Articles / The Debian System

The Debian System

As the title of the book suggests, this isn't about GNU/Linux. It's not about the GNU programs that come with the Debian distribution. Instead, the book with its 600 pages (including a Debian Sarge DVD) is fully loaded. Martin F. Krafft, an active Debian developer, goes to great lengths to describe the interplay of Debian's tools and the project's philosophy.

Krafft begins with an introduction to Debian, its history, and the philosophy of Free Software to bootstrap the reader into the matter. Introductory topics such as Debian's installation and the organization of the project are also covered, and offer the reader a comprehensive picture of Debian.

Subsequently, things become more complex. He describes Debian package management in all its glory, the interaction between dpkg and the frontends (apt, aptitude, synaptic, etc.), and peculiarities of the system, such as Debian package version numbering. A large number of the tools that make an administrator's day-to-day life easier are presented and explained in detail. The book is especially suited for administrators, as it identifies typical problems with the distribution and offers solutions to counter them.

Topics of primary relevance to developers, such as packaging, are also extensively covered. It struck me positively that the author also examines newer alternative build tools, such as yada and cdbs, and describes manual packaging (package creation without the use of debhelper). This is one of the reasons why this book is of particular interest to prospective developers and people who have to build their own packages for whatever reason. New maintainers can draw from the book a good overview of the knowledge required to become a Debian developer.

Krafft manages to illustrate topics such as APT pinning, which have a reputation of being complicated and daunting, in an accessible way. For inexperienced Debian users, this book will also be a pleasant read. It is not, however, a topical user-oriented book.

Instead, the book targets administrators, developers, and those that work with Debian on a regular basis. Nevertheless, even long-time users will most certainly find new and interesting stuff between the covers. Whoever considers the information on the Debian Web site to be too dry will find in this book an enticing alternative.

In my opinion, this book has the potential to become the future Debian Bible. It is nice to see that Martin F. Krafft regularly publishes additional information and errata on the book's Web site,

Recent comments

14 Nov 2007 12:37 Avatar AlfaGTV

Coming back to Debian
I have been a GNU/Linux user for over 6 years now. I started out with Debian but over the years have tried a dozen distributions. Eventually I always turn back to Debian. I have just ordered this book hope I'm going to like it :)

20 Sep 2006 13:26 Avatar CrazyGFreak

Re: This article very well written

> Debian still (to this day) lacks of good
> books and documentation which is really
> needed because it usually doesn't follow
> the same path as other distros. ( If I
> ever take the step to go back and try
> out Debian, it will be only after I put
> my hands on a good book... I guess I
> will start with this one, I saw the TOC
> and is quite well organized and targeted
> only for Debian users/admins.

I like that article very much, too. It is some time now gone but the article is still very interesting. Same opinion here. Thanks

06 Jun 2006 10:36 Avatar mibrahim

Debian Book
Debian is a great Distro. I've been using linux 90% of my time for almost the past five years. I used Fedora Core & Redhat before. Debian provides a huge software library when compared to other Distros. I only was able to switch to debian and make use of this advantage because I know ways out of almost every problem and how to fix a mess. That's why I think a comprehensive book on Debian would be a great boost, if it provides hands on to new Linux users so that they can start with Debian as their first Distro.

I would also encourage if someone made a similar effort for an open source book, which may be freely available on the internet.

11 Feb 2006 23:04 Avatar Pfv2

Look interesting
It looks like a very interesting book. I think i might give this Book & Debian a try soon. It has been a while that a think of switching to Debian. Thanks for this insightful review.

27 Nov 2005 21:20 Avatar baji


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