FreeBSD (in development)
GNU Hurd (in development)
Default user interface
XFCE on CD and non-Linux ports
DFSG and compatible licenses
Debian (/ˈdɛbiən/) is a
Unix-like computer operating system
that is composed entirely of free software and packaged by a group of
individuals participating in the
Debian Project was first announced in 1993 by Ian Murdock, Debian
0.01 was released on September 15, 1993, and the first stable
release was made in 1996.
Debian stable release branch is the most popular
for personal computers and network servers, and has been used as a
base for many other distributions.
The project's work is carried out over the Internet by a team of
volunteers guided by the
Debian Project Leader and three foundational
Debian Social Contract, the
Debian Constitution, and
Debian Free Software Guidelines. New distributions are updated
continually, and the next candidate is released after a time-based
As one of the earliest operating systems based on the Linux kernel, it
was decided that
Debian was to be developed openly and freely
distributed in the spirit of the
GNU Project. This decision drew the
attention and support of the Free Software Foundation, which sponsored
the project for one year from November 1994 to November 1995. Upon
the ending of the sponsorship, the
Debian Project formed the
non-profit organisation Software in the Public Interest.
Debian releases are derived from the
GNU Operating System
and use the
GNU userland and the
GNU C Library (glibc), other kernels
aside from the
Linux kernel are also available, such as those based on
BSD kernels and the
GNU Hurd microkernel.
3 Installation and live images
4.1 Founding (1993–98)
4.2 Leader election (1999–2005)
4.3 Sarge and later releases (2005–15)
5.1 Release cycle
6 Desktop environments
8 Package management
8.1 APT tools
GDebi and other front-ends
9.1 Numbering scheme
9.2 Code names
11 Archive areas
12 Multimedia support
13 Hardware support
13.1 Hardware requirements
13.2 Architecture ports
13.2.1 Official ports
13.2.2 Unofficial ports
13.3 Embedded systems
14 Support for communities
14.2 Virtual communities
15.2 Developer recruitment, motivation, and resignation
16 Development procedures
17 Cost of development
19 See also
21 External links
Debian 7 installation menu
Text version of the
Graphical version of the
Debian console login and welcome message
Debian has access to online repositories that contain over 50,000
software packages making it the largest software compilation.
Debian officially contains only free software, but non-free software
can be downloaded and installed from the
Debian includes popular free programs such as LibreOffice, Firefox
web browser, Evolution mail,
K3b disc burner, VLC media player, GIMP
image editor, and
Evince document viewer.
Debian is a popular
choice for web servers (cf. LAMP).
Debian supports Linux officially, having offered k
FreeBSD for version
7 but not 8, and
GNU Hurd unofficially. GNU/k
released as a technology preview for
IA-32 and x86-64
architectures, and lacked the amount of software available in
Debian's Linux distribution. Official support for k
removed for version 8, which did not provide a kFreeBSD-based
Several flavors of the
Linux kernel exist for each port. For example,
the i386 port has flavors for
IA-32 PCs supporting Physical Address
Extension and real-time computing, for older PCs, and for x86-64
Linux kernel does not officially contain firmware without
sources, although such firmware is available in non-free packages and
alternative installation media.
Installation and live images
Debian offers DVD and CD images for installation that can be
downloaded using BitTorrent or jigdo. Physical disks can also be
bought from retailers. The full sets are made up of several discs
(the amd64 port consists of 13 DVDs or 84 CDs), but only the first
disc is required for installation, as the installer can retrieve
software not contained in the first disc image from online
Debian offers different network installation methods. A minimal
Debian is available via the netinst CD, whereby
installed with just a base and later added software can be downloaded
from the Internet. Another option is to boot the installer from the
Installation images are hybrid on some architectures and can be used
to create a bootable USB drive (Live USB).
The default bootstrap loader is
GNU GRUB version 2, though the package
name is simply grub, while version 1 was renamed to grub-legacy. This
conflicts with e.g. Fedora, where grub version 2 is named grub2.
The default desktop may be chosen from the DVD boot menu among GNOME,
KDE Software Compilation,
Xfce and LXDE, and from special disc 1
Debian was first announced on August 16, 1993, by Ian Murdock, who
initially called the system "the
Debian Linux Release". The
word "Debian" was formed as a portmanteau of the first name of his
then-girlfriend Debra Lynn and his own first name. Before Debian's
Softlanding Linux System
Softlanding Linux System (SLS) had been a popular Linux
distribution and the basis for Slackware. The perceived poor
maintenance and prevalence of bugs in SLS motivated Murdock to launch
a new distribution.
