Debian Weekly News - July 23rd, 2002

Welcome to this year's 28th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. It looks like Free Software got recognized by the European Commission (EC), since a study of the EC suggests that software developed for and owned by public administrations should be issued under a free license. In response to an item from last week's issue Henrik Härkönen told us that he prepared Debian swirl images for the Ericsson T65 cellular phone. Debian fans in Berlin are going to throw a Debian release party next weekend.

Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 released. The unbelievable happened, on July 19th Woody was released. Woody supports a total of eleven processor architectures, includes KDE and GNOME desktop environments, features cryptographic software, is compatible with the FHS v2.2 and supports software developed for the LSB. Anthony Towns revealed that the new testing distribution will be called sarge, which is named after the squad leader of the plastic soldier, continuing the tradition of using codenames based on characters in the animated movie Toy Story.

Status of Debian Jr. Ben Armstrong sent in a report about the Debian Junior effort. He also started a collaborate effort on documentation where users and developers can help. Ben recently became liaison between Tux4Kids and Debian Jr. The TuxPaint package is the first new Tux4Kids sponsored package that was added to the project since that relationship was formalized.

DeMuDi revived. The Debian Multimedia Distribution (DeMuDi) seemed rather dormant until recently, but was revived apparently. Marco Trevisani wrote that DeMuDi became part of a project funded by the European Community, called A GNU/Linux Audio distribution (AGNULA). Let's hope the this project doesn't continue it's lonesome path but joins forces with the Debian project so programs doesn't need to be packaged twice.

Writing proper Changelog Entries. Every Debian package contains a changelog file that contains a list of changes for every revision of that package. There is no policy for writing proper changelog entries, but is common practice that each changelog line refers to the nature of the bug report, if it also leads to closing that bug report. There was a small dispute about what changelog lines should look like.

Distributing binary-only CD Images. A request for clarification was sent to the debian-legal list asking for advice for distributors of binary-only CDs or images that contain software licensed under the GNU General Public License. Basically, whenever one distributes a binary, the receiver has to be able to obtain the source code as well, at least through mail order on a physical medium.

Comments and Concerns from the LPPL discussion. Frank Mittelbach of LaTeX project courtesy summarized concerns and comments he gathered from various mails that people put up as a problem with the LaTeX Project Public License (LPPL) or rather as a problem behind the ideas behind LPPL. He's not going to comment on them yet, but instead hopes for further reactions by others as well.

Patent on JPEG enforces non-free? A Texican company recently purchased another company including a patent that is used in generation of compressed JPEG files. License fees are currently extracted from various hardware and software companies. The JPEG group believes that they have prior art, and they're asking for more examples of prior art. It is not yet clear whether the library libjpeg62 and all software which depends on it has to be moved into non-free. There's a heated discussion on this topic in Germany as well.

Future of the Debian Installer. Now that Woody is finally released, development on the debian-installer has to be improved. The goal is to stop the current installation system (boot-floppies) and finish development of the new debian installer, which has a cleaner and more flexible design. Work and design needs to be done for a partitioning widget. Here is the current todo list for the new installer suite.

The Meaning of force-reload. Tobias Burnus wondered what actions the force-reload argument of an init.d script is supposed to imply. The Debian policy does not explicitly state what actions should happen if the daemon is not yet running and the replies also showed different expectations. In the end an addition to the policy has been proposed.

Changing the default PATH. Santiago Vila reports that he was asked to define the PATH variable in /etc/profile only if it is not already defined. However, since /bin/login already sets a default PATH, this change was rejected. Santiago was also asked not to export the PS1 variable at all so that non-bash shells won't get confused anymore.

Mounting devices several times. Michael Meskes experienced a problem with double-mounting devices, which does work for NFS mounts. Miquel van Smoorenburg explained that with earlier 2.4 kernels you could also mount the same device on the same mountpoint multiple times, but it confused the users and was changed in a later version to specifically prevent this case.

Rewriting the Menu System. Chris Lawrence proposed a rewrite of the menu system after he experienced serious problems with the current implementation. Several people improved the list of goals. Sebastian Rittau pointed out, that GNOME and KDE use the same desktop file format, which seems to fit our goals as well. It was also mentioned with an example that implementing an entirely new programming language instead of using an existing one embedded may not be the best solution.

Mass filing of Bug Reports. Gergely Nagy warned about a possible mass filing of bug reports due to policy violations he stumbled upon. This includes packages that do not include a verbatim copy of their copyright and distribution license, packages that build their architecture independent binary packages in the wrong target, packages that contain copyright information in the wrong file as well as packages that contain spurious files. Here's an updated list.

Internationalising Debconf. Tomohiro Kubota (久保田智広) announced his plan to work on internationalisation of debconf. This includes a technique to find out the encoding type of messages and templates, proper conversion, a new line-wrapping mechanism and output routines for all supported user interfaces.

New BTS Tags. Adam Heath, who maintains the Debian's Bug Tracking System (BTS) announced two new tags. The first new tag sarge denotes that the bug particularly applies to the new testing distribution, which is called sarge. The second new tag experimental applies to bugs which are present particularly in the experimental distribution and hence should not be counted as release critical at all.

New Source Packages. Colin Walters started a discussion to change in the way Debian currently handles source packages. The current system has some flaws, one cannot simply add binary files for example, and some packages implement a more sophisticated but badly documented system to cope with some of them. Colin has set up source code and examples so interested parties can already play with it.

New or Noteworthy Packages. The following packages were added to the Debian archive recently or contain important updates.

Orphaned Packages. 4 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 83 orphaned packages. Many thanks to the previous maintainers who contributed to the Free Software community. Please see the WNPP pages for the full list, and please add a note to the bug report and retitle it to ITA: if you plan to take over a package.

Seen something interesting? Please drop us a note whenever you see something noteworthy that you think is appropriate for inclusion in DWN. We don't notice everything, unfortunately. Of course, we are also thankful for completely written items from volunteer writers. Please see the contributing page. We're looking forward to receiving your mail at

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This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Yooseong Yang and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.