The Debian Bible: All Things Debian for New Users and Pros!
written by: Charles M Bowen•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 9/18/2011
Thanks to its user-friendly architecture and vast repository of free applications, the Debian family is by far the most widely used flavour of Linux. The sheer multitude of versions spawned by its popularity justifies a comprehensive guide to various Debian programs, applications, and distributions
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What Defines Debian?
The man who started it all, Ian Murdock, first announced Debian while he was still a student at Purdue University in 1993. He originally called the system the “Debian Linux Release", and it was designed to be a better distribution than the first Linux distribution system that was out, Softlanding Linux System, or SLS. While the original format lives on still in widespread Slackware versions, Debian is by far the more widely used today. When Murdock announced Debian, he also released the Debian Manifesto, in this, he called for his new system to be maintained in a completely open manner, just like Linux.
Generally regarded as the most user-friendly branch of Linux, Debian is also highly respected by programmers as even standard desktop distros have all the necessary software (mostly available through the free program repository), to perform very advanced server management, source code modification, and original programming. For those who are looking for a Linux distribution system, there are several that are based on this system, such as Ubuntu, DreamLinux, Damn Small Linux, Kanotix, LinEx, and MEPIS (to name just a few).
How Does Debian Measure Up to Other Versions of Linux?
There are three main sources of the Linux distros out there, Debian, Redhat, and Slackware. If we assume the top three most valuable features of an operating system are system stability, ease of operation, and number of available programs, then its really a very close race to call. Red Hat is also stable, but its repository list is a little smaller. Slackware is derided as primitive by some, but the highly popular Open Suse Linux distro is based on it. Considering the legions of programmers devoted to one branch or another, which distro to choose really does come down to the specific features that you, the user, are looking for.
With the cost of enterprise software running into the very high digits, and monthly fees for services such as SAP being quite high, many business take advantage of the powerful enterprise tools offered through Linux systems. It's a little known fact among the general population, but most Linux enterprise programs are written by the exact same programmers who have day jobs with Microsoft, Oracle, or SAP. They produce Linux versions in their spare time. Why? well, software produced by major companies tends to go through 4 or five departments, so between the original programmer and the store shelf, several gigabytes worth of bloat tend to be added on top. The Linux version allows the programmer to release his exact vision with its core functionality to the world. The fact that programmer-developed versions are better is exactly the reason why the two of the most critical platforms for web development, Apache and PHP, are available free. Any proprietary competitors simply couldn't measure up! As a businessman, I do, however, recommend the Debian-based Ubuntu Server edition over Debian Stable Editions on account of the fact that you will always have the option to buy a support package from Canonical, should you ever need it.
The Biggest and Arguably the Best: The Debian Package Repository System
The Debian program repository has thousands of applications. Whether you seek a full server management suite, the tools to create your own first person shooter, manage slideshows, or just manage your e-mail. More universal Linux programs are typically available for Debian, more so than other distros. This is because software developers are aware that their work will likely become far more widespread if it was available through the vast Debian repositories. Popular programs like the openoffice.org office suite, skype, frostwire, and many others can all be installed via the add-remove, or via the included package extractor.
There is just no separating Debian from Ubuntu. It is by far the most commonly used Debian based distro despite being strangely named. While the majority of users are recent converts from windows or mac, or typically just run ubuntu when they want superior speed, Ubuntu is not by any means stripped down in terms of options or capability, as it retains the capability to run and host all the server-side infrastructure and development tools commonly found in other Debian distros. It also has all of the package management features required to operate the entire Debian program repository!
So You Want to Be Different Do You? Try These Other Debian Flavors
Ok, so your one of those users who quit using Windows to avoid the herd are you? Well, take heart, you can still take advantage of the positives of Debian while STILL having an operating system your peers have never heard of! There are, of course, more than merely philosophical reasons for choosing a different Debian distro than the stable version or Ubuntu. While both are still faster than Windows, they can still challenge the limited hardware of netbooks and older PCs. Lightweight versions like Xandros (which was the original OS of the Asus Eee PC) or Lubuntu provide lighting-fast performance on even the lightest netbook or antique Pentium machine! DSL, or Damn Small Linux, is just about the lightest Debian-based distro out there that retains all the core functions of a full desktop. It is ideal either for use on a REALLY dinosaurian machine, or as a bootable usb desktop environment.