Debian is a distribution management project overseen by Software in the Public Interest (SPI) which began to create a community-managed GNU/Linux distribution. The only currently maintained distribution that is older than Debian is Slackware, which is only a few weeks older. The name Debian comes from a combination of first names of Debian founder Ian Murdock, and his then girlfriend now wife, Debra.
It is community-driven, by the community of developers that manage packages for it. As such, it has a lively set of policy documents, mailing lists, and democratic governance. A large amount of software has been created to help manage policies, to help automate management of packages.
At any given moment there are three versions of Debian available:
- Stable: Packages have been tested at length, very stable if often somewhat dated packages.
- Testing: The planned next stable release, not as well tested, but somewhat more current software.
- Unstable: The latest software. The time between a new version of program being released and it arriving in Unstable is sometimes measured in hours. Here software gets initial testing before going into Testing.
In addition to the Stable, Testing, and Unstable names, Debian versions are also referred by a code name. All the code names are characters from the movie "Toy Story". The Unstable release always goes by the code name "Sid". As of January 2010 the Stable release was "Lenny" and the Testing release was "Squeeze". In time "Squeeze" will become the new Stable release, a new name will be assigned to the Testing release and "Lenny" will be phased out of service.
The most commonly used platforms are Intel/IA-32 and AMD64; there are numerous Debian ports to other hardware platforms. There are also ports to run kernels other than the Linux kernel, such as Hurd, FreeBSD, and NetBSD. These ports are much less mature than Debian/Linux.
A number of other Linux distributions are based on Debian, such as: