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Five things to like About Debian 7.0 'Wheezy'

Speech-based installation and UEFI support are among many improvements in this updated Linux distribution.

After more than two years of development, the Debian project on Saturday released the long-awaited version 7.0 of its venerable Linux distribution.

Code-named "Wheezy," the new release brings several compelling new features, including an improved installer, multiarch support, tools for deploying private clouds, and a complete set of multimedia codecs and front ends that remove the need for third-party repositories.

Now occupying the No. 5 spot on DistroWatch, Debian consistently resides within the site's top-10 list of page-hit rankings. The software is available as a free download to install or take for a test drive. Here's a small sampling of some of the key new improvements.

1. Wider accessibility

Installing Debian is now easier than ever, thanks to a new installer that offers better accessibility as well as other benefits. The installation system is available in 73 languages, and more than a dozen of them are available for speech synthesis as well.

"Debian can now be installed using software speech, above all by visually impaired people who do not use a Braille device," the project team explained in the official release announcement.

2. UEFI support

In addition, with version 7.0, Debian supports for the first time installation and booting using the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) for new 64-bit PCs (amd64). "Secure Boot" isn't yet supported, however.

3. Multiarch capability

One of the main release goals for Wheezy was that it allow Debian users to install packages from multiple architectures on the same machine, also known as "multiarch" support. "This means that you can now, for the first time, install both 32- and 64-bit software on the same machine and have all the relevant dependencies correctly resolved, automatically," the project team explained.

4. A raft of updated packages

Among numerous newly updated packages in Debian 7.0 are Linux 3.2, GNOME 3.4, KDE 4.8.4, GIMP 2.8.2, LibreOffice 3.5.4, Apache 2.2.22, MySQL 5.5.30, and Samba 3.6.6. Also available are more than 36,000 other ready-to-use software packages, the project notes.

5. Broad hardware support

Last but not least, it's worth noting that "you can install Debian on computers ranging from handheld systems to supercomputers, and on nearly everything in between," as the project team puts it. Specifically, a total of nine hardware architectures are supported in this Debian release, including 32-bit PC/Intel IA-32 (i386), 64-bit PC/Intel EM64T/x86-64 (amd64), Motorola/IBM PowerPC (powerpc), Sun/Oracle SPARC (sparc), and Intel Itanium (ia64).

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