1.2 What is Debian GNU/Linux?
Debian GNU/Linux is a particular distribution of the Linux operating
system, and numerous packages that run on it.
In principle, users could obtain the Linux kernel via the Internet or from
elsewhere, and compile it themselves. They could then obtain source code for
many applications in the same way, compile the programs, then install them into
their systems. For complicated programs, this process can be not only
time-consuming but error-prone. To avoid it, users often choose to obtain the
operating system and the application packages from one of the Linux
distributors. What distinguishes the various Linux distributors are the
software, protocols, and practices they use for packaging, installing, and
tracking applications packages on users' systems, combined with installation
and maintenance tools, documentation, and other services.
Debian GNU/Linux is the result of a volunteer effort to create a free,
high-quality Unix-compatible operating system, complete with a suite of
applications. The idea of a free Unix-like system originates from the GNU
project, and many of the applications that make Debian GNU/Linux so useful were
developed by the GNU project.
For Debian, free has the GNUish meaning (see the
Debian Free Software
Guidelines). When we speak of free software, we are referring to
freedom, not price. Free software means that you have the freedom to
distribute copies of free software, that you receive source code or can get it
if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new
free programs; and that you know you can do these things.
The Debian Project was created by Ian Murdock in 1993, initially under the
sponsorship of the Free Software Foundation's GNU project. Today, Debian's
developers think of it as a direct descendent of the GNU project.
Debian GNU/Linux is:
full featured: Debian includes more than 15400 software
packages at present. Users can select which packages to install; Debian
provides a tool for this purpose. You can find a list and descriptions of the
packages currently available in Debian at any of the Debian
dynamic: With about 1649 volunteers constantly contributing
new and improved code, Debian is evolving rapidly. New releases are planned to
be made every several months, and the FTP archives are updated daily.
Although Debian GNU/Linux itself is free software, it is a base upon which
value-added Linux distributions can be built. By providing a reliable,
full-featured base system, Debian provides Linux users with increased
compatibility, and allows Linux distribution creators to eliminate duplication
of effort and focus on the things that make their distribution special. See I am making a special Linux
distribution for a "vertical market". Can I use Debian GNU/Linux for
the guts of a Linux system and add my own applications on top of it?, Section
13.3 for more information.