Debian 0.01, released on September 15, 1993, was the first of several
internal releases. Version 0.90 was the first public release,
providing support through mailing lists hosted at Pixar. The
release included the
Debian Linux Manifesto, outlining Murdock's view
for the new operating system. In it he called for the creation of a
distribution to be maintained openly, in the spirit of Linux and
Debian project released the 0.9x versions in 1994 and 1995.
During this time it was sponsored by the
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation for
Ian Murdock delegated the base system, the core packages
of Debian, to
Bruce Perens and Murdock focused on the management of
the growing project. The first ports to non-
began in 1995, and
Debian 1.1 was released in 1996. By that time
and thanks to Ian Jackson, the dpkg package manager was already an
essential part of Debian.
Bruce Perens assumed the project leadership. Perens was a
controversial leader, regarded as authoritarian and strongly attached
to Debian. He drafted a social contract and edited suggestions
from a month-long discussion into the
Debian Social Contract and the
Debian Free Software Guidelines. After the FSF withdrew their
sponsorship in the midst of the free software vs. open source
debate, Perens initiated the creation of the legal umbrella
Software in the Public Interest
Software in the Public Interest instead of seeking
renewed involvement with the FSF. 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. By the time
Debian 1.2 was released, the project
had grown to nearly two hundred volunteers. Perens left the
project in 1998.
Ian Jackson became the leader in 1998.
Debian 2.0 introduced the
second official port, m68k. During this time the first port to a
Debian GNU/Hurd, was started. On December 2, the
Debian Constitution was ratified.
Leader election (1999–2005)
From 1999, the project leader was elected yearly. The Advanced
Packaging Tool was deployed with
Debian 2.1. The amount of
applicants was overwhelming and the project established the new member
process. The first
Debian derivatives, namely Libranet,
Corel Linux and Stormix's Storm Linux, were started in 1999. The
2.2 release in 2000 was dedicated to Joel Klecker, a developer who
died of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
In late 2000, the project reorganized the archive with new package
"pools" and created the Testing distribution, made up of packages
considered stable, to reduce the freeze 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. In May 2001,
Hewlett-Packard announced plans to base its
Linux development on Debian.
In July 2002, the project released version 3.0, code-named Woody, the
first release to include cryptographic software, a free licensed KDE
and internationalization. During these last release cycles, the
Debian project drew considerable criticism from the free software
community because of the long time between stable
Some events disturbed the project while working on Sarge, as Debian
servers were attacked by fire and hackers. One of the most
memorable was the
Vancouver prospectus. After a meeting
held in Vancouver, release manager Steve Langasek announced a plan to
reduce the number of supported ports to four in order to shorten
future release cycles. There was a large reaction because the
proposal looked more like a decision and because such a drop would
damage Debian's aim to be "the universal operating
Sarge and later releases (2005–15)
Debian 4.0 Etch (2007)
The 3.1 Sarge release was made in June 2005. This release updated 73%
of the software and included over 9,000 new packages. A new installer
with a modular design, Debian-Installer, allowed installations with
XFS and LVM support, improved hardware detection, made
installations easier for novice users, and was translated into almost
forty languages. An installation manual and release notes were in ten
and fifteen languages respectively. The efforts of Skolelinux,
Debian-Med and Debian-Accessibility raised the number of packages that
were educational, had a medical affiliation, and ones made for people
In 2006, as a result of a much-publicized dispute, Mozilla software
was rebranded in Debian, with
Firefox forked as
Thunderbird as Icedove. The Mozilla Corporation stated that software
with unapproved modifications could not be distributed under the
Firefox trademark. Two reasons that
Debian modifies the Firefox
software are to change the non-free artwork and to provide security
patches. In February 2016, it was announced that Mozilla and
Debian had reached agreement and
Iceweasel would revert to the name
Firefox; similar agreement was anticipated for
A fund-raising experiment, Dunc-Tank, was created to solve the release
cycle problem and release managers were paid to work full-time; in
response, unpaid developers slowed down their work and the release was
Debian 4.0 (Etch) was released in April 2007, featuring
the x86-64 port and a graphical installer.
