Squeeze is the nickname of the latest Debian release (version 6.0). A new release of the well known and widely used Linux distro is a big deal. Ubuntu fans may be used to installing a new version what seems like every few minutes, but Debian moves to an altogether slower beat. Everything in a new release is thoroughly tried and tested, which explains why the last version — Debian 5.0 “Lenny” — debuted almost exactly two years ago.
Wrap your arms around the five biggest changes in the latest release of Debian — everything you need to know about version 6 of the open source server OS.
Squeeze was officially released on February 6th, and here the 5 most important things to know about it:
1. Squeeze Isn’t Exclusively Linux
One thing that’s unusual about Squeeze is that it comes in two flavors: Debian GNU/Linux and Debian GNU/kFreeBSD. The latter is a “technology preview” server OS release for the 32- and 64-bit PC platforms, and it grafts the Debian userland onto the FreeBSD kernel instead of the Linux one. “The support of common server software is strong and combines the existing features of Linux-based Debian versions with the unique features known from the BSD world,” is how Debian puts it. One advantage of Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, which may be more valuable when the variant becomes more mainstream, is support for the Zettabyte filesystem (ZFS).
2. Squeeze Linux Is Completely Free (as in Speech, Not Beer) and Stallman Friendly
If you’re a Richard Stallman wannabe then you’ll want to avoid any proprietary software at any cost — even if it means that your hardware won’t run. The folks at Debian are sensitive to this, and they have removed everything that isn’t open source software available under the GPL, or other OSI-compliant free licence. That means that anything — anything — that isn’t free has been removed from the Linux kernel. This includes problematic closed-source firmware files for some graphics cards and network adapters.
Given that vital pieces of hardware will not work without these files, they have been made available. They’ve just been banished to the non-free area of the Debian archive that is not enabled by default but where they can be accessed by those who really want or need them. They are also available on the unofficial Debian installation CDs. It’s a practical approach that is a bit like a vegetarian restaurant storing hamburgers in the back for very hungry customers. Sensible or a sell-out? Take your pick.