Tuesday, 07 May 2013 12:25

Debian Wheezy released, no support for secure boot

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The Debian GNU/Linux project released version 7.0 of its well-known Linux distribution on May 4, two years and three months after the last version came out.

The new version is known as Wheezy; the last release, Squeeze, came out on February 6, 2011. Debian releases are named after characters from the movie Toy Story.

While there are several new features in Wheezy, it has no support for secure boot, a means of restricting operating systems from booting introduced by Microsoft in October last year with the release of Windows 8.

Secure boot is a feature of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), the replacement for the old BIOS. Microsoft implemented it using key exchanges to verify whether the operating system which was booting on given hardware was what it claimed to be.

Since then, three well-known Linux distributions - Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE - have devised means of supporting secure boot.

Debian had a long discussion about secure boot at its last annual conference. Developers generally tend to discuss an issue for a while so that there is input from all who care to make their opinions known; then the person who is in charge of implementing a feature goes ahead and does so. In this case, while Wheezy supports the UEFI fully, it cannot boot on machines where secure boot is enabled.

This apart, there are several noteworthy features. For one, there is multiarch support, meaning that one can install 32-bit and 64-bit software on the same machine and have all the dependencies automatically resolved.

Installation can now be done using speech, making it easier for those who have visually impaired and do not have a Braille device. The installation system is available in 73 languages and around a dozen support speech synthesis.

There are more than 36,000 packages in the Debian archives now, built from 17,500 source packages. It can be installed on nine architectures - 32-bit PC / Intel IA-32 (i386), 64-bit PC / Intel EM64T / x86-64 (amd64), Motorola/IBM PowerPC (powerpc), Sun/Oracle SPARC (sparc), MIPS (mips (big-endian) and mipsel (little-endian)),  Intel Itanium (ia64), IBM S/390 (31-bit s390 and 64-bit s390x), and ARM EABI (armel for older hardware and armhf for newer hardware using hardware floating-point).

Hence its claims to be the universal operating system are justified.

There are live images for testing the distribution and also bigger images for installation. Wheezy will soon be available from vendors on CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Comprehensive release notes and installation guides are available on the web.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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