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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For Intel x86
Chapter 1 - Welcome to Debian


We are delighted that you have decided to try Debian, and are sure that you will find that Debian's GNU/Linux distribution is unique. Debian GNU/Linux brings together high-quality free software from around the world, integrating it into a coherent whole. We believe that you will find that the result is truly more than the sum of the parts.

This chapter provides an overview of the Debian Project and Debian GNU/Linux. If you already know about the Debian Project's history and the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, feel free to skip to the next chapter.


1.1 What is Debian?

Debian is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to developing free software and promoting the ideals of the Free Software Foundation. The Debian Project began in 1993, when Ian Murdock issued an open invitation to software developers to contribute to a complete and coherent software distribution based on the relatively new Linux kernel. That relatively small band of dedicated enthusiasts, originally funded by the Free Software Foundation and influenced by the GNU philosophy, has grown over the years into an organization of around 800 Debian Developers.

Debian Developers are involved in a variety of activities, including Web and FTP site administration, graphic design, legal analysis of software licenses, writing documentation, and, of course, maintaining software packages.

In the interest of communicating our philosophy and attracting developers who believe in the principles that Debian stands for, the Debian Project has published a number of documents that outline our values and serve as guides to what it means to be a Debian Developer:

Debian developers are also involved in a number of other projects; some specific to Debian, others involving some or all of the Linux community. Some examples include:

For more general information about Debian, see the Debian FAQ.


1.2 What is GNU/Linux?

The GNU Project has developed a comprehensive set of free software tools for use with Unix™ and Unix-like operating systems such as Linux. These tools enable users to perform tasks ranging from the mundane (such as copying or removing files from the system) to the arcane (such as writing and compiling programs or doing sophisticated editing in a variety of document formats).

An operating system consists of various fundamental programs which are needed by your computer so that it can communicate and receive instructions from users; read and write data to hard disks, tapes, and printers; control the use of memory; and run other software. The most important part of an operating system is the kernel. In a GNU/Linux system, Linux is the kernel component. The rest of the system consists of other programs, many of which were written by or for the GNU Project. Because the Linux kernel alone does not form a working operating system, we prefer to use the term ``GNU/Linux'' to refer to systems that many people casually refer to as ``Linux''.

The Linux kernel first appeared in 1991, when a Finnish computing science student named Linus Torvalds announced an early version of a replacement kernel for Minix to the Usenet newsgroup comp.os.minix. See Linux International's Linux History Page.

Linus Torvalds continues to coordinate the work of several hundred developers with the help of a few trusty deputies. An excellent weekly summary of discussions on the linux-kernel mailing list is Kernel Traffic. More information about the linux-kernel mailing list can be found on the linux-kernel mailing list FAQ.


1.3 What is Debian GNU/Linux?

The combination of Debian's philosophy and methodology and the GNU tools, the Linux kernel, and other important free software, form a unique software distribution called Debian GNU/Linux. This distribution is made up of a large number of software packages. Each package in the distribution contains executables, scripts, documentation, and configuration information, and has a maintainer who is primarily responsible for keeping the package up-to-date, tracking bug reports, and communicating with the upstream author(s) of the packaged software. Our extremely large user base, combined with our bug tracking system ensures that problems are found and fixed quickly.

Debian's attention to detail allows us to produce a high-quality, stable, and scalable distribution. Installations can be easily configured to serve many roles, from stripped-down firewalls to desktop scientific workstations to high-end network servers.

The feature that most distinguishes Debian from other GNU/Linux distributions is its package management system. These tools give the administrator of a Debian system complete control over the packages installed on that system, including the ability to install a single package or automatically update the entire operating system. Individual packages can also be protected from being updated. You can even tell the package management system about software you have compiled yourself and what dependencies it fulfills.

To protect your system against ``trojan horses'' and other malevolent software, Debian's servers verify that uploaded packages come from their registered Debian maintainers. Debian packagers also take great care to configure their packages in a secure manner. When security problems in shipped packages do appear, fixes are usually available very quickly. With Debian's simple update options, security fixes can be downloaded and installed automatically across the Internet.

The primary, and best, method of getting support for your Debian GNU/Linux system and communicating with Debian Developers is through the many mailing lists maintained by the Debian Project (there are more than 90 at this writing). The easiest way to subscribe to one or more of these lists is visit Debian's mailing list subscription page and fill out the form you'll find there.


1.4 What is Debian GNU/Hurd?

Debian GNU/Hurd is a Debian GNU system that replaces the Linux monolithic kernel with the GNU Hurd — a set of servers running on top of the GNU Mach microkernel. The Hurd is still unfinished, and is unsuitable for day-to-day use, but work is continuing. The Hurd is currently only being developed for the i386 architecture, although ports to other architectures will be made once the system becomes more stable.

For more information, see the Debian GNU/Hurd ports page and the debian-hurd@lists.debian.org mailing list.


1.5 Getting Debian

For information on how to download Debian GNU/Linux from the Internet or from whom official Debian CDs can be purchased, see the distribution web page. The list of Debian mirrors contains a full set of official Debian mirrors.