Debian 5.0 (Lenny) was
released in February 2009, supporting Marvell's Orion platform and
netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC. The release was dedicated to
Thiemo Seufer, a developer who died in a car crash.
Debian 6.0 Squeeze (2011)
In July 2009, the policy of time-based development freezes on a
two-year cycle was announced. Time-based freezes are intended to blend
the predictability of time based releases with Debian's policy of
feature based releases, and to reduce overall freeze time. The
Squeeze cycle was going to be especially short; however, this initial
schedule was abandoned. In September 2010, the backports service
became official, providing more recent versions of some software for
the stable release.
Debian 6.0 (Squeeze) was released in February 2011, introduced Debian
FreeBSD as a technology preview, featured a dependency-based boot
system, and moved problematic firmware to the non-free area.
Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) was released in May 2013, featuring multiarch
Debian 8.0 (Jessie) was released in April 2015, using
systemd as the new init system.
Debian 9.0 (Stretch) was released
in June 2017. At present[update],
Debian is still in development
and new packages are uploaded to unstable every day.
Throughout Debian's lifetime, both the
Debian distribution and its
website have won various awards from different organizations,
including Server Distribution of the Year 2011, The best Linux
distro of 2011, and a Best of the Net award for October 1998.
On December 2, 2015,
Microsoft announced that they would offer Debian
GNU/Linux as an endorsed distribution on the Azure cloud
Debian version history
Stable version of
Debian gets released approximately every 2 years. It
will receive official support for about 3 years with update for major
security or usability fixes. Point releases will be available every
several months as determined by Stable Release Managers (SRM).
Debian also launched its Long Term Support (LTS) project since Debian
Debian Squeeze). For each
Debian release, it will receive two years
of extra security updates provided by LTS Team after its End Of Life
(EOL). However, no point releases will be made. Now each Debian
release can receive 5 years of security support in total.
XFCE is default on CD images and non-Linux ports
Debian offers CD images specifically built for XFCE, the default
desktop on CD, and DVD images for GNOME, KDE and others. MATE is
officially supported, while Cinnamon support was added with Debian
8.0 Jessie. Less common window managers such as Enlightenment,
Openbox, Fluxbox, IceWM,
Window Maker and others are available.
The default desktop environment of version 7.0 Wheezy was temporarily
switched to Xfce, because
GNOME 3 did not fit on the first CD of the
set. The default for the version 8.0 Jessie was changed again to
Xfce in November 2013, and back to
GNOME in September 2014.
Debian releases live install images for CDs, DVDs and USB thumb
IA-32 and x86-64 architectures, and with a choice of
desktop environments. These
Debian Live images allow users to boot
from removable media and run
Debian without affecting the contents of
A full install of
Debian to the computer's hard drive can be initiated
from the live image environment.
Personalized images can be built with the live-build tool for discs,
USB drives and for network booting purposes.
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 recommended standard for administering
packages on a
Debian system is the apt toolset.
dpkg provides the low-level infrastructure for package
management. The dpkg database contains the list of installed
software on the current system. The dpkg command tool does not know
about repositories. The command can work with local .deb package
files, and information from the dpkg database.
Aptitude to view
Debian package details
Package installed with Aptitude
Advanced Packaging Tool
Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) tool allows administering an
Debian system to retrieve and resolve package dependencies
from repositories. APT tools share dependency information and cached
Aptitude is a command line tool that also offers a text-based user
interface. The program comes with enhancements such as better search
on package metadata.
apt-get and apt-cache are command tools of the standard apt package.
apt-get installs and removes packages, and apt-cache is used for
searching packages and displaying package information.
GDebi and other front-ends
GDebi is an APT tool which can be used in command-line and on the
GDebi can install a local .deb file via the command line
like the dpkg command, but with access to repositories to resolve
dependencies. Other graphical front-ends for APT include Software
Center, Synaptic and Apper.
GNOME Software is a graphical front-end for PackageKit, which itself
can work on top of various software packaging systems.
