About Debian Linux
The Debian Project is a not-for-profit group of volunteers committed to the concept of free, open-source software, and to the goal of providing a stable, reliable, free operating system. "Debian" is more formally known as Debian GNU/Linux because many of the operating system tools come from the GNU ("free software") Project. While this is also true of most Linux distributions, Debian seems to be the only one concerned with giving GNU their due.
After years of using Red Hat, we were disappointed with the proprietary changes they made to their product in version 7. Many of the standard Linux HOWTOs and information in non-distribution-specific books were no longer applicable to Red Hat. And we were really disappointed in the reports that Red Hat was sending mixed signals to the organization trying to establish standards for Linux distributions (the LSB). However, given that Red Hat is a commercial distribution whose primary motivation is profit derived from training and support, this should not be surprising. (We don't have anything against making a profit. It's when this profit is achieved to the detriment of the very customers providing the profit that we have a problem).
Note that GNU's definition of "free" does not mean "price=$0". It means you have the freedom to use, adapt, redistribute, and improve/re-release the software (which necessitates that the source code be made freely available).
We were pleased to find out about Debian, the leading non-commercial distribution. Free of profit-driven motivations, developed by the end-users themselves, Debian exemplifies the principles upon which Linux was founded. Perhaps more than any other distribution, Debian users have established a community which promotes peer support, product development input, and bug fixing. You, as an end-user, can have a voice in the on-going development of the operating system rather than having these decisions made for you. If you are a talented C programmer you can even help develop the Debian operating system.
Debian's primary concern is stability across ALL platforms. This is no more clearly illustrated than in the release of Debian 3.0 (code named "Woody"). Even though Red Hat 7 has been out for over a year based on the Linux 2.4 kernel, Woody will only offer the Linux 2.4 kernel as an option. It will still use the 2.2 kernel by default because the 2.4 kernel is not considered mature for all platforms.
There are basically three major stages in Debian development. When the OS and all included packages appear to be working correctly the release is termed stable and it is the only release recommended for use.
The testing release is equivalent to a beta release. The OS appears stable but operation with packages is being evaluated.
Unstable is the operating system in active development. It is typically only run by those who actively work in developing Debian and by those who enjoy blowing up systems.
Debian never announces a date when the next testing release will be moved to stable. In their words, it'll be moved "when it's ready". There is no cranking out of new versions so next fiscal-quarter's numbers can be improved by additional sales, no cutting corners and scaling back of testing to meet some profit-driven time line. The next stable release is made available when they've got it right.
In addition to the release numbers (2.1, 2.2, 3.0, etc) there are also "point releases". These are releases denoted with an r number. For example, 3.0.2 is the second point release of stable release 3.0 (codename "Woody").
No matter what release you download or buy, you can use the Internet to upgrade your system by issuing a single command at a shell prompt. This not only upgrades the core OS, but detects what packages you have installed and upgrades those as well.
You can find out more about Debian Linux and the Debian Project at the www.debian.org Web site.
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