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What is Debian?

Some people in the market might argue about the slow release of Debian and also talk about the latest packages that are less than the cutting edge. But the slow releases of Debian is considered to be a benefit for the people who looks for long-term stability and wants to set up a server. Debian is one of the stable distributions of Linux available in the market. Not only, but about two-thirds of the active Linux distributions are also Debian-bases. Debian has become the upstream source for other Linux sources such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc., being the oldest surviving distribution of Linux. It is the most stable and widely adopted Linux distribution. 

Linux Tutorial General Dec 31, 21 by Nisal N 13 min Read
What is Debian?

Suppose you do not know much about the Debian distribution. In that case, you can go through this article to understand what Debian is, how it evolved over the years, why people should choose Debian as their Linux distribution, its features, advantages and disadvantages.

What is Debian?

In 1993, the first version of Debian was launched, thus making it one of the old Linux-based distributions. It is strictly open-source and completely managed and maintained by an active community of developers worldwide. Debian was started as a project by a team of enthusiastic volunteers. For using the Debian OS on your system, you can buy the CD-ROM distributions of Debian or burn your CD-ROMs from the image available over the internet. It ensures high security and stability to your system. 

The developers who are contributing to the improvement of Debian are involved in other Debian-related activities to make it efficient in all other fields. The activities are- administrating the web and FTP sites, creating graphic design, analyzing the legal software licenses, creating documentation, and managing the software packages of the Debian.

For spreading the values and interests of Debian that will help in gaining attraction of the developers, the Debian project has worked on various documents that will guide people or developers on how to use it and to tell the values of Debian. Some of the documents are mentioned below.

  • One of the documents is the Debian social contract that will specify the commitments of Debian to its free software community. If anyone follows the social contract, they may become a maintainer responsible for introducing new software to Debian. The added software needs to be available for free, and the software package should follow the quality standards as per this contract.
  • Another helpful document is the Debian free software guidelines that specify the clear statements regarding Debian’s free software. This document is considered a very impactive document that has created the foundation for the open-source definition.
  • Another powerful document is the Debian policy manual that will mention the specifications regarding the quality standards of Debian’s project.

Not only this, but the developers are also responsible for other projects, some of them are involved specifically for Debian, and some are involved in the Linux community. Some of the other valuable projects are mentioned below.

  • One of the common and popular projects is the Linux standard base (LSB). It focuses mainly on the basics of the GNU/Linux system allowing the developers to design the software, hardware, and device drivers for the Linux system instead of designing them for GNU/Linux specific distributions.
  • Another project named FileSystem Hierarchy System (FHS) focuses on the standardization of the Linux file system layout. This will allow the developers to create programs that can run efficiently on any GNU/Linux distribution without worrying about the installation of the packages.
  • Another internal project is the Debian Jr that focuses on creating something new for the young users.

Debian Development History

Debian has evolved, and various versions have been released. Each release has shown the introduction of new features and the fix to the bugs in the former release.

  • Debian 0.01 – 0.09: these versions came into the picture in August 1993 – December 1993.
  • Debian 0.91 – in 1994 January, this version came into the picture, providing the primitive package system with no dependencies.
  • Debian 0.93 rc5: March 1995. It was marked as the first modern release of Debian, in which dpkg was used for installing and managing packages after the base installation of the system.
  • Debian 0.93 rc6: this version was released in November 1995, which was the last a.out release. Deselect made its first appearance with around 60 developers working on the maintenance of the packages.
  • Debian 1.1: this version was released in June 1996 with the code name – Buzz, with around 474 packages with the Package Manager dpkg and Kernel 2.0, ELF.
  • Debian 1.2: this version was released in December 1996 with the code name – Rex offering 848 Packages with 120 Developers.
  • Debian 1.3: was released in July 1997 with the code name – Bo offering 974 packages and 200 Developers.
  • Debian 2.0: this version was released in July 1998 with the code name: Hamm, offering the support for architecture – Intel i386 and Motorola 68000 series with more than 1500 Packages maintained by more than 400 developers along with Glibc.
  • Debian 2.1: this version was released on March 9th, 1999, with the code name – slink, offering the support architecture Alpha and Sparc, and introduced the apt along with 2250 packages.
  • Debian 2.2: this version was released on August 15th, 2000, with the code name – Potato, offering the support for the architecture – Intel i386, Motorola 68000 series, Alpha, SUN Sparc, PowerPC, and ARM architecture with more than 3900 binary packages and more than 2600 source packages. 450 Developers maintained it. 
  • Debian 3.0: this version was released on July 19th, 2002, with the code name – woody, offering the support for the Architecture – HP, PA_RISC, IA-64, MIPS, and IBM. It was first released on DVD with more than 8500 Packages, maintained by more than 900 Developers, and included Cryptography.
  • Debian 3.1: this version was released on June 6th, 2005 with the code name – sarge, offering the support for the same as woody + AMD64 – Unofficial Port released, with Kernel – 2.4 and 2.6 series, comes with more than 15000 Packages and maintained by more than 1500 developers, included packages like – OpenOffice Suite, Firefox Browser, Thunderbird, Gnome 2.8, provides the support for the Kernel 3.3 Advanced Installation.
  • Debian 4.0: this version was released on April 8th, 2007, with the code name – etch, which offers the support for the architecture – same as sarge, included AMD64. It comes with more than 18,200 packages and is supported by more than 1030 Developers, and included Graphical Installer.
  • Debian 5.0: this version was released on February 14th, 2009, with the code name – Lenny, offering the architecture Support – same as before + ARM. It provides more than 23000 packages and is supported by more than 1010 Developers Count.
  • Debian 6.0: this version was released on July 29th, 2009, with the code name – squeeze. It comes with the packages such as kernel 2.6.32, Gnome 2.3. Xorg 7.5, DKMS, offers the dependency-based Architecture that provides the support Same as previous + kfreebsd-i386 and kfreebsd-amd64 and ensures Dependency based booting.
  • Debian 7.0: this version was released on May 4th, 2013, with the code name: wheezy, which comes with the support for Multiarch, Tools for private cloud, Improved Installer, Third-party repo needs to be removed, full-featured multimedia-codec, Kernel 3.2, Xen Hypervisor 4.1.4 and included more than 37400 Packages.
  • Debian 8.0: this version was released on May 25th, 2015, with the code name: Jessie. It has Systemd as its default init system powered by Kernel 3.16 and includes fast booting, cgroups for services, the possibility of isolating part of the services. It offers more than 43000 packages. sysvinit init system available in Jessie.
  • Debian 8.5: this version was released on June 4th, 2016

