Debian 6 Squeeze

It wasn’t too long ago that I did a very late review of Debian 5. I’m happy to say that it didn’t take me nearly as long to get around to the latest release, Debian 6 Squeeze. If you aren’t familiar with Debian then this release is a great chance to learn about a distro that is the foundation for a lot of other distributions including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and others.

Debian has three main branches:

Stable
Testing
Unstable

Debian 6 is the latest stable release. For more background on Debian in general, please see the Wikipedia overview article.

The Debian Project is governed by the Debian Constitution and the Social Contract which set out the governance structure of the project as well as explicitly stating that the goal of the project is the development of a free operating system.[8][9] Debian is developed by over three thousand volunteers[10] from around the world and supported by donations through several non-profit organizations around the world. Most important of these is Software in the Public Interest,[11] the owner of the Debian trademark and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.[12]

Thus, the Debian Project is an independent decentralized organization; it is not backed by a company like some other GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 4.0 etch (283 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, has been estimated to be close to US$13 billion.[13] As of April 2, 2009, Ohloh estimates that the codebase of the Debian GNU/Linux project (45 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost about US$819 million to develop.[14]

There’s some very informative and interesting background there about the entire Debian project, so be sure to read it after you finish this review of Debian 6.

Install Boot Menu

Install Boot Menu

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new stuff in this release:

  • KDE Plasma Workspaces and KDE Applications 4.4.5
  • an updated version of the GNOME desktop environment 2.30
  • the Xfce 4.6 desktop environment
  • LXDE 0.5.0
  • X.Org 7.5
  • OpenOffice.org 3.2.1
  • GIMP 2.6.11
  • Iceweasel 3.5.16 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox)
  • Icedove 3.0.11 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird)
  • PostgreSQL 8.4.6
  • MySQL 5.1.49
  • GNU Compiler Collection 4.4.5
  • Linux 2.6.32
  • Apache 2.2.16
  • Samba 3.5.6
  • Python 2.6.6, 2.5.5 and 3.1.3
  • Perl 5.10.1
  • PHP 5.3.3
  • Asterisk 1.6.2.9
  • Nagios 3.2.3
  • Xen Hypervisor 4.0.1 (dom0 as well as domU support)
  • OpenJDK 6b18
  • Tomcat 6.0.18
  • more than 29,000 other ready-to-use software packages, built from nearly 15,000 source packages.

I used the GNOME desktop environment for this review.

One of the neat things about this release is that it contains a truly free kernel. Non-free firmware files have been removed, but are still available to those who wish to use them. This makes Debian 6 perfect for Linux purists who do not want their desktop distros corrupted by non-free files. This release also promises faster start-up times due to changes to the boot scripts and dependency tracking.

Debian 6 also provides 10,000 new packages including Chromium and many other useful applications, and an overall total number of packages of around 29,000. I’ll have more to say about software in that section of the review. Suffice to say though that there are gobs of software available in Debian 6 and you should not lack for anything to run on your Debian-based system.

The Debian 6 installer has been improved with easier choice of language and keyboard settings, as well as better partitioning tools. The installer also supports ext4 and Btrfs file systems, and is available in 70 different languages. I’ll have more to say about the installer in that section of the review and the screenshots on that page will walk you through the entire install, from beginning to end.

Since this is a stable release, the emphasis was clearly on releasing Debian 6 in as rock-solid a form as possible rather than trying to pack it full of bloated features or cutting-edge software that could adversely affect that goal. My experience with Debian 6 indicates that the developers have pretty much accomplished what they set out to do in this release.

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Comments

  1. says

    Gayan wrote:

    ….I want Gnome desktop installed with the basic apps such as (totem and CD/DVD burner web browser.. think that’s about it :D ). So if I just download the first CD will it be enough to do that?

    Absolutely, First CD or DVD will serve your purpose. Of course, after installation, uncheck cd/dvd from the source.list and configure other repository as per your location and pull in whatever you like.

  2. Dav1d says

    Great review, i just love Debian, you get a stable system,

    lightweight(i use openbox on it, its amazing how fast my desktop is)

    and they have a ton of softwares on the repositories.

    Squeeze was a very strong release, even for Debian

    that always has pretty good versions.

    They are moving to the righ direction, simplifing what they can(Installation, Software Center) and keeping what i really like, the Stable version is actually stable, my system never crashes and i can just focus on what i'm doing.

    I'll probabilly give it a try on Wheezy, the testing version is the middle ground

    between stable but old(not much) softwares and the bleeding edge that some distros use as Stable.

    PS: Sorry about my english, i'm brazilian, don't pratice enough.

  3. Gayan says

    Hi Jin,

    OK here is my question. I want Gnome desktop installed with the basic apps such as (totem and CD/DVD burner web browser.. think that's about it :D ). So if I just download the first CD will it be enough to do that?.

    Debian is a great distro but they over complicate these cd/s and their included packages and I really can't get my head around it.. really annoying. So could you please help me??.

  4. says

    Curt Howland wrote:

    @ Curt Howland:

    In Sid, that is.

