Debian (pronounced [ˈdɛbiən]) is a computer operating system composed entirely of free and open source software. The primary form, Debian GNU/Linux, is a popular and influential Linux distribution.[1] Debian is known for strict adherence to the Unix and free software philosophies and uses extensive open development and testing processes.[2] Debian is a multipurpose OS, which can be used as a desktop or server operating system. It has been estimated via a SLOC-based measure that Debian etch would cost close to US$13 billion if it were developed by proprietary means.[3]

The Debian Project is an independent organization; it is not backed by a company like other linux distributions such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. Since its founding in 1993, Debian is governed by the Debian Constitution[4] and the Social Contract[5] which state what the goal of the project is (the development of a free operating system) and to ensure that the Debian Project will always remain 100% free. Debian is developed by over one thousand volunteers from around the world[6] and supported by donations through SPI, a non-profit umbrella organization for various free software projects.[7] Many distributions are based on Debian, including: Ubuntu, MEPIS, Dreamlinux, Damn Small Linux, Xandros, Knoppix, Linspire, sidux, Kanotix, and LinEx, among others.[8]

Debian is also known for an abundance of options — the current release, Debian etch, includes over eighteen thousand software packages for eleven computer architectures. These architectures range from the Intel/AMD 32-bit/64-bit architectures commonly found in personal computers to the ARM architecture commonly found in embedded systems and the IBM eServer zSeries mainframes.[9] Prominent features of Debian are the APT package management system, repositories with large numbers of packages, strict policies regarding packages, and the quality of releases.[8] These practices afford easy upgrades between releases and easy automated installation and removal of packages.

The GNOME default install provides popular programs such as, Iceweasel (a rebranding of Firefox), Evolution mail, CD/DVD writing programs, music and video players, image viewers and editors, and PDF viewers. A default installation requires only the first GNOME, KDE or Xfce CD/DVD. The remaining discs, which span four DVDs or over twenty CDs, contain all eighteen thousand extra packages currently available. The preferred method of install is a net install CD, which includes only necessary software and downloads selected packages during the installation via Debian's package manager, APT (or Synaptic).

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