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Debian Installer 6.0 Alpha 1: Ext4 Support, Installs "Recommended" Packages

by Michael Prokop on Feb 26, 2010 |

The Debian project plans to release a new stable version of its universal operating system, Debian 6.0 (codenamed "Squeeze"), this year. As part of this release, the Debian installer team recently announced the first alpha release of the installer for Debian 6.0.

The new Debian installer (known as d-i) provides several new features. Even though d-i is not stable yet, system administrators deploying Debian might be interested in what the new release will bring them.

The 6.0/Squeeze release provides support for the ext4 file system and further simplified setup of RAID, LVM and crypto. Grub2 is the default bootloader for the x86 architecture and provides support for Software-RAID, GPT, LVM and the ext4 filesystem.

One of the most notable changes to APT is that Squeeze installs packages from the recommends section by default. Whereas packages listed in the depends section of a Debian package are absolute dependencies, the packages in the recommends section declare a strong, but not absolute, dependency. As the Debian policy states, "The Recommends field should list packages that would be found together with this one in all but unusual installations."

If diskspace matters and you are aware of the fact that some features might not be available without the additional packages from the recommends section, you can easily disable this new behaviour. It can be done either through the boot prompt, using preseeding, or by manually configuring it in /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/* using:

APT::Install-Recommends false;

Wait, preseeding? Preseeding is a way to automate the installation process of d-i. You don't have to manually answer questions during the installation process any longer but instead provide appropriate configuration files to d-i. Combined with Puppet for configuration management, it's a common approach to scaling the Debian deployment process and managing large installations.

Support for Marvell's Kirkwood platform was added, so Debian runs out of the box on devices from QNAP as well as the Marvell SheevaPlug. The armel architecture also supports the Intel Storage System SS4000-E.

The localechooser was improved too. During installation the user can choose language, location (country) and locale separately to provide maximum flexibility in configuration. The time zone can be set to UTC in expert mode of d-i now as well.

Notable though usually not that relevant for system administators is the fact that the graphical installer isn't available yet due to problems in the DirectFB backend of the GTK+ library. Debian developers are working on a X11 replacement so the stable version of d-i for squeeze will bring back the graphical installer including accessibility support.

d-i also provides support for installing Debian 5.0 (codenamed "Lenny"), the current stable version of Debian - this means that supporting two different releases is possible through a single installer. If you plan to test out the current testing version of d-i, featuring Linux kernel version 2.6.32, please don't forget to check the errata webpage before reporting any bugs to the Debian installer team.

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