Although it might seem hard to believe for the beginner Linux user, there is is life beyond Ubuntu. One of the most notable systems the average user often overlooks is Debian itself, the origin of all Ubuntu and Ubuntu based distros.
Debian offers unparalleled stability in comparison to most other Linux distributions, which is achieved by slower release cycles and deep and thorough testing of the system and all included packages as well.
Debian offers over 30 000 packages from its official repositories and even more from the unofficial ones, but such stability comes at a price: Most packages are what many consider outdated, often lagging one or two minor (rarely major) versions behind what your would normally get from Ubuntu and its derivatives. While you may not get the most up-to-date and bleeding-edge software with a Debian system, you can be sure you have all serious and even minor bugs ironed out, and the chance of anything breaking in production is surely reduced to minimal.
Voyager Live X8
Voyager is a Debian-based distribution, bringing you the newest “experimental” version of XFCE and a great selection of software, based on a stable Debian 8(.1) release.
Debian 8 Jessie comes with XCFE 4.10 and has version 4.12 only in the unstable repositories. Version 4.12 is a major improvement upon 4.10, was in the making for nearly three years, and is the best XCFE release yet according to its developers. It certainly brings plenty of new features to the once lightweight, but lately fully fledged, DE.
Debian users would unfortunately miss this unless they are willing to install it from the unstable repositories which could prove a bit of an advanced stunt to pull even for the more experienced user (that is if they don’t want to risk messing up their entire system).
Fortunately the people behind Voyager X8 made it all easy. Voyager X8 is built on Debian stable with XCFE 4.12 (and nothing else) pulled in from the experimental (unstable) repos. This means unparallelled Debian reliability with a bleeding edge Desktop environment – the best of both worlds.
Voyager X8 also comes with a generous offering of pre-installed software, among others:
- Kodi/XBMC Media Center
- and Transmission
It is noteworthy that Firefox and Thunderbird are not available in Debian systems, only a re-branded version of both Mozilla software (Iceweasel and Icedove, respectively). This is due to the non-free licensing terms Mozilla makes its artwork available under. Debian uses the open-source Mozilla code, but puts it under a re-branded and GPL-licensed browser of a different name with similar functionality.
Voyager X8 at a glance
You have a choice to download Voyager Live X8 in 32 bit and 64 BIOS or UEFI versions. Upon starting, the live CD displays some custom artwork and gives an option to start the live environment in different languages, which is a nice touch.
The live environment starts up remarkably fast, and we’re greeted with a custom-themed XCFE 4.12
Voyager aims to add a touch of style to the default look and feel. It is up to you to decide whether you like the slightly OS X-esque Window controls (not really, but that’s the closest to the colorful buttons) and the quite “loud” background image.
The installer can be started with the single desktop icon of the live environment. It is vanilla Debian: no attempt has been made to re-brand, or simplify it in any way, and as such, it is not for the faint-hearted.
Once you get through the many steps of installation, your system reboots (and boots afterwards) remarkably fast. This is in part due to Debian having switched to systemd.
The login screen has a little terminal cheat sheet on its wallpaper,
but XCFE makes it a breeze to configure a system even in a point and click fashion.
A notable features is the inclusion of Slingscold, a HUD style application launcher
besides the usual XCFE menu, that can seem novel for those not used to the environment with its unusual placement of elements.
As has been already mentioned, Voyager comes with many useful applications preinstalled, so after a little configuration you can have a fully-functioning and extremely-stable Debian based system, which will be actively maintained for many years to come.
Not for beginners
The Debian installer is not necessarily beginner-friendly. You get to configure everything manually, but you need to go through many steps, some of which can be intimidating for new users.
Also, Debian tends to install a largely “unconfigured” system. Ubuntu users might be used to having everything done for them, but Debian systems are much closer to the original Linux way, as in one has to configure one’s system manually or semi-manually.
Voyager X8 is somewhere in between. It is not as easy as Ubuntu but not as rough as vanilla Debian either. Non-free, contrib and security update repositories are pre-configured out of the box, and many useful software is added, but the unsuspecting user might find he is not in the sudoers file (thus cannot use sudo OOB). Unlike Ubuntu, Debian enables the root account by default, thus such small details could easily be sorted out by the more willing adventurer. The website offers a simple tutorial for those willing to get their hands dirty about how to perform some basic tasks and customizations (The page is in French, you can translate with this page widget embedded into the site.).
Voyager X8 offers the stability of Debian 8, with the new functionality of XCFE 4.12, usually only available from the unstable repositories. With a more traditional installer, and a need to be set up a bit, it is not meant for the beginner. But for the intermediate to advanced Linux user, Voyager offers an excellent alternative to mainstream distributions. If you are interested in a more user friendly Voyager experience, check out their Ubuntu-based releases on the Voyager website.