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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), IA-64
Chapter 2 - What's new in Debian GNU/Linux 4.0


This release adds official support for the AMD64 architecture which supports 64-bit processors from both Intel (EM64T) and AMD (AMD64). During the previous release, Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 ('sarge'), an unofficial version of this port was available.

Official support for the Motorola 680x0 ('m68k') architecture has been dropped because it did not meet the criteria set by the Debian Release Managers. The most important underlying reasons are performance and limited upstream support for essential toolchain components. However, the m68k port is expected to remain active and available for installation even if not a part of this official stable release.

The following are the officially supported architectures for Debian GNU/Linux etch:

You can read more about port status, and port-specific information for your architecture at the Debian port web pages.


2.1 What's new in the distribution?

This new release of Debian again comes with a lot more software than its predecessor sarge; the distribution includes over 6500 new packages, for a total of over 18200 packages. Most of the software in the distribution has been updated: over 10700 software packages (this is 68% of all packages in sarge). Also, a significant number of packages (over 3500, 23% of the packages in sarge) have for various reasons been removed from the distribution. You will not see any updates for these packages and they will be marked as 'obsolete' in package management front-ends.

With this release, Debian GNU/Linux switches from XFree86 to the 7.1 release of X.Org, which includes support for a greater range of hardware and better autodetection. This allows the use of Compiz, which is one of the first compositing window managers for the X Window System, taking full advantage of hardware OpenGL acceleration for supported devices.

Debian GNU/Linux again ships with several desktop applications and environments. Among others it now includes the desktop environments GNOME 2.14[2], KDE 3.5.5a, and Xfce 4.4. Productivity applications have also been upgraded, including the office suites OpenOffice.org 2.0.4a and KOffice 1.6 as well as GNUcash 2.0.5, GNUmeric 1.6.3 and Abiword 2.4.6.

Updates of other desktop applications include the upgrade to Evolution 2.6.3 and Gaim 2.0. The Mozilla suite has also been updated, with a rename of the main programs: iceweasel (version 2.0.0.2) is the unbranded Firefox web browser and icedove (version 1.5) is the unbranded Thunderbird mail client.

Among many others, this release also includes the following software updates:

The official Debian GNU/Linux distribution now ships on 19 to 23 binary CDs (depending on the architecture) and a similar number of source CDs. A DVD version of the distribution is also available.


2.1.1 Package management

aptitude is the preferred program for package management from console. aptitude supports most command line operations of apt-get and has proven to be better at dependency resolution than apt-get. If you are still using dselect, you should switch to aptitude as the official frontend for package management.

For etch an advanced conflict resolving mechanism has been implemented in aptitude that will try to find the best solution if conflicts are detected because of changes in dependencies between packages.

Secure APT is now available in etch. This feature adds extra security to Debian GNU/Linux systems by easily supporting strong cryptography and digital signatures to validate downloaded packages. This release includes the apt-key tool for adding new keys to apt's keyring, which by default includes only the current Debian archive signing key, provided in the debian-archive-keyring package.

In its default configuration, apt will now warn if packages are downloaded from sources that are not authenticated. Future releases might force all packages to be verified before downloading them. Administrators of unofficial apt repositories are encouraged to generate a cryptographic key and sign their Release files, as well as providing a secure way to distribute their public keys.

For more information please read apt(8), the Package signing in Debian chapter of the Securing Debian Manual and the Debian Wiki.

Another feature that was added in apt is the ability to download only the changes in Packages files since your last update. More about this feature in Slower updates of APT package index files, Section 5.1.4.


2.1.2 debian-volatile now an official service

The debian-volatile service that was introduced as an unofficial service with the release of sarge has now become an official Debian GNU/Linux service.

This means that it now uses a .debian.org address[3]. Please make sure to update your /etc/apt/sources.list accordingly if you were already using this service.

debian-volatile allows users to easily update stable packages that contain information that quickly goes out of date. Examples are a virus scanner's signatures list or a spam filter's pattern set. For more information and a list of mirrors, please see the archive's web page.


2.2 System improvements

There have been a number of changes in the distribution that will benefit new installations of etch, but may not be automatically applied on upgrades from sarge. This section gives an overview of the most relevant changes.

Priority for basic development packages lowered

A number of development packages that used to be priority standard are now priority optional, which means they will no longer be installed by default. This includes the standard C/C++-compiler, gcc, as well as some other software (dpkg-dev, flex, make) and development headers (libc6-dev, linux-kernel-headers).

If you do wish to have these packages on your system, the easiest way to install them is by installing build-essential, which will pull in most of them.

SELinux priority standard, but not enabled by default

The packages needed for SELinux support have been promoted to priority standard. This means that they will be installed by default during new installations. For existing systems you can install SELinux using:

     # aptitude install selinux-basics

Note that SELinux support is not enabled by default. Information on setting up and enabling SELinux can be found on the Debian Wiki.

