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 Binary :: Several potentially confusing (but non-Debian-specific) meanings:
 * Any non-textfile, such as a JPEG format image
 * Any executable (often used generically to include shellscripts and other non-binary executables normally found in a `bin` directory)
 * The output of a build process - see [[#binary-package|binary package]]

 Binary package :: An installable [[#.deb|.deb]] file as opposed to the [[#source-package|source package]] it's built from. The idea is that this is the "binary" compiled in the package building process (regardless of whether the output .deb contains a [[#binary|binary]] executable, documentation, or indeed Linux kernel [[#source|source]]code).
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 Package ::
 * (In Java, TeX, etc.) a unit of software with a single shared namespace
 * (In Debian) See [[#source-package|source package] or [[#binary-package|binary package]]
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 Source ::
 * A package origin defined by a line in [[DebianMan:5/sources.list|sources.list]]
 * A [[DebianMan:1/bash|bash]] builtin that executes commands from a file
 * Compilable code, the input of a build process - see [[#source-package|source package]]

 Source package ::
 * a unit of upstream software (with a single build system), which may correspond to several separate [[#binary-package|binary package]]s within Debian;
 * the bundle of files (.dsc file, upstream tarball, etc) used as input to the package-building process.


Debian Glossary Only.

If you don't find the entry you wanted below, check

Or you can add it yourself. If you can't define it yourself you can put ToDo instead, but always check the sites mentioned above - if it isn't Debian-specific, an existing definition elsewhere is likely to be more helpful.

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A Debian member who advocates an application. Advocates should know the applicant fairly well and should be able to give an overview of the applicant's work, interests and plans. Advocates are often the sponsors of an applicant.


Alioth is a collaborative development environment based on the FusionForge software as a service for the Debian project and community.

Alioth (guest) account

People willing to participate in the packaging or development of a software can ask for an Alioth guest account, then ask for commit rights to a given project.


A person requesting membership in the Debian project; prospective Debian developer.

Application Manager

A Debian member who is assigned to an applicant to collect the information needed by the Debian account managers to decide about an application. One application manager can be assigned to more than one Applicant.


Debian's Advanced Package Tool (or perhaps Advanced Packaging Tool - neither is "official"), a library that handles fetching the list of packages, resolving package dependencies, etc. It then uses dpkg to perform the actual package installation, removal, etc. The package apt provides the commandline tools apt-get and apt-cache, but other APT front-ends exist such as aptitude and synaptic.


  • (Not Debian-specific) a general category of hardware (such as "486" or "little-endian"), or a variant of some piece of software tailored for this hardware; may specifically mean the category as determined by some particular tool, such as arch or dpkg-architecture

  • One of the platforms for which Debian packages are built, known by labels such as amd64 or mipsel, and also differentiated by the OS kernel used - the same hardware (not literally an Intel 386 processor) may dualboot Squeeze i386 and kfreebsd-i386 architectures. See ports


  • (Not Debian-specific) a set of items combined into one file, such as a tarball or .deb file (technically an ar archive)

  • A set of files, such as a software repository
  • Used as a synonym for suite by (e.g.) aptitude - "aptitude search '~i?archive(backports)'")


The term used in Debian Policy for the main, contrib, and non-free divisions of the archive (also known as components)



Backports are versions of packages from testing and unstable that have been rebuilt to be able to install and run on a stable Debian distribution.

Several potentially confusing (but non-Debian-specific) meanings:

  • Any non-textfile, such as a JPEG format image
  • Any executable (often used generically to include shellscripts and other non-binary executables normally found in a bin directory)

  • The output of a build process - see binary package

Binary package

An installable .deb file as opposed to the source package it's built from. The idea is that this is the "binary" compiled in the package building process (regardless of whether the output .deb contains a binary executable, documentation, or indeed Linux kernel sourcecode).


Birds of a Feather discussion session, a common event type at DebConf


Short for Bug Tracking System


A system for synchronizing bug status in the Debian BTS with bug tracking systems like Bugzilla. See this mail.