You might have noticed that each release of Debian has a code name after the characters of the Toy Story.

Features of Debian distribution

  • Debian comes with the highest number of possible installers.
  • With Debian distribution, you will have the opportunity to work with any free or non-free software.
  • Debian comes with the support for multiple hardware architectures that range from amd64 to arm64.
  • Debian is the common Linux distribution that can be run on any hardware. If your hardware cannot run Debian, then it might be difficult for the hardware to run any other distribution.
  • Debian showed a smooth transition during the up-gradation of the new releases.
  • Debian is one of the stable Linux distributions that have a balance between the cutting edge and stability.
  • It ensures complete security as compared to other distributions. 
  • It offers you a detailed manual helping you throughout the installation of packages, the function of those packages, and how they interact with other available packages.

Advantages of Debian

  • Being an old Linux distribution, it has a solid and active community of developers working consistently to improve its performance as per the changing technologies.
  • Debian is tested consistently, thus making its tested version is as stable as other available distributions.
  • With Debian, you can avail of its one of the largest repositories for the software.
  • With Debian, you will be able to carry out recursive upgrades to the system without impacting its performance.
  • You will get suggestions from the Debian package if there is a need to install any other package for proper working with another package.
  • Debian works on its standard policies, thus making it mature enough to maintain the distribution in a distributed way.
  • With Debian, you can install any number of packages for seamless working.

Disadvantages of Debian

  • Reaching its stable repository will take a long way for new software to be updated. So, you might not get the latest features compared to other distributions.
  • If you have a strong knowledge of the terminal commands, you can get along well with the Debian distributions as all the work is done via terminal, making it challenging for the new users.
  • It does not offer an enterprise version.
  • It shows a long support cycle.

Reasons to use Debian.

There are various reasons to choose Debian as your Linux distribution. Some of the reasons are mentioned below.

  1. Detailed installer- earlier, it was considered that it is hard to install Debian, but it is not true. You will get the most thorough document for installing Debian. Sometimes its shortened version is required by the people but still requires you to select a long list of details that will take a couple of hours to install. Suppose you are not able to run Debian on your hardware. In that case, you can use the advanced version of the Debian installer to overcome the compatibility issue, if there is any.
  2. Supports multiple hardware architectures- Officially, every release of the Debian comes with the support for the nine hardware architectures that range from amd64 (64 bit Intel) to arm64 and PowerPC. Also, the other five architectures are supported unofficially, while the three are unsupported, but they are listed anyway.

Compared to other distributions, Debian includes the Linux Mint that supports only 32- and 64-bit Intel chips. Unlike Fedora, which has dropped the support for many architectures, Debian still supports SPARC. If hardware is not able to run Debian, then there is no chance that it will support any other distribution.

  1. Shows easy transition- since introducing new technologies such as Systemd, it has created some complications while upgrading the distribution to the latest release. But with Debian, you will be able to create packages that have made this upgrade as seamless as other regular upgrades.
  2. Huge variety of installed packages- well, there has been no count, but it is estimated that Debian comes with more than 50000 packages which is a considerable number. But, the problem is you might not have the recent packages with Debian. But whenever other projects create packages, they create a .deb format for that package which is runnable on Debian.

Conclusion

However, there is no doubt about the popularity of the Debian distribution. It has evolved immensely over the years, offering huge functionalities and a number of packages for including new technologies. Today, most of the projects are being created using the Debian distribution of Linux. It is one of the secured, stable distributions that has made it easier for the companies who look for long-term support for a specific release. 

With this article, you will be able to understand the basics of Debian, its various projects. Also, how many versions have been released over time, offering what functionalities. There are various valid reasons for installing Debian on your system and learning how to work on the terminal for effective and easy working. 

author img

Nisal N

Computers has always fascinated me since I was a kid and here we are. I love travelling for 2 reasons: the first one to see a new part of the world and second (the most important one) to experience the rich culture hidden among the country and people. I'm pretty good at cooking but very poor when it comes to baking.

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