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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:
Intel x86 ('i386')
MIPS ('mips' (big-endian) and 'mipsel' (little-endian))
Intel Itanium ('ia64')
HP PA-RISC ('hppa')
You can read more about port status, and port-specific information for your
architecture at the
port web pages.
DECstation support is incomplete and untested in etch and will be removed completely after this release. This includes both DECstation variants previously supported in Debian, r3k-kn02 and r4k-kn04.
Installations on MIPS based Cobalt machines (Qube 2700, RaQ1, Qube2, RaQ2) are
now possible without the use of a serial console. By default, installations on
Cobalt are now done via SSH. See
for more information.
Support for Broadcom's SB1A evaluation board BCM91480B ("BigSur"), which is based on the BCM1480 quad-core chip, has been added, both to the kernel and the installer. This board is supported both in little and big endian mode.
Support for a Qemu machine has been added. The Qemu/MIPS machine emulates a classic ISA PC style machine with a MIPS 4Kc CPU.
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, 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
iceweasel (version 18.104.22.168) is the unbranded
Firefox web browser and
icedove (version 1.5) is the
Thunderbird mail client.
Among many others, this release also includes the following software updates:
the GNU C library, version 2.3.6
the GNU Compiler Collection 4.1 as default compiler
language interpreters: Python 2.4, PHP 5.2
e-mail servers: Exim 4.63 (default email server for new installations), Postfix 2.3, Courier 0.53, Cyrus 2.2
web servers: Apache 2.2, fnord 1.10
database servers: MySQL 5.0.32, PostgreSQL 8.1
the OpenSSH server, version 4.3
name servers: Bind 9.3, maradns 1.2
directory server: OpenLDAP 2.3
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.
aptitude is the preferred program for package management from
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
aptitude as the official frontend for package
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
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
For more information please read
signing in Debian chapter of the Securing Debian Manual and
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.
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. Please make sure to update your
/etc/apt/sources.list accordingly if you were already using this
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
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.
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 (
make) and development 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.
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
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.
vi clone installed by default is now a compact version of
vim-tiny) instead of
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
tune2fs; 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.
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.
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.
Wiki has some additional information about changes between sarge and
Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ships with kernel version 2.6.18 for all architectures; the release is still mostly  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.
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.
Where possible, dummy transition packages that depend on the new packages have been provided for the dropped packages.
The Debian kernel image packages for Mipsel do not require an initrd for booting the system. This means that the information in this section may not be relevant for you, but is still included for reference.
Because of changes in the kernel, the utility used to generate initrds in
initrd-tools can no longer be used and has been deprecated.
Two new utilities have been developed that replace it:
yaird. The concepts behind the
new utilities are very different; an overview is available on the
Both will generate an initrd using the initramfs file system, which is
cpio archive. The default and recommended utility is
/devmanagement 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
hotplug. In sarge,
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.
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Release Notes for Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 ("etch"), Mipsel$Id: release-notes.en.sgml,v 1.312 2007-08-16 22:24:38 jseidel Exp $