A glossary for terms specific to Debian.
If you don't find the entry you wanted below, check
kernelnewbies.org's Kernel Glossary
- or simply try your mystery word as a wiki pagename!
Alternatively, 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.
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 (guest) account
See Application Manager.
Short for "Architecture Not Allowed In Source"; used in bug reports for package removal, usually indicating that the number of architectures for which the package is to be built has been reduced. Nothing to do with the name Anaïs (cf. britney etc.).
- Application Manager (AM)
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. Nothing to do with software applications or package management.
A package management system 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 tool apt(8) (along with apt-get(8) and apt-cache(8)) but other APT front-ends exist such as aptitude and synaptic.
- The type of system a piece of software is built for:
- Can mean:
A port (and former release architecture, superseded by armel and no longer maintained) using the Linux kernel on ARM/StrongARM hardware, a CPU type originally created for the Acorn Archimedes (ARM being an acronym for Acorn RISC Machine).
A port (and current release architecture) using the Linux kernel on newer armel-style hardware with an FPU. It explicitly targets version 7 of the ARM architecture, using the hard-float version of the ARM EABI.
Backports are versions of packages from testing and unstable that have been rebuilt to be able to install and run on the stable distribution. Official backports are now hosted alongside the standard repositories.
- Backports Security Advisory (BSA)
- Base system
Binary packages with priority required or important; a minimalist set of packages installed before everything else on a new system. Designed to provide just the things you'd be surprised to find missing on a usable UNIX system. Not to be confused with essential, which is much smaller.
- Short for build dependency, or for the Build-Depends control field declaring such a dependency. Often used in changelog entries when mentioning that some build dependency has been added, removed, or altered.
- B-D-Indep (B-D-I)
Short for ?Build-Depends-Indep, the control field used for build dependencies needed only for "build-indep" as opposed to "build-arch" compilation targets.
A wanna-build state.
The transition-tracker utility used by the Release Team.
- Several potentially confusing (but not Debian-specific) meanings:
- Any non-textfile, such as a JPEG format image.
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 source code). See also Virtual package.
(As in "Bits from the DPL") Frequently used title for progress updates and event reports sent to the mailinglists.
The codename for Debian 1.3, release date: 1997.
The set of scripts that manages the migration of packages into testing. Originally it was one of many similar FTPmaster scripts with names like katie and madison, most of which have since been swallowed up by DAK.
Short for "Backports Security Advisory"
Short for "Bug Squashing Party"; a get-together of Debian enthusiasts (either virtual or In Real Life) for the purpose of fixing as many bugs as possible.
The only package that's literally essential for building a Debian binary package is make (because Policy mandates the use of a Makefile), but the "build-essential" toolkit is a convenient short-cut: a standard set of packages defined to be required for all "normal" Debian packaging work, which can therefore be omitted from lists of build dependencies as obvious, just as essential packages are omitted from install-time dependencies.
A wanna-build state
The codename for Debian 1.1, release date: 1996.
Short for "Common Debian Build System" (provided by cdbs).
Call For Votes.
Short for "collaborative maintenance"; the "default team" (and associated alioth repository) that all DDs are automatically members of; packages that don't belong to any particular team but would benefit from being team-maintained can just be added to the "collab-maint" project.
A technical term defined in Policy; a file declared in a binary package's conffiles file is treated specially by dpkg to ensure that local modifications are not blindly overwritten by a package upgrade or deleted by a remove. Conffiles are (always?) stored in /etc, and are often conventional global configuration files but may also be initscripts, cronjobs, or similar.
- Configuration file
Any file affecting the operation of a program, or providing site- or host-specific information, or otherwise customizing a program's behavior. May or may not be system-wide, or in an intelligible line-oriented text format, or marked as a conffile. Personal configuration files are traditionally stored as dotfiles in the home directory (see also rc-file).
- Additional, external software, in either of two senses:
- Control file
As defined in Debian Policy:
- Custom Debian Distribution (CDD)
The old name for a subset of Debian configured to support a particular target group out-of-the-box. Now known as Debian Pure Blends.