Debian 4.0 Etch box cover
Three branches of
Debian (also called releases, distributions or
suites) are regularly maintained:
Stable is the current release and targets stable and well-tested
software needs. Stable is made by freezing Testing for a few
months where bugs are fixed and packages with too many bugs are
removed; then the resulting system is released as stable. It is
updated only if major security or usability fixes are
incorporated. This branch has an optional backports service that
provides more recent versions of some software. Stable's CDs and
DVDs can be found in the
Testing is the preview branch that will eventually become the next
major release. The packages included in this branch have had some
testing in unstable but they may not be fit for release yet. It
contains newer packages than stable but older than unstable. This
branch is updated continually until it is frozen. Testing's CDs
and DVDs can be found on the
Unstable, always codenamed sid, is the trunk. Packages are accepted
without checking the distribution as a whole. This branch is
usually run by software developers who participate in a project and
need the latest libraries available, and by those who prefer
Debian does not provide full Sid
installation discs, but rather a minimal ISO that can be used to
install over a network connection. Additionally, this branch can be
installed through a system upgrade from stable or testing.
Other branches in Debian:
Oldstable is the prior stable release. It is supported by the
Debian Security Team until one year after a new stable is released,
and since the release of
Debian 6, for another 2 years through the
Long Term Support project. Eventually, oldstable is moved to a
repository for archived releases.
Oldoldstable is the prior oldstable release. It is supported by the
Long Term Support community. Eventually, oldoldstable is moved to a
repository for archived releases.
Experimental is a temporary staging area of highly experimental
software that is likely to break the system. It is not a full
distribution and missing dependencies are commonly found in unstable,
where new software without the damage chance is normally
The snapshot archive provides older versions of the branches. They may
be used to install a specific older version of some software.
Stable and oldstable get minor updates, called point releases; as of
June 2017[update], the stable release is version 9.3, and
the oldstable release is version 8.10.
The numbering scheme for the point releases up to
Debian 4.0 was to
include the letter r (for revision) after the main version number
and then the number of the point release; for example, the latest
point release of version 4.0 is 4.0r9. This scheme was chosen
because a new dotted version would make the old one look obsolete and
vendors would have trouble selling their CDs.
Debian 5.0, the numbering scheme of point releases was changed,
conforming to the
GNU version numbering standard; the first point
Debian 5.0 was 5.0.1 instead of 5.0r1. The numbering
scheme was once again changed for the first
Debian 7 update, which was
version 7.1. The r scheme is no longer in use, but point release
announcements include a note about not throwing away old CDs.
The code names of
Debian releases are names of characters from the Toy
Debian 9 was named Stretch after the toy rubber octopus
in Toy Story 3.
Debian 8 was named Jessie, after the cowgirl in Toy
Story 2 and Toy Story 3. The Testing branch is currently named Buster,
 which is the real (not the toy) dog seen in
Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 and 3.
Debian 11 will be called "Bullseye", Woody's toy horse. The
unstable trunk is permanently nicknamed Sid, after the emotionally
unstable boy next door who regularly destroyed toys.
This naming tradition came about because
Bruce Perens was involved in
the early development of
Debian while working at Pixar.
Debian Pure Blends are subsets of a
Debian release configured
out-of-the-box for users with particular skills and interests.
Debian Jr. is made for children, while
Debian Science is
for researchers and scientists. The complete
includes all available
Debian Pure Blends. "
(without "Pure") is a term for a Debian-based distribution that
strives to become part of mainstream Debian, and have its extra
features included in future releases.
The "swirl" logo represents the magic smoke.
Debian "swirl" logo was designed by Raul Silva in 1999
as part of a contest to replace the semi-official logo that had been
used. The winner of the contest received an @debian.org email
address, and a set of
Debian 2.1 install CDs for the architecture of
their choice. There has been no official statement from the Debian
project on the logo's meaning, but at the time of the logo's
selection, it was suggested that the logo represented the magic smoke
( or the genie ) that made computers work.
One theory about the origin of the
Debian logo is that Buzz Lightyear,
the chosen character for the first named
Debian release, has a swirl
in his chin.
Stefano Zacchiroli also suggested that this
swirl is the
Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) define the distinctive
meaning of the word "free" as in "free and open-source software".
Packages which comply with these guidelines, usually under the GNU
General Public License, Modified BSD License or Artistic License,
are included inside the main area; otherwise, they are included
inside the non-free and contrib areas. These last two areas are not
distributed within the official installation media, but they can be
Non-free includes packages which do not comply with the DFSG,
such as documentation with invariant sections and proprietary
software, and legally questionable packages. Contrib
includes packages which do comply with the
DFSG but fail other
requirements. For example, they may depend on packages which are in
non-free or requires such for building them.
