Debian Weekly News - January 14th, 2003

Welcome to this year's second issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. It looks as if the GCC transition reported in last week's issue is working well. A new verb was accidentally created during a discussion about KDE 3 and Debian. It was said that KDE 3 will sid soon. A contribution to an elitist Debian dialect.

SPI Progress. Nils Lohner resigned as president of Software in the Public Interest (SPI) and Ean Schuessler was appointed as new vice president. SPI provides legal and financial support for several Free Software projects, including Debian. On the most recent Board meeting, a charter for a by-laws committee was resolved. John Goerzen will be chairing the committee to revise SPI by-laws. Three volunteers are still needed to fill open seats. Additionally nominations to fill three open seats on the SPI board are also being accepted and members will vote on them. As always, SPI is inviting interested people to become new members.

Interview: Living up to the Linux name. Sam Varghese from The Age featured an interview with a member of the Debian Press Team this week. Sam wanted to know the key differences between Debian and other distributions, what the motivation for Debian developers was since there didn't seem to be any payback, whether the release cycle was a strength or weakness and predictions for the future of the Debian project.

Screen Snapshots of the Installation Process. The Debian Press Team recently received a request from Personal Computer World, a UK-based PC magazine, for snapshots of the woody installation process. Thorsten Sauter was kind enough to produce a set of PNG images, that shows all important steps of installing a woody system.

3.0r1 Update CDs Available. Significant hardware problems over the holiday period caused some delay, but Steve McIntyre finally generated update CD images for Debian 3.0 to 3.0r1. Using jigdo and the template files update CDs are now available.

Potential x86-64 Port of Debian. Bart Trojanowski expressed interest in getting work started on porting Debian to AMD's upcoming x86-64 architecture. The x86-64 architecture will be AMD's new 64 bit processor, which is expected to enable simultaneous 32-bit and 64-bit computing. Michael Banck discussed the possibility of gaining access to x86-64 hardware with AMD's Open Source representative, but that includes an evil NDA and thus is not possible for Debian at the moment.

Itsy Package Management System. Josh Narins was curious about the oldest hardware still running Debian. After some people described old 486 and 386 machines still alive with Debian, discussion turned to the slow performance of dpkg under these resource-limited environments. Josh then found the Itsy Package Management System (iPKG). iPKG was designed to be as much like Debian's package management system as possible and supports the .deb package format. However, iPKG is very lightweight and tailored for GNU/Linux installations with severe storage limitations such as handheld computers.

Free Software Licenses Revocable? Recent postings on Advogato discuss the legality of developers retrospectively revoking licenses such as the GNU General Public License (GPL). Also under debate was the role (if any) of contract law in the enforcement or regulation of copyright licenses and whether or not Free Software licenses are granted in perpetuity. There is currently some ambiguity in this area, although it seems that outcomes will vary depending upon which jurisdiction a developer is located in. A call was made to update the GPL to more clearly address these issues.

Problem with Web Page Encoding. Tomohiro Kubota (久保田智広) discovered a severe problem with non-ASCII characters on automatically generated multilingual web pages when multibyte encoding (such as ISO-2022-JP for Japanese or EUC-KR for Korean) is used. He notes that ISO-8859-1 is a local character encoding like KOI8-R and EUC-JP (they conflict with one another), and hence, should not be used when a different encoding is specified on web pages. Instead, non-ASCII characters should be encoded as HTML entities.

Kernel without Ext2 Support? Marcel Kolaja noticed that the kernel configuration for i386 and i686 optimized kernels differ in regard to the second extended filesystem (Ext2). The latter has it compiled only as a module. Josselin Mouette and Daniel Jacobowitz explained that this is a feature rather then a bug. The kernel loads a ramdisk with the modules in it. In Linux 2.6 initrd will be replaced by initramfs.

Altering Debian Release Numbers. Scott James Remnant proposed to alter the release numbering scheme since he believes that the next Debian release will be a new major version as well, and should therefore be named Debian 4 (sarge) instead of Debian 4.0 (sarge). Martin Michlmayr added that one of the most important things to keep in mind when proposing to change something which is exposed to every user is that one should be conservative.

New Virtual Package Name dns-server? Toni Mueller suggested to create one or two new virtual package names for nameservers. He noticed that Debian ships several and they only partially conflict with each other. Michael Poole wondered why packages need to conflict since they can be installed concurrently and only need to be configured differently.

Installing Woody on a Vaio Laptop. Roger Lipscombe took some notes, documenting how he installed Debian 3.0 (Woody) on his Vaio SRX87 laptop. Because the laptop comes with a firewire based DVD-ROM drive which is currently not supported by the installation process, he had to do a network installation, using PXE to boot from the network.

Creating a .deb of .deb Files. Steve Traugott wanted to know if there is a tool that bundles a Debian package, its prerequisite packages, and its related debconf db deltas, into a single archive. He tries to implement techniques described in this administration paper. The existing tool apt-zip is not sufficient.

The Story of radiusd-freeradius. Chad Miller explained the current status of radiusd-freeradius. A dummy bug was filed against this package to keep it outside of woody, but unfortunately the bug report wasn't removed after the release and when the maintainer didn't pay enough attention the package was removed from testing and unstable during an announced mass removal. The package can't be added back since it indirectly links against libssl but is licensed under the GNU GPL. However, some people maintain private packages for radiusd-freeradius.

CUPS and SSL. Jeff Licquia contacted the developers of GNU TLS to discuss whether the OpenSSL compatibility library could be re-licensed using the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). Nikos Mavroyanopoulos from GNU TLS replied that this is up to its author, of course, and Jeff added that he is probably going to write native GNU TLS support for CUPS on his own.

Random Requests to remove Packages. James Troup contacted the QA team since ftpmasters are receiving an increased amount of bug reports asking for the removal of packages. However, these requests didn't come from their maintainers or the QA team but from random people who often aren't even developers. He doesn't feel comfortable with ftpmaster making the decision of whether or not to remove packages. Future requests for removal will be discussed by the QA team.

Porting OSCAR to Debian? Benoit des Ligneris wondered whether Debian would be interested in porting OSCAR, a collection of userland programs to do clustering, to the Debian system. Current tools are mainly for scientific computation purposes. Benoit added a list of problems that need to be resolved. Interested people could easily join and work on them.

Building GTK Applications for Windows on Debian. James Michael DuPont sent a call for help and requested support from the Debian community. The goal is to build the dia application for the W32 platform using Debian and the MingW32 cross-compiler. He also suggested to use the GTK port for W32 to build a graphical installer based on GTK and the debian-installer.

Debian on the X-box. If you are still looking for a cool digital video recorder and home entertainment platform, the Dreamix project may be interesting for you. Its goal is to bring Open Source personal video recording, video and audio playback, and image viewing capabilities to the X-box. Although Dreamix will be based on Debian X-box-Linux, all necessary libraries will be included in the distribution of the CD image and will auto-execute after the CD is inserted into the X-box DVD drive.

Debian Privacy Notice Updated. We reported about a privacy notice for Debian in our last issue. It has since then been pointed out that a disclaimer page already exists for the Debian mailing lists, and that this could be used as a template for a more general disclaimer or privacy notice for many more things in Debian, such as the PTS (package tracking system), BTS (bug tracking system) and others. Any contributions to this effort would be welcomed, e.g. as a follow-up to the above thread. A proposal was made for reviewing.

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.

Orphaned Packages. 6 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 167 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 Andre Lehovich, Matt Black, Andrew Shugg and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.