Short for Common Debian Build System (provided by cdbs)


The term used in ?sources.list(5) for the main, contrib, and non-free archive areas


  • In various project upstreams, a collection of extra software produced by third parties and included into a distribution "without warranty"
  • in Debian, software that is itself DFSG-compliant but requires software in non-free to build or run usefully (or the archive area such software is separated out into).

Control file

As defined in Debian Policy:

  • the control file included in the debian directory of each source package contains dependency information required to build the package, and has separate stanzas containing further information for each binary package

  • the control file included in the DEBIAN directory of each binary .deb (formed from the corresponding stanza in the source control file) contains dependency information required to install the package, plus the package description etc.

  • any "control file"; that is, any file with the same multi-field syntax - for instance, .dsc files are also counted as control files.
  • Custom Debian Distributions (CDD)

    The old name for subsets of Debian configured to support a particular target group out-of-the-box. Now known as Debian Pure Blends



    See Debian Account Manager.


    The Debian Developer's Packages Overview, which lists the packages maintained by a Debian Developer or Team

    Debian Account

    A Debian account is typically the login account of a Debian Developer. The term Debian Account is sometime also used to refer to Debian Maintainer account. See also Alioth account.

    Debian Account Manager (DAM)

    A Debian member who has been delegated to manage Debian account creation and removal by the Debian project leader. The DAM has the final decision over an application.

    Debian Developer (DD)

    A Debian Project member who has gone through the New Maintainer process and had their application accepted is called a Debian Developer. (ToDo: DD/DM/DC/etc should all link to one central explanation of the distinction between them)

    Debian-Installer (D-I)

    Debian Installer is the software used to initially install Debian on your hard disk. This should not be confused with the software used to install extra packaged software on a running Debian system (see apt).

    Debian New Maintainer

    The process of becoming an official Debian Developer (DD), or a person going through that process. See also Applicant.

    Debian Maintainer (DM)

    1. The status of a person who has passed the Debian Maintainer process. A Debian Maintainer is granted some rights to manage packages, in particular the right to upload packages to the archive. DMs aren't voting members of the Debian Project.

    2. See also package #maintainer and Debian Developer, Alioth account.

    Debian Member

    Full members of the Debian Project are referred to as Debian Developers.

    Debian Policy Manual
    The document that describes what packages should contain, how they should be configured, and generally how packages fit together to create a Debian system.

    Debian Project

    An organization of free software developers spread around the world with a common goal, to produce a completely free operating system. See the Debian web pages for more information.

    Debian Pure Blends

    A subset of Debian that is configured to support a particular target group out-of-the-box. Debian Pure Blends were formerly known as Custom Debian Distributions (CDD).


    Short for Debian External Health Status (see DEHS).


    Short for the Debian Free Software Guidelines; the rules of thumb included in the Debian Social Contract that can be used to judge whether material counts for the project's purposes as free. The string dfsg is often appended to package names and version-strings to indicate that the upstream version has been slightly modified to allow it to stay in main.


    See Debian-Installer

    Distribution (dist)

    • (Not Debian-specific) the complete set of software from one upstream project, considered as a unit. MacTeX is a TeX distribution, for instance, whereas NetBSD is a full Operating System distribution. This is the sense in which Debian is "a distribution".
    • A suite within the Debian archives capable of providing a fully functional OS on its own, unlike the supplementary ones such as "testing-security". This is the sense in which stable is "a distribution".

    • Used more generally (e.g. in sources.list(5)) as a synonym for suite; hence source URLs which put http://ftp.debian.org/debian/dists/experimental/ alongside all the other dists.


    See Debian Maintainer.


    The Debian Python Modules Team, who work to improve the Python modules situation in Debian.


    The Debian System Administrators team, who handle the basic infrastructure of the project.




    See Filesystem Hierarchy Standard.

    Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS)

    the FilesystemHierarchyStandard defines the main directories and their contents in Linux and other Unix-like computer operating systems. The Debian Policy Manual only explains the exceptions applying to Debian.


    Compliant with the DFSG, and eligible to go in main


    The distribution development freeze is a period of time when the Debian Project is working to finalize and stabilize the content of the testing distribution (resolving release critical bugs, making final tweaks to Debian-Installer, deciding the contents of the CDs, etc.) before it can be released as stable. Debian's release policy is one of Release when Ready, so the length of the freeze period isn't fixed, but it tends to last something like six months.

