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stable Linux. Truth or Myth?

I want to know if there is any such thing as a stable desktop Linux distro, or is it just a myth? Since I started playing with Linux I've probably tried more than a dozen different flavors on about a dozen different platforms. I can't be real specific because each one had its own problems; but for example, I've just re-installed Linux Mint 11. Within an hour, Firefox crashed without warning or explanation and shortly after that, The OS itself crashed hard and I had to restart the computer. These are typical problems I've had with Linux since I started playing with it more than 10 years ago. I would really like to use Linux to replace my Mac, but so far I haven't found one that I can count on. Is there a reliable distro? Or is there a way to make a buggy distro more reliable? So far I've tried most of the popular ones: Red Hat, Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Mint, Linspire, and a few others that I can't recall at the moment. Of all of them, Mint 6 was my favorite, but each successive version seems to get more buggy.


  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    I have been using Slackware for 8 years now and have not had any stability issues that were not caused by me. Honestly I have tried all the distros that you listed and rejected them because they are not as stable as I want them to be.

    The issues you had with firefox crashing then having the crash effect the OS sounds very strange, have you verified that your hardware is working properly by running a memtest and running a Hard Drive test to confirm that neither of those are damaged?
  • Try [url=/http://www.debian.org/]debian squeeze[/url].
  • RSims
    RSims Posts: 146
    Ubuntu 10.04-11.04 is extremely stable, since it's based off Debian, i'd guess Debian is as well. Fedora is also stable. My recommendation is try them all and see what you like the most.

    Which operating system, has no flaws? Answer: Whether it's Linux, Apple based or Microsoft the answer is None.
  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    I need to correct you. Debian is stable because they are very conservative on their stable branch which often uses very old software. Ubuntu is based off of Debian unstable and pushes many beta level software which leads to many short lived bugs and increased instability.

    The most stable and secure version of Linux distros are very conservative and generally have longer release cycles, such as Red Hat (not Fedora), Debian Lenny and Slackware. In general the version meant for desktops tend to push packages quicker to compete on what is the latest and greatest, when in comparison the distros listed above wait longer and test packages more before pushing them to the customer which is why they are most often used to productions servers.

    Now, I do have to agree about all operating systems having flaws. As with anything in life, you must choose the right tool for the job, if any operating system does not do exactly what you need and/or expect then spend some time researching and testing alternatives to make an informed decision.

    I have chosen Slackware because in my experiences the auto-dependency resolution and package managers of the other distros tend to do more harm than good by making assumptions which can be wrong. Slackware does not do that, it expects the user to manually manage all dependencies which requires more research and leads to increased knowledge about the core system, which is why some people say that any problems with Slackware are your fault because you mis-configured something.
  • RSims
    RSims Posts: 146
    Let me re-phrase extremely stable, it has been extremely stable for myself. What mfillpot just said is good advice. Keep trying different ones till you find a good fit =)
  • marc
    marc Posts: 647
    I hardly ever encounter a situation when the automated dependency resolution doesn't do what is supposed to do. The only problem could be that you do not need the same compile options that your distro has set for any given package therefore the dependencies you'd like are different from the ones you get.

    If you really wanna be in control, use something ala gentoo or source-mage ;)

    As for the topic, I'd give a try to stable linux distros like Red Hat(CentOS) or Opensuse :) (although they might not be really updated)

  • I just wanted to add that generally when using a desktop distro, people don't need something extremely "stable". They simply need something that generally won't crash out of nowhere. You'll see programs crash and maybe the odd bug, but won't have your computer randomly restarted. I would say that Ubuntu, Debian, or Mint are all very user friendly and "stable enough". If you want something very stable, you would want to venture into Redhat or Slackware, but will deal with older software.
  • RSims
    RSims Posts: 146
    Everything MikeEnIke just recommended is Debian based, Debian is a great OS, Ubuntu is based off Debian, LinuxMint is based off Ubuntu from what I understand. I really think you would be happy with Ubuntu, if your worried about stability use their LTS version and you will be fine. Once you try Ubuntu and get used to it, and use the software center to find more useful apps for projects you run into you will fall in love with it.

    I'm in the middle of upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10 right now. So grab yourself a cup of Ubuntu (11.10 Lastest and Greatest or 10.10 Long Term Support version). You will love either one.