- Has two related Debian-specific meanings:
General hacker jargon for superfluous junk, with a Debian-specific extra meaning in FTP master terminology: "crufty" .debs are ones that need to be identified and removed from the archive (see NBS, NVIU), a process known as "decrufting".
Abbreviations such as d-d-a are commonly used as shorthand names for Debian mailinglists (in this case, debian-devel-announce).
(Short for "Debian Archive Kit") The toolset used to manage the Debian repositories - see DakHowTo.
Short for "Debian Account Manager".
Short for "Debian Developer".
Short for "Debian Data Export".
Short for the "Debian Documentation Project".
Short for the Debian Description Translation Project.
- Two things distinguished by capitalization:
- Debian Account
- Debian Account Manager (DAM)
- Debian Contributor
A general term for active members of the Debian community, whether or not they have DD status. This term is sometimes used to emphasize that people contribute to Debian in other ways as well as by maintaining packages (as recognized by general resolution).
- Debian Data Export (DDE)
- Debian Developer (DD)
- Debian Developer's Reference (DevRef)
- Debian Documentation Project
A Debian sub-project covering various documentation issues. See webpages.
- 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 additional packages on a running Debian system (see APT).
- Debian Linux Kernel Handbook
- Debian Maintainer (DM)
The status of a person who has passed the Debian Maintainer process. A Debian Maintainer is granted some limited rights over packages - in particular, the right to upload packages to the Debian archives. DMs aren't yet members of the Debian Project, so can't for example vote in project elections. See also Debian Developer, Alioth account. Not to be confused with the role of package Maintainer.
- Debian Maintainer Dashboard
- Debian Package Tracker
- Debian Policy Manual
- Debian Project
- Debian Project Leader (DPL)
The official representative of the Debian Project to the outside world, with internal managerial and coordinatory duties; elected annually. See https://www.debian.org/devel/leader.
- Debian Project News (DPN)
A newsletter sent out roughly every two weeks to debian-news collecting information of interest to the Debian community in general.
- 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).
- Debian Security Advisory (DSA)
- Debian System Administrators (DSA)
- Debian Weekly News (DWN)
A newsletter that ran (less regularly than the name suggests) from 1999 until 2007; replaced by the Debian Project News.
- Debian Women (D-W)
A subproject founded in 2004 to encourage more women to use Debian and to join the Debian project. The Debian-Women initiative is supported by both men and women.
Short for (the late) "Debian External Health Status" service.
A set of directories on ftp-master (ranging from "0-day" to "15-day") that receive uploads not intended for immediate processing, usually to give the package's maintainer an opportunity to check the acceptability of an NMU before it goes into the archive. Compare deferred.
- Dependency-based boot
A scheme for organizing service startup, now standard in init systems; "dependency-based" here means checking for things like networking and mounted file systems, not package installation relationships.
- Dependency package
An empty binary package that exists only for the sake of its declared dependencies on other packages, for instance to keep the current default version of gcc installed. See metapackage and transition-package for other common types.
(Plus more rarely dep-wait-removed) A wanna-build state.
- Developer News
See Misc Developer News.
Short for the Debian Developer's Reference.
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.
A batch job for updating the dak database and generating a new version of the mirror metadata.
Another name for the Debian Package Tracker.
- Distribution (distro, dist)
- Can mean:
- Can mean:
See Debian Maintainer.
- DM-Upload-Allowed (DMUA)
Short for "Debian Project Leader".
The Debian Python Modules Team, who work to improve the Python modules situation in Debian.
Short for "Debian URL Checker", a service monitoring Homepage and VCS links.
- Dummy package
A control file variable similar to but not part of the package priority mechanism; "Essential: yes" causes package-management tools to refuse any orders to remove the binary package in question. The essential package set provides the absolute minimal functionality that must be available and usable on the system at all times. The idea is, if you're hit by a software or hardware failure halfway through an upgrade, leaving your package database in an inconsistent state, the essential packages should still work well enough to boot the system and perform repairs. See also "Important: yes", required, and pseudo-essential.
The codename for Debian 4.0, release date: 2007.
(Plus more rarely failed-removed) A wanna-build state.