Richard Stallman and the
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation have criticized the
Debian project for hosting the non-free repository and because the
contrib and non-free areas are easily accessible, an opinion
echoed by some in
Debian including the former project leader Wichert
Akkerman. The internal dissent in the
Debian project regarding
the non-free section has persisted, but the last time it came to
a vote in 2004, the majority decided to keep it.
Multimedia support has been problematic in
Debian regarding codecs
threatened by possible patent infringements, without sources or under
too restrictive licenses, and regarding technologies such as
Adobe Flash. Even though packages with problems related to their
distribution could go into the non-free area, software such as
libdvdcss is not hosted at Debian.
A notable third party repository exists, formerly named
debian-multimedia.org, providing software not present
Debian such as Windows codecs, libdvdcss and the Adobe Flash
Player. Even though this repository is maintained by Christian
Debian developer, it is not part of the project and is not
hosted on a
Debian server. The repository provides packages already
included in Debian, interfering with the official maintenance.
Eventually, project leader
Stefano Zacchiroli asked Marillat to either
settle an agreement about the packaging or to stop using the "Debian"
name. Marillat chose the latter and renamed the repository to
deb-multimedia.org. The repository was so popular that the switchover
was announced by the official blog of the
Hardware requirements are at least those of the kernel and the GNU
toolsets. Debian's recommended system requirements depend on the
level of installation, which corresponds to increased numbers of
Minimum RAM size
Recommended RAM size
Minimum processor clock speed (IA-32)
Hard drive capacity
The real minimum memory requirements depend on the architecture and
may be much less than the numbers listed in this table. It is possible
Debian with 60 MB of RAM for x86-64; the
installer will run in low memory mode and it is recommended to create
a swap partition. The installer for z/Architecture requires about
20 MB of RAM, but relies on network hardware.
Similarly, disk space requirements, which depend on the packages to be
installed, can be reduced by manually selecting the packages
needed. As of August 2014[update], no Pure Blend exists that
would lower the hardware requirements easily.
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. Requirements for individual software vary widely
and must be considered, with those of the base operating
HP 9000 C110
PA-RISC workstation booting
As of the Stretch release[update], the official ports are:
amd64: x86-64 architecture with 64-bit userland and supporting 32-bit
arm64: ARMv8-A architecture
ARM architecture (ARMv4T instruction set) on
various embedded systems (embedded application binary interface
armhf: ARM hard-float architecture (ARMv7 instruction set) requiring
hardware with a floating-point unit
IA-32 architecture with 32-bit userland, compatible with x86-64
mips: Big-endian MIPS architecture
mips64el: Little-endian 64 bit MIPS
mipsel: Little-endian MIPS
PowerPC architecture supporting POWER7+ and
s390x: z/Architecture with 64-bit userland, intended to replace
Unofficial ports are available as part of the unstable
DEC Alpha architecture
GNU Hurd kernel on
ia64: Intel Itanium
kfreebsd-amd64: Kernel of
FreeBSD on x86-64 architecture
kfreebsd-i386: Kernel of
m68k: Motorola 68k architecture on Amiga, Atari,
Macintosh and various
embedded VME systems
powerpc: 32-bit PowerPC
powerpcspe: PowerPCSPE architecture, incompatible with PowerPC
ppc64: PowerPC64 architecture supporting 64-bit
PowerPC CPUs with VMX
riscv64: 64-bit RISC-V
SPARC architecture with 64-bit userland
x32: x32 ABI userland for x86-64
Debian supports a variety of ARM-based NAS devices. The
supported by the installer in
Debian 4.0 and 5.0, and Martin
Michlmayr is providing installation tarballs since version 6.0.
Other supported NAS devices are the Buffalo Kurobox Pro, GLAN
Tank, Thecus N2100 and QNAP Turbo Stations.
Devices based on the Kirkwood system on a chip (SoC) are supported
too, such as the
SheevaPlug plug computer and OpenRD products.
There are efforts to run
Debian on mobile devices, but this is not a
project goal yet since the
Linux kernel maintainers would not
apply the needed patches. Nevertheless, there are packages for
There are efforts to support
Debian on wireless access points.
