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Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) with GNOME 3
Company / developerDebian Project
OS familyUnix-like
Working stateCurrent
Source modelOpen-source
Initial releaseAugust 16, 1993; 20 years ago (1993-08-16)
Latest release7.5 ("Wheezy") (April 26, 2014; 39 days ago (2014-04-26)) [±][1]
Latest preview8.0 (Jessie) Alpha 1 (19 March 2014; 2 months ago (2014-03-19)) [±][2]
Available in73 languages[3]
Update methodAPT (several front-ends available)
Package managerdpkg
Supported platformsIA-32, x86-64, PowerPC, SPARC, ARM, MIPS, S390
Kernel typeMonolithic: Linux, kFreeBSD (unstable: Micro: Hurd)
Default user interfaceGNOME
LicenseFree software (mainly GPL).[4] Proprietary software in a separate (non-default) repository.[5]
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Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) with GNOME 3
Company / developerDebian Project
OS familyUnix-like
Working stateCurrent
Source modelOpen-source
Initial releaseAugust 16, 1993; 20 years ago (1993-08-16)
Latest release7.5 ("Wheezy") (April 26, 2014; 39 days ago (2014-04-26)) [±][1]
Latest preview8.0 (Jessie) Alpha 1 (19 March 2014; 2 months ago (2014-03-19)) [±][2]
Available in73 languages[3]
Update methodAPT (several front-ends available)
Package managerdpkg
Supported platformsIA-32, x86-64, PowerPC, SPARC, ARM, MIPS, S390
Kernel typeMonolithic: Linux, kFreeBSD (unstable: Micro: Hurd)
Default user interfaceGNOME
LicenseFree software (mainly GPL).[4] Proprietary software in a separate (non-default) repository.[5]

Debian (/ˈdɛbiən/) is an operating system composed of Free Software mostly carrying the GNU General Public License.[6] The operating system is developed by an Internet collaboration of volunteers aligned with The Debian Project.

Debian GNU/Linux is one of the most popular Linux distributions for personal computers and network servers.[7][8][9][10] Debian has been used as a base for other Linux distributions; as of 2014, DistroWatch lists 138 active Debian derivatives.[11][12] Debian has been forked many times but is not affiliated with its derivatives.

In addition to releasing security updates, the Debian project is committed to providing accurate information about security issues. Debian Security Advisories are CVE-Compatible.[13]


Text version of the Debian Installer
Graphical version of the Debian Installer (available since Etch)
Debian GNU/Linux console login and welcome message

Debian 6.0 introduced a new kernel: the Debian GNU/kFreeBSD kernel. Debian now supports two kernels, Linux and kFreeBSD, and offers other kernels under development (GNU Hurd and NetBSD). This project's new kernel is released as a technology preview and still lacks the amount of software available as on Debian's Linux.[14] The kernel is offered for Intel/AMD 32-bit and 64-bit architecture machines.[15] The current stable release, code-named Wheezy, is officially supported on eleven architectures and also brought support for two new architectures: s390x and armhf.

Debian is still primarily a Linux distribution with access to online repositories hosting over 37,500 software packages.[16] Debian officially hosts free software on its repositories but also allows non-free software to be installed. Debian includes popular programs such as LibreOffice,[17] Iceweasel (a rebranding of Firefox), Evolution mail, CD/DVD writing programs, music and video players, image viewers and editors, and PDF viewers. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 5.0 lenny (323 million lines of code) using the COCOMO model, has been estimated to be about US$ 8 billion.[18] Ohloh estimates that the codebase (68 million lines of code) using the same model, would cost about US$ 1.2 billion to develop.[19]

Debian offers DVD and CD images for installation that can be downloaded using BitTorrent, with jigdo and bought from retailers.[20] The sets are made up of several disks (the amd64 port consists of 10 DVDs or 69 CDs),[21] but using just the first iso image of any of its downloadable sets is sufficient;[22] the installer can retrieve software not contained in the first iso image from online repositories. Installation images are hybrid on some architectures and can be used to create a bootable USB stick.[23] The Wheezy release offers to install a variety of default Desktops from its DVD boot menu (GNOME, KDE, Xfce, and LXDE) and includes aids for visually-impaired people. The new feature in Debian's latest installer of Wheezy for the visually-impaired supports a mode which is textual but performs audio output for each stage of installation.[24] Debian offers different network installation methods. A minimal install of Debian is available via the 'netinstall' CD, whereby Debian is installed with just a base and later additional software can be downloaded from the Internet. Another option is to boot the installer from the network.[25]

