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What is Debian?

Debian is a free operating system (OS) for your computer. An operating system is the set of basic programs and utilities that make your computer run. Debian uses the Linux kernel (the core of an operating system), but most of the basic OS tools come from the GNU project; hence the name GNU/Linux. Debian GNU/Linux provides more than a pure OS: it comes with more than 3950 packages, precompiled software bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine.

I am using Debian since 1998 and see that the number of packages and features keep growing each day, thereby also increasing the complexity. However, like most of the other open-source software documentation is poor. If you can get around some of the problems, you will really enjoy your debian - a woody or a potato or a slink . I am listing some of the trips & tricks that I learnt during my hands-on with Debian. This is no way complete and are just a few of what I remember as of today. Click on the appropriate links on the right to view the tips.

I kept a couple of my desktop screenshots here. You might have to maximize your browser to see them.

Why do I love Debian?

I love the philosophy of Debian. Debian has strict standards as to what is and isn't included in its base distribution. For example, for a while it didn't include KDE because KDE was based on a library that had a kind of restrictive licensing. Until the licensing got changed, debian didn't include KDE in its distribution. You will now find it, because KDE changed its license. In other words, if it's not truly free software, it doesn't make it in the base distro.

Debian is clean, always current & fresh. These are not just my views, but also expressed by many other senior debian users & developers.

Apt. Well, really, there are other tools in other distributions that approximate apt/dselect/dpkg, but the big difference is that Debian has strict standards as to what is and isn't included in its distribution. What this translates to is that when you want to install a package on some other distro, you find that that package depends on X, and X depends on Y, and Y depends on Z, and Z conflicts with X so that you can't install Z without removing X which breaks your install. On Debian, the strict packaging policies means that all these dependencies are worked out beforehand by the package maintainers, so that you don't have to. As a result, when you want to install evolution, you just type "apt-get install evolution" and then go to the coke machine to buy a drink, come back, and then start using evolution. Very sweet.

I would venture to say the statement of clean packaging is true for each and every debian package. The main reason is that Debian releases are not Official until it's ready to be released. This is in contrast with certain other distros that are released because the marketing guys promised it this quarter. Debian is also the easiest to maintain, which in a sense, translates to stability. On a related note, it has been the observation of several posters to the debian-users list over the past 4 or so years that Debian's unstable branch is just as stable as the other distribution's full release version.

Interesting Release Names!

Debian is the only software distribution (that I know of!) having names instead of numbers and that too from cartoon characters. Each release has a codename, which represent the characters of the epic Toy Story. If you had seen the movies, you would enjoy the interpolation of the names. Like the name sid representing the unstable version, refers to the evil boy next door who always breaks things. Here are the descriptions of other characters in the movie.

Please go ahead and browse through my tips & tricks on debian usage. All the best and have fun!

Disclaimer: I do not take any responsibility of the actual behaviour of any of the suggestions on your system. Use at your own risk!

[HOME] Last Updated: Apr' 2002
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