Debian Weekly News - November 19th, 2002

Welcome to this year's 45th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. If you don't know yet what to give for Christmas, check out this Debian art collection. There's more good news, since Drew Scott Daniels reported that the LZW patent runs out in the U.S. on December 20th, 2002. LZW is used as compression method in several data formats, such as TIFF.

Draft W3C Patent Policy. Attorney Larry Rosen reports that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) needs feedback on their last-call draft of a new patent policy. The good news is that this latest draft calls for all W3C specifications to be freely implementable. Larry says "The community now needs to be heard supporting this policy so that it is not undone during the public input and W3C Advisory Council phase." Comments are being accepted until December 31st, 2002, at

Packages Removed by Release Manager. In accordance with the announcement last month, Anthony Towns reported, that about thirty packages that were removed from the distribution. However, at least three more packages were removed from the non-US distribution as well. Anthony states that these packages may be reuploaded and will be considered new packages with the usual processing. Please make sure that any known bugs are actually fixed before you do so, though.

Prerelease of available. Chris Halls announced a new set of prerelease packages for the (OOo) application suite. If no problems are found these packages are supposed to be uploaded to unstable soon. Additionally, upstream asked for help with a new initiative to make OOo a well behaved citizen on ones harddisk by using the systems native installer to become the default way to install, modify, or uninstall it. Naturally, Debian packages are already listed as being supported by the next release.

Voting Amendments. The current constitution has some ambiguities and different people have different ideas about what the constitution says should be done if Debian ever has a ballot where some of the choices require amending the constitution and others don't. Also, some of these interpretations could give disappointing results for elections with big ballots with popular choices. Several people are working on a revised voting procedure which doesn't have these ambiguities, and which disregards as few votes as possible even for elections with big ballots and lots of popular choices.

Update on Statistics about Debian on the Desktop. An ongoing survey on asks which GNU/Linux distribution users prefer for desktop computing. Last month, Debian was placed fourth at 8.9 %. This time, with 14.1 % of the vote, Debian has stormed ahead of Red Hat and SuSE to be second only to Mandrake. Around 1300 more votes were registered since October, totally over 6200 responses.

Alignment with the Linux Standard Base. Steve Greenland raised some concerns over how run-parts from the debianutils package should handle file names. Run-parts is used to execute a number of scripts or programs found in one directory (for example, scripts in /etc/cron.daily). The "run-parts" program requires these script filenames to consist entirely of letters, digits, underscores or hyphens. Any filenames containing a period are ignored, so scripts like "script.dpkg-new" are passed over. A bug was filed suggesting that the period be allowed in filenames, for example "" and it was pointed out that the Linux Standard Base requires the period to be allowed. Rather than make sudden changes to run-parts, Steve thought it would be a good idea to find a standard way for all programs of this nature to behave within Debian.

MAME to become licensed under the GPL? It was reported that the developers of the Multi Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) have indicated that they consider releasing future versions under the GNU General Public License (GPL). MAME's current license contains certain restrictions that render it non-free according to the Debian Free Software Guidelines. MAME adopting the GPL would be a positive addition to Free Software, although most of the game ROMs that MAME uses remain very non-free.

Help with Signed Packages. Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña asked for help with integrating signature checks in the Debian user infrastructure. Ian Jackson raised additional concerns about tainted systems and having the need for a Certification Authority. However, Javier still depends on per-package signatures and Anthony Towns explains with details why this is not the way for Debian to go, again.

Getting rid of undocumented Manpages. Manoj Srivastava reports that there is a proposal under consideration for changing the undocumented(7) manpage. The proposal states more explicitly that the lack of a manpage is a bug and should be reported to the Bug Tracking System.

URLs in the Package Description. David Goodenough (as an example for others) asked whether upstream URLs could be added to the package description on our packages pages. Raphaël Hertzog noted that it's already documented in the best packaging practice to add an upstream URL to the description. Joey Hess, however, complained that the Description field is not intended to be a random dumping-ground for any information that cannot fit into some other field. Branden Robinson finally added that the policy already mandates upstream URLs, but in the copyright file.

Phoenix Prerelease Packages. Eric Dorland announced prerelease packages for the Phoenix web-browser, which is a redesign of the Mozilla browser component, similar to Galeon. There are no source packages yet, because Eric hasn't come up with a good way to package the source, and he doesn't want to package unnecessary components, since it's really rather large.

Debian Accessibility Project. Mario Lang summarized the current state of issues regarding accessibility in Debian, and also tried to give a bit of overview of tasks which are necessary to ensure that Debian is accessible to people with disabilities. It includes references to software that is already part of Debian, and tries to summarize the situation as well as provide a list of tasks for people interested in helping.

Knoppix-Med. By virtue of the large success of Knoppix people from the Debian-Med subproject started a Knoppix-Med effort to include several pieces of medical software in it. The document that describes how to remaster Knoppix to include GNUmed and other medical software, is finally online.

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 unstable Debian archive recently or contain important updates.

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This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Andre Lehovich, Raul Miller, Matt Black and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.