- 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.
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 its release as the new 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
- A team functioning as a first point of contact for Debian. Can mean:
Short for "Fails To Build Reproducibly"
Short for "For Those Who Care About" (compare "Bits...").
- FTP master
- Several things, none of which necessarily involve the File Transfer Protocol:
The ftp-master server, the primary copy of the Debian archive.
Senior members of this team also rank as "FTP Masters".
Renaming the team was discussed in 2017.
One proposal was the "Filtering The Packages" team
- General Resolution (GR)
In autobuilder jargon, packages are "taken" when an attempt is made to build them. Failures are often transient, fixed by simply trying again after a few days, so a "giveback" removes the "taken" flag from the package in the wanna-build database and puts it back into the normal needs-build queue.
Short for "General Resolution".
The codename for Debian 2.0, release date: 1998.
An i18n mailinglist label used to put work "on hold", warning that any work done on updates now is likely to be wasted.
A "port" (or rather the original release architecture, and still a current one) using the Linux kernel on 32-bit hardware - the kind dominating the PC market through the 90s/00s and known variously as IBM-clone, x86, IA-32, or (W)Intel-compatible computers.
- Three Debian-specific meanings:
The second-highest package priority.
A somewhat experimental and patchily documented control file variable confusingly similar to but not directly related to the above; "Important: yes" causes package management tools (or at least APT) to insist on explicit confirmation of any orders to remove the binary package in question. The idea is that "Important" packages are ones like an init-system that some kinds of minimal chroot or similar can do without, but which should resist casual attempts to remove them from a normal machine where they are installed. Compare the slightly weaker "Essential: yes".
- In terms of software, can mean:
A wanna-build state.
(Not Debian-specific) A highly ambiguous initialism, which can mean:
- Internet Protocol, the primary communications protocol on the net.
- Internet Protocol address (as in "what's your IP?").
- Instruction Pointer address (as in "segfault at ip 000000000000dead").
- Intellectual Property, the intangible assets covered by copyright/licensing/patent/trademark law.
Short for "Intent To Orphan", used to label messages from a Maintainer giving advance warning of the orphaning of packages. Not an official part of the WNPP system, but useful as a way of letting interested developers stake claims.
Short for "Intent To Review"; an i18n mailinglist label (for human consumption) used to indicate that localization work is ongoing; also the message sent to a package Maintainer as the first step in the Smith Project debconf review process.
- Kernel Handbook
See the Debian Linux Kernel Handbook.
Short for "Last Chance For Comment"; an i18n mailinglist label used to indicate that work has been done and calling for any last-minute corrections before it is declared finished.
The codename for Debian 5.0, release date: 2009.
Short for "Long Term Support"; see LTS.
Sometimes seen as an alternative name for m32r.
- Maintainer Script
Short for Maintainer Script.
Short for "Mise à Jour" (French for "update"); an i18n mailinglist label used to indicate that a document needs to be updated and that the work is reserved for the previous translator.
- Mass bug filing (MBF)
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.
A dependency package designed to automatically pull in a family of packages; may function as a shortcut to simplify installation of a full desktop environment. Sometimes hyphenated ("meta-package"), sometimes used as a synonym for plain dependency package.
Any process that involves transferring a large set of items, such as (most often in Debian) the automatic movement of packages from one suite to the next. No, it doesn't mean they travel in swarms, and they don't fly back in the winter.
A low bug severity.
- Misc Developer News
A bulletin collating minor news items of interest to Debian Developers sent out to debian-devel-announce whenever sufficient material has been collected on its Wiki page. Compare the Debian Project News.
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.
A wanna-build state.
The queue on ftp-master for packages uploaded for the first time, which need to be reviewed first - see REJECT. This includes renames, packages moving between areas, and source-packages that build new binary packages.
- New Maintainer
See New Member
- New Member (NM)
Short for "Non-Maintainer Upload"; a version of a package that wasn't uploaded by an official Maintainer, but rather by another Debian Developer. This typically occurs for security updates, Mass Bug Filings, and when the maintainer is on holiday - see Debian Developer's Reference.
