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User's Guide (Obsolete Documentation) (Obsolete Documentation)
Chapter 1 - Introducing Debian

This user guide is a touched-up debiandoc-sgml version of "Progeny Debian Manual".

Please also refer to FAQ, APT HOWTO, Debian reference, and other documents in Debian Documentation Project.

Debian is a version of the Debian GNU /Linux operating system. The CDs that come with this manual contain not only a complete operating system, but also the tools for most computing needs.

If you want an even larger selection of software, you can download it for free from the Debian web site (http://www.debian.org/).

This manual is designed to get started with Debian. It is also designed for use in front of your computer.

The manual does not assume that you are an expert. However, it does assume that you have used computers before, and want to transfer your skills to Linux.

At the very least, you are assumed to be willing to learn. Linux tools have come a long way in the last few years, but Linux is still built with a do-it-yourself philosophy. While you can ignore this philosophy, adapting it can bring a sense of power and control to your computing.

If you master this manual, you will still not be an expert. To cover Linux completely requires hundreds of pages. However, you will be able to configure the basic parts of your system and be ready to explore Linux on your own.

1.1 Learning About Linux

Linux is an operating system: a series of programs that let you interact with your computer and run other programs.

Linux is modelled on the unix operating system. From the start, Linux was designed to be a multi-tasking, multi-user system. These facts are enough to make Linux different from other well-known operating systems.

However, Linux is even more different than you might imagine. In contrast to other operating systems, nobody owns Linux. Much of its development is done by unpaid volunteers.

Development of what later became Linux began in 1984, when the GNU Free Software Foundation (http://www.gnu.org/) began development of a free unix -like operating system. Linux's name is derived from that of Linus Torvalds, who began development of a unix -like kernel in 1991.

While many groups and individuals have contributed to Linux, the largest single contributor is still the Free Software Foundation, which created not only most of the tools used in Linux, but also the philosophy and the community that made Linux possible.

Linux is released under the GNU General Public License ( GPL ). Unlike most software licenses, the GPL encourages users to freely copy, change, and distribute source code.

For the Free Software Foundation, the emphasis of the GPL is on free software as a philosophical right. The group that focuses on applying the ideals in the GPL to business solutions is called the Open Source movement. Its emphasis is on the faster development and higher quality of software released under a public licence. However, to outsiders, these differences are mainly a matter of emphasis.

Although the GPL is often said to encourage fragmentation, Linux remains more or less standardized for several reasons.

First, final approval of changes to the kernel are overseen by Linus Torvalds and his closest associates, especially Allan Cox.

Second, Linux is released in different versions or distributions. Some distributions, like Debian, are volunteer efforts. Others, like Progeny, are commercial. However, all programs are kept as compatible as possible within the same distribution. Many programs also work with other distributions, or can be made to work with a little effort.

Third, volunteer software projects are usually coordinated by informal project managers known as maintainers. Although anyone can write improvements to a piece of software, the maintainer makes the final decision about which improvements become an official part of the project. Usually, the maintainer makes these decisions after consulting the leading contributors to the project.

These mechanisms are loose enough that Linux users still have immense freedom of choice in their software. For example, Linux users can choose from a dozen different command line shells and several graphical desktops. This selection is often bewildering to users of other operating systems, who are not used to thinking of the command line or desktop as something that they can change.

In addition to software selection, Linux is less likely to crash, better able to run more than one program at the same time, and more secure than many operating systems. With these advantages, Linux is the fastest growing operating system in the server market. More recently, Linux has begun to be popular among home and business users as well.

1.2 Learning About Debian

Debian is a popular version of Linux. It is developed by a decentralized team of over 600 volunteer programmers in all parts of the world, and includes over 6000 software packages.

Debian was founded in 1993 by Ian Murdock, now president and CEO of Progeny which funded and created the previous version of this "User's Guide (Obsolete Documentation)". The name of Debian combines Ian's name with that of his wife Debra. Its full name, Debian GNU /Linux, recognizes the central role of the GNU Free Software Foundation in developing Linux.

Debian has been a major force in the rise of Linux and Open Source software over the last seven years. In fact, the Debian Free Software guidelines became the main source of the Open Source Definition in Although Debian has been almost entirely non-commercial, it is one of the most popular distributions of Linux. It is also the basis for several commercial distributions, including Progeny.

Debian is especially popular among advanced users because of its technical excellence and its deep commitment to the needs and expectations of the Linux community. Debian also introduced many features to Linux that are now commonplace.

For example, Debian was the first Linux distribution to include a package management system for easy installation and removal of software. It was also the first Linux distribution that could be upgraded without requiring reinstallation.

Debian continues to be a leader in Linux development. Its apt program is second to none for managing software over the Internet. Moreover, its development process is an example of just how well the Open Source development model can work - even for very complex tasks such as building and maintaining a complete operating system.

1.3 Learning About Progeny Debian

This section is Progeny specific and does not apply for the standard Debian system. Rewrite desirable.

May put list of present and past Debian based distributions here.

Progeny Debian is not a distribution spun off from Debian in the sense that Mandrake is based on Red Hat. Progeny's efforts are contributions to Debian, not a replacement for it. In fact, many Progeny employees are (or have been) actively involved with Debian.

One of Progeny Debian main goals is to bring ease of use and system integration enhancements to Debian without taking away the flexibility and power of the underlying Debian system. The areas that Progeny is working in include installation, system administration, hardware detection, and software management.

Another goal is to apply an additional testing and release cycle to the general Debian development cycle. Progeny hopes that this effort will help Debian provide its users with more frequent current and stable releases.

So far as possible, Progeny works with existing free software, and with existing Debian development efforts. As with Debian, all of Debian's development occurs in an open forum. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate.

To get involved in Progeny's Debian development efforts, subscribe to the progeny-debian mailing list. Send an e-mail to progeny-debian-request@lists.progeny.com with the word subscribe in the subject line or message body.

1.4 What is in this Product??

This section is Progeny specific and does not apply for the standard Debian system. Rewrite desirable.

May replace with available sources of Debian, such as:

The box that this manual came in should contain:

If anything is missing, please contact Progeny Linux Systems at 1-317-833-0313 or custserv@progeny.com.

1.5 Conventions Used in This Manual

To help you concentrate on learning, this manual uses as few conventions as possible. In fact, it has only three:

Following are proposed conventions by "Osamu".


Whenever files are a variable, you can also use a directory name.


Variable information may include source and target. The source is the file that original information is taken from. The target is the file that is acted upon.

For example, when a file is copied, the source is the file being copied, and the target is the new copy that is created.

1.6 Familiarizing Yourself with Linux

This manual introduces concepts as you are likely to need them. For now, here are some concepts that may be new to you:

At first, these differences may seem overwhelming. Take your time and learn them as the need arises. Once you have learned them, you will find that the features of Linux give you more convenience, efficiency, and hands-on control than other popular operating systems.

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User's Guide (Obsolete Documentation) (Obsolete Documentation)

Version: 1.00p00, 2009.07.21-11:14

Progeny Linux Systems, Inc.