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24 February, 2006
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Review of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques

The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques can provide you with a wealth of knowledge to make any Debian task easier, more efficient, and relatively painless.

Aric Campling -- 24 February 2006 (C) -- Page 2

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Article Index

Introduction

Executive Summary

About Debian GNU-Linux

Is The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques for You?

A Book for Reading and for Reference

What's on the Included Debian CD

Contents of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques

Debian's package management tools

About the review author

Resources

Editor's Note Regarding On-line Installation:

Generally, I frown upon on-line, as in over the Internet, installations of operating systems, software, and updates from any OS or software provider. One reason is that if your Internet connection drops during the installation, then that could wreak havoc with your system and files.

Another reason is that during software or operating system installations, the installer usually polls your system for all sorts of information about system hardware and installed software. The installer also even might poll your data files.

If the owner of the installation source so desires, he or she can retain this information -- thus invading your privacy. However, what you do is up to you. If you do engage in on-line, installations of operating systems, software, or updates, from any OS or software provider, make sure you trust that provider.

For more about computer privacy and security, please see our article "Solutions for Identity, Credit Card, Bank Account, and Personal Information Theft - Part I: Overview".

Additionally, regardless of what the owner of the installation source might do or not do, the United States Government's NSA (National Security Agency) and other U. S. government agencies are packet-sniffing and spying on Internet traffic. Thus the US government is capable of building databases containing information about your computer system, your software, and your files if you do on-line OS or software or installations. And likely if the U.S. government spies can do it, they are doing it.

For more about the U;S; Government spying on citizens please see our article "Renewing the Patriot Act is the wrong thing to do!".

Review author Aric Campling notes, however, retaining any system information or snooping data files obtained during an on-line Debian installation would violate the Debian social contract and possibly the DFSG, not to mention, the trust of Debian users. Moreover, snooping would alienate the Debian community.

Retaining such information easily would be discoverable because Debian GNU-Linux is Free and Open Source software (FOSS), thus allowing anyone to see exactly what the Debian installers do.

Debian always downloads all requested packages before installing anything when doing a network install. Thus, if a connection is lost during a network Debian install, Debian's simply won't install.

For these reasons, review author Aric Campling feels comfortable doing on-line installations of Debian GNU-Linux.

What's on the Included Debian CD

In addition to the printed knowledge in The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques, attached inside the back cover is an installation CD containing Debian 3.1r0a for i386 architecture. This CD contains the official stable sarge release, as originally released. The current version of Debian is 3.1r1.

Readers of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques can use the CD to install a working Debian GNU-Linux. However, readers then should use the information in the book immediately to update the packages to the latest security revision.

Alternatively, users with an Internet connection can use the CD to start the Debian installer and then use a remote packages repository to install Debian over the Internet. That is this reviewer's preferred method of installation. It guarantees you have the latest, most stable, and most secure Debian package installed on your system.

(Please see the Editor's Note Regarding On-line Installation in the right side-bar.)

Are you a Debian GNU-Linux user, Debian administrator, or considering a switch to Debian GNU-Linux? If so, The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques can provide you with a wealth of knowledge to make any Debian task easier, more efficient, and relatively painless.

Read on for a summary look at the contents of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques by Martin F. Krafft.

Contents of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques

Chapter 1, Introduction and Chapter 2, The Debian project in a nutshell introduce the book to the reader. Then they describe everything about the Debian project that doesn't have to do with actual software.

Of primary importance are the Debian Philosophy and the Debian Community. Martin Krafft describes:

  • how the community is organized,
  • how users, maintainers, developers and officers relate,
  • how the Debian Community relates to the rest of the world,
  • and related concepts.

A history of Debian GNU-Linux is provided, complete with a timeline, along with a detailed look at the inner workings of the Debian community-developers, contributors, and other social aspects.

Because of the DFSG (Debian Free Software Guidelines) and the Debian Social Contact, a more in-depth exploration of open source software, free software, free speech, and free beer is undertaken. This exploration helps to put the larger vision of free and open-source software (FOSS) into perspective, and the exploration certainly helps one to understand how this vision is appreciated in the Debian GNU-Linux system.

In Chapter Three, Installing Debian the right way Martin F. Krafft addresses the fundamental issues surrounding the installation of Debian GNU-Linux, specifically addressing details about the new Debian Installer that is packaged with the sarge distribution. Included are details on:

  • how to tweak the installer to meet personal installation needs;
  • how to install and to configure a base system (the minimum needed to boot a working system from hard drive);
  • and a brief overview of how to set up and configure the X Window System (the Linux graphical user environment).

Unlike other Linux distributions such as Mandriva or SUSE, Debian GNU-Linux still uses a text-based installer running in a pseudo-graphical, menu-driven format. The menus are designed to be logical and easy to progress through. For the most part the installer will attempt to build the most functional system while asking the fewest questions possible. Strategies for using and managing the installer are presented.

The experienced Debian users might find little of interest in Chapter 3, since it all would be familiar. They likely will move ahead to Chapter 8 for more advanced installation concepts.

Chapter 4. Debian releases and archives covers an important subject. It's all about the Debian releases, how and why they're named, and what it takes for software to progress through the logical structure of the Debian repository.

Have you wondered what the difference is between unstable, testing, and stable versions of Debian or between sid, sarge, woody, and etch? This information and more is in Chapter 4.

Additionally, the reader will find information on the unofficial Debian repositories discussed in Chapter 4 and what these repositories offer. For example, because of limitations (or rather, set-in-stone freedoms) enumerated in the Debian Free Software Guidelines, some multimedia applications such as mplayer or lame (an mp3 encoder library) can not be included in their entirety in the official Debian release due to copyright or patent restrictions on the audio or video encoding and decoding methods. However, you can use alternative, unofficial Debian repositories to obtain such applications.


  • See Debian's package management tools on Page 3 ----->

  • Article Index

    Introduction

    Executive Summary

    About Debian GNU-Linux

    Is The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques for You?

    A Book for Reading and for Reference

    What's on the Included Debian CD

    Contents of The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques

    Debian's package management tools

    About the review author

    Resources

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