(Obsolete) A subdivision of the Debian archives needed for the slink/potato/woody releases to deal with US legal restrictions on the export of cryptographic software. Software such as GPG was hosted only on mirrors outside the USA.
The default bug severity.
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.
- Can mean:
(Not to be confused with the following) In Debian 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.
- Orphaned (O)
(Not to be confused with the above) Used in package QA to indicate that a package has no maintainer, and is in need of adoption (see ITA and WNPP). If the package has a priority of standard or higher, the severity of the orphaning bug report should be set to important. The term is similarly used to indicate documentation that the author is declaring abandoned; see DDP.
- Can mean:
- Package maintenance
- Package management
- Packages-arch-specific (P-a-s)
- Package Tracking System (PTS)
Short for "Python Applications Packaging Team".
Short for "Packages-arch-specific".
A BTS tag indicating that "a solution to this bug has been found and an upload will be made soon". In practice this may mean anything from "my regular sponsor is away for the weekend" to "it'll be folded into the scheduled major release in the new year".
The (former?) Package Entropy Tracker.
- Philosophy and Procedures (P&P)
An element in the New Member checking process in which applicants are evaluated on their understanding of the principles of free software and of best practice in cooperative development.
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.
- Point release
Point releases are updated versions of a release, with incremented minor revision number (hence the name), incorporating all accumulated security fixes and grave bug-fixes. (Also, In Real Life, a type of minor avalanche.)
The popcon score of a Debian package (see webpage) 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 binary packages are installed on a system and whether they are used.
- Can mean:
- (Not Debian-specific) A physical hardware interface.
- (Not Debian-specific) A TCP networking endpoint identified by port number.
- (Not Debian-specific) A platform that software has been converted to run on.
A person who is working on a Debian port.
The codename for Debian 2.2, release date: 2000.
A port (not yet a release architecture but available via debports) using the Linux kernel on a slightly more obscure variant of powerpc hardware; "SPE" stands for "Signal Processing Extension" (and not as you might have guessed "Synergistic Processing Element").
A ranking system for binary packages, indicating how important it is for users to have them installed, and ranging from required down to optional (now that extra is being deprecated). See Debian Policy.
A label applied to binary packages such as libc6 that are not themselves essential but are dependencies or pre-dependencies from essential packages, which has a similar effect. apt itself is not an example, but is a sort of pseudo-pseudo-essential special case as it refuses to try to remove itself.
Short for "Package Tracking System".
Short for "Quality Assurance" - see qa.debian.org.
- Has several easily confused meanings, mostly not Debian-specific:
- Short for "Release Candidate", in version strings (v1.9~rc5 comes before v1.9).
Short for "Radio Controlled" (see rc-buggy)
sometimes seen as an unofficial permanent codename for experimental, punning on the name of the Radio Controlled toy car in the original Toy Story.
see Debian Release
- Release Architecture
An architecture supported as part of a stable release; ports qualify for this status when their autobuilders prove capable of "keeping up" and successfully building a sufficient proportion of the archive.
- Release Critical (RC)
A bug that cannot be allowed in stable; a release cannot occur until all such bugs have been handled (by removal if necessary). Currently these are the bugs with critical, grave and serious severity level.
- Can mean:
- RequestTracker (RT)
The codename for Debian 1.2, release date: 1996.
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.
Used in subject lines of package removal requests. It might look like it's addressed to the Release Manager, but it's just a shouty version of rm.
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 technical uses (not Debian-specific), all deriving from the same metaphor of a node structure with a root and branches:
Short for "Request of Stable Release Manager"; used in bug reports for package removal, to indicate that it has been agreed with the powers that be.
Short for "Request Tracker".
The codename for Debian 3.1, release date: 2005.
- Can mean:
Sometimes seen as an alternative name for sh4.
- Not a cross between a shrub and a blintz.
A special file defined in Debian Policy for tracking shared library dependencies.
The permanent codename for unstable ("Still In Development" is an unofficial backronym). While other codenames cycle through from testing to stable to oldstable, the name "Sid" stays in the same place permanently.
The codename for Debian 2.1, release date: 1999.