Other notable new features in Debian's latest release include: Multiarch, which allows 32-bit Linux software to run on 64-bit operating system installs;[26] UEFI support for amd64;[27] improved multimedia support, reducing reliance on third-party repositories; compiled packages with hardened security flags; AppArmor, which can protect a system against unknown vulnerabilities; and systemd, which shipped as a technology preview.[28]

Desktop environments[edit]

Debian KDE desktop

Debian offers stable and testing CD images specifically built for GNOME (the default), KDE Plasma Workspaces, Xfce and LXDE.[29] Less common window managers such as Enlightenment, Openbox, Fluxbox, IceWM, Window Maker and others are also available.[30]

It was previously suggested that the default desktop environment of version 7.0 "Wheezy" may be switched to Xfce, because GNOME 3 might not fit on the first CD of the set.[31] The Debian Installer team announced that the first CD includes GNOME thanks to their efforts to minimize the amount of disc space GNOME takes up.[32][33] In November 2013 it was announced that the desktop environment of version 8.0 "Jessie" would change to Xfce. Demand for Xfce will be evaluated and the default environment may switch back to GNOME again just before Jessie is frozen.[34][35] Debian makes images of its install disk 1 available with Xfce as the included environment.[36]

As of March 2014, MATE is available in the testing and unstable repositories,[37] while Cinnamon is only available in the unstable repository.[38]


A Debian Pure Blend is a subset of Debian that is configured out-of-the-box for users with particular skills and interests.[39]

A Debian Blend is a Debian-based distribution having an explicit goal of improving Debian as a whole. Consequently, all extras offered by Blends will either become part of Debian, or are temporary workarounds to solve a need of the target group which cannot yet be solved within Debian.[40]

Debian Live[edit]

Debian also releases live install images for CDs, DVDs and USB thumb drives, for IA-32 and x86-64 architectures, and with a choice of desktop environments. These Debian Live images allow the user to boot from a removable media and run Debian without affecting the contents of their computer. A full install of Debian to the computer's hard drive can be initiated from the live image environment.[41]

Personalized Debian Live images can be built with the live-build tool,[42] in which images are generated for CD/DVD/USB drives and for network booting purposes. Live-magic is another tool used for personalizing Debian Live images, along with the assistance of a graphical interface.

Debian version 5.0 "Lenny" was the first official Live CD release.[43]

Embedded systems[edit]

Recent releases of Debian support an increasing number of ARM-based NAS devices. The cheap NSLU2 was supported by Debian 4.0 and 5.0[44] and can be upgraded to Debian 6.0 although there are problems with a 6.0 clean install.[45] Debian 5.0 added support for the Buffalo Kurobox Pro,[46] and Debian 6.0 for the SheevaPlug.[47]

Other NAS devices supported by Debian, but perhaps not so widely used by home users, include GLAN Tank and Thecus N2100 as of Debian 4.0,[48] QNAP Turbo Station (TS-109, TS-209, TS-409) and HP mv2120 as of Debian 5.0,[46] and QNAP Turbo NAS TS-11x, TS-21x and TS-41x, OpenRD, Lanner EM7210 and Intel SS4000-e as of Debian 6.0.[47]


Debian package
Filename extension.deb
Internet media typeapplication/x-deb
Developed byDebian
Type of formatPackage management system
Container forSoftware package
Extended fromar archive

Package management[edit]

Package management operations can be performed with different tools available on Debian, from the lowest level command dpkg to graphical front-ends like synaptic. The official standard for administering packages on a Debian system is the apt toolset.[49]

The dpkg database[edit]

dpkg is the storage information center of installed packages and provides no configuration for accessing online repositories. The dpkg database is located at /var/lib/dpkg/available and contains the list of "installed" software on the current system.

