Debian Weekly News - December 12th, 2000

Welcome to Debian Weekly News, a newsletter for the Debian community.

Debian 2.2r2 was released last week. Of course it consists mostly of security fixes and important bug fixes. The problems with r1 should all be fixed in this release. CD images are still propagating to the mirrors.

The main Debian archive was just moved into a package pool. There's little to see yet, but packages will move into a "pool" directory when new versions are uploaded. There has been some confusion about package pools, and so here is a short FAQ on the subject. In the announcement, James Troup cautions: "Despite the relative catastrophe-free implementation on non-US, I suspect many more problems will crop up in the main archive.".

Apt has been ported to rpm by Conectiva, who modified it so it can handle rpm packages. A freshmeat article goes into some depth about the problems they faced and how they were handled. It's hard to tell if an rpm-based system, even using apt, can be as cleanly upgradable as a Debian system, but we'll probably find out soon. Debian is losing the edge of being the only distribution with an Advanced Package Tool, on the other hand, we are set to gain some new security features, including mirror authentication, and package authentication, which Conectiva has added to apt, and another apt frontend which they are writing. One very interesting quote from the article: "After full integration of the RPM patches into APT, it will have the potential to become the standard package management frontend for Linux"

Without much fanfare, Debian has grown from about 400 to 644 developers in the past year. Many of these developers, of course, are inactive, and many others have just come through the new maintainer process and are still learning. So it's not surprising that along with the regular grumbling about the complexity of the new maintainer process, there is plenty of sentiment among long-term developers that the title "Debian Developer" should be reserved for members of an elite group who are "committed, reliable, in agreement with Debian's philosophy, and in it for the long haul". That last quote is from last week's Linux Weekly News, which included an excellent summary of recent discussions concerning this topic.

A word of warning: If you're tracking unstable, beware the upgrade to perl 5.6. Some large changes to the perl package (including no longer managing update-alternatives via /usr/bin/perl, which may make it more stable in the long run) have broken many upgrades. Be prepared for problems like /usr/bin/perl not existing at all, or debconf breaking in mysterious ways if you upgrade this week.

Cleaning up woody's task packages was the subject of a long discussion. While potato only shipped with a few screenfuls of task packages, the number of task packages in woody has exploded, and many of them are of doubtful utility to a new user who is installing Debian and wants to use it for a specific task. Task packages aren't scaling as well as we had hoped, and there is a fair bit of confusion among the developers about what exactly task packages should be used for. One solution involves putting a definition of what constitutes a valid task package into policy. Or we might have to do away with the task system altogether and come up with some alternate method that is more flexible and less prone to abuse.

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This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Joey Hess.