- Can mean:
A package origin defined by an entry in a sources.list(5) file.
A bash(1) builtin that executes commands from a file.
- Source package
- Can mean:
Short for "Software in the Public Interest, Inc.", the nonprofit foundation that manages resources and accepts donations on behalf of the Debian Project (which has no legal authority for doing so itself).
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. See also advocate.
The codename for Debian 6.0, release date: 2011.
The stable suite is the distribution 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.
- Stable Update Announcement (SUA)
A package priority (the lowest priority that's installed by default).
- Can mean:
Short for "Travail à Faire" (French for "work to do"); an i18n mailinglist label used to indicate that a volunteer is needed to handle some work. Originated on debian-l10n-french, but now also used for instance in the Smith Project.
- Tasks and Skills (T&S)
An element in the New Member checking process in which applicants are evaluated on their technical knowledge.
The testing-security suite is only roughly the testing equivalent of stable's security support, because it is run by a different ?team and because most new package versions fixing security bugs can simply go through unstable as usual.
Short for "This Is Not Legal Advice"; compare IANAL.
Often short for "library transition". A new version of a widely-used dependency hitting unstable can mean that large numbers of related packages need rebuilds or significant fixes before the whole set can migrate to testing.
- Transition package
A dependency package designed to automatically replace one package with another, to smooth over a rename or similar migration (especially for users performing a dist-upgrade). Not connected with library transitions.
See Tasks and Skills.
- Ultimate Debian Database (UDD)
Used to tag bug reports requesting a freeze exception.
In APT (or front-ends), the process of refreshing the package-management system's information about what packages are available from the registered sources. Not to be confused with (or omitted before) an upgrade.
- Can mean:
A wanna-build state.
- A term with various potentially confusing senses (not Debian-specific):
- An actual human being currently logged into the system.
- Any service recipient (including for instance remote processes accessing a web server).
- An account, which may belong to a user in the first sense or just be a "system" account.
In chmod(1), the specific user (in the above sense) with ownership of a file.
Any normal, unprivileged account (thus "as a user" versus "as root").
- Any normal, non-technical human user, likely also to be a user in the above sense.
The name of the top-level /usr directory was also originally short for "user" (since at the time home directories lived there).
The string (corresponding to a numeric uid) that identifies a user to the system. Ambiguous when written as "user name" - root is a username; "Professor Sam Q. McRandom" is a user name.
(Of a process) Running outside the kernel; everything up to and including init(8) is a user process in this sense. Ambiguous when written as "user space" (which may mean storage capacity available to users).
- Virtual package
A binary package that exists in name only, with no associated .deb file; used to organize systems of alternative dependencies (multiple binary packages can claim to "Provide" the same virtual package).
A tool forming part of the autobuild system that maintains a database of the build status of packages; see definitions.
- WaT or WAT
"Where are They?" or "Where Art Thou?" (depending on which era of the acronym we are talking about). The process of trying to get in touch with inactive Debian members and eventually removing their membership or getting them active again.
The codename for Debian 7, release date: 2013.
The lowest bug severity (which can include things that aren't literally bugs at all).
The codename for Debian 3.0, release date: 2002.
- X Strike Force (XSF)
- "Yet Another Debianization Aid", a (former) packaging tool, now deprecated and removed.
A character from the Toy Story series not yet used as a codename for a Debian release.
The file extension used for a Debian changes file, which is a particular format of control file used by the Debian archive maintenance software to process updates to packages.
The file extension used for Ubuntu automatic debug packages, implemented in Debian as dbgsym packages - see AutomaticDebugPackages
The file extension used for the standard installable binary package format used by Debian-based distributions.
- .d.o, .d.n, .dc.o
Short for ".debian.org", ".debian.net" and ".debconf.org". Examples: "wiki.d.o", "lists.d.o".
Sometimes all elements are abbreviated, as in p.d.o, which may mean either packages.debian.org or planet.debian.org. Sometimes even the dots are left out as in debian-www@ldo for email@example.com.
libolla offers some support for such abbreviated domain names
The file extension used for (proposed) separate translation packages - see Dep-4.