Book review: The Debian System <i>by Martin F. Krafft</i>

The title “The Debian System” may be misleading to some, but it shouldn’t be. As the author claims, this book isn’t yet another guide to GNU/Linux. It’s a guide to Debian GNU systems, whether the kernel is Linux, BSD, or Hurd. Thanks to this book, both Debian beginners and experienced users have a detailed guide to the Debian world: its organization, licenses, and tools.

The book’s cover

No Starch Press have republished this book, originally published by the German Open Source Press. This fact is credited on the cover, not only in the colophon: it seems to me a very fair behavior from the No Starch guys.

The author, Martin F. Krafft, has been working for Debian as a supporter since 1997. It is clear he is very intimate with the Debian organization, as shown by the variety of covered topics.

The book is a guide to Debian GNU systems, whether the kernel is Linux, BSD, or Hurd

The contents

In about 600 pages, the author describes the Debian project and its various aspects in detail. This gives readers a good understanding of the tools Debian provides for package management and networking, the Debian organization and its Free Software Guidelines, the distributions, and so on.

An example of this is shown in the package management section: Krafft compares packaging tools of several distributions (Red Hat, Mandrake (now Mandriva), etc.) to show Debian’s completeness.

Conversely, you won’t find anything about Unix commands or administration, as the book is not intended to be that kind of guide.

A Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (Sarge) DVD and an appendix on Debian spin-offs complete the book.

Who’s this book for?

As I mentioned already, this book is useful for Debian beginners through to experts, provided that the former have a Unix working knowledge. I would suggest that users of non-Unix operating systems, who want to switch to Debian, may want to read a Unix guide before reading The Debian System.

Reading this book is useful to administrators, programmers, packagers and security experts. And, since some chapters are devoted to describing free licenses, the book could be useful for legal consultants, too.

Even people who don’t use Debian Gnu systems could find something useful: I’d want to have it handy when connecting two Linux machines for the first time—a Mandrake one and a Debian one.

Relevance to free software

The Debian System is fully relevant to free software, as it describes a free operating system, and all of the Debian tools are free software too. So the book relevance to free software couldn’t be less than 10 out of 10.


The book gives a well written and complete overview of the Debian project: the organization, tools, licenses, and all aspects of the Debian way of working.

The enclosed DVD is a great bonus; and the fact that the publisher donates $1 for each copy sold to the Debian Project make this book very worth while. You can get to know the system you love better and at the same time help its developers.


The DVD pocket prevents the back cover from opening properly, and this leads to the cover paper getting crumpled, despite the RepKover binding system that has been used.

Title The Debian System
Author Martin F. Krafft
Publisher No Starch Press
ISBN 1593270690
Year 2005
Pages 605
CD included Yes (DVD)
FS Oriented 10
Over all score 9

In short


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.