Home Tech News Ultimate Guide To Debian: What is It?

Ultimate Guide To Debian: What is It?

by Soft2share.com

Debian is a non-commercial open Linux distribution used for dedicated servers by companies like ServerMania. It was the first open distribution of the Linux kernel, which officially became open source a year after its 1991 release.

The project was sponsored by the GNU Project from 1994 to 1995 and a social contract and free software guidelines were initiated in 1997. The Open Source Definition is based on the Debian guidelines. They also created Software in the Public Interest, Inc., an organization that supports other open distribution projects.

Debian introduced APT (Advanced Packaging Tool), an evolution of .deb packaging system, in 1999 with Debian 2.1 Slink, which is now used by all Linux distributions. Chris Lamb has been the current leader of the Debian Project since 2017 and the most recent release is Debian 9.0 Stretch. The next release will be Buster.

The distribution currently has more than 50,000 packages and almost 4,000 applications. Debian FTP nearly has 700 packages; these have distribution terms.

Free Software

Free software refers to freedom. Users can copy, redistribute, and change Debian to fit whatever their needs may be. It can be copied by anyone and sold at any price or even given away for free. The good news is that the market will force a high price to drop because the majority buy the program for cheap.

When, Who, and Why was Debian Created?

Debian was created by Ian Murdock (1973-2015) in August 1993, who wanted there to be a distribution with free software that was up to Linux standards. In his manifesto, he said that having free software available would bring commercial success to Linux because it would gain users and attention.

At the time of Debian’s development, Linux’s most popular distribution, SLS, was actually not good at all. It was full of bugs, but still being sold. Distributors also liked to leave out the fact that Linux is a free OS and is under the GNU General Public License.

Murdock wanted to fix these issues with Debian by creating a free and reliable Linux distribution. He stated that organizations supporting the Debian Project must not prioritize profiting from the software. 

Key Debian OS Features and Architecture

Debian can be deployed on a number of architectures. The port names are in parentheses:

  • 64-bit PC (amd64)
  • 64-bit ARM (arm64)
  • EABI ARM (armel)
  • Hard Float ABI ARM (armhf)
  • 32-bit PC (i386)
  • MIPS (big-endian mode) (mips)
  • MIPS (little-endian mode) (mipsel
  • MIPS (64-bit little-endian mode) (mips64el)
  • POWER7+, POWER8 (ppc64el)
  • System z (s390x)

There are also architectures in progress, either because they’re being developed or redeveloped:

  • 32-bit PC (hurd-i386) – based on i386, aka GNU Hurd
  • 64-bit PC (kfreebsd-amd64) – the first non-Linux port
  • 32-bit PC (kfreebsd-i386) – the first non-Linux port
  • Motorola 68k (m68k)
  • PowerPC Signal Processing Engine (powerpcspe)
  • RISC-V (64-bit little-endian) (riscv64)
  • Sun SPARC (sparc) – will be replaced by sparc64
  • SuperH (sh4)
  • 64-bit PC with 32-bit pointers (x32)

For desktop environments, Debian uses GNOME, KDE, MATE, Xcfe, Unity, Cinnamon, and others. The distro uses HTTP, FTP, NNTP, SMTP, POP, and DNS. Some web browsers it uses are Firefox, Chromium, Thunderbird, and Tor. Two of its office applications are LibreOffice and Gnumeric.

How is it Different?

Linux distros may look the same at first glance, but their biggest similarity is that they all have the Linux kernel. One distribution could have a different packaging manager, display server, or desktop environment than another. For example, Debian uses APT while Fedora uses RPM Package Manager.

Debian is up there in age – 26 years old – and has accumulated credibility and improvements. Having over 1,000 volunteer developers, there are over 300 derivatives of Debian OS. Around 120 of them are active.

Users have many options to choose from when looking for a program with packages that work best for them. It has a repository full of packages to sift through and download.


  • It’s one of the most bug-free programs.
  • It has a central repository.
  • Users don’t need to upgrade their systems often.
  • It has stable packages.
  • Users can choose packages and change/build on them however the they please.
  • It has one of the best packaging systems (DPKG/APT).
  • It has active maintenance and community. Users quickly have any questions answered and the code improved.


  • It has a slow release cycle of 1-3 years.
  • It may be a bit difficult for beginner users of OS.
  • It can only be distributed with free software.
  • It’s not really a con, but here is an article on what you shouldn’t do when using Debian.

Ideal Applications

Debian is popular for server hosting and workstations. It’s widely used for advanced programming because of the sheer number of packages it has and its stability.

SteamOS, a branch of Debian, is for gaming. Bugtraq is a distro in Debian that is for ethical hacking. Ubuntu, based from Debian, is popular for cloud computing.

Old But Gold

Debian is a Linux distro that gives users a large amount of liberty to apply the program how they want to, and to shape it to their needs. As one of the oldest Linux distributions, the OS is still evolving and used by many.

Now that you know what Debian is all about, you can decide if the program is right for you.

You can download Debian through a mirror site.

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