Software in the Public Interest
*** Debian Linux 1.1 ***
Debian is a free-software Linux system. It is entirely free to use and
re-distribute, and there is no consortium membership or payment
required to participate in its distribution and development. The
developers are 100 unpaid volunteers from all over the world who
collaborate via the Internet. We have formed the organization "Software
in the Public Interest" to sponsor this development.
There are 474 software packages in Debian. You can find a list and
descriptions of them at http://www.debian.org/debian/FTP . We also
distribute an additional 50 non-free software packages in the
"non-free" directory of our FTP archive.
The Debian 1.1 system features the Linux 2.0 kernel and all-ELF
executables, and can be favorably compared with the very best
commercial Linux and Unix distributions. A distinguishing feature of
Debian is the most sophisticated package system in the industry. The
package tools help you install, upgrade, or delete individual system
components while your system is running. Because Debian provides
upgrade-in-place capability, there is never a need to wipe out your old
system and start fresh when performing an upgrade.
The package system is based on "dependencies". For example, the "gcc" C
compiler package depends on another package called "binutils" that
includes the linker and assembler. If you ask to install "gcc", the
package system will point out that you also need "binutils", and will
install it if you approve. The package tool can even automatically
retrieve the programs you've requested via FTP.
There is a port of Debian 1.1 to 68k processors in progress at present,
and ports to Alpha, Sparc, and MIPS are expected after this.
Currently there are two versions of the Debian distribution: "1.1", and
the "development" version. "1.1" is stable software, and will not
change. The development version is updated continuously, and you can
retrieve packages from the "development" archive on our FTP sites and
use them to upgrade your system at any time. Approximately three months
from today, the "development" software will have been stabilized and
made into Debian 1.2. Further relases will follow at three-month
Besides being an excellent full-featured stand-alone Linux system.
Debian is also a base upon which value-added Linux distributions can be
built. By providing a reliable, full-featured base system, Debian
provides Linux users with increased compatibility, and allows Linux
distribution creators to eliminate duplication-of-effort and focus on
the things that make their distribution special.
Debian was created by Ian Murdock in 1993, and Ian's work was sponsored
for one year by FSF's GNU project. Debian should be considered a direct
descendent of the GNU system. The goals of the Debian developers
correspond to those of the Free Software movement, however we are a
separate organization from FSF.
You can retrieve Debian 1.1 from these sites:
ftp://sun10.sep.bnl.gov/pub/Linux/debian/Debian-1.1/ (non-working hours EDT)
There are about a dozen other mirror sites that have not caught up with
our master site yet. I'll announce them when they are ready. You can
find a list of all of our mirrors on our WWW page.
The installation floppy disk images and a full installation manual are
in the "disks-i386" subdirectory on these sites. The rest of the
software packages are in the "binary-i386" subdirectory.
Visit our web site http://www.debian.org/ for more information about
To subscribe to the mailing lists, send the word "subscribe" to one of
There are a lot of experienced users on this list who can answer
any question you might have. There can be 20 messages a day or more
on this list.
Major system announcements. Averages less than one message per week.
This is a list for announcements of new package uploads for the Debian
system. It may carry several announcements in a day.
Questions and Answers
Q: How should Debian be compared to other Linux systems?
A: Debian is at least as good as any other Linux distribution, even the
most professional. Debian's most important feature is it's package
system, which allows the entire system, or any individual component, to
be up-graded in place without reformatting, without losing custom
configuration files, and (in most cases) without rebooting the system.
Red Hat, which we consider to be the best non-Debian system available,
is the only other distribution with a similar upgrade mechanism. One
major difference between us and Red Hat is that Red Hat is a for-profit
business, and Debian is a non-profit organization. Both distributions
share a dedication to free software. We like the people at Red Hat, we
admire the work they've done, and we see no reason to put down their
system in order to promote our own.
