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Debian Etch Takes Over Command From Sarge

The Debian GNU/Linux Project has released its latest distribution codenamed Etch. The new release updates the popular community Linux distribution with fully integrated installation and secure update options.

Debian's Etch release is also significant in that it is the core base of over 30 other Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Xandros and Linspire. It could also impact HP , which is already making millions from supporting Debian.

According to Debian's release notes, Etch now has a fully integrated installation process that includes support for encrypted partitions. The installation front end also benefits from an enhanced graphic front-end that supports scripts and complex languages.

The improvements to Debian's installation process build on the new Debian installer, which first appeared in Sarge, Etch's predecessor release.

In Etch, Debian developers have also improved the update mechanism in the Linux distribution to be more secure than before. Debian uses the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) application to get updates from a server. With the newly included Secure APT, users can more easily verify the integrity of packages to ensure that what they have downloaded hasn't been corrupted or tampered with.

The Etch release updates more than 18,000 software packages and provides support for 11 different architectures, including: AMD64 and Intel EM64T (amd64), Intel IA-32 (i386) and IA-64 (ia64) .Sun SPARC (sparc), HP Alpha (alpha), Motorola/IBM PowerPC (powerpc), HP PA-RISC (hppa), MIPS (mips, mipsel), ARM (arm) and IBM S/390 (s390).

If you're looking for the latest Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird updates among Etch's new packages you'll have to look beyond the branded names.

Etch includes Iceweasel (an unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox 2.0.0.3) and Icedove (an unbranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird 1.5). Debian has been locked in a bitter debate with Mozilla about the use of Mozilla's trademarked terms and how Debian may use them and update the relevant packages.

Iceweasel and Icedove are efforts produced by the GNU Project to provide "free" GPL versions of Firefox and Thunderbird that do not have the trademark issues that Debian has with Mozilla.

Though Etch is new, it has a few bugs that need to be fixed in an upcoming point release.

"There are already some packages known that will need an update in stable soon," Debian developer Andreas Barth wrote in a mailing list posting. "Best known is the kernel, which has some annoying bugs with pending fixes."

Debian developers have also just begun to provide some guidance as to what the next major release, codenamed Lenny, needs to do. Chief among them is getting the release cycle down.

"We want to restrict the release cycle for Lenny to less than two years," Barth wrote. "We want to discuss experiences of Etch first though to get a more accurate time planning."

The planning for Lenny and its actual release will fall under the new leader of the Debian Project, Sam Hocevar, who was recently elected by Debian community members.