The dpkg command[edit]

The dpkg command tool is used for the dpkg database without capability of accessing online repositories.[50] The command can work with local .deb package files as well as information from the dpkg database.

APT tools for online repositories[edit]
Using Aptitude to view Debian package details
Package installed with Aptitude.

An APT tool allows administration of an installed Debian system for retrieving and resolving package dependencies from online repositories. APT tools share dependency information (/etc/apt configuration files) and downloaded cache .deb files (/var/cache/apt/archives). APT tools depend on verifying what is installed in the dpkg database in order to determine missing packages for requested installs.

The GDebi tool and other front-ends[edit]

GDebi is an APT tool which can be used in command-line and on the GUI. GDebi combines the functionality of the dpkg tool and APT package resolving with online repositories. The local .deb file in the GUI environment's file manager can be associated to be opened with GDebi providing a graphical experience of installing packages via double clicking. GDebi can also install a local .deb file via the command line alike the dpkg command, but with access to online repositories. If GDebi is requested to install a local .deb file that requires to install a dependency, it then searches the repositories as defined in the common APT configuration folder (/etc/apt) and performs to resolving and downloading missing packages.

There are various front-ends for APT, both graphical and command-line based. Graphical applications include Software Center, Synaptic and Apper.


A Debian 4.0 "Etch" Box Cover[51]

The Debian Project offers three distributions, each with different characteristics. The distributions include packages which comply with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG), which are included inside the main repositories.[52] Debian also officially supports the optional backports repository for the stable distribution.[53]


When in need of updated versions of software, it is possible to use Debian testing instead of stable as it usually contains more up to date, though slightly less stable packages. Another alternative is to use Debian backports, which are "recompiled packages from testing (mostly) and unstable (in a few cases only, e.g. security updates), so they will run without new libraries (wherever it is possible) on a stable Debian distribution".[54]

Official repositories are the following:

Depreciating repositories in Debian:

Other repository in Debian:

Non-free and unofficial repositories[edit]

The Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) defines its distinctive meaning of the word "free" as in "free and open source software" (FOSS), although it is not endorsed by the Free Software Foundation or GNU foundation; reason being Debian's servers includes and supports a proprietary repository and documentation that recommends non-free software.[58][59] In accordance with its guidelines, a relatively small number of packages are excluded from the distributions' main repositories and included inside the non-free and contrib repositories. These two repositories are not officially part of Debian GNU/Linux. The Debian project offers its distribution without non-free repositories but can be adopted manually after initial setup.

Third-party repositories[edit]

These repositories are not part of the Debian Project, they are maintained by third party organizations. They contain packages that are either more up to date than the ones found in stable or include packages that are not included in the Debian Project for a variety of reasons such as: e.g. possible patent infringement, binary-only/no sources, or special licenses that are too restrictive. Their use requires precise configuration of the priority of the repositories to be merged; otherwise these packages may not integrate correctly into the system, and may cause problems upgrading or conflicts between packages from different sources. The Debian Project discourages the use of these repositories as they are not part of the project.[60]

Hardware support[edit]

Hardware requirements[edit]

Debian has no hardware requirements beyond those of the Linux kernel and the GNU tool-sets (gcc, coreutils, bash, etc.). Therefore, any architecture or platform to which these packages have been ported, and for which a Debian port exists, can run Debian.[61]

Linux, and therefore Debian, supports the use of multiple processors in a system (symmetric multiprocessing). This does not inhibit support for single-processor systems.[61]

Debian's recommended system requirements differ depending on the level of installation, which corresponds to increased numbers of installed components:[62]

Install desktopRAM minimum[62]RAM recommended[62]Hard drive space used[62]
No64 MB256 MBGB
Yes128 MB512 MB5 GB

A 1 GHz processor is the minimum recommended for desktop systems.[62]

The real minimum memory requirements depend on the architecture and may be much less than the numbers listed in this table. It is possible to install Debian with as little as 20 MB of RAM for s390, or 60 MB of RAM for x86-64.[62] The installer will run in low memory mode and it is recommended to create a swap partition.[63] Similarly, disk space requirements, which depend on the packages to be installed, can also be reduced by manually selecting the packages needed.[62]

It is possible to run graphical user interfaces on older or low-end systems, but the installation of window managers instead of desktop environments is recommended, as desktop environments are more resource-intensive.[62] Requirements for individual software vary widely and must be considered as well as those of the base operating environment.[62]

Architecture ports[edit]

HP 9000 C110 PA-RISC workstation booting Debian GNU/Linux

Most software packages in the official Debian repositories are compiled for an abundance of available and older instruction sets.