  • woboyle
    woboyle Posts: 501
    I run both Scientific Linux (a Red Hat clone similar to CentOS) on my workstation, and Ubuntu on my laptop for the past 4 years without any desktop stability issues whatsoever. I wish I could say that Windows has been as reliable...
  • There is not all-around stable OS, not in Mac, Linux, or Windows. From my experiance, ubuntu 10.04 - 10.10 are the best. You can also use Arch linux or Slackware that only uses stable software and stable releases.

    If you do find a system that works well for you, stick with it.
  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Arch a rolling release with a large quantity of beta and dev software?
  • No, Arch only roles out stable releases. The objective is to keep it simple and to make sure everything works. Any beta software installed is up to the user.

    Oh, I forgot, Debian squeeze is another one. VERY good one. In fact try this first. It also uses stable software and version releases. You do have the option to use experimental and proprietary software.
  • I've very rarely had problems with Ubuntu. But on the two or three times I have, it's almost always been the result of a dodgy update (usually drivers) or hardware. These days I only install the mandatory security updates and leave all the optional ones unless they address a specific problem I have. Also, if I want to evaluate a new app, I generally install it into a VM before I put it on the host OS to try it out for stability and impact; learned THAT the hard way!

    There are a few machines knocking around at my place that haven't been reinstalled in +/- three years and haven't given a day's trouble (even when they've been messed about by Windows apps running under WINE). If I get a reproducible crash situation I tend to start with hardware or something I'VE done rather than a problem in the OS.

    This isn't me banging the Linux drum but I reckon you'd have to go a long way to find something more stable.

  • marc
    marc Posts: 647
    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Arch a rolling release with a large quantity of beta and dev software?

    I doubt there's any beta/dev software in Archlinux (unless you get to the "unstable" repos). Arch only gets latest stable releases :)
  • Goineasy9
    Goineasy9 Posts: 1,114
    Most of the popular distros are stable unless you stray out of their subscribed repositories. There are many ways of creating instability while running a particular distro if you ignore their manual and install things generically by compiling code on your own from the developers website.

    For example, in Fedora, if you decide to use the Nvidia proprietary drivers and don't follow the instructions that are in the forum, and, choose to use the .run file from the Nvidia website, you're certain to wind up with a broken system. Or, another example, is downloading OpenOffice or LibreOffice from their website instead of installing it from the Fedora repo, you can also run into problems. I'm not saying folks shouldn't experiment, but just realize that if you don't RTFM, occasionally you'll get bitten.

    Sometimes when main features go through major revisions, such as, the switch from KDE3 to KDE4, or, the switch from Gnome2 to Gnome3, or, even the introduction of Unity by Ubuntu, the stability of the version that features that change drops until all the bugs are ironed out, but, these changes don't happen very often, so, saying that there's a problem with stability in Linux distros isn't a correct assessment.

    As a matter of practice I use distros that skirt the bleeding edge so I can test and file bugs, and, even though I run distros based Debian Sid or run Fedora with the testing repos enabled, I've had very few instances of instability in the years I've been using Linux.

    It's all a matter of how you use you're system as to whether it remains stable or not. Most distros take great care in not releasing unstable versions of apps into their main repositories.
  • Thank you for all the responses to my question. While trying to prep my desktop machine for a new install, I've managed to break it to the point where it doesn't boot at all regardless of the OS. At this point, I probably qualify for a job with my company's IT department whose motto seems to be: If it ain't broken, fix it until it is.

    Oh well, I guess I have a lot more work to do. In the meantime, I dusted off an old laptop--with a corner broken off of it--that seems to run just fine on Mint 9.
  • Your CD-ROM may be broken. Did you try to replace it and make sure that your system is set to boot from a CD/ROM?
  • Generally on a average Linux is more stable than Windows.

    I use it as my personal OS for my laptop. If I use Windows, morning the laptop works faster, and by afternoon or by evening, it gets slow, and gets sloppy. This is the issue with inconsistency with Windows usually. Also besides any crashes.

    So in general if you use Linux instead, if you see any inconsistencies it is due to Apps. sometimes. But your system should be perfect, even if you do not reboot for a week. So that is how stable it should be usually.

    I suggest Ubuntu in general for your desktop use. Since it has more tested application updates.

    Best wishes !


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