Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Libranet (other than being a user), and I do not speak for them.

Libranet is a commercial distribution of GNU/Linux from Canada. Libre means “free” (as in speech) in French, and the term libre software is sometimes used instead of “free” to describe free software to avoid the confusion of “free as in beer” vs. “free as in speech”. The distribution may draw its name from one of these sources. Libranet is based off of Debian Linux, incorporates apt-get, and is compatible with the official debian repositories. The goal is to give the user what is essentially a Debian system, but to make it easier to install by configuring common trouble spots like fonts and plugins and making administration easier. The distribution seems to be largely targeted at desktop users but is also appropriate for use as a server (it is essentially debian, after all). Each libranet release is based upon a debian release and additionally includes:

  • libranet's own installer
  • system administration software known as adminmenu
  • some more extra packages

The first feature is probably the most important. Debian is notorious for being difficult to install properly. The general feeling is that while powerful, the debian install is quite complex and easy to screw up. Obviously, plenty of people install debian with success, so not everyone feels that way, and the debian organization is working on improving their installer. Until then, however, libranet provides a powerful, user friendly installer that allows people to install a debian based distro with relative ease.

Adminmenu is a proprietary libranet package for system administration. It includes many of the basic tasks, like adding users to the system and configuring a network connection, as well as allowing you to configure IP masquerading, a firewall, and install desktop features like true type fonts and proprietary plugins like Realplayer and the Macromedia Flash plugin. The options in adminmenu are not nearly as comprehensive as in, say, the Mandrake Linux Mandrake Control Center; however, what they have works well. Another really nice thing about adminmenu is that it has both a GUI interface for X and a menu based interface for the terminal, so you can use adminmenu without X if you want to.

The libranet distribution also includes some packages not in the debian release upon which it is based. One I have already mentioned is adminmenu, which seems to be the only Libranet specific software. They may also include some non-free drivers, like those for nvidia graphics cards. Mainly, they include more recent versions of some packages, like X11, KDE, and Gnome, than the ones included in the debian release upon which that version of libranet is based, but unlike packages you might try to install yourself, these have been designed and tested to work with the rest of your libranet distro. These are very likely backports of packages from newer debian releases to the older debian release on which that libranet version is based. Libranet maintains its own apt-get repositories, which provide libranet specific packages. I currently use libranet 2.7, which is based on debian woody, the current debian stable release. The newer libranet releases 2.8 and 2.8.1 are based on debian sarge, the current debian testing release.

Libranet is a commercial distribution and unlike Mandrake Linux or other distros with an optional subscription, the latest Libranet release is strictly payware and may not be redistributed. Clearly, all free software based components of the distribution are freely available from debian repositories or from Libranet's public repositories; it's adminmenu and the installer that are proprietary and the latest versions are not available unless you buy Libranet. As with many other pieces of commercial software, there is different pricing available depending on whether you are a home, business, student, or government user. A discounted price is also available for users of previous releases upgrading to the latest release. Generally older releases are available for download at no cost, as 2.7 is currently. It is also generally said that you can upgrade everything but adminmenu simply by taking your old Libranet distro and using the new release's sources.list file with apt-get, but I haven't tried it myself. Also included in the price of your purchase is their "up and running suppport (to keep you up and running). There is of course libranet documentation, and they also have very active forums on their website where you can get unoffical help. There's also a #libranet channel on Freenode, but last time I went it wasn't too active. An added benefit of libranet is that, since it is debian compatible, most questions are just general debian questions and can be answered in any of the numerous debian help venues.

Of course, more information about all of this can be found at