New default inet superdaemon

The default inet superdaemon for etch is openbsd-inetd instead of netkit-inetd. It will not be started if no services are configured, which is true by default. The new default daemon will be installed automatically on upgrade.

Default vi clone changed

The vi clone installed by default is now a compact version of vim (vim-tiny) instead of nvi.

Changes in default features for ext2/ext3

New ext2 and ext3 file systems will be created with features dir_index and resize_inode enabled by default. The first feature speeds up operations on directories with many files; the second makes it possible to resize a file system on-line (i.e. while it is mounted).

Users upgrading from sarge could consider adding the dir_index flag manually using tune2fs[4]; the resize_inode flag cannot be added to an existing file system. It is possible to check which flags are set for a file system using dumpe2fs -h.

Default encoding for etch is UTF-8

The default encoding for new Debian GNU/Linux installations is UTF-8. A number of applications will also be set up to use UTF-8 by default.

Users upgrading to etch that wish to switch to UTF-8 will need to reconfigure their environment and locale definitions. The system-wide default can be changed using dpkg-reconfigure locales; first select a UTF-8 locale for your language and country and then set that as default. Note that switching to UTF-8 means that you will probably also need to convert existing files from your previous (legacy) encoding to UTF-8.

The package utf8-migration-tool contains a tool that may help the migration, however that package is only available in unstable as it was not ready in time for etch. Making a backup of your data and configuration before using the tool is strongly recommended.

Note that some applications may not yet work correctly in a UTF-8 environment, mostly due to display issues.

The Debian Wiki has some additional information about changes between sarge and etch.


2.3 Major kernel-related changes

Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ships with kernel version 2.6.18 for all architectures; the release is still mostly [5] compatible with 2.4 kernels, but Debian no longer provides or supports 2.4 kernel packages.

There have been major changes both in the kernel itself and in the packaging of the kernel for Debian. Some of these changes complicate the upgrade procedure and can potentially result in problems while rebooting the system after the upgrade to etch. This section gives an overview of the most important changes; potential issues and information on how to work around them is included in later chapters.

If you are currently using a 2.4 kernel, you should read Upgrading to a 2.6 kernel, Section 5.2 carefully.


2.3.1 Changes in kernel packaging

Kernel packages renamed

All Linux kernel packages have been renamed from kernel-* to linux-* to clean up the namespace. This will make it easier to include non-Linux kernels in Debian in the future.

Standard kernels have SMP abilities

Multiprocessor systems no longer require an *-smp flavor of the Linux kernel. For IA-64, linux-image packages without the -smp suffix support both uniprocessor and multiprocessor systems.

Where possible, dummy transition packages that depend on the new packages have been provided for the dropped packages.


2.3.2 New utilities to generate initrds

The Debian kernel image packages for IA-64 require an initrd for booting the system. Because of changes in the kernel, the utility used to generate initrds in sarge, initrd-tools can no longer be used and has been deprecated. Two new utilities have been developed that replace it: initramfs-tools and yaird. The concepts behind the new utilities are very different; an overview is available on the Debian Wiki. Both will generate an initrd using the initramfs file system, which is a compressed cpio archive. The default and recommended utility is initramfs-tools.

Upgrading to an etch kernel will cause initramfs-tools to be installed by default. If you are upgrading from a 2.4 kernel to a 2.6 Debian kernel, you must use initramfs-tools. Using yaird will cause linux-image-2.6 installations to fail if you are running a 2.2 or 2.4 kernel.

The package initrd-tools is still included in etch because it is needed for upgrades from sarge. It will be dropped for the next release.


2.3.3 Dynamic /dev management and hardware discovery

etch kernels no longer provide support for devfs.

The replacement for devfs is udev, a userspace implementation of devfs.

udev is mounted over the /dev directory and will populate that directory with devices supported by the kernel. It will also dynamically add and remove devices as kernel modules are loaded or unloaded respectively, based on events generated by the kernel. udev is a lot more versatile than devfs and offers services that are used by other packages like hal (hardware abstraction layer).

In combination with the kernel, udev also takes care of hardware discovery and module loading for detected devices. Because of this it conflicts with hotplug. In sarge, discover could also be used for loading modules during the boot process, but its new version in etch no longer provides that function. discover is still used by X.Org to detect what graphics controller is present in the system.

If you install a Debian kernel image, udev will be installed by default as initramfs-tools depends on it.

You can avoid installing udev by compiling a custom non-modular kernel or by using an alternative initrd generator, such as yaird. However, initramfs-tools is the recommended initrd generator.


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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), IA-64

$Id: release-notes.en.sgml,v 1.312 2007-08-16 22:24:38 jseidel Exp $

Josip Rodin, Bob Hilliard, Adam Di Carlo, Anne Bezemer, Rob Bradford, Frans Pop (current), Andreas Barth (current), Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña (current), Steve Langasek (current)
debian-doc@lists.debian.org