Stable ports[edit]

As of the current stable release (wheezy), the official ports are:[64]

Unstable ports[edit]

In the current official unstable distribution there are following ports:

Unofficial ports[edit]

Unofficial ports are also available as part of the unstable distribution at

The m68k port was the second official one in Debian, and has been part of five stable Debian releases. Due to its failure to meet the release criteria, it was dropped before the release of etch but is in current status of being revived. The arm (OABI,[67] <armv4t), alpha and hppa ports were dropped before the release of squeeze.


Debian is known for its manifesto,[68] social contract,[8][68][69] and policies.[70] Debian's policies and team efforts focus on collaborative software development and testing processes[71] and dedicates lengthy development time between unstable and stable release cycles. As a result of its strictly guarded policies, a new distribution release for Debian tends to occur every one to two years. The strategy policies used by the Debian project for minimizing software bugs, albeit with longer release cycles, has allowed it to remain one of the most stable and secure Linux distributions.


Diagram of the organizational structure of the project

The Debian Project is a volunteer organization with three foundational documents:

Debian is developed by over three thousand volunteers.[74] There are many ways a volunteer can contribute to the project without being a Debian Developer.[75]

Debian is supported by donations through several nonprofit organizations around the world. The largest supporter is Software in the Public Interest,[76] the owner of the Debian trademark, manager of the monetary donations[77] and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.[78]

The project maintains official mailing lists and conferences for communication and coordination between developers.[79] For issues with single packages and other tasks,[80] a public bug tracking system is used by developers and end-users. Internet Relay Chat channels (primarily on the OFTC and freenode networks) are also used for communication among developers[52] and to provide real time help.[81]

Together, the Developers may make binding general decisions by way of a General Resolution or election.[73] All voting is conducted by Cloneproof Schwartz Sequential Dropping, a Condorcet method of voting.[82] A Project Leader is elected once per year by a vote of the Developers;[73] in April 2010, Stefano Zacchiroli was voted into this position, succeeding Steve McIntyre. The Debian Project Leader has several special powers, but they are not absolute. Under a General Resolution, the Developers may, among other things, recall the leader, reverse a decision by him or his delegates, and amend the constitution and other foundational documents.[73]

The Leader sometimes delegates authority to other developers in order for them to perform specialized tasks. Delegates make decisions as they think is best, taking into account technical criteria and consensus.[73]

A role in Debian with a similar importance to the Project Leader's is that of a Release Manager. Release Managers set goals for the next release, supervise the processes, and make the final decision as to when to release.[83][84]

Project leaders[edit]

The Debian Project Leader (DPL) is the public face of the project and defines the current direction of the project.[85] The project has had the following leaders:[86]

A supplemental position, Debian Second in Charge (2IC), was created by Anthony Towns. Steve McIntyre held the position between April 2006 and April 2007. From April 2009 to April 2010 this position was held by Luk Claes. Stefano Zacchiroli abandoned this unofficial position when elected in April 2010.[88]

Release managers[edit]

Note that this list includes the active release managers; it does not include the release assistants (first introduced in 2003) and the retiring managers ("release wizards").[83]

Developer recruitment, motivation, and resignation[edit]

The Debian project has an influx of applicants wishing to become developers.[91] These applicants must undergo a vetting process which establishes their identity, motivation, understanding of the project's goals (embodied in the Social Contract), and technical competence.[92]

Debian Developers join the Project for a number of reasons; some that have been cited in the past include:[93]

Debian Developers may resign their positions at any time by orphaning the packages they were responsible for and sending a notice to the developers and the keyring maintainer (so that their upload authorization can be revoked). Alternatively, when necessary, existing developers can be expelled.[73]

Development procedures[edit]

