Debian

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FEATURE DESCRIPTION
KEY FEATURES A stable, mature and popular operating system for advanced users. Debian offers an outstanding package management tool - APT and the largest free software repository of all operating systems out there. Very configurable and (after some work) a very friendly OS. It does however require some knowledge. Debian is available in 3 versions: stable, testing and unstable. Stable is perfect for servers, testing or unstable is best for desktop use. Packages are moved from unstable to testing branch automatically, after 2 weeks with no bugs detected.
Supported architectures AMD64, Alpha, Arm, HPPA, i386, IA64, m68k, Mips, PPC, S390, Sparc
Minimal hardware requirements x86, 16MB RAM
Software freedom status Free as in freedom, guaranteed by the Social contract (point one). On the other hand, Debian has a non-free repository which includes things like proprietary drivers or pov-ray, and a contrib repository for packages which in themselves are DFSG-free, but depend on something in non-free or outside Debian. This is the reason why FSF does not officially recommend Debian as a free distribution. However, Debian's main archive is the only one enabled by default, and it is completely DFSG-free and completely self-contained and this is why it is listed as a "free as in freedom" distribution here.
INSTALLATION
Installer - overall (7) New Debian Sarge installer focuses on non-technical users and it does a very good job in making the Debian installation process as easy for them as possible. For expert users more options are available so that everyone can choose their way to install Debian. Overall Debian installer is very functional, mature and bug-free. Lately, a graphical installer arrived (still in beta) which makes it even more friendly for the non-techies.
Package selection (5) Aptitude is available during installation, all packages are grouped and well-described. It is not as eye-candy as Fedora's or Suse's package selector but it sure works.
Predefined package groups (6) There is a possibility to choose package groups, like: desktop environment, database system, programming environment, etc.
Expert mode install (8) Expert/Beginner
Graphical installer (0) The default text (dialog-based) installer does its job very well. The graphical installer (still in beta) is a functional copy of the console installer in GTK+.
Installer speed (2) Installation process is slow (standard one can take even up to 40 minutes) - all packages go through the autoconfiguration procedure. Of course, the base system installs faster, but choosing this option means you have to install all additional packages manually.
CONFIGURATION
Graphical system management (0) No special tools.
Console-based system management (8) Very good package configuration tool - debconf. All the packages can be reconfigured by issuing dpkg-reconfigure package_name.
PACKAGE SYSTEM
Number of packages (9) Over 8 thousands packages in standard edition of Debian Sarge. After adding some popular outside sources (apt-get.org) the number grows to over 20,000. Debian is an absolute leader in that respect.
Package management, automatic dependency resolving (9) APT - Debian package management tool is a leader among all GNU/Linux tools to manage packages. Installing software in Debian is easy and effortless, and much more pleasant than in most distribution that use RPM format.
Graphical package management tools (8) Synaptic - a graphical software installation and update tool, a frontend to APT. Very useful if someone likes to click more than type. For KDE users there are 2 replacements for Synaptic: Kynaptic (not very active development) and Adept (recently created by the Kubuntu team).
PERFORMANCE
System boot-up speed (3) System boot-up is slow. Slower than most of the other distributions. This is mostly due to a lot of server services loaded by default. Using update-rc.d tool to remove unnecessary services can help to make the OS snappier.
System responsiveness (4) Speed/responsiveness is on an average level.
STABILITY/SECURITY
Popularity (8) Debian, including all distributions based on it, like Knoppix, Ubuntu, Mepis, Libranet or Xandros is the most popular Linux distribution. Thus, it's easy to get help because most of the advices work in the whole family of systems.
Security focus (8) Security is one of the Debian main goals. All of the key security packages (including the kernel package) are updated daily. So if one upgrades the system regularly (using the apt-get dist-upgrade command), the security is not an issue to worry about.
Stability and maturity (8) Debian is one of the oldest and most mature Linux distributions. It has a stable and large community of developers, supporters and users. If one needs a mature and well-tested system, Debian Stable (and with a little more caution, Debian Testing) is the right choice.
INTERNATIONALIZATION
Does the installer support multiple languages? (8) Debian installer is translated into 40 languages which makes it one of the leaders in the area of localization.
Is the system localized after installation? (6) The installed system is mostly localized. Some problems may occur with special characters and console localization. Usually, a reconfiguration of package console-common does the job.
Is manual system localization easy? (5) If something does not work, we should make friends with dpkg-reconfigure tool which makes it easier to change the package configuration without the need to mess up with the configuration files.
APPLICATIONS/NETWORK
Support for restricted formats (3) Debian is a free-software-only distribution. No non-free packages can be put into the official repositories due to the Debian Policy. For restricted formats, an external repository needs to be used, such as the Rarewares.
Sagem DSL modem support (8) Eagle-USB is available as a Debian package so it could not be easier to install it.
Alcatel DSL modem support (5) Speedtouch modem installation is not fully automatic. Package "speedtouch" is responsible for firmware loading. Still, we have to copy the driver manually. Manual configuration is also a must.
ISDN support (3) No ISDN suport in default kernel. The appropriate packages are available in Debian repositories.
Wireless support (4) Ndiswrapper, a program which makes it possible to use "Windows-only" hardware with Linux by means of a loadable kernel module that "wraps around" NDIS - Windows network driver - API drivers, is available through apt-get (packages ndiswrapper-source and ndiswrapper-tool). You still have to compile it to make the modem work.
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