Debian is known to run on set-top boxes. Work is ongoing to
support the AM335x processor, which is used in electronic point
of service solutions.
Debian may be customized to run on cash
BeagleBoard, a low-power open-source hardware single-board computer
(made by Texas Instruments) has switched to
Debian Linux preloaded on
its Beaglebone Black board's flash.
Support for communities
Several parts of
Debian are translated into languages other than
American English, including package descriptions, configuration
messages, documentation and the website. The level of software
localization depends on the language, ranging from the highly
supported German and French to the hardly translated Creek and
Samoan. The installer is available in 73 languages.
Debian provides packages made for virtual communities. The Facebook
Twitter application interfaces are available to
programmers; the Pidgin messaging client used a custom
Facebook until the networking site added support for
Debian 5.0 Lenny was the last release supporting Tencent
QQ. Communication with
Skype is possible using software in
the contrib area.
Debian is known for its manifesto, social
contract, and policies. Debian's policies and team
efforts focus on collaborative software development and testing
processes. As a result of its policies, a new major release tends
to occur every two years with revision releases that fix security
issues and important problems.
Simplified organizational structure
Debian project is a volunteer organization with three foundational
Debian Social Contract defines a set of basic principles by which
the project and its developers conduct affairs.
Debian Free Software Guidelines define the criteria for "free
software" and thus what software is permissible in the distribution.
These guidelines have been adopted as the basis of the Open Source
Definition. Although this document can be considered separate, it
formally is part of the Social Contract.
Debian Constitution describes the organizational structure for
formal decision-making within the project, and enumerates the powers
and responsibilities of the Project Leader, the Secretary and other
Debian Voting Information
Debian developers are organized in a web of trust. There are at
present[update] about one thousand active
but it is possible to contribute to the project without being an
The project maintains official mailing lists and conferences for
communication and coordination between developers. For
issues with single packages and other tasks, a public bug
tracking system is used by developers and end users. Internet Relay
Chat channels (primarily on the Open and Free Technology Community
(OFTC) and freenode networks) are also used for communication among
developers and to provide real time help.
Debian is supported by donations made to organizations authorized by
the leader. The largest supporter is Software in the Public
Interest, the owner of the
Debian trademark, manager of the monetary
donations and umbrella organization for various other community
free software projects.
A Project Leader is elected once per year by the developers. The
leader has special powers, but they are not absolute, and appoints
delegates to perform specialized tasks. Delegates make decisions as
they think is best, taking into account technical criteria and
consensus. By way of a General Resolution, the developers may recall
the leader, reverse a decision made by the leader or a delegate, amend
foundational documents and make other binding decisions. The
voting method is based on the
Schulze method (Cloneproof Schwartz
Debian project leaders
Project leadership is distributed occasionally. Branden Robinson was
helped by the Project Scud, a team of developers that assisted the
leader, but there were concerns that such leadership would split
Debian into two developer classes. Anthony Towns created a
supplemental position, Second In Charge (2IC), that shared some powers
of the leader. Steve McIntyre was 2IC and had a 2IC himself.
One important role in Debian's leadership is that of a release
manager. The release team sets goals for the next release,
supervises the processes and decides when to release. The team is led
by the next release managers and stable release managers. Release
assistants were introduced in 2003.
Developer recruitment, motivation, and resignation
Debian project has an influx of applicants wishing to become
developers. These applicants must undergo a vetting process which
establishes their identity, motivation, understanding of the project's
principles, and technical competence. This process has become
much harder throughout the years.
Debian developers join the project for many reasons. Some that have
been cited include:
Debian is their main operating system and they want to promote
To improve the support for their favorite technology
They are involved with a
A desire to contribute back to the free-software community
To make their
Debian maintenance work easier
Debian developers may resign their positions at any time or, when
deemed necessary, they can be expelled. Those who follow the
retiring protocol are granted the "emeritus" status and they may
regain their membership through a shortened new member process.
Flowchart of the life cycle of a
Each software package has a maintainer that may be either one person
or a team of
Debian developers and non-developer
maintainers. The maintainer keeps track of upstream
releases, and ensures that the package coheres with the rest of the
distribution and meets the standards of quality of Debian. Packages
may include modifications introduced by
Debian to achieve compliance
Debian Policy, even to fix non-
Debian specific bugs, although
coordination with upstream developers is advised.
