Debian Weekly News - April 15th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 15th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Watch your machines people, because if you don't, bad things can happen. If you notice a burning smell, check your power supply for loitering dragonfly brooches as Hugh Saunders experienced.

Libcupsys2 Splitting. Jeff Licquia announced that following a grave bug filed against libcupsys2, he has built the libcupsimage libraries and header files as separate "libcupsimage2{-dev}" packages (as of version 1.1.18-3). Although it was technically possible to address the bug by splitting only the -dev packages, Jeff had other good reasons and also generally prefers not to have foo-dev packages without corresponding foo packages.

Debian Popularity Contest Web Pages. Bill Allombert thought the Debian Popularity Contest was a good idea, but wondered if it could be improved. The Popularity Contest uses anonymised data gathered from users who install the popularity-contest package to find out which packages are most popular. Igor Genibel advised that he is integrating the Popularity Contest information into the Debian Developer's Packages Overview. The Popularity Contest maintainer, Avery Pennarun, said that each week the number of user submissions increases, but he does not have time to improve the system.

New Debian Menu System proposed. Enrico Zini thought that Debian's current desktop menu system needs some redesign to keep up and integrate with the other existing systems. He proposes that Debian switches to the format of the Desktop Menu Specification for desktop entries, and that Debian continues to provide menu information for applications that do not have their own. Colin Walters, who maintains the Debian Desktop subproject, gave his backing to the proposal.

Information Law Training for Debian Developers. James Miller has been teaching an online course in information law at Southeastern University. He is considering offering the course to interested Debian Developers. The course is demanding but gives those in computer science and information technology fields an understanding of the sources of law in the U.S., the major substantive areas of law, and issues of intellectual property. Students could apply that knowledge to regulatory infrastructures and the internet, privacy, and security. James envisages having 10-15 students in the course, however there is currently a need to buy an expensive textbook.

Removal of orphaned Packages. Martin Michlmayr announced that he intends to request the removal of several packages in two weeks time, since they have been on the Work Needed and Prospective Packages list for a long time. These packages are not maintained in Debian anymore and contain release-critical bugs. If anyone wants to keep one these packages they should ensure they follow the steps Martin has outlined. This issue is being discussed on debian-devel.

Status of the m68k Port. Marco d'Itri asked whether the m68k architecture is currently in a state ready for release, after he spent quite a while figuring out why Mutt doesn't build on this architecture anymore. Wouter Verhelst explained that some of the buildds failed recently and that there were severe problems with the toolchain, which were fixed recently, with kudos to Matthias Klose.

Categories or Sections? Erich Schubert announced a new version of his Package Browser that intends to help categorise Debian packages. This should improve browsing packages through hierarchical categories instead of sections as he earlier proposed. Mark Howard considered freshmeat style trove categorisation is a quite interesting idea. However this would be problematic for the existing tools.

Debian User Analysis. Enrico Zini posted a document about user analysis as part of usability improvements. He saw many practical proposals about Debian improvements, but rarely saw them backed with an analysis identifying the needs and the goals that they are supposed to address. He identified four types of interesting information to gather. Understanding users expectations should help us understand the usability problems.

Debian for x86-64? Daniel Whelan is interested in a port to the Opteron processor (x86-64) from AMD and wondered about the status of this port. Michael Banck said we would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get access to hardware, and Adam Conrad reported that SuSE has already done the groundwork with kernel and glibc. Masanori Goto (後藤 正徳) added that this architecture is capable of running 64- and 32-bit programs, requiring special considerations.

Debian NetBSD for Sparc. Matthew Garrett demonstrated his success in building a Debian system on the Sparc architecture on top of the NetBSD kernel. Additionally Joel Baker reported about significant work for the NetBSD/x86 port, such as dpkg and APT, that will work without additional patches.

Debian-Gentoo Collaboration on Hurd? Robert Millan suggested that Debian and Gentoo porters for the Hurd work together closely. Both share the same goal, to port a lot of Free Software. Many patches for applications were reported through the Debian bugtracking system and applied either in the Debian package or upstream.

Alioth Updated. Wichert Akkerman reported that alioth was changed to GForge, partly due to a request from VA Software not to use their logo and name. This change had already been planned for a later date however the work caused some unforeseen problems that are being resolved. If you discover any other problems, please do not hesitate to file a support request using the support request tracker for the siteadmin project.

New SPI Board Members elected. Branden Robinson announced that Bruce Perens, John Goerzen, and Benjamin "Mako" Hill have been appointed to the Board of Directors of Software in the Public Interest, Inc. (SPI), as of 11 March 2003. This action recognizes and implements the outcome of the recent election. The board now consists of 10 people and should be in a proper state for meetings again.

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. 12 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 200 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.

Want to continue reading DWN? Please help us create this newsletter. Some people are submitting items already, but we are still in need of volunteer writers who prepare items. Please see the contributing page to find out how to help. We're looking forward to receiving your mail at

To receive this newsletter weekly in your mailbox, subscribe to the debian-news mailing list.

Back issues of this newsletter are available.

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