Software packages in development are either uploaded to the project distribution named "unstable" (also known as "sid"), or to the "experimental" repository. Software packages uploaded to "unstable" are normally versions stable enough to be released by the original upstream developer, but with the added Debian-specific packaging and other modifications introduced by Debian developers. These additions may be new and untested. Software not ready yet for the "unstable" distribution is typically placed in the "experimental" repository.[94]

After a version of a software package has remained in "unstable" for a certain length of time (depending on the urgency of the software's changes), that package is automatically migrated to the "testing" distribution. The package's migration to testing occurs only if no serious ("release-critical") bugs in the package are reported and if other software needed for package functionality qualifies for inclusion in "testing".[94]

Since updates to Debian software packages between official releases do not contain new features, some choose to use the "testing" and "unstable" distributions for their newer packages. However, these distributions are less tested than "stable", and "unstable" does not receive timely security updates. In particular, incautious upgrades to working "unstable" packages can sometimes seriously break software functionality.[95] Since September 9, 2005[96] the "testing" distribution's security updates have been provided by the "testing" security team.[97]

When "testing" is deemed mature enough and the number of remaining bugs is acceptable, the "testing" distribution becomes the next stable release.[57] The timing of the release is decided by the Release Managers, and in the past the exact date was rarely announced earlier than a couple of weeks beforehand.[98]

Package maintenance[edit]

Flowchart of the life cycle of a Debian package

Each Debian software package has a maintainer who keeps track of releases by the "upstream" authors of the software and ensures that the package is compliant with Debian Policy, coheres with the rest of the distribution, and meets the standards of quality of Debian. In relations with users and other developers, the maintainer uses the bug tracking system to follow up on bug reports and fix bugs. Typically, there is only one maintainer for a single package, but, increasingly, small teams of developers "co-maintain" larger and more complex packages and groups of packages.[99]

A package maintainer makes a release of a package by uploading it to the "incoming" directory of the Debian package archive (or an "upload queue" which periodically batch-transmits packages to the incoming directory). Package uploads are automatically processed to ensure that they are well-formed (all the requisite files are in place) and that the package is digitally signed by a Debian developer using OpenPGP-compatible software. All Debian developers have individual cryptographic key pairs.[100] Developers are responsible for any package they upload even if the packaging was prepared by another contributor.[101]

If the package in incoming is found to be validly signed and well-formed, it is installed into the archive into an area called the "pool" and distributed every day to hundreds of mirrors worldwide. Initially, all package uploads accepted into the archive are only available in the "unstable" distribution, which contains the most up-to-date version of each package.[52]

However, new code is also untried code, and those packages are only distributed with clear disclaimers. For packages to become candidates for the next "stable" release of the Debian distribution, they first need to be included in the "testing" distribution. For a package to be included in "testing":[102][103]

Thus, a release-critical bug in a package on which many packages depend, such as a shared library, may prevent many packages from entering the "testing" area, because that library is considered deficient.

Periodically, the Release Manager publishes guidelines to the developers in order to ready the release, and in accordance with them eventually decides to make a release. This occurs when all important software is reasonably up-to-date in the release-candidate distribution for all architectures for which a release is planned, and when any other goals set by the Release Manager have been met. At that time, all packages in the "testing" distribution become part of the "stable" distribution.

It is possible for a package, particularly an old, stable, and seldom-updated one, to belong to more than one distribution at the same time. Each distribution, also called suite, can be seen as a collection of pointers into the package "pool" mentioned above.

Debian Security Announcement (DSA)[edit]

The Debian Project, being free software, handles security policy through public disclosure rather than through security through obscurity. Many advisories are coordinated with other free software vendors (Debian is a member of vendor-sec) and are published the same day a vulnerability is made public. Debian has a security audit team that reviews the archive looking for new or unfixed security bugs. Debian also participates in security standardization efforts: the Debian security advisories are compatible with the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) dictionary, and Debian is represented in the Board of the Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL) project.[104]

The Debian Project offers extensive documentation and tools to harden a Debian installation both manually and automatically.[105] SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) packages are installed by default though not enabled.[106] Debian provides an optional hardening wrapper but does not compile their packages by default using gcc features such as PIE and buffer overflow protection to harden their software, unlike Ubuntu, Fedora and Hardened Gentoo among others.[107] These extra features greatly increase security at a performance cost of 1% in IA-32 and 0.01% in x86-64.[108]

It is a release goal for Debian 7.0 ("wheezy") "to update as many packages as possible to use security hardening build flags via dpkg-buildflags. These flags enable various protections against security issues such as stack smashing, predictable locations of values in memory, etc."[109]



As of May 2013, the stable release is version 7, code name wheezy. When a new version is released, the prior stable version becomes oldstable. As of May 2013, this is version 6.0, code name squeeze.

