3.1 Debian GNU/Linux

The reference distribution for this book, and a long time personal preference, is Debian GNU/Linux. However, based on Debian, Ubuntu continues to shine as the simplest distribution to install, and comes highly recommended and is where all of my installations have migrated to.

I originally started with Slackware in 1993 but migrated through Red Hat and then quickly on to Debian in 1995. Red Hat (now Fedora Core) is a good distribution and is quite popular for supported server-based environments with a focus on the commercial server market rather than the desktop user market.

Debian, more so than most other distributions, fundamentally conforms to the open and distributed development model, making it a very open distribution where even you can make a change to it, if you so desired. Debian is the basis of a number of LiveCDs (see Section ??) and commercial distributions and it also powers quite a few web sites including Linux.com.

Gentoo is an interesting distribution primarily for development workstations at the bleeding edge, using a model of compiling source for the installation rather than being a binary distribution. However, the same functionality is available in Debian through the wajig build command and appropriate tuning of /etc/apt/apt-build.conf.

Debian has quite a few points going in its favour over other releases of GNU/Linux. I relate some of these here.

Debian is widely deployed in industry, even though it is not comforted with a vendor providing commercial support. Since at least 2007 numerous Australian government departments, including some of the largest, have deployed data mining solutions based on Debian (and then Ubuntu) GNU/Linux. RedHat has been considered for the same environment, offering commercial support, but the result was that more commercial support ends up being required when going with such an option, and RedHat’s package management has always lagged behind the capabilities of Debian’s.

Bdale Garbee, Chief Technologist for HP for a few years, reported at Debconf’07, how Debian has a sophisticated package management system that has over 15,000 packages available, with an emphasis on security and stability, and a large international developer and support community (including many internal to HP). Debian is royalty free, and provides excellent non-proprietary build and customisation tools.

There are over 70 distributions based on Debian GNU/Linux, and many of the current and active distributions are listed at http://www.debian.org/misc/children-distros and include:

[Knoppix] The Knoppix LiveCD distribution is based on Debian and allows one to run Debian without installing it! Just boot from the CD-ROM and Debian will run from there. If you decide to then install Debian, you can do so from the Knoppix CD-ROM. Knoppix works on most but not all hardware, trying its best to automatically identify hardware and set things up appropriately. See http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html. [Linex] A Debian-based distribution being developed by the regional government of Extremadura (Spain) with the goal of migrating all the computer systems, from government offices, to businesses to schools into Linux. [Mepis] A Debian-based CDLive distribution with KDE. [Morphix] Morphix is a modular LiveCD derived from Knoppix, with install images for Games, GNOME, KDE, and LightGUI. It is available from http://www.morphix.org. *[Ubuntu] Ubuntu is a vendor supported distribution based on Debian and features the latest release of GNOME and is available for multiple architectures. It is a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit. See http://www.ubuntu.com/.

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