What's the Attraction of Ubuntu?

I can’t help but notice reading through these fora that the number of problems and quirks encountered on Ubuntu servers seem to outnumber the rest combined. That makes me wonder why so many people use it. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t. I’m just curious what the attraction is.

All of my public Web servers run CentOS. I’ve used Debian for file servers, but never on a public server. That’s more a matter of familiarity with CentOS and other RH-based distros than for any other reason. I actually like Debian, especially its stability. But I’m more familiar with CentOS and can’t think of a good reason to switch.

I’ve also used Debian as a desktop system from time to time (along with practically every other distro at some point or another), and I’ve used a few Debian-derived forks. Of all of them, Ubuntu is my least favorite. It seems to have more conflicts and quirks than any other distro I’ve tried other than Manjaro.

In fact, I think of Debian / Ubuntu in much the same way as I think of Arch / Manjaro. I like Debian and Arch, but I don’t care for Ubuntu nor Manjaro, for much the same reasons: Too much stability is lost in the forks, in return for … well, nothing, really.

What I’m saying is that I can build a system on top of Debian or Arch and it will do everything I need it to do AND will be stable and relatively conflict-free. Or I can install a default Ubuntu or Manjaro and it will be buggy as hell. On either system, I’ll wind up spending more time in the terminal fixing what the fork screwed up than if I’d just built on the unforked upstream FOSS distros to begin with.

Which brings me back to Ubuntu server. What exactly makes it more attractive than other options, especially Debian? I don’t read a lot of posts about Debian problems here. Debian, in my limited experience, is rock-solid. I also don’t read a lot about CentOS 7. CentOS 8, yes; but that’s to be expected to some extent on a new-ish release.

I also should mention that I’m still running CentOS 7; and unless I knew that a server I was building today would have a mission extending past 7’s EOL, I would still use 7. Why? To minimize aggravation. I have enough aggravation. I don’t need any more. Let others squish 8’s bugs while I happily plod along on 7.

So why Ubuntu? What does it have that Debian (or RH, CentOS, Fedora, Arch, etc.) doesn’t?



Popularity on the desktop. It’s what people know.

We get more problem reports about Ubuntu than Debian because there are a lot more Ubuntu users than Debian users.

CentOS is still the most popular by a small margin, but I suspect the higher incidence of problems on Ubuntu are reflective of younger and less experienced users rather than it being drastically worse (though I do think Ubuntu makes a lot more bad or short-sighted choices than CentOS). I think it’s mostly a difference in users than a difference in distros. I like CentOS better for servers, but I work on Ubuntu servers for my regular job, and it’s fine, too. CentOS is what people used almost exclusively on servers 10 years ago, so all the people with 10+ years experience are using CentOS, while people just starting with Linux are using what they use on their desktop and that’s almost universally Ubuntu. I don’t love that the market shook out this way (my preference goes Fedora/CentOS > Debian > Ubuntu), but it did and a lot of new users only know Ubuntu.

I never tell people to switch to CentOS because I would rather they use what they have the most familiarity with rather than the absolute most reliable/stable/whatever. That makes a much bigger difference in how many problems they’re going to have and how much help they’re going to need.

That said, if somebody were to come here asking about Gentoo or some other stupid thing, I would tell them to install CentOS or Ubuntu and stop wasting everybody’s time. :wink:


Ah, okay. I’ve been farting around with computers since the 1970’s, so I think that puts me solidly in that older group. I’ve also been using RH and RH-derived systems since the late 90’s.

Oddly, though, even on the desktop, I find Ubuntu to be one of the least-stable and most-annoying distros. If I needed a Debian-derived desktop machine today, it would either be Debian or Mint. Ubuntu just packs too much stuff that’s useless to me and winds up causing conflicts. It’s kind of like buying a consumer-grade HP computer running Windows. The first thing you have to do is uninstall all the useless crapware.

Thanks for the observations and reply.


1 Like

Remember 15+ years ago when Ubuntu was new and they were giving away boxloads of free CDs AOL style? Apparently it worked.


Yeah. Baby-duck syndrome. The first living thing you see must be your parent :slight_smile:

Same with operating systems. (I’m comfortable with Ubuntu, but can struggle with RedHat/CentOS…)

1 Like

You have to remember that there was a time when RH and its derivatives ran most of the world’s Web servers. Around 2002, Red Hat was surging past not only Microsoft, but also AIX, Solaris, SCO, HP-UX, Tru64, etc.

Trends like that develop their own inertia; and for a while, I’d say between 2002 and 2008, if you wanted hosting on something other than a RH-derived system, you had to look for it. If you just looked for “hosting,” you were almost certain to land on a RH-derived system.

Then once you got into running your own servers, more so metal than virtual, you also had the joy of having to recompile your kernel from source on a more-or-less regular basis. That’s something I don’t miss. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when hardware was rapidly advancing, practically any upgrade you made to the machine would require a kernel recompile to make it work. But at least within the same distro, you only had to learn it once.

I’ve been farting around with computers since the 1970’s. I’ve reached an age when the love of learning about computers for their own sake is behind me. There has to be some usefulness now before I’m willing to invest the time and energy.

Learning Virtualmin was (and is) useful. It started as a rebellion against a cPanel price increase, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that it’s just a better panel. That made learning enough Perl to at least be able to plod along and follow why a patch works useful (although I still suck at Perl).

