Debian is the most influential Linux distribution ever. Of the 305 active distributions listed on Distrowatch, 147 are derived from Debian, and 87 from Ubuntu, Debian’s most famous off-shoot. In other words, 77% of the distributions being used today wouldn’t exist without Debian. That makes Debian’s nineteenth anniversary on August 16 worth a moment’s reflection, not just technologically, but socially as well.

For me, Debian and free software are hopelessly intertwined. While I had played about with Linux before, I only went hardcore when I started work on 5 July, 1999 at Stormix Technologies, an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to commercialize Debian. From there, I jumped ship to work at Progeny Linux System, which was founded by Ian Murdock and funded by Bruce Perens’ short-lived Linux Capital Group, and very much traded on the reputation of the two Debian leaders behind it.

In those few years, I worked with some of Debian’s leading developers, including Branden Robinson, John Goerzen, and Jeff Licquia, and at conferences stumbled across most of the mover and shakers in free and open source software as well. In short, my introduction to free software was also my introduction to Debian.

» Bruce Byfield |