Debian is one of the oldest and most well-known Linux distributions.

See Also

David Welton
A Debian maintainer.
Debian packages for Tcl/Tk

Further Reading

Winding down my Debian involvement (2019) , Michael Stapleberg
Includes arguments that may be pertinent to the Tcl ecosystem as well, e.g. "Our culture needs to shift from “this package is my domain, how dare you touch it” to a shared sense of ownership, where anyone in the project can easily contribute (reviewed) changes without necessarily even involving individual maintainers.'


It is created and distributed entirely by volunteers, which explains some of its characteristics: the quality is very high, but the flashiness factor is often low. It is very easy to keep the system up to date, and there are thousands of packages available. Of particular interest to Tcl'ers, Debian has versions of Tcl, Tk, tcllib, BLT, expect, snack, Rivet, AOLserver, tkcon, itcl, tix, xotcl, tclvfs, Img, tclparser, tclsoap, tcldom, tDOM and a host of other packages. Conversations with Debian about these packages are fairly simple; here are a few model command-line invocations:

    $ apt-cache search snack
    libsnack2 - Sound functionality extension to the Tcl/Tk language
    libsnack2-dev - Snack development files
    libsnack2-doc - Snack documentation
    transcriber - Transcribe speech data using an integrated editor.
    $ apt-cache show libsnack2-dev
    Package: libsnack2-dev
    Priority: extra
    Section: libdevel
    Installed-Size: 30
    Maintainer: David A. van Leeuwen <[email protected]>
    Architecture: all
    Source: snack
    Version: 2.2.2-3
    Replaces: snack-dev
    Depends: libsnack2 (= 2.2.2-3), libc6-dev
    Description: Snack development files
     This package is needed for building transcriber, and contains, snack.h.
     Snack provides a sound functionality extension to the Tcl/Tk language.
    $ dpkg -L libsnack2-dev
    Package `libsnack2-dev' is not installed.

    Use dpkg --info (= dpkg-deb --info) to examine archive files,
    and dpkg --contents (= dpkg-deb --contents) to list their contents.

Used and recommended by a number of Tclers - including

A good way to test Debian is to try the Knoppix CD. If you install Knoppix to the hard-drive, it becomes a nicely configured Debian system. Debian itself can be tricky to make pretty. PT

While Debian Stable has some reputation for old software, this has certain advantages. First of all, you can rely on what to find there. This is an almost forgotten advantage of systems that do not change every three months. Then you have a choice of a damn lot of packages to install. Ok, they're often not that recent, but they're there and they work. And you can rely on which version they have. If you're not the bleeding edge type, Debian is rock solid in more than one aspect. It just refuses to move under your eyes. I like that because this avoids so much hassle you can have with other systems which are never the same. Writing an Tcl app for Debian and specifying "works with Woody" means it works for a sheer lot of machines all over the world, for years. If you're not programming for play but for work, you're bound to fall in love with Debian. When you need to rely on Linux, you will see Debian is the only serious Linux available. It has clear (and written) policies, extensive documentation and direct contact to the responsible persons, too. I've been through all of them since nearly 10 years now, but Debian is the first and only Linux I can really rely on.


Luciano ES survived a Debian installation earlier this year (2003). And shall not forget the experience any time soon.

AK: Can you tell us more about the experience ? Where was Debian good, bad, etc. ? IIRC they are working on a better installer for the next release. The Knoppix stuff is also quite nice.

LES: It was Debian 3.0. I cannot remember quite exactly, but in a wild stab I'd say I had to answer about 186 questions until the installation was done. After the 130th or so, I was on my knees saying "I don't care, just go on and install it, PLEASE!" I also remember using a very unfriendly program to select the packages. It looked like a long list in a console and I had to memorize some idiosyncratic shortcut keys to (de)select the packages and/or view the descriptions. What was it called again? I was also somewhat put off by the "old" packages because I had the "stable" version, which is always so conservative. It had KDE 2.x! Then I installed another distro with KDE 3.1 and it was soooo much better.

CMCc: LES, that installer is called dselect, and the first piece of local knowledge you need is 'never use dselect', it's abysmal. Instead one should install a base system, then get apt going as soon as possible, and use it. Secondly, although there's no way you would know this, the level of detail in the questions it asks you can be configured to remove most of them. Thirdly, debian unstable has newer packages and is far from unstable (on i386) use it as soon as you have apt going.

ECS: You can also use tasksel to select big groups of packages. For instance, you can select 'desktop system' and have X Windows installed among with KDE and/or GNOME.

Debian recently won several readers' choice awards from different magazines for Best Distribution. For good reason.

CMCc: I sat down and installed Debian and Redhat, alternately, five times each. I then chose the one which installed and configured best, had most of what I wanted, made most sense.

Since then, I've personally installed and remotely maintained dozens of Debian systems all over the world: uptimes of 500 days, never been cracked (heh, 'kick me' sign), ran flawlessly. I've shipped commercial systems based on Debian (unstable, no less) in high reliance context, with never a moment's regret. I've helped software development companies move to Debian, for its high quality, good security, ease of maintenance and administration.

I've helped many people learn to install Debian, some of them arts-types. I've got users who give new meaning to the word computer illiterate (not the arts types, incidentally.)

At the risk of being considered a Debianista, this article describes about what is good about Debian.

Jan 06, 2003: LES has been exposed to a certain distro over the past couple of months and felt more amenable to Debian things. It is called Kurumin and is more of a Knoppix by-product than a Debian by-product. It is amazing because it really works out-of-the-box, even better than any Windows system. It is just 180 Mb, it has less programs than Knoppix, but other very cool additional features.

The best part of the installation is no installation! You just boot with the CD, all your hardware is recognized automagically and a desktop materializes. After booting and running it from the CD, you can adjust and customize the system to your heart's content and a very simple and quick routine will help you install it on your HD as it is. I played around with Knoppix and didn't find that particular ability. And once it is on your HD, you can press one button and have it generate your own customized Kurumin distro CD, with your own configuration and installed package set. I've never seen any other distro do that. There is one and very brief instruction for English speakers at [L1 ].

But I still like my Peanut...

Other distributions used and recommended by Tcl'ers: Suse, Redhat, Peanut, Knoppix, Ubuntu, ...