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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Susan G. Kleinmann (
Sven Rudolph (
Joost Witteveen (
24 August 1996
This document answers questions frequently asked about the Debian distribution of GNU/Linux. (See section
for the Copyright details.)
1.1 In what format is this document written?
1.2 Where do I get the latest version of this document?
1.3 Where do I send questions, corrections, etc. about this document?
1.4 (How) Can I redistribute this file?
1.5 What information resources were used to obtain the questions and answers presented here?
Definitions and Overview
2.1 What is Debian GNU/Linux?
2.2 Ok, now I know what Debian is...what's Linux!?
2.3 What's the difference between Debian and other Linux distributions?
2.4 How does the Debian project fit in or compare with the Free Software Foundation's GNU project?
2.5 How does one pronounce Debian and what does this word mean?
3.1 On what architectures/systems does Debian GNU/Linux run?
3.2 What hardware is assumed by the stock Debian GNU/Linux boot disks?
3.3 What amount of disk space is recommended?
3.4 How should I partition my drive?
3.5 Are very large disks supported?
3.6 (How) does Debian provide PCMCIA support?
4.1 How compatible is Debian with other distributions of Linux?
4.2 Can I use Debian packages (".deb" files) on my RedHat/Slackware/... Linux system?
4.3 Is Debian able to run my old "a.out" programs?
4.4 How should I install a non-Debian package?
4.5 Why can't I compile programs that require libtermcap?
4.6 Why can't I install AccelX? (termcap again)
4.7 Why do I get "Can't find libX11.so.6" errors when I try to run
4.8 Can I install and compile a kernel without some Debian-specific tweaking?
Software Available in the Debian system
5.1 What types of applications and development software are available for Debian GNU/Linux?
5.2 Who wrote all that software?
5.3 How can I get a current list of programs that have been packaged for the Debian project?
5.4 What's missing from Debian GNU/Linux?
5.5 Where is 'which'?
5.6 (How) Does Debian support Java?
5.7 What are all those directories (buzz/non-free/contrib/project) at the Debian FTP archives?
5.8 Is source code included with the system?
5.9 How can I check that I'm using a Debian system?
5.10 How can I tell what "version" of the Debian system I am using?
5.11 How does the Debian distribution support non-English languages?
Basics of the Debian Package Management System
6.1 What is a Debian package?
6.2 What is the format of a Debian package?
6.3 Why are Debian package names so long?
6.4 What's a Debian control file?
6.5 What's a Debian Conffile?
6.6 What's a Debian preinst, postinst, prerm, and postrm script?
6.7 What's a Required/Important/Standard/Optional/Extra package?
6.8 What's a Virtual Package?
6.9 What is meant by saying that a file Depends/Recommends/Suggests/Conflicts/Replaces/Provides another package
6.10 What is meant by Pre-Depends?
6.11 What is meant by unknown/install/remove/purge/hold in the package status?
The Debian Package Management Tools
7.1 What program(s) does Debian provide for managing its packages?
7.2 Debian claims to be able to update a running program; how is this accomplished?
7.3 How can I tell what packages are already installed on a Debian system?
7.4 How can I find out what package produced a particular file?
Getting and Installing Debian GNU/Linux
8.1 Where/how can I get the Debian installation disks?
8.2 OK, I've got the disks; how do I install the system?
8.3 How (and on what media) can I get the Debian packages?
8.4 How do I get and install the Debian distribution from CD-ROM?
8.5 How do I get and install the Debian distribution from an NFS-mounted drive?
8.6 How can I get/install the Debian distribution from a set of floppy disks?
8.7 How can I get/install the Debian distribution from my own hard disk?
8.8 How can I get and install the Debian distribution directly from a remote ftp site?
8.9 How can I get and install the Debian distribution from a tape?
8.10 What's the latest version of Debian?
Keeping Your Debian System Up To Date
9.1 How can I upgrade my Debian 0.93 (or earlier) distribution, based on a.out format binaries, to 1.1, based on ELF binaries?
9.2 How can I keep my Debian system current?
9.3 Must I go into single user mode in order to upgrade a package?
9.4 Do I have to keep all those .deb archive files on my disk?
9.5 How can I keep a log of the packages I added to the system?
Debian and the kernel
10.1 What tools does Debian provide to build custom kernels?
10.2 How can I make a custom boot floppy?
10.3 What special provisions does Debian provide to deal with modules?
Customizing your installation of Debian GNU/Linux
11.1 Every distribution seems to have a different boot-up method. Tell me about Debian's.
11.2 It looks as if Debian doesn't use
to customize the boot process; what facilities are provided?
11.3 How does the package management system deal with packages that contain configuration files for other packages?
11.4 How do I override a file installed by a package so that a different version can be used instead?
11.5 How can I have my locally-built package included in the list of available packages that the package management system knows about?
11.6 Some users like mawk, others like gawk; some like vim, others like elvis; some like trn, others like tin; how does Debian support diversity?
Getting support for Debian Linux
12.1 What other documentation exists on and for a Debian system?
12.2 Are there any on-line resources for discussing Debian?
12.3 What is the code of conduct for the mailing lists?
12.4 Are there any other on-line resources dealing with Debian Linux?
The Debian Bug Report System
13.1 Are there logs of known bugs?
13.2 How do I report a bug in Debian?
Contributing to the Debian project
14.1 How can I become a Debian software developer?
14.2 How can I contribute resources to the Debian project?
14.3 How can I contribute financially to the Debian project?
Redistributing Debian Linux in a commercial product
15.1 Can I make and sell Debian CDs?
15.2 Can Debian be packaged with non-free software?
15.3 I'm making a special Linux distribution for a "vertical market". Can I use Debian 1.1 for the guts of a Linux system and add my own applications on top of it?
15.4 Can I put my commercial program in a Debian "package" so that it installs effortlessly on any Debian system?
What kind of changes should I expect to see in the next major release of Debian Linux?
16.1 A New Approach to the Boot Floppies
16.2 New Debian package tools and documentation
16.3 Increased security
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