In addition, a stable release gets minor updates (called point releases). The numbering scheme for the point releases up to Debian 4.0 was to include the letter r (for release) after the main version number (e.g. 4.0) and then the number of the point release; for example, the latest point release of version 4.0 (etch) as of 8 December 2010 is 4.0r9.[110] From Debian 5.0 (lenny), the numbering scheme of point releases has been changed and conforms to the GNU version numbering standard;[111] so, for example, the first point release of Debian 5.0 was 5.0.1 (instead of 5.0r1).[112] The numbering scheme was once again changed for the first Debian 7 update, with the latter being assigned version 7.1.[113]

Security updates[edit]

The Debian security team releases security updates for the latest stable major release, and for the prior stable release for one year.[95] Version 4.0 etch was released on 8 April 2007, and the security team supported version 3.1 Sarge until 21 March 2008. For most uses it is strongly recommended to run a system which receives security updates. The testing distribution also receives security updates, but not in as timely a manner as stable.[114]

Time-based development schedule[edit]

For Debian 6.0 (squeeze) a new policy of time-based development freezes on a two-year cycle was announced. Time-based freezes are intended to allow the Debian Project to blend the predictability of time based releases with its policy of feature based releases. The new freeze policy aims to provide better predictability of releases for users of the Debian distribution, and to allow Debian developers to do better long-term planning. Debian developers expect that a two-year release cycle will give more time for disruptive changes, reducing inconveniences caused for users. Having predictable freezes was expected to reduce overall freeze time. The squeeze cycle was intended to be especially short to "get into the new cycle".[55] However this short freeze cycle for squeeze was abandoned.[115]

Debian release code names[edit]

The code names of Debian releases are names of characters from the film Toy Story. The unstable, development distribution is permanently nicknamed sid, after the emotionally unstable next-door neighbor boy who regularly destroyed toys.[94] The current release wheezy is named after the rubber toy penguin in Toy Story 2.[116] The release after wheezy will be named jessie, after the cowgirl in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3.[117]


Debian has made twelve major stable releases (TBA stands for to be announced):[76]

