Debian Celebrates 15th Birthday

Aug 18, 2008

Fifteen years ago, on Saturday the 16th of August, 1993, Ian Murdock wrote an email to the comp.os.linux.development newsgroup , announcing his upcoming Debian Linux Release.

"I’ve totally re-created the release, in other words, I haven’t just made a few changes to SLS and then called it a new release," Murdock wrote on the SLS (Softlanding Linux System) mailing list.

The SLS was the first Linux distribution, compiled in 1992 by Peter McDonald, that consisted of more than just the basic Linux kernel and a few rudimentary tools. SLS did bring the graphic X Windows System with it, but caused a series of problems that led to dissatisfaction in the Linux community. About one month before the Debian release, Patrick Volkerding published version 1.0 of Slackware, which – unlike the brand new Debian – was a mere modification of SLS.

Murdock was concerned with transparency and freedom of his distribution in accordance with the values of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The Debian developer community grew quickly, and the project developed a sophisticated internal structure with a constitution, a corporate contract, and guidelines for the organization. Debian was especially admired for dissolving the packet-dependency. Security leaks were posted on public mailing lists, which increased the potential number of developers who could patch the leaks quickly.

Debian worked so well that an increasing number of commercial and non-commercial providers began to build their own distributions from Debian’s packet-system. Ubuntu, one of the best-known Debian-derivatives, has since overtaken Debian in popularity, to the dismay of some members of the Debian community.

The distribution is also frequently used in large migration projects in the public sector.For example, Debian is the Linux of choice in Munich, Germany; the Austrian version of Vienna’s Wienux is based on Debian; and the Spanish region of Extremadura uses it for its schools and councils with GNU/LinEx.
Officially, the next stable version of Debian 5.0, code-named Lenny, will be released in September.

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