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Debian Lenny installer arrives
Nov. 13, 2008

It appears that Debian 5.0 (aka "Lenny") will soon take its big binocular eyes out into the wider world. The Debian project has completed the first release-candidate of Lenny's installer, which features much-improved support for ARM-based devices, along with much faster installation from "live" CDs.

(Click for larger view of "Lenny," captured from Pixar Animation's Toy Story trailer)

Lenny's launch was originally scheduled for September, but may have been held up in part by a need for more embedded involvement. Assuming the installer RC meets the needs of early testers, and Lenny is released this month, Lenny will have gestated for 19 months, two fewer than the previous Debian 4.0 ("Etch") release.

The announcement was made on the Debian developer's list by Otavio Salvador, who maintains apt, grub, mtd-utils, squashfs, and a host of other important packages for the project. In his announcement, Salvador called out the following improvements, compared to earlier releases of the Debian installer:
  • Improved support for Live-CD installation media (much faster and more reliable than earlier releases)
  • Support for some NAS devices based on Marvell's ARM-compatible Orion chip:
    • QNAP TS-109/TS-209 and TS-409
    • HP Media Vault mv2120
    • Buffalo Kurobox Pro
  • Installer images for Netwinder have been added again (ed. note: [!!])
  • Installer images for i386 Xen guests
  • Support for hardware speech synthesis (speakup) has been added
  • Upgrade of packages early in pkgsel, for example to get available security updates for base system packages
  • Support for loading firmware from (removable) media during the installation
  • i386/amd64: support for installing to and loading firmware from MMC/SD cards
  • New translations: Welsh, Irish, Northern Sami, Serbian (Amharic and Marathi were added in beta releases)
Remaining issues, according to Salvador, include:
  • i386: for this release, installation from floppy disk is not supported
  • PowerPC: the graphical installer should work on almost all systems with ATI graphics cards, but probably not others
  • touchpads should work with the graphical installer, but support may be suboptimal - if you experience problems, you should use an external mouse instead
Additional issues are listed in an errata document, Salvador notes.

Salvador encourages all users to test the installer, which can be downloaded along with CD and DVD images here.

ARM extras

Additionally, Martin Michlmayr has blogged about additional improvements for ARM-based devices. The former Debian maintainer notes that Lenny will be the last Debian release to support Debian's venerable "ARM" branch, with future support focusing on the new "ARMEL" architecture, which is compiled with optimizations for ARM's EABI.

In addition, Michlmayr says the new installer features better support for filesystem checking on headless devices, more selective initramfs module loading, and more intuitive Internet address assignments and DHCP behavior. His blog posting is here.

Debian began beta testing the Lenny installer for ARM devices in July. Lots more details about Lenny, including remaining release-critical bugs, can be found here.

Related Stories:
  • Debian Linux installer for NAS devices goes beta
  • Linux-based gateways, servers, wireless access points
  • Debian maintainer calls for embedded input
  • Ubuntu announces ARM port
  • Debian adding low-power NAS devices
  • Linux gains new architecture support

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