Debian can be upgraded after installation very easily. The installation procedure will help setup up the system so that you can make those upgrades once installation is complete, if need be.


1.6 Getting the Newest Version of This Document

This document is constantly being revised. Be sure to check the Debian 3.0 pages for any last-minute information about the 3.0 release of the Debian GNU/Linux system. Updated versions of this installation manual are also available from the official Install Manual pages.


1.7 Organization of This Document

This document is meant to serve as a manual for first-time Debian users. It tries to make as few assumptions as possible about your level of expertise. However, we do assume that you have a general understanding of how the hardware in your computer works.

Expert users may also find interesting reference information in this document, including minimum installation sizes, details about the hardware supported by the Debian installation system, and so on. We encourage expert users to jump around in the document.

In general, this manual is arranged in a linear fashion, walking you through the installation process from start to finish. Here are the steps in installing Debian GNU/Linux, and the sections of this document which correlate with each step:

  1. Determine whether your hardware meets the requirements for using the installation system, in System Requirements, Chapter 2.
  1. Backup your system, perform any necessary planning and hardware configuration prior to installing Debian, in Before Installing Debian GNU/Linux, Chapter 3. If you are preparing a multi-boot system, you may need to create partition-able space on your hard disk for Debian to use.
  1. In Obtaining System Installation Media, Chapter 4, you will obtain the necessary installation files for your method of installation.
  1. Booting the Installation System, Chapter 5, describes booting into the installation system. This chapter also discusses troubleshooting procedures in case you have problems with this step.
  1. Setting up the Linux partitions for your Debian system is explained in Partitioning for Debian, Chapter 6.
  1. Install the kernel and configure peripheral driver modules in Installing the Kernel and Base Operating System, Chapter 7. Configure your network connection so that remaining installation files can be obtained directly from a Debian server, if you are not installing from a CD.
  1. Initiate automatic download/install/setup of a minimal working system in ``Install the Base System'', Section 7.8.
  1. Boot into your newly installed base system and run through some additional configuration tasks, from Booting Into Your New Debian System, Chapter 8.
  1. Install additional software in Package Installation: Simple or Advanced, Section 8.12. Use tasksel to install groups of packages which form a computer `task', dselect to select individual packages from a long list, or apt-get to install individual packages when you already know the package names you want.

Once you've got your system installed, you can read Next Steps and Where to Go From Here, Chapter 9. That chapter explains where to look to find more information about Unix and Debian, and how to replace your kernel. If you want to build your own install system from source, be sure to read Technical Information on the Boot Floppies, Chapter 10.

Finally, information about this document and how to contribute to it may be found in Administrivia, Chapter 12.


1.8 This Document Has Known Problems

This document is still in a rather rough form. It is known to be incomplete, and probably also contains errors, grammatical problems, and so forth. If you see the words ``FIXME'' or ``TODO'', you can be sure we already know that section is not complete. As usual, caveat emptor (buyer beware). Any help, suggestions, and, especially, patches, would be greatly appreciated.

Working versions of this document can be found at http://www.debian.org/releases/woody/i386/install. There you will find a list of all the different architectures and languages for which this document is available.

Source is also available publicly; look for more information concerning how to contribute in Administrivia, Chapter 12. We welcome suggestions, comments, patches, and bug reports (use the package boot-floppies, but check first to see if the problem is already reported).


1.9 About Copyrights and Software Licenses

We're sure that you've read some of the licenses that come with most commercial software — they usually say that you can only use one copy of the software on a single computer. The Debian GNU/Linux system's license isn't like that at all. We encourage you to put a copy of Debian GNU/Linux on every computer in your school or place of business. Lend your installation media to your friends and help them install it on their computers! You can even make thousands of copies and sell them — albeit with a few restrictions. Your freedom to install and use the system comes directly from Debian being based on free software.

Calling software ``free'' doesn't mean that the software isn't copyrighted, and it doesn't mean that CDs containing that software must be distributed at no charge. Free software, in part, means that the licenses of individual programs do not require you to pay for the privilege of distributing or using those programs. Free software also means that not only may anyone extend, adapt, and modify the software, but that they may distribute the results of their work as well.[1]

Many of the programs in the system are licensed under the GNU General Public License, often simply referred to as ``the GPL''. The GPL requires you to make the source code of the programs available whenever you distribute a binary copy of the program; that provision of the license ensures that any user will be able to modify the software. Because of this provision, the source code for all such programs is available in the Debian system.[2]

There are several other forms of copyright statements and software licenses used on the programs in Debian. You can find the copyrights and licenses for every package installed on your system by looking in the file /usr/share/doc/package-name/copyright once you've installed a package on your system.

For more information about licenses and how Debian determines whether software is free enough to be included in the main distribution, see the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

The most important legal notice is that this software comes with no warranties. The programmers who have created this software have done so for the benefit of the community. No guarantee is made as to the suitability of the software for any given purpose. However, since the software is free, you are empowered to modify that software to suit your needs — and to enjoy the benefits of the changes made by others who have extended the software in this way.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For Intel x86

version 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002

Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo