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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ - Software available in the Debian system
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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Chapter 4 - Software available in the Debian system

4.1 What types of applications and development software are available for Debian GNU/Linux?

Like most Linux distributions, Debian GNU/Linux provides:

  • the major GNU applications for software development, file manipulation, and text processing, including gcc, g++, make, texinfo, Emacs, the Bash shell and numerous upgraded Unix utilities,
  • Perl, Python, Tcl/Tk and various related programs, modules and libraries for each of them,
  • TeX (LaTeX) and Lyx, dvips, Ghostscript,
  • the X Window System, which provides a networked graphical user interface for Linux, and countless X applications including GNOME,
  • a full suite of networking applications, including servers for Internet protocols such as HTTP (WWW), FTP, NNTP (news), SMTP and POP (mail) and name server; also provided are web browsers, and development tools.

More than 7890 packages, ranging from news servers and readers to sound support, FAX programs, database and spreadsheet programs, image processing programs, communications, net, and mail utilities, Web servers, and even ham-radio programs are included in the distribution. Another 350 software suites are available as Debian packages, but are not formally part of Debian due to license restrictions.

4.2 Who wrote all that software?

For each package the authors of the program(s) are credited in the file /usr/doc/PACKAGE/copyright, where PACKAGE is to be substituted with the package's name.

Maintainers who package this software for the Debian GNU/Linux system are listed in the Debian control file (see What is a Debian control file?, Section 6.4) that comes with each package.

4.3 How can I get a current list of programs that have been packaged for Debian?

A complete list is available in two parts:

the list of packages that can be distributed everywhere
from any of the Debian mirrors, in the file indices/Maintainers. That file includes the package names and the names and e-mails of their respective maintainers.
the list of packages that cannot be exported from the US
from any of the Debian non-US mirrors, in the file indices-non-US/Maintainers. That file includes the package names and the names and e-mails of their respective maintainers.

The WWW interface to the Debian packages conveniently summarizes the packages in each of about twenty "sections" of the Debian archive.

4.4 What is missing from Debian GNU/Linux?

A list of packages which are still needed to be packaged for Debian exists, the Work-Needing and Prospective Packages list.

For more details about adding the missing things, see How can I become a Debian software developer?, Section 12.1.

4.5 Why do I get "ld: cannot find -lfoo" messages when compiling programs? Why aren't there any libfoo.so files in Debian library packages?

Debian Policy requires that such symbolic links (to libfoo.so.x.y.z or similar) are placed in separate, development packages. Those packages are usually named libfoo-dev or libfooX-dev (presuming the library package is named libfooX, and X is a whole number).

4.6 (How) Does Debian support Java?

Since the official Java Development kit from Sun Microsystems is non-free software, it cannot be included in Debian proper. However, both the JDK and several free implementations of Java technology are available as Debian packages. You can write, debug and run Java programs using Debian.

Running a Java applet requires a web browser with the capability to recognize and execute them. Several web browsers available in Debian, such as Mozilla or Konqueror, support Java plug-ins that enable running Java applets within them. Netscape Navigator, while non-free, is also available as a Debian package and it can run Java applets.

Please refer to the Debian Java FAQ for more information.

4.7 How can I check that I am using a Debian system, and what version is it?

In order to make sure that your system has been installed from the real Debian base disks check for the existence of /etc/debian_version file, which contains a single one-line entry giving the version number of the release, as defined by the package base-files.

The existence of the program dpkg shows that you should be able to install Debian packages on your system, but as the program has been ported to many other operating systems and architectures, this is no longer a reliable method of determining is a system Debian GNU/Linux.

Users should be aware, however, that the Debian system consists of many parts, each of which can be updated (almost) independently. Each Debian "release" contains well defined and unchanging contents. Updates are separately available. For a one-line description of the installation status of package foo, use the command dpkg --list foo. To view versions of all installed packages, run:

     dpkg -l

For a more verbose description, use:

     dpkg --status foo

4.8 How does Debian support non-English languages?

  • Debian GNU/Linux is distributed with keymaps for nearly two dozen keyboards, and with utilities (in the kbd package) to install, view, and modify the tables.

    The installation prompts the user to specify the keyboard he will use.

  • Vast majority of the software we packaged supports entering non-US-ASCII characters used in other Latin languages (e.g. ISO-8859-1 or ISO-8859-2), and a number of programs support multi-byte languages such as Japanese or Chinese.
  • Currently, support for German-, Spanish-, Finnish-, French-, Hungarian-, Italian-, Japanese-, Korean- and Polish-language manual pages is provided through the manpages-LANG packages (where LANG is the two-letter ISO country code). To access an NLS manual page, the user must set the shell LC_MESSAGES variable to the appropriate string.

    For example, in the case of the Italian-language manual pages, LC_MESSAGES needs to be set to 'italian'. The man program will then search for Italian manual pages under /usr/share/man/it/.

4.9 What about the US export regulation limitations?

US laws place restrictions on the export of defense articles, which includes some types of cryptographic software. PGP and ssh, among others, fall into this category.

To prevent anyone from taking unnecessary legal risks, certain Debian GNU/Linux packages are only available from a non-US site ftp://non-US.debian.org/debian-non-US/. There are numerous mirror sites all of which are also outside of the US, see ftp://non-US.debian.org/debian-non-US/README.non-US for a full list.

4.10 Where is pine?

Due to its restrictive license, it's in the non-free area. Moreover, since license does not even allow modified binaries to be distributed, you have to compile it yourself from the source and the Debian patches.

The source package name is pine. You can use the pine-tracker package to be notified about when you need to upgrade.

Note that there are many replacements for both pine and pico, such as mutt and nano, that are located in the main section.

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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

version 3.0, 30 April 2002
Authors, Section 15.1