Debian Weekly News - October 22nd, 2002

Welcome to this year's 41st issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. This week we are pleased to include items by Matt Black, Andre Lehovich and Tollef Fog Heen. We noticed that the NASA finished their FlightLinux project which uses a real-time variation of the Linux Kernel for onboard spacecraft use. If you are pondering what to do in winter or spring, what about skiing with other geeks?

Help with Internationalisation Support. Michael Bramer asked for help with modifying APT for better support of translated packages descriptions. The plan is to let apt-get download one or more files containing the translation and display a translated description instead of the English version if a translated description was found accompanied with a valid MD5 checksum of the English.

How do you want to help Debian today? Josselin Mouette started a public todo list for Debian tasks. This page tries to keep track of which tasks and groups in the project need help. It is already full of good ideas from Martin Schulze and Raphaël Hertzog. Many of the listed tasks require skilled people, but some are accessible to a new developer or even an average user.

Spanish Website Translation reaches 1000 Pages. Rubén Porras informed us about the current status of the Spanish translation for Last week the Spanish translation team has translated the 1000th webpage. The only language which has more translated pages is Swedish, which is maintained by a single person. If you would like to help improve the Debian website, please see the website helping and Debian International pages.

Solving Disputes between Developers. Ian Jackson released draft guidelines for solving disputes between developers. This is a joint recommendation of the technical committee, the project leader and the bug tracking system administrators. Ian addressed the problem, that some disputes (in connection with the technical committee) are getting quite dysfunctional.

First International Free Software Trophies. We were informed about the first Free Software Trophies. If your are a developer, an organization, or a company and have developed a new piece of Free Software you can take part by registering the software in one of 6 categories. Registration is open until February 15th 2003. Two Debian developers already registered the DebianEdu effort and Tuxfamily.

BTS SpamProtected. Adam Heath reported that he enabled SpamAssassin filtering for all mail sent to the bug tracking system (BTS). Procmail and SpamAssassin have recently been installed into owner@bugs mail, were he monitored their progress and hit rate. This should help against unattended bug closing by unsolicited commercial email (UCE).

UW Mail Packages with Encryption Support. Jaldhar Vyas noted that the latest version of the IMAP and POP daemons from the University of Washington IMAP package (upstream version 2002RC7) will have SSL/TLS support, since there is cryptographic software in Debian's main archive. Following the upstream practice which is based on an IESG recommendation, plaintext logins will be disabled on non-SSL/TLS connections.

Statistics about Debian on the Desktop. A survey on is currently asking "Which Linux distribution(s) do you use (or plan to use) on your desktop computer system?" With over 4900 votes cast, Debian is placed fourth (at 8.9%) behind Mandrake (28.2%), Red Hat (12.2%) and SuSE (11.9%). This looks slightly better than in previous surveys.

Status of KDE3. There seems to be a lot of confusion about Debian and KDE3 which may be a result of not having a standard and consistent location to store the packages. Therefore Mark Purcell proposed that the Debian KDE3 maintainers use the experimental distribution for the coordination of Debian packages for KDE3. Ralph Nolden from KDE, however, would rather collect everything about KDE and Debian on a website and host official KDE3 builds on

Update on the Debian Mini-Conf. It was announced this week that Sun Microsystems will sponsor one delegate from each Australian state to attend the Linux Conference in Perth, Australia next year. Users may be aware that a Debian Mini-Conf is being held on two days prior to the main conference. More than 50 participants are registered for the Mini-Conf and Debian Project Leader, Bdale Garbee, will be amongst the speakers.

Avoiding trojaned Debian Packages. Clemens Fruhwirth released an unofficial Debian package that implements a cron-based daily security check by using a modified version of Anthony Towns' apt-check-sigs script to ensure the authenticity of Debian packages. In subsequent discussion Jan Niehusmann noted that the most feasible approach to protect users against trojaned packages would be to integrate these tools into the Debian system and change policy to make package signatures mandatory.

Automatically built Sarge CDs. Santiago Garcia Mantinan informed us that sarge CDs will be built automatically every Friday night (GMT). He warns that these images are only for testing purposes and whilst they will serve to upgrade a woody system to sarge, they may not do much else. Images for the i386 architecture are bootable with debian-installer for users to test. All other architectures require help from porters. The images can be downloaded from here using jigdo version 0.6.8 or later.