    Front Desk

    The front desk members receive the initial applications, advocation messages, and final application reports. They are the point of contact if problems arise with an application.


    Short for "Fails To Build From Source", a bugreport type produced by the build infrastructure when a package cannot be compiled. See qa.debian.org/FTBFS.





    Short for "I Am Not A Lawyer", often used on the debian-legal mailing list. Not Debian-specific; see Wikipedia's definition.


    Short for "Intent to Adopt", used to track the status of orphaned packages (see WNPP) or documentation (see DDP).


    Short for "Intent to Document", used by a documentation maintainer who intends to start writing a document. Using the WNPP system avoids duplicated effort; see DDP.


    Short for "Intent To Package", used by a DD or Maintainer who intends to package a piece of software; see WNPP.


    Short for "Intent to Translate", used by a translator who intends to start translating a document. This like the above is a mechanism to prevent duplication of efforts; see DDP.






    The "truly Debian" archive area, reserved for free software.


    The maintainer of a package is the person or group of people responsible for it (packaging, bugtracking, etc.); see Debian Policy. See also Debian Maintainer (DM), Debian New Maintainer (process).

    Mass bug filing

    Reporting a great number of bugs for the same problem. See the Debian Developer's Reference.


    Short for Mass Bug Filing.


    An experienced Debian Member who takes responsibility for assisting a less experienced member or Applicant. Outside occasional efforts such as the Debian Women mentoring program, such relationships generally exist only on an informal and unofficial basis. Every Applicant has an advocate who may effectively act as a mentor; but despite the name of the debian-mentors mailing list, its primary function is to put new maintainers in touch with sponsors.



    Short for Not Built from Source; one of the criteria used to detect candidates for automated package removal, in this case removing a binary package that isn't built from any remaining source package. See ftpmaster_Removals.

    New Maintainer

    See Debian New Maintainer, Applicant, Debian Maintainer.


    Short for NonMaintainerUpload; a version of a package that wasn't uploaded by an official Maintainer, but rather by another developer. This typically occurs for security updates, Mass Bug Filings, and when the maintainer is on holiday - see Debian Developer's Reference.


    Not compliant with the DFSG; also, the archive area for software which is non-free but can be legally distributed by Debian.


    Short for Newer Version In Unstable; one of the criteria used to detect candidates for automated package removal, in this case removing an experimental build as superseded by a more recent build already present in unstable. See ftpmaster_Removals.



    Short for the QA status Orphaned


    the distribution before the current stable release, which continues to receive some level of security support for a while (commonly a year) after it is superseded.


    (Not to be confused with the following) In package management, a stray installed package with no reverse dependencies (such as a library for which the corresponding executable has been purged), which can be detected with tools such as deborphan. Such unwanted relics are now increasingly tracked by APT itself.


    (Not to be confused with the above) Used in package QA to indicate that a package has no maintainer, and needs to be adopted (see ITA and WNPP). If the package has a Priority of standard or higher, the bug severity should be set to important. The term is similarly used to indicate documentation that the author is declaring abandoned; see DDP.




    Short for Python Applications Packaging Team

    Package Tracking System (PTS)

    The Package Tracking System lets you follow almost everything related to the life of a package, and is of interest for co-maintainers, QA workers, and advanced users


    APT pinning is the name given to the use of apt_preferences(5) to define a modified system of package-management priorities. This makes it possible, for instance, to run an essentially stable system but specify particular packages for which newer candidates (e.g. backports) will automatically be preferred for installation.


    Short for Package Installation, UPgrading And Removal Testing Suite - see piuparts.


    The popcon score of a Debian package (see http://popcon.debian.org/) is meant to reflect its "popularity"; it is derived from data generated via the package popularity-contest, which periodically and anonymously submits statistics about which Debian packages are installed on a system and whether they are used.


