DebConf16/About Debian

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This page is adapted from the About page at [1]. For more complete information refer there.


[edit] What is DebConf?

DebConf is the International Debian Developers Conference. It is a technical gathering of like-minded volunteers who spend much of their time contributing to Debian with teams of people they may otherwise never even meet. While DebConf is a gathering of Debian Contributors, engaging with the public is very important, for this reason the Open Weekend at the start of DebConf is designed specifically for people interested in Debian, the Free and Open Source movement, and tinkering in general.

[edit] What is Debian?

The Debian Project is an association of individuals who have made common cause to create a free operating system. This operating system that we have created is called Debian.

An operating system is the set of basic programs and utilities that make your computer run. At the core of an operating system is the kernel. The kernel is the most fundamental program on the computer and does all the basic housekeeping and lets you start other programs.

Debian systems currently use the Linux kernel or the FreeBSD kernel. Linux is a piece of software started by Linus Torvalds and supported by thousands of programmers worldwide. FreeBSD is an operating system including a kernel and other software.

Debian comes with over 43000 packages (precompiled software that is bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine), a package manager (APT), and other utilities that make it possible to manage thousands of packages on thousands of computers as easily as installing a single application. All of it free.


[edit] Why is Debian important?

And how does it link to more familiar open source names like Linux and Ubuntu?

It's a bit like a tower. At the base is the kernel. On top of that are all the basic tools. Next is all the software that you run on the computer. At the top of the tower is Debian — carefully organizing and fitting everything so it all works together.

[edit] Who uses Debian?

Although no precise statistics are available (since Debian does not require users to register), evidence is quite strong that Debian is used by a wide range of organizations, large and small, as well as many thousands of individuals. Have a look at the users (some quite high profile organisations) who volunteered information, to get an idea:

[edit] Why is it called 'Debian'? How did it start?

Debian was initiated in August 1993 by Ian Murdock, as a new distribution which would be made openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU. Debian was meant to be carefully and conscientiously put together, and to be maintained and supported with similar care, which is the spirit that still drives Debian today. It started as a small, tightly-knit group of Free Software hackers, and gradually grew to become a large, well-organized community of developers and users.

Read the detailed history here:

A common question: Debian is pronounced /ˈən/. It comes from the names of the creator of Debian, Ian Murdock, and his wife, Debra.

[edit] But why? Why is it all free?

You may be wondering: why would people spend hours of their own time to write software, carefully package it, and then give it all away? The answers are as varied as the people who contribute. Some people like to help others. Many write programs to learn more about computers. More and more people are looking for ways to avoid the inflated price of software. A growing crowd contribute as a thank you for all the great free software they've received from others. Many in academia create free software to help get the results of their research into wider use. Businesses help maintain free software so they can have a say in how it develops -- there's no quicker way to get a new feature than to implement it yourself! Of course, a lot of us just find it great fun.


[edit] Why do I still sometimes have to pay for something that is 'free'?

You might be asking: If the software is free, then why do I have to pay a vendor for a CD, or pay an ISP for downloading?

When buying a CD, you are paying for someone's time, capital outlay to make the disks, and risk (in case they don't sell them all). In other words, you are paying for a physical medium used to deliver the software, not for the software itself.

When we use the word "free", we are referring to software freedom, not that it's without cost. You can read more on what we mean by "free software" and what the Free Software Foundation says on that subject at

[edit] Can I run Debian on my computers, right now?

Please come to the Open Weekend with your laptop, or a USB drive, and we will assist you!

Debian will run on almost all personal computers, including most older models. Each new release of Debian generally supports a larger number of computer architectures. For a complete list of currently supported ones, see the documentation for the stable release:

Almost all common hardware is supported. If you would like to be sure that all the devices connected to your machine are supported, check out the Linux Hardware Compatibility HOWTO:


For more technical information, have a look at the Debian FAQ:

Debian is more than a Free Operating System Project. It is about a community of very diverse individuals passionate about a better way of interacting with the world.

[edit] But do I WANT to install Debian?

There are many advantages to running Debian on your computer, but it's not for everyone. If you are using very old, or very, very new hardware, or very rare hardware and you do not want to develop the supporting software for it, Debian might not work for you. If you are a tinkerer who need tweaks to systems for your unique projects, if you are concerned about the democracy of information, or just want a clean, intuitive, fuss-free user-friendly interface, Debian is the operating system for you. Read more at

[edit] How do I get Debian?

It's most popular to install Debian from a CD, but there are not many vendors currently supplying Debian CD's in South Africa - another great reason to come to the Open Weekend! If you have good Internet access, you can download and install Debian (, and share it with your friends!

Read more here:

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