Debian Weekly News - April 29th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 17th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Robin Miller published an article on Newsforge in which he discusses why programmers write Free Software. A similar article on Cybernaut covers the same topic but comes to different conclusions. Slashdot readers also digested and discussed both articles.

Removal of Pike 0.6 and Roxen 1.3. Turbo Fredriksson reported that he has discussed removing Pike version 0.6 with Marek Habersack, its maintainer. Pike versions 0.6 and 7.0 include severe problems and are already superseded by 7.2 and 7.4. However as Roxen 1.3 requires Pike 0.6, it alongside Pike 0.6 will be removed from unstable and testing. Users of Roxen 1.3 are strongly encouraged to switch to Caudium, which should work as a drop-in replacement.

Debian Free Software License? Jörg Wendland wondered if a license exists that is modelled on the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) and which reflects the DFSG and Debian's sense of Free Software in general. Henning Makholm explained that people can usually agree about whether a given license is free or not. But there is nothing like consensus about which of the many ways to construct a free license is the "best".

Proposed Statement about the GNU FDL. Anthony Towns proposed a statement on the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL). In November 2002, after a long period of consultation, version 1.2 of the GNU FDL was released by the Free Software Foundation. Unfortunately, some concerns raised by members of the Debian Project were not addressed, and as such the GNU FDL can apply to works that do not pass the DFSG.

Installing Debian over a remote GNU/Linux System. This document explains the steps required to change the operating system running on a remote system to Debian. The process uses ssh to connect and depends upon the availability of the chroot environment whilst installing. The writer details how he remotely converted a Red Hat system into a Debian system, although it should be applicable under any GNU/Linux variant and possibly other similar systems.

Debian-Ham 0.5 released. A new Debian-Ham was finally released with the latest tlf (0.8.19) and cwdaemon as a keyer. Debian-Ham is a two floppy distribution that targets HAM radio users and is specifically designed for contesting and logging. The current scheme uses a LILO boot floppy with a minix root floppy. Network support is included to connect to a DX cluster.

Eliminating Extensions in Program Filenames. Following an earlier discussion on the topic, Joey Hess proposed a change in the Debian policy so that when scripts are installed into a directory in the system PATH, the script name should not include an extension such as .sh or .pl. Such language extensions create problems when a program is reimplemented and make it harder to type command names. They also look unprofessional and go against the Unix tradition.

PEAR packages in Debian? Piotr Roszatycki wondered which steps need to be taken to get packages from the PHP Extension and Application Repository (PEAR) included in Debian. PEAR is a framework and distribution system for reusable PHP components. Steve Langasek proposed to use a structure similar to Perl module packaging.

Translating Debian Hints. Joel Baker reported that the package fortunes-debian-hints that contains hints for using Debian has now entered testing. He was wondering whether there is a way to do translations of the fortune data, without having to have localized packages. Andreas Tille mentioned the way fortunes-de is packaged which puts the German cookies in the right place.

Libpng Package Updates. Josselin Mouette reported about some problems caused by recently uploaded libpng packages. The libpng12 packages are a rename of the libpng3 ones, while the libpng10 are the former libpng2 ones. The reason why there are still 2 versions on the system is that gdk-imlib1 and GNOME 1 are still linked to libpng2 on other major distributions. In order to preserve binary compatibility with them, our gdk-imlib1 is still linked with libpng2.

Debian to drop Support for i386? Jochen Friedrich noted that due to GCC 3.2 the new libstdc++5 library requires an 80486 processor or higher, the old 80386 on which Linux was started, is no longer supported. Therefore Matthias Klose wondered whether Debian should further support the i386 target.

Booting Debian from a USB Stick. Matthias Müller set up a document in which he describes how to configure a pc and modify Knoppix to allow booting off of the USB stick containing a stripped down GNU/Linux system. You'll have to modify the boot image so all relevant USB modules get loaded. Additionally the system needs to sleep for a few seconds, while the modules attempt to recognize the memory stick.

Packing another Init System? Joachim Breitner wondered if the time has come to package simpleinit. Miquel van Smoorenburg has split off sysv-rc from sysvinit, so other mechanisms can be more easily supported. Ted T'so added that one big problem with Richard Gooch's simpleinit is that it is functionally very different from the standard System V init scripts that Debian uses.

Rewrite of grep-dctrl. Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho reported that he is in the process of rewriting grep-dctrl. The rewrite attempts to gain speed over the old version whilst removing one of the greatest defects in the old code. The new grep-dctrl will be able to combine searches in a full Boolean manner. He is seeking testers for the new code and has supplied a CVS location.

Lock-In Software. In a guest article Brendan Scott discussed the term "proprietary software" which is often used as the opposite of Free Software. In his opinion, GPLed software is as "proprietary" as software under an end user license agreement. Only the licensor owns the software. However, Free Software grants the user much more rights. He proposed an alternative, more appropriate, term "lock-in software". Other terms, including hostageware, are identified, but not adopted.

Against Software Patents in Europe. The Eurolinux initiative has said that the European Parliament is likely to ratify a Software Patent Directive ("Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions"), possibly with helpful amendments in May 2003. As a stakeholder in software development, you have the opportunity to participate. As participation can have a decisive influence, together with the FSF Europe they ask for your participation.

Python Volunteers for AGNULA wanted. The FSF Europe is looking for volunteers to replace a non-free component of A GNU/Linux Audio Distribution (AGNULA). AGNULA is two entirely Free Software GNU/Linux distributions for professional audio users based upon Debian GNU/Linux and Red Hat Linux. The application in question is jMax, a visual programming environment for building interactive musical and multimedia applications. The most likely solution to this problem seems to be the creation of a Python-based Free Software GUI for jMax.

Trusted Debian released. Version 1.0 of Trusted Debian has been announced. The project was started in October 2002 with a beta release in March 2003. Trusted Debian is based on Debian but is not Debian and does not have any direct relation to the Debian project. The aim of the project is to provide a highly secure but usable GNU/Linux platform.

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. 9 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 193 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 Matt Black, Tom Eykens, Y Giridhar Appaji Nag and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.