D.E. I prefer.
So, I agree it would be an initial large workload on the developers at first. But I disagree that it would add little value. I believe it would add great value.
Currently, as it is, the Gnome D.E. must be heavily customized and configured with fragile extensions.
Not having to do all that tie-in with outside extensions would be a strong incentive.
And for users, not having to fiddle with and troubleshoot the extensions would also be an incentive.

Switching to Debian as a base would, in my opinion, increase the chances of that.
Ubuntu is Notorious with the Wifi and Sound bugs.
And it affects other distros like Mint and Zorin and POP_OS based upon and reliant on it.
Debian is more stable. And can be configured to avoid Pulseaudio (the nightmare that it is) far more easily than Ubuntu can.
Meaning more may work right away.


I suppose to make an informed choice on here you'd have to take stock of what Zorin OS' priorities are, what Ubuntu adds to the Debian base, and what parts of Ubuntu/Debian it is that Zorin OS is choosing to keep, modify or discard.

  • Lots of apps target Ubuntu specifically and not Debian when they are providing .deb packages - what is the experience of Debian users like when trying to install packages intended for Ubuntu? Are dependencies satisfied in these cases?
  • Ubuntu has put in a fair amount of work into Active Directory integration in Windows environments - does Debian get this?
  • Ubuntu's Ubiquity installer is much more user-friendly than Debian's - is it more of an effort for the Zorin team to incorporate Ubiquity themselves than use the one already existing in Ubuntu?
  • Are Ubuntu's packages really that much older? Bearing in mind that a distro like Zorin would want to be basing on Debian Stable, not Testing or Sid; Just checking Repology and it shows a package like Evolution is still at version 3.38.3 in Debian 11 and not available in backports. It's newer than the version in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS' repos, but presumably when 22.04 LTS launches it'll be in front of Debian again, until the next Debian stable comes out. I'd call this a wash with regards to which has the latest packages, which one is in front will just depend on where each is at in their release cycle. Both are roughly on a bi-annual cadence too.
  • Ubuntu gradually moving away from debs to snaps - Zorin does plenty of its own packaging, so this may be a moot point.

As for removing Snaps and/or Flatpak, I think that's just a decision down to the distro maintainer. For an OS like Zorin targeted at 'normies' who don't care about technical aspects of packaging and wanting to present a very large software library out of the box, I don't think it'd be in their interests to cut out either one. I think that offering either/both is a very good value proposition to most users who just want software that keeps up to date on a system that runs stably.


This is true.

Sadly, this gets a bit more complex. It also smacks of the argument of users having too many choices... I do not agree with that argument, however, I find it an interesting point when compared to yours.
Snap and Flatpak both bring certain solutions.
They also bring certain problems... And a New User to Linux may prefer to not have to untangle that mess.
Snap and Flatpak both are premised on the idea of security, yet have glaring security holes.
And both are well known to not actually play nicely with systems, ownership or other applications, even. Sandboxed. Doubly.
On this forum, we frequently must address that issue, then have to explain the whole thing.
The most common reaction to the above from new users is simply frustration.
Doing away with Snap and Flatpak would remove those facets, simplifying installation issues for everyone. It would probably bring about complaints, too. As many new users are inundated by PopTech articles shoving Snap down their throats.
And allurred by the promise of the Latest and Greatest... unaware that latest package cannot even save files in Home directory or communicate properly with the system. As well as being exploitable.
Yet, Mint has quite successfully Banned Snap.
And continues to be sparkly to new users.

On this forum, unsupported Hardware is one of the main things help is sought for. Printers. Wifi. Sound. I honestly think these are a worthy priority to consider.
Along with struggling with the Software Store, extensions and installation troubles. These also should be carefully examined.
Because even if it has no effect on ZorinGroups decisions... It can help us on the forum offering tidbits of help to learn new angles of approach.

Yes, there are a lot of caveats and technical implications, and I'm sure plenty of cases abound where users complain of applications not doing things they are supposed to do because of sandboxing-related issues etc. I personally often have issues where flatpak apps aren't given access to the right plugs and I have to fix them with Flatseal, but I still find it easier to do that than adding additional repos and risking dependency hell the more often I do that, but that's just my personal preference.

