Chapter 2. What's new in Debian GNU/Linux 5.0

Table of Contents

2.1. What's new in the distribution?
2.1.1. Package management
2.1.2. The proposed-updates section
2.2. System improvements
2.3. Debian Live
2.4. Major kernel-related changes
2.4.1. Changes in kernel packaging
2.5. Emdebian 1.0 (based on Debian GNU/Linux lenny 5.0)
2.6. Netbook support
2.7. Java now in Debian

The Wiki has more information about this topic.

This release adds official support for the ARM EABI (armel).

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

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 etch; the distribution includes over 7700 new packages, for a total of over 23200 packages. Most of the software in the distribution has been updated: over 13400 software packages (this is 72% of all packages in etch). Also, a significant number of packages (over 3100, 17% of the packages in etch) 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 updates from X.Org 7.1 to X.Org 7.3.

Debian GNU/Linux again ships with several desktop applications and environments. Among others it now includes the desktop environments GNOME 2.22[1], KDE 3.5.10, Xfce 4.4.2, and LXDE Productivity applications have also been upgraded, including the office suites 2.4.1 and KOffice 1.6.3 as well as GNUcash 2.2.6, GNUmeric 1.8.3 and Abiword 2.6.4.

Updates of other desktop applications include the upgrade to Evolution 2.22.3 and Pidgin 2.4.3 (formerly known as Gaim). The Mozilla suite has also been updated: iceweasel (version 3.0.6) is the unbranded Firefox web browser and icedove (version is the unbranded Thunderbird mail client.

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

PackageVersion in 4.0 (etch)Version in 5.0 (lenny)
BIND DNS Server9.
Cherokee web server0.
Courier MTA0.
Ekiga VoIP Client2.
Exim default email server4.634.69
GNU Compiler Collection as default compiler4.
the GNU C library2.3.62.7
Postfix MTA2.

The official Debian GNU/Linux distribution now ships on 4 to 5 binary DVDs or 28 to 32 binary CDs (depending on the architecture) and 4 source DVDs or 28 source CDs. Additionally, there is a multi-arch DVD, with a subset of the release for the amd64 and i386 architectures, along with the source code. For the first time, Debian GNU/Linux is also released as Blu-ray images, also for the amd64 and i386 architectures, along with the source code.

Debian now supports Linux Standards Base (LSB) version 3.2. Debian 4.0 did support version 3.1.

2.1.1. Package management

The preferred program for package management from the command line is aptitude, which can perform the same package management functions as apt-get and has proven to be better at dependency resolution. If you are still using dselect, you should switch to aptitude as the official front-end for package management.

For lenny 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.

2.1.2. The proposed-updates section

All changes to the released stable distribution (and to oldstable) go through an extended testing period before they are accepted into the archives. Each such update of the stable (or oldstable) release is called a point release. Preparation of point releases is done through the proposed-updates mechanism.

Packages can enter proposed-updates in two ways. Firstly, security-patched packages added to are automatically added to proposed-updates as well. Secondly, Debian GNU/Linux developers may upload new packages directly to proposed-updates. The current list of packages can be seen at

If you wish to help test updates to packages before they are formally added to a point release, you can do this by adding the proposed-updates section to your sources.list:

deb lenny-proposed-updates main contrib
deb-src lenny-proposed-updates main contrib

The next time you run aptitude update, the system will become aware of the packages in the proposed-updates section and will consider them when looking for packages to upgrade.

This is not strictly a new feature of Debian, but one that has not been given much exposure before.

2.2. System improvements

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

SELinux priority standard, but not enabled by default

The packages needed for SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) 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 syslog daemon

The package rsyslog takes over as default system and kernel logging daemon for Debian 5.0, replacing syslogd and klogd. With stock logging rules, it can be used as a drop-in replacement; if you have custom rules, you should migrate them to the new configuration file, /etc/rsyslog.conf.

Users upgrading from etch need to install rsyslog and remove sysklogd manually. The default syslog daemon is not replaced automatically at the upgrade to lenny.

Better support for UTF-8

A number of additional applications will be set up to use UTF-8 by default or have better UTF-8 support than before. See at about applications that still have difficulties in handling UTF-8.

Identification of the release's revision

Starting from Lenny, /etc/debian_version will indicate the revision number of the debian release (5.0, then 5.0.1, etc.)

This also means that you should not expect this file to be constant throught the release lifetime.

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

2.3. Debian Live

With lenny Debian presents official Live systems for the amd64 and i386 architectures.

A Debian Live system is a Debian system that can be booted directly from removable media (CD-ROMs, DVDs, USB keys) or from another computer over the network without the need of installation. The images are produced by a tool named live-helper, which can easily be used to create custom live images. More information about the Debian Live project can be found at

2.4. Major kernel-related changes

Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 ships with kernel version 2.6.26 for all architectures.

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 lenny. This section gives an overview of the most important changes; information on how to work around potential issues is included in later chapters.

2.4.1. Changes in kernel packaging

Binary firmware for some drivers moved to non-free

Some drivers load binary firmware into the device they are supporting at run time. While this firmware was included in the stock kernel in previous releases, it has now be separately packaged in the non-free section. If you want to continue to use these devices after reboot, make sure the required firmware is present on the installed system. See section 6.4 of the Installation Manual for details.

New OpenVZ kernel flavor

Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 provides pre-built kernel images for OpenVZ, a second virtualization solution to go alongside the Linux-VServer support included in etch. Advantages of OpenVZ include support for live migration, at the expense of a slightly higher overhead.

Kernel x86 packages unified

In previous releases there was a special -k7 kernel flavor for 32-bit AMD Athlon/Duron/Sempron processors. This variant has been dropped; the single single flavor -686 now handles all AMD/Intel/VIA 686 class processors.

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

2.5. Emdebian 1.0 (based on Debian GNU/Linux lenny 5.0)

Lenny now contains the build tools for Emdebian which allow Debian source packages to be cross-built and shrunk to suit embedded ARM systems.

The Emdebian 1.0 distribution itself contains prebuilt ARM packages sufficient to create root filesystems that can be customised for specific machines and machine variants. Kernels and kernel modules need to be provided separately. Support for armel and i386 is under development. See the Emdebian webpage for further information.

2.6. Netbook support

Netbooks, such as the Eee PC by Asus, are now supported by Debian. For the Eee PC, have a look at the eeepc-acpi-scripts. Also, Debian features a new Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, lxde, which is beneficial for netbooks or other computers with relatively low performance.

2.7. Java now in Debian

The OpenJDK Java Runtime Environment openjdk-6-jre and Development Kit openjdk-6-jdk, needed for executing Java GUI and Webstart programs or building such programs, are now in Debian. The packages are built using the IcedTea build support and patches from the IcedTea project.

[1] With some modules from GNOME 2.20.