Advantages of the Debian Distribution
Debian (http://www.debian.org) is an excellent distribution of
GNU/Linux. (A popular commercial alternative to Debian is Red Hat.)
The releases of Debian are rock solid stable and come highly
recommended. The Debian packaging system is well developed and
acknowledge as an excellent piece of work. You can purchase the CD-ROM
distributions of Debian inexpensively (see
http://www.debian.org/distrib/vendors for a list of vendors)
or burn your own CD-ROMs from images available on the net. This latter
option is explored in this chapter.
Here are some specific advantages and benefits that distinguish Debian
from other distributions:
- Debian GNU/Linux makes it very simple to installing new
applications, configuring old ones, and administer the system. The
administrator does not have to worry about dependencies, library
problems, or even overwriting previous versions of configuration
- As a non-profit organisation Debian is more of a partner than a
competitor with other distributions. Anyone can sign up as a Debian
developer and be granted the same privileges as anyone else. There
are currently over 870 active Debian developers. New work developed
for Debian is available for all of the other Linux distributions to
copy as soon as it's uploaded to the Debian servers.
- The Debian Free Software Guidelines are a critical component
from a business standpoint. They specify the requirements for
licenses of any package that is to be included with Debian. Debian
conforms to the official GNU version of free software which means
that every package included in Debian can be redistributed freely.
- Debian is driven by policy. The formal and publicly available
Debian policies have been developed over many years and are a mature
response to dealing with the large task of maintaining such a
distribution in a distributed manner. Various Debian tools (such as
dpkg, apt-get, and lintian) effectively implement the policy and
provide a guarantee of quality in the packaging.
- Debian is an excellent choice for the development of software
for all distributions of GNU/Linux. Because Debian's
processes, in terms of policies and packaging, are fair and visible
and open standards conforming, Debian is a very clean and very
carefully constructed distribution. Developments that occur on a
Debian platform can thus easily be delivered or transferred to other
GNU/Linux (and Unix) platforms.
- It is difficult to upgrade a system from one RedHat release to
another. Debian provides simple migration paths that are well
trodden. No more re-installing the operating system just to upgrade
to the new release.
- Debian's tools have the ability to do recursive upgrades of
- Debian deals with dependencies and will identify the required
packages and install them and then install the package you want.
- Debian packages can Suggest other packages to be
installed, and it is left to the user whether to follow the
suggestions or not.
- Multiple packages can Provide the same functionality
(e.g., email, web server, editor). A package might thus specify that
it depends on a web server, but not which particular web server
(assuming it works with any web server).
- Debian has a utility to install Red Hat packages if you are
- Debian does not overwrite your config files nor does the
packaging system touch /usr/local except perhaps to ensure
appropriate directories exist for local (non-Debian) installed data
- Red Hat uses a binary database for its package data while Debian
(dpkg) uses text files. Debian is more robust (if a single file gets
corrupted it's less of a problem) and it is possible to fix or
modify things by hand using a normal text editor if needed.
(Debian's apt-get uses a mixed approach: it uses the same text files
as dpkg but uses a binary cache to also get the advantages of a
- Red Hat packages rarely fix upstream file locations to be
standards compliant but instead just place files whereever the
upstream package happens to put them. Many upstream developers do
not know about or conform to the standards. A minor example is that
for a while the openssh rpms created /usr/libexec for the sftpd
daemons, but libexec is a BSD standard and the Linux
standard4.1 says such
things should go in /usr/lib/<program> or /usr/sbin.
- Generally speaking, Debian packages must be created by
``qualified'' developers (and there are thousands of them) who are
committed to following Debian's strict policies requiring such things
as FHS compliance and never overwriting config files without
permission. Only packages from these developers become part of the
- Debian runs on more hardware platforms than any other
- The Debian packaging philosophy is to keep packages in small
chunks so that the user can choose what to install with a little
- Fedora reportedly interferes with its distribution to make it a
less free offering. Its libraries are modified to disallow the
compilation of applications that conflict with commercial interests
of the MPAA/RIAA.
See also http://www.infodrom.org/Debian/doc/advantages.html.
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