Debian's aim is to work together with other Linux developers rather
than compete with them. For example, we encourage all creators of Linux
distributions to take components from Debian. We are aware of the
parallel work that Red Hat has done on packaging systems, and would
like to come to some sort of package merge with them.
Q: Is Debian able to run my old a.out programs?
A: We provide packages containing the a.out shared libraries and an
a.out development system, so that you can run and _maintain_ a.out
programs as well as ELF. However, if you have a commercial application
in the a.out format, now would be a good time to ask them to send you
an ELF upgrade.
Q: How compatible is Debian?
A: We communicate with other Linux distribution creators in an effort
to maintain binary compatibility across Linux distributions. Most
commercial Linux products run as well under Debian as they do on the
system upon which they were built.
Q: What about the Free Software Foundation's GNU Project?
A: FSF is still planning a GNU operating system which is based on
HURD. We think they considered Debian as a first step toward this
system. We still encourage them to derive from Debian. We had a more
formal relationship with FSF some time ago, in that they employed Ian
Murdock for a year while he was project leader, and we then called the
system "Debian GNU/Linux". We still support the goals of FSF and like
to think of Debian as "Son of GNU". However, we've separated our
organization from FSF so that we can have exclusive control over our
technical direction. We are still talking with FSF, and may soon come
to some sort of resolution with them.
Q: Can I make and sell Debian CDs?
A: Go ahead. You don't need permission to distribute anything we've
_released_, so that you can master your CD as soon as the beta-test
ends. You don't have to pay us anything. We will, however, publish a
list of CD manufacturers who donate money, software, and time to the
Debian project, and we'll encourage users to buy from manufacturers who
donate, so it's good advertising to make donations. Of course all CD
manufacturers must honor the licenses of the programs in Debian. For
example, many of the programs are licensed under the GPL, which
requires you to distribute their source code.
Q: Can Debian be packaged with non-free software?
A: Yes. While all the main components of Debian are free software, we
provide a non-free directory for programs that aren't freely
redistributable. CD manufacturers _may_ be able to distribute the
programs we've placed in that directory, depending on the license terms
or their private arrangements with the authors of those software
packages. CD manufacturers can also distribute the non-free software
they get from other sources on the same CD. This is nothing new: free
and commercial software are distributed on the same CD by many
manufacturers now. Of course we still encourage software authors to
release the programs they write as free software.
Q: Is source code included with the system?
A: Source code is included for everything. Most of the license terms of
programs in the system require that source code be distributed along
with the programs. Thus, it's not OK to make a CD of executable
programs without the source code.
Q: I'm making a special Linux distribution for a "vertical market". Can
I use Debian 1.1 for the guts of a Linux system and add my own
applications on top of it?
A: Yes. For example, one person is building a "Linux for Hams"
distribution, with specialized programs for Radio Amateurs. He's
starting with Debian 1.1 as the "base system", and adding programs to
control the transmitter, track satellites, etc. All of the programs he
adds are packaged with the Debian package system so that his users will
be able to upgrade easily when he releases subsequent CDs.
Q: How do I become a Debian Developer?
A: First, download the Distribution and install it on your system.
Then, find a program you'd like to package that is not presently part
of Debian. Then, write to Br...@Pixar.com requesting to be added to
the Developers list. Developers documentation can be found on our WWW
Q: Can I put my commercial program in a Debian "package" so that it
installs effortlessly on any Debian system?
A: Go right ahead. The package tool is free software.
Q: What is "Software in the Public Interest"
A: It's a non-profit organization we formed when FSF withdrew their
sponsorship of Debian. We are currently incorporating as an IRS
501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The purpose of the organization is
to develop and distribute free software. Our goals are very much like
those of FSF, and we encourage programmers to use the GNU General
Public License on their programs. However, we have a slightly different
focus in that we are building and distributing a Linux system that
diverges in many technical details from the GNU system planned by FSF.
We still communicate with FSF, and we cooperate in sending them changes
to GNU software and in asking our users to donate to FSF and the GNU