Debian Weekly News - January 1st, 2002

Happy New Year! Welcome to the new year 2002 and the first issue of Debian Weekly News for this term. We hope that you have survived all New Years parties and are feeling well again. Let's start the new year with responsible development and improvements of Free Software and Free Documentation. As a sidenote: the DWN team could also use one or two more people who submit entire items, so volunteers are welcome.

Net Installation for Woody. Ian Eure developed some special CD images for a woody network installation for i386 and powerpc. The images don't contain full 650MB of packages (which you don't even use entirely), but contain a basic Debian system, which is bootable. Once the image is booted it will guide the user through the Debian installation procedure until he has reached the step where he has to set up APT. From that step the installation will continue using the network as expected. Use these images at your own risk. If you send Ian a polite mail at, he will try to help with any problems you might have.

GRSecurity and Debian. Jonathan McDowell took over the GRSecurity kernel patch from Russell Coker. GRSecurity is a patch to 2.4.x kernels for extra security. It adds the ability to hide from many types of port scans and filtering out certain information from network transfers. It limits access to data in /proc such that a regular user can only see their own processes and can't see important network data (ifconfig output is truncated) or dmesg output. Also it severely limits operations in chroot jails to prevent programs from escaping and includes a port of all the OpenWall code. Preliminary packages are here.

Pinning Unstable. Have you ever heard of the pinning feature of recent versions of apt-get? For all those who are using woody (aka testing) but would like to use some packages from unstable, this feature will help. Take evolution as an example, since it is currently only available in unstable. Grant Bowman sent us a description for this feature.

Counting Potatos. Jesus Gonzalez-Barahona is part of a group interested in measuring some aspects of software maintained by the Debian project. They have been counting the number of physical source lines of code (SLOC) in several Debian distributions. A paper covering this has been published in the Upgrade Magazine. Here's an interesting quote from the abstract: "It is also shown that if Debian had been developed using traditional proprietary methods, the COCOMO model estimates that its cost would be close to $1.9 billion USD to develop Debian 2.2."

Adding Three More SuperH Architectures? Takeshi Yaegashi (八重樫剛史) discussed additional architectures based on variants of the SuperH processor. To support all of them, it may be required to provide binaries for four SuperH architectures in unstable: sh3, sh4 and their big endian versions. It is questionable if the user base will be large enough to justify three more architectures, though. Yutaka Niibe explained in detail which differences and history these processors come with.

Retrospect of DDTP. At the end of the last year Michael Bramer posted a review of the Debian Description Translation Project (DDTP) which he founded. His report does not only contain a current status report but also talks about his plans for the future. Two Debian mirror servers already support translated packages descriptions so the translation effort is already in use by some users.

Porting Volunteers Needed. Phil Blundell recently asked for more volunteers helping with the ARM port of Debian. This port needs more volunteers to examine build failures, fix and file bugs as appropriate. Since the release of Woody comes nearer and there are quite a few packages that don't build properly on all architectures, help is really needed. This is also the main problem the M68k port suffers from. We may lose that port one day, not because of too few machines that don't keep up with the number of packages, but because there are not enough people actually porting and fixing things.

Multiple Boot Images on Woody CD. Jim Westveer announced the ability to put 5 boot images on the first woody-i386 CD/ROM. With a i386-woody CD#1, and a newer BIOS in your computer, the CD will boot, and present you with a menu of what 'flavor' of kernel image you wish to boot with. On an older BIOS, CD#1 will simply boot the 'default' kernel.

Bug Reporting in Non-Commercial Software. Seth LaForge wrote an article for Linux Weekly News (LWN) about using the Debian Bug Tracking System (BTS) emphasizing how easy it can be used. Looking at the current number of reported bugs in the BTS our users and developers are using the BTS to its full extent in order to report bugs in the software and thus helping improving the software, both in Debian and upstream.

Three Developers Required for a Package? Janos Lenart prepared a proposal modifying the upload policy for new packages. His concerns refer to the bloat in Debian, since he believes that there are so many unneeded, unused and unmaintained packages. He would like to make it more complicated for developers to upload new packages. While he didn't make many people happy, Raphaƫl Hertzog finetuned the proposal.

Debian GNU/Linux or Debian GNU or Debian? Jeroen Dekkers complained about developers who write Debian GNU/Linux when they mean a Debian system instead. That's a common mistake that hurts the fledgling Hurd port. Hurd people are probably going to file quite a few bug reports about this.

New or Noteworthy Packages. The following new or updated packages were updated or added to the Debian archive recently.

Security Updates. You know the drill, make sure you update your systems if you have one of these packages installed.

Got news? Please tell us. We are looking forward to adding more interesting items by voluntary writers.

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This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.