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Debian is a computer operating system, much like Windows and Mac OS X. It's a particular flavour of Linux that includes additional software and utilities. Users choose it because it's much more convenient to have everything in one installer, rather than downloading things as and when required.

A Brief History of Debian

Originally founded in 1993, Debian has a long history which pre-dates the majority of the web - and the majority of other Linux distributions. Its founding developer was Ian Murdock, a German-born American software engineer, who named the software after his girlfriend at the time (Deb) and himself.

Ian made the first iteration of Debian formally available in 1996 and has had its fair share of controversy. In 2006, Mozilla announced that Firefox and Thunderbird couldn't be distributed with Debian because of the way the developers removed certain images, so they appear under codenames: Iceweasel and Icedove respectively. More recently, Debian has been forked to a new distribution, Devuan (pronounced 'Dev One'), because of a disagreement over how the OS boots up. Devuan will not include systemd.

Toy Story: No, Really

Interestingly, Debian has a rather unlikely connection to Pixar. Its versions are named after characters in the Toy Story movies, while its trunk is named after the bad boy next door, Sid.

Why? Project Leader Bruce Perens worked at Pixar for 12 years, and part of his time there overlapped with his time working on Debian. This explains this charmingly odd connection between the two.

Trivia fans note: the Debian logo may be a homage to Buzz Lightyear's facial hair.

Debian Pure Blends

There are now several versions of Debian, including Debian Live (which can be run from removable media). In addition, there are Pure Blends - versions developed for a specific user group. These include:

  • Debian Junior (for children up to age 8 - read more in this interview with Susanne Reininger)
  • Debian Med (for medical care applications)
  • Debian Edu (for schools and colleges)
  • Debian Accessibility, which includes support for braille devices, screen readers and more

Pure Blends focus on specific app categories.

What's Included With Regular Debian?

Debian is made up of the Linux or kFreeBSD kernel plus tens of thousands of extra software packages. The latest version has more than 37,000 additional tools and applications bundled right into the OS. Everything that is shipped with Debian is free.

Tools offered with Debian include some recognisable names, and some that will be entirely new to non-Linux users:

  • LibreOffice
  • Iceweasel (Firefox)
  • VLC
  • GIMP
  • QuickML
  • Cron
  • GNOME
  • Various language packs
  • Documentation for most of the utilities

    You can see a full list of packages on the Debian website.

    Trying Debian

    You can install Debian yourself on any compatible PC. It can be downloaded using P2P software, or you can install it from an official CD or DVD. Be warned that the CD version of Debian is distributed on 69 discs, so downloading the software is a sensible choice.

    If you don't want to install Debian, you can run it from a memory stick or optical media. For this, you must install the Debian Live version.

    Hosting For Debian

    The official hardware requirements for Debian are listed on its website. However, the page warns that it's impossible to give server specs since Debian has so many potential uses. It's best to rely on the guidance of your hosting provider.

    Everything that comes as part of Debian is free and open source, so you won't see additional fees being added to your web hosting bill. However, not all hosts offer a choice of Linux distribution: you'll often get whatever you're given, so look specifically for Debian hosting as an option when shopping around.

    If you're looking for a dedicated server, you'll have more choice in the type of Linux you can use, so there may be some room for negotiation.

  • Debian Frequently Asked Questions

    Our Latest Blog Posts On Debian

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