    That's right. My comments earlier implied that LibreOffice was in Testing as well as in Sid, but that may not be correct. You can GET LibreOffice and run it in Debian Stable or Testing, but I have not confirmed that the packages are included in either of them. In Stable, we can probably expect NOT to see it any time soon, and in Testing, we MAY see it eventually, but to actually GET it now, either temporarily enable the Sid repo and grab it, then comment out Sid, or grab the packages from the Libre Office site and extract the packages from the archive and install them – so you can GET it, but it's not directly INCLUDED – that was not clear in my previous notes.

  5. says

    Andreas wrote:

    Hmmm… I am running Debian Testing (i.e. Wheezy) and do not have libreoffice in my apt-cache? So are you sure Brian?

    I will have to check back. No, I am not 100% positive that LibreOffice is in Wheezy yet. I may have grabbed the .deb packages from the LibreOffice site. I am positive that LibreOffice is in Debian Sid, though, so if you REALLY want it in Wheezy, add the Debian Sid site in your /etc/apt/sources.list file, and from root, run the command apt-get update, then run apt-get install libreoffice and you will get it, then comment out the Sid repo so you don't get other Sid packages the next time you upgrade packages (unless you decide to run Sid instead of Wheezy).

  6. Andreas says

    Hmmm… I am running debian testin (i.e. wheezy) and do not have libreoffice in my apt-cache? So are you sure Brian?

  7. says

    @ yoda: Yes it's possible. You get to validate the choice of partitions and in that screen you can do almost everything. Including modifying details of what's done with every partition. Select it and press enter, you will have access to a sub-menu.

  8. Alexandru says

    BKM wrote:

    Hi Jim,

    about the packages being pulled off the CD instead of the net: as far as I know, APT related tools should download packages from local media (i.e. CDs and DVDs) instead of network repositories when packages available locally have the same version of the remote ones. If you think about avoiding unnecessary network bandwidth use, this makes sense. Newer version will be downloaded from repositories anyway, whether a CD/DVD is available or not.

    Have you checked if the packages you were trying to install were already updated on the repositories? If they were and CD/DVD packages were used instead, then it’s obviously a bug. If they weren’t, its perfectly normal: APT used local packages without having to mess up with the network. Not everyone has a flat rate broadband connection, and a CD/DVD is faster anyway.

    Since Squeeze has just been published, chances are that most packages haven’t been updated on the repositories. You can verify what I’m saying by re-enabling the CD/DVD source, and then installing something you know has a more recent version on the repositories.

    Actually, Debian doesn't have separated "base repository" and "additional repository". DVD installation media are not limited to 1 DVD. There are 8 DVDs. If you install from the first one, the installer will ask to scan all the rest. They will be your default package source along with network repository (primarily, for non-free packages).

  9. Bill Julian says

    Like Brian I have been running Squeeze since sometime in August with no problems at all. People who want to run Stable need to understand that it is not developed as a leading edge system. The idea is that this one is going to work each time, every time. In my experience that goal has been met.

    One thing to mention: Debian documentation is voluminous and it rewards study. If a person wants to learn Debian Gnu/Linux time spent with it is a very good investment.

    And if people want to "role their own" gui environment there is a "base system" available with no Xorg and no Gui desktop at all. I have looked at it only briefly but if I were going to set up a server for some specialized purpose this just might be the preferred way to it.

    Yes Sable is boring! Very good. With a boring system as the "go to" set of tools we now can download the interesting stuff! And if it breaks boring will be there.

    Have fun!

  10. BKM says

    Hi Jim,

    about the packages being pulled off the CD instead of the net: as far as I know, APT related tools should download packages from local media (i.e. CDs and DVDs) instead of network repositories when packages available locally have the same version of the remote ones. If you think about avoiding unnecessary network bandwidth use, this makes sense. Newer version will be downloaded from repositories anyway, whether a CD/DVD is available or not.

    Have you checked if the packages you were trying to install were already updated on the repositories? If they were and CD/DVD packages were used instead, then it's obviously a bug. If they weren't, its perfectly normal: APT used local packages without having to mess up with the network. Not everyone has a flat rate broadband connection, and a CD/DVD is faster anyway.

    Since Squeeze has just been published, chances are that most packages haven't been updated on the repositories. You can verify what I'm saying by re-enabling the CD/DVD source, and then installing something you know has a more recent version on the repositories.

  11. Micah says

    And I should add that the installer is excellent. The graphical installer that I ran in the live environment didn't work because the screens were all too big for my netbook, but then I used the simple text installer and found that it was dead-simple. It even set up full disk encryption without the slightest inconvenience to me.

  12. Micah says

    I'm pleasantly surprised by Debian 6. I threw it on my netbook, figuring that I needed that to run a rock solid OS in case I'm travelling and have nothing else to rely on. I'm glad to say that in the few days I've had Debian 6 on there there hasn't been even the slightest problem. Everything works well and runs fast as heck, even when using GNOME.

    Right now none of the software I've used seems "stale." The kernel's a bit older, but so is my hardware; the applications are a bit newer than the kernel and seem all to be in nice shape, which perhaps the maturation of a lot of projects over the last couple of years. Now, whether I'll be content with these applications a year from now, who knows!