The maintainer releases a new version by uploading the package to the
"incoming" system, which verifies the integrity of the packages and
their digital signatures. If the package is found to be valid, it is
installed in the package archive into an area called the "pool" and
distributed every day to hundreds of mirrors worldwide. The upload
must be signed using OpenPGP-compatible software. All Debian
developers have individual cryptographic key pairs. Developers
are responsible for any package they upload even if the packaging was
prepared by another contributor.
Initially, an accepted package is only available in the unstable
branch. For a package to become a candidate for the next release,
it must migrate to the Testing branch by meeting the following:
It has been in unstable for a certain length of time that depends on
the urgency of the changes.
It does not have "release-critical" bugs, except for the ones already
present in Testing. Release-critical bugs are those considered serious
enough that they make the package unsuitable for release.
There are no outdated versions in unstable for any release ports.
The migration does not break any packages in Testing.
Its dependencies can be satisfied by packages already in Testing or by
packages being migrated at the same time.
The migration is not blocked by a freeze.
Thus, a release-critical bug in a new version of a shared library on
which many packages depend may prevent those packages from entering
Testing, because the updated library must meet the requirements
too. From the branch viewpoint, the migration process happens
twice per day, rendering Testing in perpetual beta.
Periodically, the release team publishes guidelines to the developers
in order to ready the release. A new release occurs after a freeze,
when all important software is reasonably up-to-date in the Testing
branch and any other significant issues are solved. At that time, all
packages in the testing branch become the new stable branch.
Although freeze dates are time-based, release dates are not, which
are announced by the release managers a couple of weeks
A version of a package can belong to more than one branch, usually
testing and unstable. It is possible for a package to keep the same
version between stable releases and be part of oldstable, stable,
testing and unstable at the same time. Each branch can be seen as
a collection of pointers into the package "pool" mentioned above.
Debian project handles security through public disclosure rather
than through obscurity.
Debian security advisories are compatible with
Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures dictionary, are usually
coordinated with other free software vendors and are published the
same day a vulnerability is made public. There used to be a
security audit project that focused on packages in the stable release
looking for security bugs; Steve Kemp, who started the project,
retired in 2011 but resumed his activities and applied to rejoin in
The stable branch is supported by the
Debian security team; oldstable
is supported for one year. Although Squeeze is not officially
Debian is coordinating an effort to provide long-term
support (LTS) until February 2016, five years after the initial
release, but only for the
IA-32 and x86-64 platforms. Testing is
supported by the testing security team, but does not receive updates
in as timely a manner as stable. Unstable's security is left for
the package maintainers.
Debian project offers documentation and tools to harden a Debian
installation both manually and automatically. Security-Enhanced
AppArmor support is available but disabled by default.
Debian provides an optional hardening wrapper, and does not harden all
of its software by default using gcc features such as PIE and buffer
overflow protection, unlike operating systems such as OpenBSD,
but tries to build as many packages as possible with hardening
In May 2008, it was revealed that a
Debian developer discovered that
OpenSSL package distributed with
Debian and derivatives such as
Ubuntu, made a variety of security keys vulnerable to a random number
generator attack, since only 32,767 different keys were
generated. The security weakness was caused by changes
made in 2006 by another
Debian developer in response to memory
debugger warnings. The complete resolution procedure was
cumbersome because patching the security hole was not enough; it
involved regenerating all affected keys and certificates.
Cost of development
The cost of developing all of the packages included in
Lenny (323 million lines of code) has been estimated to be about US$8
billion, using one method based on the
COCOMO model. As of
2016[update], Black Duck
Open Hub estimates that the current codebase
(74 million lines of code) would cost about US$1.4 billion to develop,
using a different method based on the same model.
Debian is one of the most popular Linux distributions, and many other
distributions have been created from the
Debian codebase, including
Ubuntu and Knoppix. As of 2016[update],
DistroWatch lists 126
Debian derivatives. The
Debian project provides its
derivatives with guidelines for best practices and encourages
derivatives to merge their work back into Debian.
Free software portal
Open-source software portal
Computer Science portal
Information technology portal
Comparison of Linux distributions
Computer technology for developing areas
Free culture movement
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