VersionCode nameRelease datePortsPackagesSupported untilNotes
Old version, no longer supported: 1.1buzz17 June 19961474Old version, no longer supported: September 1996[118]dpkg, ELF transition, Linux 2.0[76]
Old version, no longer supported: 1.2rex12 December 19961848Old version, no longer supported: 1996[citation needed]-
Old version, no longer supported: 1.3bo5 June 19971974Old version, no longer supported: 1997[citation needed]-
Old version, no longer supported: 2.0hamm24 July 19982≈ 1,500Old version, no longer supported: 1998glibc transition, new architecture: m68k[76]
Old version, no longer supported: 2.1slink9 March 19994≈ 2,250Old version, no longer supported: December 2000APT, new architectures: alpha, sparc[76]
Old version, no longer supported: 2.2potato15 August 20006≈ 3,900Old version, no longer supported: April 2003New architectures: arm, powerpc[119]
Old version, no longer supported: 3.0woody19 July 200211≈ 8,500Old version, no longer supported: August 2006New architectures: hppa, ia64, mips, mipsel, s390[76]
Old version, no longer supported: 3.1sarge6 June 200511≈ 15,400Old version, no longer supported: April 2008[95]Modular installer, semi-official amd64 support.
Old version, no longer supported: 4.0etch8 April 200711≈ 18,000Old version, no longer supported: 15 February 2010[120]New architecture: amd64, dropped architecture: m68k.[121] Graphical installer, udev transition, modular X.Org transition. Final update 4.0r9 was released 2010-05-22.[122]
Old version, no longer supported: 5.0[123]lenny[124]15 February 2009[98]12≈ 23,000[125]Old version, no longer supported: 6 February 2012[126]New architecture/binary ABI: armel.[127] SPARC 32-bit hardware support dropped.[128] Full Eee PC support.[129] Final update 5.0.10 was released 2012-03-10.[130]
Older version, yet still supported: 6.0[131]squeeze[132]6 February 2011[133]9+2[A]≈ 29,000[133]Older version, yet still supported: Standard: 31 May 2014 LTS: February 2016[134]New architectures/kernels: kfreebsd-i386 and kfreebsd-amd64. Dropped architectures: alpha, hppa, and OABI arm.[67][133] Moved to eglibc instead of glibc.[135] Dependency-based boot sequence, which allows for parallel init script processing.[136] Removed old libraries such as GTK 1.[137] Default Linux kernel purged of non-free firmware.[74]
Current stable version: 7[138]wheezy[116]4 May 2013[139]11+2[B]≈ 37,000[139]Current stable version: TBANew architectures: armhf­[140] and s390x.[141] Removed old libraries such as Qt 3.[142] Introduced multiarch support.[143]
Future release: 8[117]jessie[117]TBATBATBAFuture release: TBAWe will freeze "Jessie" at 23:59 UTC on the 5th of November 2014; TBA
Old version
Older version, still supported
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release
A 9 architectures with Linux kernel + 2 architectures with kernel of FreeBSD[133]
B 11 architectures with Linux kernel + 2 architectures with kernel of FreeBSD

Due to an incident involving a CD vendor who made an unofficial and broken release labeled 1.0, an official 1.0 release was never made.[76]


Debian was first announced on 16 August 1993 by Ian Murdock, who initially called the system "the Debian Linux Release".[144][145] The word "Debian" was formed as a combination of the first name of his then-girlfriend Debra Lynn and his own first name.[146] Prior to Debian's release, the Softlanding Linux System (SLS) had been the first Linux distribution compiled from various software packages, and was a popular basis for other distributions in 1993–1994.[147] The perceived poor maintenance and prevalence of bugs in SLS motivated Murdock to launch a new distribution.[148]

In 1993 Murdock also released the Debian Manifesto, outlining his view for the new operating system.[149] In it he called for the creation of a distribution to be maintained in an open manner, in the spirit of Linux and GNU.

The Debian Project grew slowly at first and released the first 0.9x versions in 1994 and 1995. During this time it was sponsored by the Free Software Foundation's GNU Project.[150] The first ports to other, non-IA-32 architectures began in 1995, and the first 1.x version of Debian was released in 1996.

In 1996, Bruce Perens replaced Ian Murdock as the project leader. Perens decided to create a social contract for Debian to guarantee the future freedom of the system's contents. He created a first draft, and edited suggestions from a month-long discussion on the Debian mailing lists into the Debian Social Contract and the Debian Free Software Guidelines, defining fundamental commitments for the development of the distribution. He also initiated the creation of the legal umbrella organization, Software in the Public Interest.[76] Perens developed the project from 40 to 200 developers. He broke apart the "base system", the core packages of Debian, which had been maintained by Murdock alone, and distributed them to many maintainers. He led the conversion of the project from a.out to ELF. He created the BusyBox program to make it possible to run a Debian installer on a single floppy, and wrote a new installer. Perens was also responsible for many policy and design elements of Debian that persist to this day. Perens left the project in 1998.


