Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) is out and it’s time for another review of this venerated linux project.
Debian is the granddaddy of Linux distros, it forms the basis for Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many other desktop linux distros. Yet many folks who are new to Linux might not even have heard of Debian. This is a shame because it has quite a lot to offer in its own right, aside from everything it provides to other desktop distros.
There are three main branches of Debian:
Debian 7 is the latest stable release.
Wikipedia has a very good background article on Debian that you should read if you’re new to it. It will give you much more information than I can provide in this review.
Here’s a sample:
“Debian is one of the most influential open source projects known as a Linux distribution, and maintains repositories with over 29,000 software packages ready for installation. Its repositories host large numbers of software packages for multiple architectures, more in number than any other Linux distribution project. Debian hosts software in additional repositories called “non-free” but offers its distribution setup without it. Debian is seen as a solid Linux and has been forked many times (Debian derivatives).
Debian hosts experimental kernel choices for its distribution while pushing the boundaries to support more hardware devices. There are development packages for architectures for the FreeBSD kernel (kfreebsd-i386 and kfreebsd-amd64) and Hurd kernel, making Debian the only operating system that offers three different kernels; Linux being the most adopted for stability. Supported architectures range from the Intel/AMD 32-bit/64-bit architectures commonly found in personal computers to theARM architecture commonly found in embedded systems and the z/Architecture found in mainframe computers.
Debian includes popular programs such as LibreOffice, Iceweasel (a rebranding of Firefox), Evolution mail, CD/DVD writing programs, music and video players, image viewers and editors, and PDF viewers. The cost of developing all the packages included in Debian 5.0 lenny (323 million lines of code), using the COCOMOmodel, has been estimated to be about US$ 8 billion. Ohloh estimates that the codebase (54 million lines of code), using the COCOMO model, would cost aboutUS$ 1 billion to develop.
The Debian standard install makes use of the GNOME desktop environment. There are pre-built CD images for KDE Software Compilation, Xfce and LXDE also.The remaining discs, which span five DVDs or over thirty CDs, contain all packages currently available and are not necessary for a standard install. Another install method is via a net install CD, which is much smaller than a normal install CD/DVD. It contains only the bare essentials needed to start the installer and downloads the packages selected during installation via APT. These CD/DVD images can be freely obtained by web download, BitTorrent, jigdo or from online retailers.“
What’s New in Debian 7.0
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:
- Apache 2.2.22
- Asterisk 126.96.36.199
- GIMP 2.8.2
- an updated version of the GNOME desktop environment 3.4
- GNU Compiler Collection 4.7.2
- Icedove 10 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird)
- Iceweasel 10 (an unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox)
- KDE Plasma Workspaces and KDE Applications 4.8.4
- kFreeBSD kernel 8.3 and 9.0
- LibreOffice 3.5.4
- Linux 3.2
- MySQL 5.5.30
- Nagios 3.4.1
- OpenJDK 6b27 and 7u3
- Perl 5.14.2
- PHP 5.4.4
- PostgreSQL 9.1
- Python 2.7.3 and 3.2.3
- Samba 3.6.6
- Tomcat 6.0.35 and 7.0.28
- Xen Hypervisor 4.1.4
- the Xfce 4.8 desktop environment
- X.Org 7.7
- more than 36,000 other ready-to-use software packages, built from nearly 17,500 source packages.
For desktop users, the updated software in Debian 7 will be quite welcome (see the software section for a list of bundled applications in Debian 7).
Multiarch support is included in Debian 7, thus allowing users to install packages from different architectures on the same machine. So you can install 32-bit and 64-bit versions of software on the same computer, and the dependencies will all be resolved automatically for you.
Debian 7 also offers software speech installation, a particularly helpful feature for those who are visually impaired.
This release also supports booting and install using UEFI for 64-bit computers, but lacks support for Secure Boot.
System Requirements for Debian 7.0
Debian 7 is available for a number of different architectures, so it’s impractical to list system requirements here. See the install guide links in the install section of the review for the system requirements for your architecture.
Debian 7.0 Download
You can download Debian 7.0 from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 4 GB. You have the option of trying Debian as a live distro before installing, or you can simply opt to download an install version right away. I did the latter as I intended to install and use it anyway.
Debian is available for numerous architectures, I recommend reading the release notes for yours.
- Release Notes for 64-bit PC (amd64)
- Release Notes for 32-bit PC (i386)
- Release Notes for EABI ARM
- Release Notes for PowerPC
- Release Notes for Hard Float ABI ARM
- Release Notes for SPARC
- Release Notes for kFreeBSD 64-bit PC (amd64)
- Release Notes for Intel Itanium IA-64
- Release Notes for MIPS (little endian)
- Release Notes for kFreeBSD 32-bit PC (i386)
- Release Notes for IBM S/390
- Release Notes for MIPS (big endian)
- Release Notes for IBM System z
Debian 7.0 Installation
Debian 7 offers a choice between a text-based installer or a graphical installer. I opted for the graphical version.
The Debian 7 install routine is better than it used to be, but it still isn’t as comfortable or fast as Linux Mint’s or Ubuntu’s. Experienced Linux users will most likely have no problem whatsoever with it, but newer folks might stumble if it’s their first time trying to install Debian.
Here’s a list of install guides (system requirements are included) for the architectures that Debian supports:
- Installation Guide for 64-bit PC (amd64)
- Installation Guide for 32-bit PC (i386)
- Installation Guide for EABI ARM
- Installation Guide for PowerPC
- Installation Guide for Hard Float ABI ARM
- Installation Guide for SPARC
- Installation Guide for kFreeBSD 64-bit PC (amd64)
- Installation Guide for Intel Itanium IA-64
- Installation Guide for MIPS (little endian)
- Installation Guide for kFreeBSD 32-bit PC (i386)
- Installation Guide for IBM S/390
- Installation Guide for MIPS (big endian)
- Installation Guide for IBM System z
The screenshots below will walk you through some of the Debian 7 install.
The Debian 7.0 Desktop
Debian 7 comes with GNOME 3.4 and GNOME Classic. Initially, I booted into the GNOME 3 environment. Ick, a few minutes of it was all I could stand. So I logged out, and used GNOME Classic instead. I found it to be much more to my liking.
I have tried to warm up to GNOME 3 several times, and always ended up despising it. To me it’s really a toss up as to which one sucks more: GNOME 3 or Unity. I suppose the one I dislike most is the one I’m using at a particular moment. Anyway, I digress.
So I recommend giving GNOME Classic a shot instead. But then again, I’m old school when it comes to desktop interfaces. Your mileage may vary considerably, so use whichever works best for you.
Linux Software Included in Debian 7.0
Here’s a sample of the linux software included in this release.
Free Cell Solitaire
Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor
Shotwell Photo Manager
Empathy Internet Messaging
Remote Desktop Viewer
Transmission BitTorrent Client