1.5 Basics of the Debian distributions
Debian maintains three different distributions simultaneously. These are:
When packages in unstable have no release-critical (RC) bugs filed
against them after the first week or so, they are automatically promoted to
Debian distributions also have code names as described in Debian distribution codenames, Section
2.1.7. Before Woody was released in August 2002, the three distributions
were, respectively, Potato, Woody, and Sid. After Woody was released the three
distributions were, respectively, Woody, Sarge, and Sid. When Sarge is
released, the stable and unstable distributions will
be Sarge and Sid; a new testing distribution will then be created
(initially as a copy of stable) and given a new code name.
Subscribe to the low-volume mailing list
[email protected] for important announcements
about Debian. See
archives, Section 2.1.
If you want to use versions of packages that are more current than the versions
that were released with the distribution you are using, then you can either
upgrade to a later distribution as described in Upgrading a distribution to stable,
testing, or unstable, Chapter 5, or you can
upgrade only selected packages. If the package can't be upgraded easily then
you may want to backport it as described in Port a package to the stable
system, Section 6.4.10.
Tracking the testing distribution can have the side effect of
delaying the installation of packages containing security fixes. Such packages
are uploaded to unstable and migrate to testing only
after a delay.
If you mix distributions, e.g., testing with stable
or unstable with stable, you will eventually pull in
core packages such as
libc6 from testing or
unstable and there is no guarantee that these will not contain
bugs. You have been warned.
Running the testing or unstable distribution
increases your risk of hitting serious bugs. This risk can be managed by
deploying a multibooting scheme with a more stable Debian distribution or by
deploying the nice trick of using
chroot as described in
chroot, Section 8.6.35. The
latter will enable running different Debian distributions simultaneously on
After an explanation of the fundamentals of the Debian distribution in Debian fundamentals, Chapter 2, you will be given
some basic information to help you live happily with the latest software,
taking advantage of the testing and unstable
distributions of Debian. The impatient should proceed immediately to Debian survival commands, Section 6.3.