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Linux Cookbook by Carla Schroder

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Chapter 3. Installing and Managing Software on Debian-Based Systems

Introduction

Debian is known for being extremely stable and reliable, and for its excellent package manager/dependency resolver, apt. Installing a new application is this simple:

            # apt-get 
            programname

All dependencies will be automatically fetched and installed. Not only is apt a sophisticated, intelligent tool, but the official Debian software repositories maintain strict packaging standards. The official Debian repositories contain over 12,000 programs, more than any other platform.

dpkg is RPM’s Debian cousin, with an extra ability: dpkg also performs basic configurations. For example, when you install Postfix, dpkg will ask you for some basic system information, install startup files and configuration files, and fire it up.

Debian has three different releases: Stable, Testing, and Unstable. (There is also a fourth release for the adventurous, Experimental.) These are also known as Woody, Sarge, and Sid. Woody is extremely conservative. Packages are accepted into Woody only after extensive dependency testing and security patching. Sarge and Sid contain newer, less-tested releases. Security patches are swift for Woody and erratic for Sarge and Sid.

Which release should you use? The obvious choice is Woody (Stable). It’s rock-solid. However, this stability comes at a price: programs in Woody are months, sometimes years behind the latest releases. Woody is great for servers. For desktops and workstations, Sarge (Testing) ...

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