Two Reviews of Debian 3.0. Recently, two reviews of Debian 3.0 were released. Debian Planet published a critical user review that identified many shortcomings of the installation process, along with specific suggestions of how to improve things in future versions. The second review from Linuxwatch also complained about the installer. It seems that reviewers only install a distribution, they don't seem to use or upgrade it.

Award to Debian-based Distribution for Norwegian Schools. Skolelinux is a Norwegian distribution targetting schools in Norway that recently got a prize from the Norwegian Unix User Group and the College of Oslo. They awarded the work on the user-friendly and well-translated distribution. Skolelinux is based upon Debian 3.0 with several updated and packages and uses an installer based on the new debian-installer framework.

Using the GRUB Bootloader with Debian. Linux Orbit recently published the GRUB in Debian HOWTO explaining how GNU/Linux users on i386 machines can switch their bootloader from LILO to GRUB. If you plan to run GNU/Hurd, you'll need the GRUB bootloader. Another benefit of using GRUB is that it doesn't have to be reinstalled into the master boot record (MBR) every time the kernel changes.

Cyrus IMAPd 2.1.9 for Debian stable. Henrique de Moraes Holschuh reported that he has backported packages for Cyrus IMAPd 2.1.9 from Debian unstable (sid) to Debian stable (woody). These are production-quality packages and Henrique also backported packages Cyrus IMAPd depends on.

Debian at Practical Linux in Gießen/Germany. Alexander Schmehl sent a report about Practical Linux that took place last week in Gießen, Germany. He staffed a Debian booth alone and held a talk about Debian, introducing the Debian project and the advantages of the Debian distribution.

Virtual Package Dependencies. Branden Robinson pointed out that a dependency to a pure virtual package (i.e. a package name that doesn't refer to a binary package with the same name) should always be done with an OR-relation that lists the real package first and uses the virtual package as an alternative. Accordingly, the policy states that you should list the real package as an alternative before the virtual one.

Debian Installer Status. Tollef Fog Heen sent in another status report about the debian-installer. Most importantly, Bastian Blank has booted the installer on S/390 and begun fixing problems related to that port. The debian-cd team has been busy with integrating debian-installer into their build scripts, and work is progressing well.

Building Packages with Emacs. Junichi Uekawa (上川純一) hacked together an Emacs mode for running debuild, debc, and debi etc. The mode may be added to the dpkg-dev-el or emacs-goodies-el (or even devscripts-el) packages. Roland Mas, confused by these many possibilities, however, will toss a coin and see which package name comes out.

TrueType Font Quality degraded. Tom Badran mentioned that the latest freetype library in unstable seems to be compiled differently since TrueType font quality has degraded quite dramatically. Krzysztof Krzyzaniak discovered that this is a feature and not a bug. Roger So finally explained that Apple holds several patents on the hinting instructions used in TrueType (interpreted by the bytecode interpreter), and enabling it may require a license from Apple.

New Bison more picky about Input. Fumitoshi Ukai (鵜飼文敏) warned about the new bison package (version >= 1.50). The new version seems to be much pickier about its input files than former versions. Fumitoshi listed the most common problems and if this is an input problem, the input files should be corrected.

Automake 1.4 to be renamed to Automake1.4. In order to provide a consistent naming scheme, Eric Dorland intends to rename the automake package to automake1.4. Branden Robinson suggested that autoconf should become a virtual package, provided by the various autoconf packages, even though any package that build-depends on it needs to build-depend on a proper real package as well.

GNU LibC 2.3 uncovered. Jeff Bailey recently uploaded a new upstream version of glibc. The changelog lists many improvements in the Debian package and upstream has changed a lot as well. Most prominently a new threads package is included. Several sudden problems (like dpkg not running or Apache not starting anymore) were assumed to be a glibc problem instead, so take care.

New PHPGroupware for Woody. Luca De Vitis asked for assistance with new versions of the phpgroupware package which he has packaged for woody. Please test these packages and report any problems to Luca De Vitis.

Security Updates. You know the drill. Please make sure that you update your systems if you have any of these packages installed.

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 136 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.

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