Since I’m switching many machines from Ubuntu to Debian, I was wondering if I could just keep my home partition intact and simply install Debian “over” Ubuntu, or if that would cause major problems with application configuration files etc.
Here’s the good news: It’s absolutely no problem to sidegrade from Ubuntu 9.10 to Debian squeeze (testing). I chose to keep the /home partition unformatted in the installer, but formatted the / partition. When the system rebooted, I logged in and my entire desktop looked exactly the same as under Ubuntu. Even my GNOME settings were intact, down to the desktop background.
The only thing I had to do to tweak was to install some software that doesn’t come by default with Debian, such as claws-mail, my favorite e-mail client. Other than that, it’s been extremely smooth sailing. I’m surprised, in a positive way.
So if you don’t want to follow Canonical’s rebranding of Ubuntu (which will happen with 10.04 later this month), give Debian squeeze a try. It’s fully community based, so if you think the Debian Project Leader is not acting in your best interest, you have more leverage than with Canonical to change things.