    Switching to testing might alleviate that problem, but as I understand it testing doesn't receive security fixes quite as quickly as stable or unstable. That's a bit of a deterrent to me.

  13. Brian Masinick says

    Jim Lynch wrote:

    Brian you are like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents on Christmas eve! You’re supposed to wait to open them.

    Actually Jim, that was my sister Susan, who is a year younger than me. I actually DID get an early Christmas present a week early this year, the very nice Google Cr-48 notebook computer with a 12.1" display, SSD (solid state disk) that enables the beast to boot in only ten seconds, shut down and restore in about one second each, and make up for the pretty slow Atom processor. The only thing that comes up slowly is the network; that's a function of what either the 3G service or the wireless router Wifi access provides. I've gotten it tuned to provide respectable performance.

    As for Debian, I did not do a whole lot with it around Christmas because it was pretty dormant around Christmas, but I sure beat the heck out of it in October and November, and again in January, and it withstood everything and did superbly well, which is why I was chomping for the release; on Intel 686 hardware, it's been ready for a while; it was the kFreeBSD stuff that was holding it up, and they decided to release that part as a "preview release", so this excellent software was released!

  14. Brian Masinick says

    Nice to see your conclusion and that you really like Debian Squeeze. This is definitely their best release, and I just knew it would be because it was ALREADY excellent by August 2009, just six months after the release of Lenny, and it has been solid every since. August 2009 was when I downloaded my first Debian Lenny build; I liked it so much that I kept that early Alpha build installed for about a year, when I became bored with its stability, so I have been tracking the progress since then through antiX and through live builds that I snag once or twice a month. I really started getting excited about it this Fall, and thought they had a chance to finish by Christmas, but I think they took Holiday breaks, and took the extra time to prepare the new Debian Web site, further improve the installation graphics, documentation, and prepare for the final rollout. It has been outstanding.

  15. Brian Masinick says

    Jim, on Page 6, you said: "One thing I didn’t like about Debian 6 is that it still comes with OpenOffice.org instead of LibreOffice. Given that this is Debian stable, it’s not surprising. However, I would like to see LibreOffice eventually succeed OpenOffice.org as soon as possible."

    I have been beating on the three Debian repositories this week, finding what has stayed the same and what has changed. Both Wheezy, (the former Sid unstable stuff that has been promoted to Testing for the next release, Version 7.0), and Sid, updated this week, got LibreOffice. It started to come in around Tuesday, but they screwed it up and it took two or three days to get it right, but now both Testing and Sid have versions of Libre Office, and in fact, today, I have LibreOffice 3.3.1 OOO330m19 (Build:7) tag libreoffice-3.3.1.1, Debian package 1:3.3.1~rc1-1 on my Debian Sid system. I believe Testing got a build one or two revs. older, but that may be getting updated soon. So if you really want LibreOffice, run a test soon of Debian Wheezy, using one of the Live Build links that I shared in my previous note.

    Debian Squeeze is rock solid, Wheezy is probably going to be wheezing a little bit, but not for long. The stuff in Wheezy, at least most of it, has already had a good run in Sid, and it is solid stuff. I find for desktop use that Debian Testing is a good compromise between rock stable software and cutting edge software. The antiX distribution, based on Debian Testing, consistently reflects this.

    As for Debian Squeeze, it is not too old and crusty YET, so it is a very stable, awesome distribution right now, the best thing you can get, in my opinion, as long as you don't gasp for cutting edge software constantly (as I tend to do). As a result, I nearly always have one to three copies EACH of a Debian Stable, Testing, and Unstable distro. They are all good, each for their own reasons. Stable is non volatile and truly meets its name, Stable. Testing has been undergoing testing. It may not be perfect in everything, but it is generally well tested and suitable for desktop, but not always for production use. Sid is mainly for enthusiasts and developers, and often works well, but it can be too volatile for some to deal with, and it takes experience to tame it. I tend to use scripts to assist in that taming, and I signed up to provide "eyes" to the script warning packages in smxi.

  16. says

    Thanks, Brian. I wasn't aware you could get a live version for Debian 6. That's great to know though. I didn't mind not having one since I like to jump into the install anyway. But it's handy for the folks that just want to test it without installing it.

  17. Brian Masinick says

    Jim, on page 2 of your review, you said that: "There was no Live DVD/CD available when I downloaded Debian 6. So this review is based on the non-live version, meaning that I couldn’t boot into a live desktop environment to use Debian 6 without installing it first. I didn’t mind that at all though; it saved me the bother of booting into the Live desktop first to start my install."

    You may not have been able to FIND a Live CD or DVD, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist. I've been writing about them for months in the DLR Forum. You can get them at http://live.debian.net/ and you can also build a custom Live system at http://live-build.debian.net/cgi-bin/live-build. These have been around since about the time that the Squeeze project started, nearly two years.

    I may have more comments later, but I wanted to throw that one in right away for those who want live Debian CDs or DVDs – they are readily obtainable.

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