    Short for Package Tracking System



    Short for Quality Assurance - see qa.debian.org



    • The occasion of a new stable version of Debian being declared ready for production use;

    • A suite that has been or is going to be released; more generally, a synonym for suite - even sid has a Release file and is traditionally (if oxymoronically) referred to as "the unstable release".


    Short for Request for Adoption; a WNPP bug tag indicating that (due to lack of time, interest, or other resources) the current maintainer is asking for someone else to maintain this package. They will maintain it in the meantime, but perhaps not in the best possible way. Compare Orphaned.


    Short for Request for Documentation; a DDP bug tag indicating that a manual or other documentation on a given topic is not yet available on the DDP and the reporting user requests that DDP members should give it priority when deciding which documents need to be written.


    Short for Request For Help; a WNPP bug tag indicating that the current maintainer wants to continue to maintain this package, but needs some help to do this. This may be because the maintainer is overstretched in general, or because this package is particularly hard to maintain, or because bugs require specialist expertise to fix.


    Short for Request For Package; a WNPP bug tag indicating that the reporter has found an interesting piece of software and would like someone else to maintain it for Debian.


    Short for Request of Maintainer; used in bug reports for package removal, to indicate that it has been agreed with the package's own maintainer.

    A word with several (non-Debian-specific) technical uses, all deriving from the same metaphor of a node structure with a root and branches:
    1. the root directory ("/") is the top level directory of the file system hierarchy - the part of the "directory tree" that everything else connects to.
    2. the root user (uid 0) is the so-called "superuser", with unlimited privileges - equivalent to the "Administrator" on some other operating systems. (This name might lead you to expect users to be arranged in some sort of organizational tree structure, but it just means that the superuser can modify the root directory.)
    3. the root window is the desktop background, the element of the graphical environment that all other windows are defined relative to. (Thus "root tile" as a synonym for "desktop wallpaper".)
    4. the root zone is the core of the DNS system, where the nameservers that are authoritative for Top Level Domains (the "root nameservers") live.
    5. the directory "/root" is the home directory of the root user. Not to be confused with the root directory as defined above.
    Not forgetting its senses of "inverse exponent", or "gain illicit superuser access, either for malicious purposes or to bypass a proprietary OS", or (in AU/NZ slang) "have sex with"... and it doesn't help that for some it's homophonous with "route".


    Short for Request of Release Team; used in bug reports for package removal, to indicate that issues have been confirmed by the Release Team.



    sid is the codename for unstable. While other codenames cycle through from testing to stable to oldstable, the name "Sid" stays in the same place permanently.


    • A package origin defined by a line in sources.list

    • A bash builtin that executes commands from a file

    • Compilable code, the input of a build process - see source package

    Source package

    • a unit of upstream software (with a single build system), which may correspond to several separate binary packages within Debian;

    • the bundle of files (.dsc file, upstream tarball, etc) used as input to the package-building process.


    a Debian Member with upload privileges who uses them on behalf of a package maintainer without such privileges. The sponsor is required to take responsibility for checking that there are no show-stopping quality issues, but is not recorded as the maintainer of the package. A sponsorship may be a one-off event, or the sponsor may also act informally as a mentor, helping to track down bugs and improve the packaging.


    the stable distribution is the release recommended for production use. Each stable release is "promoted" from testing status as the result of a cycle of development, debugging, and integration that usually lasts about two years.


    • A set of closely integrated packages (often multiple source packages)
    • Used in Release files and elsewhere to mean a repository holding one particular "branch" of Debian's development process - unstable, testing, and so on. Compare archive, distribution, release



    testing is the Debian distribution automatically generated out of packages migrating from unstable. The first step towards a new stable release is that testing undergoes a freeze.


    Short for "This Is Not Legal Advice"; compare IANAL.



    unstable is the Debian distribution where you can find the latest packages introduced into the Debian system.




    Short for "Work-Needing and Prospective Packages" - a pseudopackage used to collect reports of packages (and potential packages) in need of (new) maintainers in Debian; see http://www.debian.org/devel/wnpp/, ITP, O, RFA, RFH, RFP.




    . (dot)

    File extension used for the standard installable binary-package format used by Debian-based distributions.


    File extension used for special packages containing Debian-Installer modules, not intended for installation on a normal system.