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KEY FEATURES Debian is a stable, mature and popular operating system. It offers an outstanding package management tool — APT and the largest free software repository of all operating systems out there. Very configurable and (after some work) a very friendly OS. It does however require some knowledge.
Supported architectures Alpha, ARM, HPPA, IA64, MIPS, PPC, S390, SPARC, X86 (i386/amd64)
Minimal hardware requirements Intel 486 or better, 64 MB RAM, 1GB hdd, depends highly on the software used, see minimum system requirements for example on i386 hardware
Software freedom status Free as in freedom, guaranteed by the Social contract (point one). Nevertheless, Debian has a non-free repository which includes things like proprietary drivers or pov-ray, and a contrib repository for packages which in themselves are DFSG-free, but depend on something in non-free or outside Debian. This is the reason why FSF does not officially recommend Debian as a free distribution. However, Debian's main archive is the only one enabled by default, and it is completely DFSG-free and completely self-contained and this is why it is listed as a "free as in freedom" distribution here.
Installer - overall (7) The installer focuses on non-technical users and it does a very good job in making the Debian installation process as easy for them as possible. For expert users more options are available so that everyone can choose their way to install Debian. Overall Debian installer is very functional, mature and bug-free. A graphical installer is available which makes it even more friendly for the non-techies.
Package selection (5) Aptitude is available during installation, all packages are grouped and well-described. It is not as eye-candy as Fedora's or openSUSE's package selector but it sure works.
Predefined package groups (6) There is a possibility to choose package groups, like: desktop environment, database system, programming environment, etc.
Expert mode install (8) Expert/Beginner
Graphical installer (0) The default text (dialog-based) installer does its job very well. The graphical installer is a functional copy of the console installer in GTK+.
Installer speed (2) Depends highly on the packages selected. For instance the default desktop task installs KDE and Gnome as well. so the installation process is rather slow compared to other distros which only install one desktop environment. Of course, the base system installs faster, but choosing this option means you have to install all additional packages manually.
Graphical system management (2) No special tools. Although Gnome has tools that can be used.
Console-based system management (8) Very good package configuration tool — debconf. Some packages can be reconfigured by issuing dpkg-reconfigure package_name.
Number of packages (9) About 18 thousand packages in main. Debian is an absolute leader in that respect.
Package management, automatic dependency resolving (9) APT — Debian package management tool is a leader among all GNU/Linux tools to manage packages. Installing software in Debian is easy and effortless, and much more pleasant than in most distribution that use RPM format.
Graphical package management tools (8) Synaptic — a graphical software installation and update tool, a frontend to APT. Very useful if someone likes to click more than type. For KDE users there is also Adept Manager.
System boot-up speed (5) System boot-up is slow. Slower than most of the other distributions. This is mostly due to a lot of server services loaded by default. Using update-rc.d tool to remove unnecessary services can help to make the OS snappier.
System responsiveness (5) Speed/responsiveness is on an average level. Programs are not complied with optimizations by default, there is however possibility to use custom compilation flags using apt-build.
Popularity (8) Debian, including all distributions based on it, like Knoppix, Ubuntu, Mepis, Libranet or Xandros is the most popular Linux distribution. Thus, it's easy to get help because most of the advices work in the whole family of systems.
Security focus (8) Security is one of the Debian main goals. All of the key security packages (including the kernel package) are updated daily. So if one upgrades the system regularly (using the apt-get dist-upgrade command), the security is not an issue to worry about.
Stability and maturity (8) Debian is one of the oldest and most mature Linux distributions. It has a stable and large community of developers, supporters and users. If one needs a mature and well-tested system, Debian Stable (and with a little more caution, Debian Testing) is the right choice.
Does the installer support multiple languages? (8) Debian installer is translated into 40 languages which makes it one of the leaders in the area of localization.
Is the system localized after installation? (6) The installed system is mostly localized. Some problems may occur with special characters and console localization. Usually, a reconfiguration of package console-common does the job.
Is manual system localization easy? (5) If something does not work, we should make friends with dpkg-reconfigure tool which makes it easier to change the package configuration without the need to mess up with the configuration files.
Support for restricted formats (3) Debian does not distribute any software illegal to distribute from the USA. Patent-encumbered software such as libdvdcss and w32codecs is usually obtained from Christian Marillat's debian-multimedia unofficial repository.
Sagem DSL modem support (8) Eagle-USB is available as a Debian package so it could not be easier to install it.
Alcatel DSL modem support (5) Speedtouch modem installation is not fully automatic. Package "speedtouch" is responsible for firmware loading. Still, we have to copy the driver manually. Manual configuration is also a must.
ISDN support (3) No ISDN suport in default kernel. The appropriate packages are available in Debian repositories.
Wireless support (4) Only cards and chips supported by the kernel work ou-of-the-box. For some others are packages available, but you have to configure / built them manually. For cards not supported under Linux at all use Ndiswrappe. A program which makes it possible to use "Windows-only" hardware with Linux by means of a loadable kernel module that "wraps around" NDIS - Windows network driver - API drivers, is available through apt-get (packages ndiswrapper-source and ndiswrapper-tool). You still have to compile it to make the drivers work.

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