Opinions please:  as far as being well-supported on, and technically appropriate for BeagleBone Black,

Opinions please: as far as being well-supported on, and technically appropriate for BeagleBone Black, which is a better choice, Ubuntu or Debian? This would be for a general-purpose, low-power Linux server, serving things like Apache and OpenVPN. No fancy GPIO this time around.

To start another OS war: take fedora 20, it’s not released yet. But it contains e.g. a recent kernel vs. 3.0.35 released ages ago.

If that does not fit for you, take Debian. It’s well tested, has great documentation and it just works.

If both are capable of being installed to the eMMC, which start up process are you more comfortable dealing with; init or upstart?

@Jezra didn’t Debian switched to @systemd recently? (I don’t really know)

@Matthias_Runge systemd is in the Debian repos, but from what I can tell, Wheezy is still using sysvinit. In I few minutes, I’ll let you know for sure. (I’m currently in the process of flashing Debian 7 to the eMMC of a BBB)

@Chad_Olson is there a server specific Fedora image available for the BBB? Everything I’ve been able to find includes the full desktop environment; and that is not something I want on a server.

@Matthias_Runge Debian 7 Wheezy is not using systemd by default, and I now have Wheezy running on the BBB from the eMMC

Ubuntu is never a wise choice

Thanks everybody. Koen, why is Ubuntu never a wise choice?

Debian, IMHO. Primarily because Debian is open, Free (as in speech), and goes out of it’s way to let you pick YOUR user experience. Ubuntu (and most other disto’s, really) has a tendency to make decisions for you, regardless of whatever you might actually want.

Ubuntu: Watch me install the Unity desktop.

Debian: I’ll install gnome by default, but if you want you can pick from KDE, LXFE, XFCE, GNUstep, openbox, fluxbox, compiz, …

…now multiply this by everything from your favorite text editor to your preferred boot loader. I like freedom of choice, so I like Debian.

Great input, everyone, thanks. I haven’t heard anything good here about Ubuntu. Is there anything good to say about it in the context of the BBB?

I don’t know anything bad about Ubuntu on the BBB, but I don’t know anything particularly good about it either. IMHO, the choice between Ubuntu and Debian on the BeagleBone comes down to what you are familiar with (or would like to learn) on any other platform. If you use Ubuntu on your laptop/desktop/server, go with that. Ditto for Debian.

Otherwise, it comes down to the standard disto flame war material and depends mostly on your personal preference. I know Debian has a good armhf release with lots of packages, but AFAIK both Ubuntu and Fedora do as well…I just haven’t tried them personally.

Oh…one thing to note about running a “standard” distribution on the BeagleBone. For the ARM chips, the “secret sauce” is mostly in the boot-loader, kernel, and device tree. Unlike x86, you don’t typically just "apt-get install " and have everything magically work. However, once you have a kernel and boot loader installed, from that point on it “feels” just like any other install, you can add/remove/update packages at will, and generally everything Just Works (at least for Debian, I’d assume the other releases are similar). So as long as you can get a boot-strap image with a working boot loader, kernel, and initial root filesystem for your disto of choice, there shouldn’t be a lot of difference in the complexity of day to day operations or huge differences in hardware support between the various distos.

I’m running Ubuntu Raring with 3.8.13 on my. Works like a charm

For my BeagleSNES project (http://beaglesnes.org), I use an Ubuntu distro as the base file system image. I do this because I include a complete compiler toolchain and the necessary libraries required to build the software inside of the microSD card image that contains the complete system. If someone wants to hack on my software, I try to make the system as “upgrade friendly” as possible. An interested developer can place the BBB on the network and apt-get to his/her heart’s content. There are a few caveats, though. I’ve trimmed down a lot of the init runlevel scripts to keep a lot of things from even starting, and my default release configuration specifies my main application as the init process for the system. I run everything on the framebuffer, so X is disabled. I also build my own bootloader and kernel, so I don’t rely on the stock Ubuntu kernel you’d get via apt-get. So, I guess I’ve taken a heavy system and made it lighter while still allowing people that want to make it heavy again an easy route to do so if they want to adapt my work for a different purpose.

Probably Arch Linux ARM could also be a good choice. Arch is a minimal rolling-release general-use distro. It’s highly cutting-edge and is really flexible. I’m using it on my BBB for the same purposes as yours and works like a charm.

Debian would certainly be my second choice anyway.