Debian Weekly News - January 28th, 2003

Welcome to this year's fourth issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Netcraft recently added Debian to the list of operating system vendors. The security team finally got everything together and was able to release a whole bunch of advisories for the version of KDE in woody. Only one package could not be compiled on two architectures.

Working New Network Installation Floppy. Matt Kraai announced that he successfully used a custom-built debian-installer net installation floppy to install sarge (testing). Matt found that he had to use custom ethdetect, netcfg-dhcp and netcfg-static packages, and the "edit sources list by hand" option to work around a base-config bug. He would appreciate it if people could test the image and report bugs.

Bug Page for the Debian-Installer. Matt Kraai wondered if there was a nice page listing bugs in the debian installer, similar to the base system bugs page. Colin Watson promptly prepared one. The page lists bugs in packages the debian-installer depends on. Petter Reinholdtsen was more interested in the packages which are maintained by the installer people and is already using this overview.

Cross Compiler for x86-64 Hardware. Arnd Bergmann has packaged a cross compiler for building binaries for AMD's x86-64 architecture. He and several others are starting preliminary work on an x86-64 port of Debian using the Bochs hardware emulator.

Debian Project Leader Elections. Manoj Srivastava informed us about the upcoming election for the next Debian Project Leader. The Nomination period for this year starts today, 2003/01/24, and shall end on 2003/02/14 0:0:0 UTC. Voting shall start on March 7th (2003/03/07 0:0:0 UTC), and shall end on 2003/03/28 0:0:0 UTC. Prospective leaders should be familiar with the constitution and Manoj intends to collect platform statements from the candidates and publish them at a known location at the end of the nomination period and the beginning of the campaign.

News from the PTS. Raphaël Hertzog sent in a report about the Package Tracking System (PTS). Together with Michael Bramer, who maintains the Debian Description Translation Project (DDTP) he combined the two systems. New links point to pages where you can see all available translations for the package. From there you can easily request a translation that you want to contribute.

Debian-Edu Subproject needs new Leader. Raphaël Hertzog reported that the Debian-Edu subproject is essentially stalled. He admits that this is his fault because he wasn't able to invest enough time into it. That's why he is now looking for a volunteer who would like to take over and lead this subproject. Additionally, the current edition of the monthly TUX&GNU@school column, concerning free educational software, has a section about Debian and schools.

Surge of Interest in Debian. talked to Bdale Garbee, Project Leader for Debian, who spoke about his impressions during a year in which Debian saw commercial products based on it reach the market. Bdale says that the recent surge of interest in Debian has to do with the completely non-commercial nature of Debian, and the value of community. Among major GNU/Linux distributions, Debian is the closest to a pure expression of the ideals and processes that make GNU/Linux special.

Debian losing Quality? Erik Steffl noticed that Debian unstable contains many broken packages at the moment. He's been using unstable for few years and didn't encounter problems generally. However, currently we face a Perl and Python transition which were fine, and an ongoing Glibc, GCC, Gnome and libpng transition while the KDE transition is still outstanding.

Official Sarge Net-Installation CD Images. Santiago García Mantinan announced that network-installation CD images for testing (sarge) will be created weekly for i386 hardware. There are two images: a smaller image (41MB) that requires network access and a larger image (83MB) that contains a complete basic installation. These images should be used to test the new installation process and generate feedback reports.

Scope Creep in DDP Policy. Adam Di Carlo suggested that the Debian Documentation Project (DDP) Policy which is currently under discussion is too broad in scope and will never be implemented. For example, the policy considers a Debian Manual to be any piece of documentation created to address the needs of Debian users. Adam thinks this is too broad and may be a reason for the DDP Policy being stalled. He proposes that the DDP limit itself to Debian documentation managed by the DDP itself.

Debian GNU/Linux is the "Best Budget Choice". The Swedish computer magazine Mikrodatorn has a comparison between different GNU/Linux distributions as server operating systems in their issue 1/2003. Debian was pitted against Mandrake, Red Hat, Slackware and SuSE and received the award "best budget choice" with the motivation "Debian has as good a choice of software as SuSE, but is somewhat more complicated to manage. However, the price is very attractive. The system can be downloaded without charge and otherwise cost 279 Swedish kronor (30 euro)."

Report from the LWCE. Last week the Debian project attended the Linuxworld Conference & Expo (LWCE) in New York. According to LinuxToday this conference was quite different from earlier Linuxworlds. For example, Microsoft won an Open Source award. Clint Adams from Debian also noted that lots of software vendors were dropping by, saying they want to 'partner' with us. They're asking about Debian's 'business model.' What they don't understand is that Debian doesn't have a business model.

Open Source Games and Cheating. Joachim Breitner noted that games awake computer interest and skills in young kids. Debian needs those kids as volunteers. However, if Debian can't offer popular games (i.e. online multiplayer games) because they are closed source, a lot of teenagers will use commercial Distributions and won't learn about Free Software and Debian. There is evidence on why it doesn't matter whether network games are closed source or not to prevent cheating.

Pentium Pro Optimisation? Adam Majer announced that he has started another pbuilder run for the sid distribution. However, this time packages are compiled with pentium-pro optimizations. The resulting packages can be used for benchmarks to find out how much of a speed improvement the optimizations give. Andrew Suffield pointed out that GCC support for i386 subarchs is generally very poor and has been wrong on numerous occasions.

Myths about APT Pinning. Since some people seem to think APT pinning can solve all problems with outdated packages in stable Adrian Bunk explained why this is wrong. Mixing stable and unstable is a bad idea because nearly every installation of a package from unstable pulls a new libc6 and it's also possible that it pulls a new Perl and Python. These in turn pull in more packages from unstable and one gets a potentially buggy mixture, with broken security support.

Illegal Packages in Debian? After a lengthy discussion an MPlayer core developer posted a list of files that he believes are included illegally in Debian. They are all part of the libxine1 package. The libraries implement certain audio or video decoders whose use may be legally problematic. Similar problems already keep mplayer outside of Debian.

OSD and DFSG Convergence. Russell Nelson contacted Debian to explore convergence between the Open Source Definition (OSD), and the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG). The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is interested in mending differences in the community, so that we can stand together. Even though the OSD was originally the DFSG, it was changed in the meantime and OSI even approved a license that requires click-wrap. However, this places a restriction on modification, failing DFSG paragraph 3.

Sponsored People. Martin Michlmayr announced that there are currently 191 sponsored prospective new maintainers, who already maintain software within Debian. However, he wouldn't be surprised if several of these people were already inactive. Discovering inactive sponsored people is one thing he will investigate next, in order to orphan unmaintained packages.

Debian at FOSDEM and Solutions Linux. The Debian project announced that members of the project will represent Debian at Solutions Linux 2003 / Linux Expo France in Paris, France on February 4th to 6th and at the Free and Open Source Software Developers' Meeting (FOSDEM) in Brussels, Belgium on February 8th to 9th. At FOSDEM Raphaël Hertzog will talk about Debian-Edu and Martin Michlmayr will give a talk about adapting Debian to embedded use.

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 Matt Black, Peter Karlsson and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.