The Project elected new leaders and made two more 2.x releases, each including more ports and packages. The Advanced Packaging Tool was deployed during this time and the first port to a non-Linux kernel, Debian GNU/Hurd, was started. The first Linux distributions based on Debian, namely Libranet, Corel Linux and Stormix's Storm Linux, were started in 1999.[76] The 2.2 release in 2000 was dedicated to Joel Klecker, a developer who died of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.[151]

In late 2000, the project made major changes to archive and release management, reorganizing software archive processes with new "package pools" and creating a testing distribution as an ongoing, relatively stable staging area for the next release. In the same year, developers began holding an annual conference called DebConf with talks and workshops for developers and technical users.[76]

In July 2002, the Project released version 3.0, codenamed woody, a stable release which would see relatively few updates until the following release.[76]


Debian 4.0 "Etch" (2007)

The 3.1 sarge release was made in June 2005. There were many major changes in this release, mostly due to the long time it took to freeze and release the distribution. Not only did this release update over 73% of the software shipped in the prior version, but it also included much more software than prior releases, almost doubling in size with over 9,000 new packages.[152] A new installer replaced the aging boot-floppies installer with a modular design. This allowed advanced installations (with RAID, XFS and LVM support) including hardware detection, making installations easier for novice users. The installation system also boasted full internationalization support as the software was translated into almost forty languages. An installation manual and comprehensive release notes were released in ten and fifteen different languages respectively. This release included the efforts of the Debian-Edu/Skolelinux, Debian-Med and Debian-Accessibility sub-projects which raised the number of packages that were educational, had a medical affiliation, and ones made for people with disabilities.[76]

In 2006, as a result of a much-publicized dispute, Mozilla software was rebranded in Debian, with Firefox becoming Iceweasel and Thunderbird becoming Icedove. The Mozilla Corporation stated that Debian may not use the Firefox trademark if it distributes Firefox with modifications which have not been approved by the Mozilla Corporation. Two prominent reasons that Debian modifies the Firefox software are to change the artwork and to provide security patches. Debian Free Software Guidelines consider Mozilla's artwork non-free. Debian provides long term support for older versions of Firefox in the stable release, where Mozilla preferred that old versions not be supported but has since included Legacy versions of programs. These software programs developed largely by the Mozilla Corporation were rebranded despite having only minor differences in the source code.[153]

Debian 4.0 (etch) was released April 8, 2007 for the same number of architectures as in sarge. It included the x86-64 port but dropped support for m68k. The m68k port was, however, still available in the unstable distribution. There were approximately 18,200 binary packages maintained by more than 1,030 Debian developers.[76]

Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" (2011)

Debian 5.0 (lenny) was released February 14, 2009 after 22 months of development. It includes more than 25,000 software packages. Support was added for Marvell's Orion platform and for netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC, but support was dropped for 32-bit SPARC machines.[125] The release was dedicated to Thiemo Seufer, an active developer and member of the community who died in a car accident on December 26, 2008.[154]

On September 5, 2010, Debian officially acquired the backports service, which provides more recent versions of some software for the stable release of Debian.[155]

Debian 6.0 (squeeze) was released February 6, 2011 after 24 months of development. For the first time, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD was introduced with this version as a technology preview.[133]

Debian 7.0 (wheezy) was released May 4, 2013 after 26 months of development. This release attempted to allow more architectures to be supported.[156]


Debian won the 2007 poll on Server Distribution of the Year by[157]

Both the Debian distribution and their website have won various awards from different organizations. Debian was awarded the 2004 Readers' Choice Award for Favorite Linux Distribution by the Linux Journal.[158] A total of fifteen other awards have been awarded throughout Debian's lifetime including Best Linux Distribution.[159]

Debian has also received negative assessments. In May 2008, a Debian Developer revealed his discovery that changes made in 2006 to the random number generator in the version of the OpenSSL package distributed with Debian and other Debian-based distributions such as Ubuntu or Knoppix, made a variety of security keys vulnerable to a random number generator attack.[160][161] The security weakness was caused by changes made to the OpenSSL code by another Debian Developer in response to memory debugger warnings.[162] The security hole was soon patched by Debian and others, but the complete resolution procedure was cumbersome for users because it involved regenerating all affected keys,[163] and it drew criticism to Debian's practice of making Debian-specific changes to software.

Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) have criticized the Debian Project for providing the non-free repository, rather than excluding this type of software entirely,[164] an opinion also echoed by some in Debian including the then-Project Leader Wichert Akkerman.[165] The internal dissent in the Debian Project regarding the non-free section has persisted, but the last time it came to a vote in 2006, a large majority decided to keep it.[166]

During the release cycles of Woody and Sarge, the Debian Project drew considerable criticism from the free software community because of the long time between stable releases.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]