Debian is both a popular community Linux distribution in its own right and the foundation for several commercial Linux distributions such as Mepis LLCs SimplyMEPIS, Xandros Inc.s Xandros Desktop OS and Progeny Linux Systems Componentized Linux, which Progeny uses as the basis for its customized Linux distributions.
The Debian distribution has been noteworthy for its support of thirty-plus languages and more than eleven system architectures. Debian supports, along with many other systems, the Alpha, HP PA-RISC, Motorola 680x0, and Sun SPARC chip sets.
While this has helped Debians popularity, it has also led to long development cycles and discontent within the Debian community. Because of this, several Debian developers in the "Vancouver Prospectus" called for Debian to only give its full backing to four candidate architecture families: Intel-386, PowerPC, Intel-64 and AMD-64.
In part, some members of the Debian community felt impelled to do this because, out of impatience, some Debian developers were already putting their efforts behind Canonical Ltd.s Ubuntu Linux distribution. While Ubuntu is built on top of Debian, it is in many ways a reaction to Debians delays.
"As a volunteer organization, Debian has historically been less good at making time-based or predictable releases, and has a difficult time providing accountability," writes Ubuntus staff. "Stable releases of Debian have been few and far between in recent years. The more raw unreleased versions of Debian do not provide security fixes for individual packages that are rapidly changing, but are incorporated in development work. While not important to many Debian users, these shortcomings have discouraged a number of potential Debian users."
New Debian Project Leader Branden Robinson, whos also a Progeny team leader, has pledged to improve Debians internal processes and communications, with the hoped for result of a faster and better distribution development process.
In the meantime, the just-arrived "Sarge" comes with a new Debian installer routine with integrated hardware detection and unattended installation capabilities. Its improved "debconf" tool is designed to make system and software configuration easier and more user-friendly.
This new release comes in versions relying on both the 2.4.27 and 2.6.8 Linux kernels. Sarge also includes perhaps the widest variety of software packages available to a Linux distribution.
For an interface, users can choose from, among others, KDE 3.3 (K Desktop Environment), GNOME 2.8 and the GNUstep desktop. The distribution also includes such popular open-source applications as GIMP 2.2.6, Mozilla 1.7.8, Thunderbird 1.0.2, Firefox 1.0.4 and OpenOffice.org 1.1.3.
Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 also incorporates packages to make it a useful distribution for users with disabilities.
Ian Murdock, founder of Debian and chairman of Progeny, said that hes "thrilled" by the arrival of Sarge. He also said he sees Debian becoming a force in commercial Linux. "Im a big believer in Debians enormous potential. In terms of mindshare and user base, Debian is at least number two in the world, probably number one in big parts of it outside the United States," Murdock said.
As for Progeny itself, "Were obviously going to update our Debian derivative project, Componentized Linux, to use it, and all of the custom distros we build from Debian here on out using Componentized Linux will be based on Sarge," he said.
"Were also going to continue serving as an advocate of standardization in the Debian world. This is just a continuation of what weve been doing for years, and having a new stable release out there is going to make that job a lot easier," Murdock added.
Upgrades to Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 from the previous release Debian GNU/Linux 3.0, aka "Woody, are automatically handled by Debians package management program. The Debian organization also provides detailed instructions for installing or upgrading to the new distribution.