Updating the Debian Administrator’s Handbook for Debian 7.0 Wheezy

As you probably know, Debian is in freeze since July. Thus we’re hopefully only a few months away from the release of Debian 7.0 (also known as Wheezy). This means that it’s time to update the Debian Administrator’s Handbook to take into account all the changes and improvements that Wheezy will bring.

The process we’ll use

I have setup a TODO list for Roland and I. Each of us is going to update half of the book. As the work progresses, we will regularly push updated versions of the book here: https://debian-handbook.info/browse/wheezy/

That way you can review the content as it evolves and submit bug reports to further improve the book! Bug reports must be submitted via reportbug debian-handbook just like any other Debian bug report.

I will keep you informed (on this blog) after each significant update (i.e. when a chapter has been fully updated).

Funding the work to update the book

This is also an important milestone for the project. We managed to fund the translation and the liberation of the book with the initial campaign but now we must ensure that sales of printed copies and donations cover for the time we’re going to spend in the next few months to update the book.

And this is indeed a concern because while the volume of sales and donations has been significant during the first 2-3 months after the liberation, it quickly dried up and we’re now down to about 100 EUR of revenues per month for each of Roland and I. This is much less than what we hoped for given the (potential) audience of the book. It’s already not enough to compensate for the time we spend on the book and it’s far from being enough to be able to fund our other free software activities.

This means multiple things:

  1. We must promote the book a bit more, and we need your help. Please share the word about the book, write some reviews on your blog and keep us informed!
  2. Please consider donating a few euros to prove that a free book can be financially viable in the long run.
  3. Alternatively, you can help one of the translation teams so that the book reaches an even wider audience than today.

Thank you very much for your continued support!

PS: In case you wonder, even though the book is now under a free license, we only got two small contributions besides typo fixes and translations. So it looks like that this book update will only happen if we take care of it ourselves.


  1. al says

    The book is great, and I contributed with donations. You are doing great work. Since collaborations does not seem to escalate for the amount of work that has to be done… Have you thought all that energy into improving our wiki… No offense, but it sucks. Its outdated and incomplete. Opening bugs and patches are not very friendly. I loved the book and was very much needed tho 🙂

    I was thinking about putting your book in wiki format and freeze it for each release, kinda what apache does. I wouldn’t know how to start, but I would collaborate with the wiki…

    Just some random thoughts. Maybe interesting, maybe too much work…

  2. says

    Hi al, wiki or not wiki is not the problem. Honestly reporting a bug is as easy as sending a mail and it’s not a very high entry bar. And it’s ridiculously low compared to the time that you need to put to update content. Maybe docbook and git are making it more difficult but I’m not even sure.

    In any case, we’re not interested to switch because we want the book to keep its high quality and for this we need to retain control over the changes that get applied. We want to be able to review and improve all changes.

    • al says

      I hope you are not implying wikipedia does not keep up its high quality? 😉

      I just thought we deserve a good wiki… and you might like to get involved in something like that. Your PS pushed me to comment.

      But of course I understand is your project and you want to keep control over it… Thank you for a good book you are about to bring 🙂

      PS: adding something about dovecot to the mail section and key signing (from generating key to send mail backs after a key signing party, passing through explaining output of gpg) to the book would be great. Its lacking somehow.. 🙂

  3. Yuriy Vidineev says

    Thank you for great gob! Maybe a company on kickstarter (or similar project) to update book to debian 7?

  4. says

    Yeah! Debian 7 rocks! On my workstation I use XFCE as Desktop on Debian wheezy.

    Has anyone experience with the upgrade from squeeze to 7 ?

    • says

      It will be available when it’s ready. Which is not at all the case right now… I have been way too busy with other work duties to be able to devote the time required to update the book.

      It will likely still be printed with Lulu unless a project with an editor comes to fruition in time for the release…

  5. says

    I’ve been far too busy to keep an eye on this blog too, but will be sure to start spreading the word as well over the next few weeks. This is an excellent book and hopefully at some point we can crowdfund again for a somewhat lower goal just for updates?

    I’d say the section on packaging debs is one of the most important and poorly understood/least documented. A bit more on that at some point would be nice and I’ll try to contribute to that in the future. I think that once even a lot of web developers etc. understand how incredibly useful packaging is, it will take off like wildfire and hopefully get some more developers to the debian project as a whole.

    Thanks again for all you are doing.

    • says

      Hi Mark, we have no plans to setup a specific crowdfunding campaign to update the book. If you want to support us in that task, just use the regular donation widget on the download page.

      But rest assured that we *will* update the book, That said there are no plans to expand the section about packaging. If anything, I think the topic deserves a separate book/document. I might work on this at some point…

      BTW, I’m not so convinced that web developers will find packaging very appealing… they are so used to embed and duplicated libraries in every project, I doubt they’d be thrilled to have to manage proper dependencies instead (with the implication on the testing that it requires).

      • says

        Sounds good – I’ll be sure to donate and glad to hear the book will be getting an update.

        You’re right about web devs – the once I’ve had to work with lately are pushing everything with git, which is sub-optimal but they have no idea what packaging really is. The section in the book is already excellent but a quick and dirty howto would indeed go a long way. Shouldn’t be a problem to put one together in your copious free time (haha). 😀


  6. says

    Greetings, Raphaël — and Roland!

    At the outset, please accept my deepest thanks for making ‘The Debian Administrator’s Handbook’ available as a free download under the terms of the Freexian SARL license.

    In addition, I apologize for being unable to donate to the book campaign, but my financial straits are literally dire, because of chronically declining health accompanied by constantly increasing back and neck pain (plus migraine headaches).

    I have been designing, developing, and publishing Web sites — focusing on nonprofit and educational organizations as my main client base — since 1993 (the transitional period during which I was also setting up Gopher servers and content, as well as Web sites) and Debian GNU/Linux has been, and remains, my platform of choice for desktops, laptops, embedded devices, and servers for over thirteen years.

    I am very interested, Raphaël — and Roland, in volunteering for the Debian Handbook campaign beyond writing deservedly-positive review and translating (although I pray and hope that the status of my health and finances will enable me to donate financially to the book campaign…and soon rather than later).

    On 14 March 2013, Raphaël, you stated (justifiably) that “I’m not so convinced that web developers will find packaging very appealing… they are so used to embed and duplicated libraries in every project, I doubt they’d be thrilled to have to manage proper dependencies instead (with the implication on the testing that it requires).”

    As a Web developer and designer (and Debian hacker who has created Debian packages for personal use and self-education) — and because the Debian Project provides excellent tools such as Lintian — I, personally, find packaging VERY appealing.

    (As an aside, because of the unique needs and limited funds of each of my nonprofit clients, I do not use “embed[ed] and duplicated libraries in every [or any] project”; in other words, I see packaging as extremely appropriate and have absolutely no aversion to creating and/or working with Debian’s excellent packaging system and building packages that, ideally, Linitian finds do not have bugs or violate policy.