But learning Ubuntu? Nah. Until it can do something that RH can’t, there’s no usefulness in it for me. Besides, I can plod along in Debian systems and syntax if I have to. I just prefer the rapidity and confidence that come with familiarity to plodding along slowly, having to double-check every command I issue to make sure that I’m not going to hose something with a single keystroke.

As Joe said, that also explains why younger independents who cut their baby teeth on Ubuntu tend to stick with it. Unless they plan to go into the corporate world where the suits insist on broad skill sets even if the employee will never use most of them, it doesn’t make practical sense to learn a different OS unless it will do something the one you already know won’t.


1 Like

In the past 20 years Linux has settled down to 3 major distributions - Debian, Fedora and SuSE. Fedora is the generic version of Red Hat (now part of IBM), CentOS and Oracle Linux. SuSE seems to be a Euro focused product these days - though they tried to penetrate the US market in the 2000s. Ubuntu & Mint are Debian based. I cut my teeth in the late 90’s with Red Hat, tried SuSE and later Ubuntu.

So why Ubuntu rather than Debian? It has to do with product support. Just as Red Hat and Oracle have corporate commitments, Canonical (the maintainer of Ubuntu) has corporate commitments. There were years in the mid 2000’s that Debian had virtually no current product support and Canonical stepped in with Ubuntu to keep Debian a viable option.

If you are a Webmin user managing a server, Ubuntu is fairly well supported. I run a bunch of Ubuntu servers, some on private networks, others in colo facilities supporting dozens of public domains. In fact, I often install Webmin on Ubuntu desktops to make it easier to handle system management.


Um… Mint? Mint is an Ubuntu-based distro.

1 Like

LMDE isn’t.


I blew a Windows 98 HD and then tried Fedora KDE and then I went to build my own Tivo (Mythtv). It just seemed there was more support and bigger community and things were easier to find (like dependencies) when compiling so I just switched to Ubuntu KDE. I’ve been using it for years and I am familiar with it so when I went with a VPS for the first time in March I just went with Ubuntu since I know my way around it. I probably wouldn’t do it again due to the constant updates and having to reboot. In the end, I just think Ubuntu was marketed more to the masses versus the other distros.

1 Like

Ubuntu, or shitbuntu as I kindly address it, is nothing but a hype and well played marketing strategy by Canonical to promote their … poor … work.
Ubuntu is nothing but a transvested Debian, except with more issues and bloatware.

I am too an advocate of Enterprise Linux distributions. The simplest thing as having a decent package manager, yum now evolving to dnf, while debian/ubuntu are stuck with that neolithic thing called aptitude, that reminds me of yum back in 2005.

Beside, CentOS benefits from the Red Hat ecosystem, where Red Hat’s paying customers urge developers to find fixes for their paying products and solutions. So, when an issue arises, the overall response from the Enterprise Linux side is always more pragmatic and assertive.

Servers are supposed to run stable, not to run crappy linux versions that got known because of marketing and have major releases every two years because you know, system admins don’t have better things to do that updating majors.

1 Like

I do not have much experience with Linux systems. However, as a new outside user, I would like to share some of my ideas.
I have used both the desktop and server versions of both Centos and Ubuntu systems for a while. Centos really gives a quality and professional air, it seems more compact and more functional, but the documentation and manuals of most of the software we will use on the servers are prepared based on Ubuntu and it is generally the priority supported system. However, if you are an amateur centos user, you are much more likely to encounter problems, incompatibilities while doing things, and the documentation, manual or community you need to overcome them is much more limited and most of them out of date. This situation makes things difficult for people who are not masters of linux and naturally takes them away. Whereas, for whatever reason ubuntu has come to this point, it has pretty superior documentation, guidance and community support. When this is the case, people prefer ubuntu to make their work easier, and this increases ubuntuyu and its community day by day. When you want to install software these days, most of its documentation recommends you to use ubuntu. This is my view as an amateur / new user from the outside.

Google translate

1 Like

My own expression wouldn’t be quite so strident. I also can’t comment first-hand on Ubuntu Server because I’ve never used it in production. I installed it a few times out of curiosity, but I found the resulting systems rather bloated for my liking and didn’t care for some of the default configurations. I forget what they were offhand, but I preferred the Debian install routine with its many decisions to be made.

I used Debian extensively for file servers and as a platform for DOS emulators, but never as the OS for a public Web server. I’ve been using CentOS for Web servers since it first came out, and RH before then; so without a doubt familiarity is part of the reason for my preference. I can make CentOS do anything I need it to do.


Certainly the availability of support is important, especially if you’re a new user. I tend to forget that not everyone has been playing with computers since the 1970’s.


Y’all simmer down now. Some folks are getting a little too grouchy about distribution choices.

They’re all fine. We don’t support any truly bad distributions, and the ones we do support are reasonable choices, depending on your existing experience with them and how commonly used it is for the tasks you’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes the most popular distro for a given task will be CentOS, and thus there will be more docs and community support for it…sometimes it’ll be Ubuntu. It’ll rarely be Debian, but Debian fans usually know what they’re doing enough to figure it out on their own.

In short: Keep it civil. We all have our preferences, but at the end of the day it’s just software and we have an embarrassment of riches that’s available to us for free (or close to free). Just think, 30 years ago, a server running UNIX and enterprise-grade databases cost more than a car. Now, it’s like a cup of coffee per month.


This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.