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Thank you for your interest in Debian. At the time of writing, more than 10% of the web is powered by Debian. Think about it; how many web sites would you have missed today without Debian?
Debian is the operating system of choice on the International Space Station, and countless universities, companies and public administrations rely on Debian to deliver services to millions of users around the world and beyond. Truly, Debian is a highly successful project and is far more pervasive in our lives than people are aware of.
But Debian is much more than “just” an operating system. First, Debian is a concrete vision of the freedoms that people should enjoy in a world increasingly dependent on computers. It is forged from the crucible of Free Software ideals where people should be in control of their devices and not the other way around. With enough knowledge you should be able to dismantle, modify, reassemble and share the software that matters to you. It doesn't matter if the software is used for frivolous or even life-threatening tasks, you should be in control of it.
Secondly, Debian is a very peculiar social experiment. Entirely volunteer-led, individual contributors take on all the responsibilities needed to keep Debian functioning rather than being delegated or assigned tasks by a company or organization. This means that Debian can be trusted to not be driven by the commercial interests or whims of companies that may not be aligned with the goal of promoting people's freedoms.
And the book you have in your hands is vastly different from other books; it is a free as in freedom book, a book that finally lives up to Debian's standards for every aspect of your digital life. You can apt install this book, you can redistribute it, you can “fork” it, and even submit bug reports and patches so that other readers may benefit from your feedback. The maintainers of this book — who are also its authors — are longstanding members of the Debian Project who truly understand the ethos that permeate every aspect of the project.
By writing and releasing this book, they are doing a truly wonderful service to the Debian community.
May 2017
Chris Lamb (Debian Project Leader)