As I say, the solution here is down to the distro maintainer. When it comes to Snap and Flatpak, a maintainer could just as easily opt to include support for one, the other, both or neither, independent of its base. This choice would carry over unaltered were Zorin to be based on Debian, Ubuntu, or anything else, so it's probably best to be continued as its own debate, as yet another battle in the eternal war of Linux packaging solutions. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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Windows looks like KDE, not KDE looking like Windows... Windows a decade or so took from KDE and implemented into Windows. But you can make any of the DE's look like how you want easily.... well except for Gnome

But I find it a bit amusing people complain something looks like Windows but then make their system look like a Mac.. :thinking: :rofl:

Yup, and they are beholden to Gnome where the dev's go out their way to break them. So all the work they put into it can be lost easily. Personally I think all that energy would be better spent some place else.

I never ever ever tell someone new to install Ubuntu, it has way too many issues on its own and is very buggy. And in many cases the Ubuntu dev's keep carrying over previous bugs to new versions even though they know about them.

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I presume any move away from Ubuntu base would also mean no more Software Store, which is a nice feature appreciated by Linux noobs coming to ZorinOS. That includes me, although its use is now confounded by app listings being headlined as Snaps and Flatpaks instead of straightforward apt's.

I think continuity of this faclity is essential to attracting Windows refugees to ZorinOS and would need to be continued. I accept that once users have gained some knowledge and experience of Linux, Synaptic Package Manager or installing apps via terminal in time becomes less scary or problematic.

There would be advantages of moving to a Debian base.

Debian now uses calamares as the default system installer. It is actively being developed and new features etc being added on a regular basis. It is not harder to use than Ubuntu's ubiquity installer if configured properly. Ubuntu has plans on moving away from the Ubiquity installer.

Snaps are becoming more and more of an issue. They may make sense on IoT and maybe in the server realm. Canonicals main source of income is from the server market and that will always take priority over the desktop. My opinion, and my opinion only, is that flatpaks will become the dominant universal package format.

Debian moves slowly and takes their time to implement changes. Canonical / Ubuntu has a much less predictable path.

Ubuntu is not based off of the Debian stable branch. LTS releases are generally a snapshot of Debian Testing and non LTS are a snapshot of Debian Unstable .

There are disadvantages of moving away from a Ubuntu base.

The work required by the Zorin brothers would increase with a Debian base.

Basing off LTS releases allows for fairly recent kernels etc through the HWE stack.

Each branch of Debian requires careful consideration.

Debian stable in order to stay current eventually requires the use of backports or the Zorin devs having to build their own packages. As debian stable ages it becomes necessary to use more and more hacks to get around dependencies etc.

Debian testing. Mint learnt their lesson with what happens when Testing gets frozen before a new stable release. It can be used but requires a lot of work.

Debian sid. Definitely not what I would recommend for a new user.

Most of the MX Linux devs are from the Mepis days. They have 15 + years of working with Debian stable and know workarounds for most issues. It shows in the quality of their distribution.

The Zorin devs are somewhat committed to maintaing Zorin 16 until 2025 when its base hits EOL. Moving to Debian would probably involve having to maintain two bases for a period of time. That would definitely increases their workload.

Personally I would like to see it based off of Debian as there is a level of predictability that it offers over Ubuntu.

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For me it is the opposite. I have been doing this Linux thing for a little while and I only felt Dependency Hell at the very beginning. I quickly learned that the cause was my attempts at installing packages that were outdated.
Once I became slightly more discriminating about checking out packages, the dependency issues went away.
Third party Repos are not risky. This is a bit of a myth. I should know - I operate one.
I had to jump through a lot of security hoops to make it and I must still jump through quite a few just to maintain it.
To give this a bit of perspective: You are using a Massive Third Party Repo right now: The Zorin OS Repos.
Having your Preference is an admirable thing - please don't get me wrong. However, I have noticed that some of my own preferences were born early on, partly due to how much I still need to learn about Linux. I firmly believe my preferences, and others, are worth re-examination from time to time to ensure they still have merit.

I agree with this 100%. This issue, as most know, is a very heavy concern. And reading current up to date articles on this topic does not encourage any optimism.

This may actually be a strong argument for the ZorinGroup to expand and add developers.

Ah, but it could be replaced with a better working model...

This topic is generating a lot of great ideas, both for and against. At the head of the class...

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Yes, that would be nice, but question the additional resources needed to develop it.

This also means there's time to consider making the switch. I was checking the PeppermintOS forums as the new version is now based on Debian and the response is mostly positive, though some people did encounter issues with it. Would it be feasible to reach out to their developers and ask for advise on this?

Zorin OS has switched things before. For example, Zorin OS Lite used to be LXDE. This switched to XFCE.
When it comes to considering what the ZorinGroup is capable of... I have also made the mistake of underestimating it.