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4. Book Structure

This book has its origins in French publisher Eyrolles' “Administrator's Handbook” collection, and keeps the same approach of revolving around a case study providing both support and illustration for all topics being addressed.
Chapter 1 focuses on a non-technical presentation of the Debian project and describes its goals and organization. These aspects are important because they define a general framework that other chapters will complete with more concrete information.
Chapters 2 and 3 provide a broad outline of the case study. At this point, novice readers can take the time to read appendix B, where they will find a short remedial course explaining a number of basic computing notions, as well as concepts inherent to any Unix system.
To get on with our real subject matter, we will quite naturally start with the installation process (chapter 4); chapters 5 and 6 will unveil basic tools that any Debian administrator will use, such as those of the APT family, which is largely responsible for the distribution's excellent reputation. These chapters are in no way restricted to professionals, since everyone is their own administrator at home.
Chapter 7 will be an important parenthesis; it describes workflows to efficiently use documentation and to quickly gain an understanding of problems in order to solve them.
The next chapters will be a more detailed tour of the system, starting with basic infrastructure and services (chapters 8 to 10) and going progressively up the stack to reach the user applications in chapter 13. Chapter 12 deals with more advanced subjects that will most directly concern administrators of large sets of computers (including servers), while chapter 14 is a brief introduction to the wider subject of computer security and gives a few keys to avoid most problems.
Chapter 15 is for administrators who want to go further and create their own Debian packages.
The present version is already the seventh edition of the book (we include the first four that were only available in French). This edition covers version 8 of Debian, code-named Jessie. Among the changes, Debian now sports two new architectures — arm64 for 64-bit ARM processors, and ppc64el for little-endian 64-bit PowerPC processors (designed by IBM and licensed to various manufacturers via the OpenPOWER foundation). On the opposite side, some architectures have been dropped (sparc, ia64) due to lack of volunteers to keep up with development (which itself can be explained by the fact that associated hardware is getting old and less interesting to work on). Some architectures are still available (in the Unstable distribution) but did not get their ready for release stamp: hurd-i386, kfreebsd-i386, kfreebsd-amd64. All included packages have obviously been updated, including the GNOME desktop, which is now in its version 3.14. More interestingly, there are two new alternative desktops that are available: Cinnamon (fork of GNOME's Shell created by and for Linux Mint) and MATE (continuation of the GNOME 2.x desktop).
We have added some notes and remarks in sidebars. They have a variety of roles: they can draw attention to a difficult point, complete a notion of the case study, define some terms, or serve as reminders. Here is a list of the most common of these sidebars: