Debian Weekly News - July 8th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 27th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. A Professor from the University of Göttingen questioned the enforceability of the GPL in Germany while the German Institute for Legal Issues on Free and Open Source Software analysed the study and discovered several flaws. The City of Austin, in Texas, USA, became one of the latest governments to try out Linux. And some big companies are collaborating to use Linux in consumer electronics devices.

Comments on GNOME 2 Transition. Drew Scott Daniels posted a summary about the status of the GNOME 2 transition. Christian Marillat reported that GNOME 2 packages are finally in testing and that some missing packages will follow soon.

Removing RFC from Documentation. Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña asked that RFCs be removed from packages in the main (free) Debian distribution. Since the doc-rfc packages have been moved to non-free, he had cloned the respective bug and assigned it to other packages which provide RFCs. For a full list please see the bug report. However, it seems that some RFCs might be DFSG-free, probably the earliest. Package maintainers should contact the Internet Society on their own.

Debian for non-profit Organisations. Mako Hill announced a new sub-project named Debian for non-profit organisations. The goal is to put together a sub-distribution that fulfills their needs. If they are large and technically involved enough to need their own server, they probably already use GNU/Linux. However in day-to-day operations most use proprietary operating systems. Unlike many groups of users where advocacy is an uphill battle, many non-profits want to use GNU/Linux on their workstations but are waiting for someone to "make it easy for them." This sub-project wants to do just this.

Debian Menu Encoding Support. Bill Allombert announced that it is now possible to select the encoding used to write files generated by menu in a menu-method, i.e. for a window manager. Bill said that it is very important that all menu methods get fixed to include an encoding setting. This will allow menu translations to be activated by default.

Bug #200000: Using gettext for Debconf. Michel Grentzinger opened Bug #200000 and requested that the package in question switches to using gettext for debconf templates. This bug report underlines the efforts of the localization teams, mostly French and Brazilian, which actively submit bug reports and patches to help maintainers move to the po-debconf format.

But which Distribution? Charles Arthur of the "The Independent" a UK national broadsheet wrote an article concerning GNU/Linux for novices. He opted for Debian because the penguin on the box looked friendly, but haven't glanced through the documentation and stumbled into the text-oriented installer. Oh, and even worse, a commandline seemed to be a bad thing for him. Maybe Debian is not useful for everybody.

Interview with Russell Coker. Sam Varghese from The Age has interviewed Russell Coker. Russell is among those who have made a sterling contribution to the NSA's SE Linux project. Russell talks about how he became affiliated with computers, his work on Debian and SE Linux and e.g. how people from the Free Software community are hired.

Licenses for Documentation. Emma Jane Hogbin received feedback that her choice of the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL) for a howto that she wrote may not be free according to the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG). She does not intend to use invariant sections, so could not see why there would be a problem. Brian Nelson pointed out that Anthony Towns' proposal views the FDL as DFSG-free if invariant sections are not used.

Benefits of the OASIS Membership. Mark Johnson explained the benefits of membership of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). It gives Debian representation at one of the major XML-related standards bodies, and makes Debian the only GNU/Linux distribution with a voice there. For example, Mark and Ardo van Rangelrooij are on the Entity Resolution Technical Committee, which is presently working on the XML Catalogs specification. However, very few Debian Developers have chosen to take advantage of the OASIS membership and Mark is raising funds to cover the membership fee.

Support for NEWS.Debian now available. Joey Hess announced that thanks to Matt Zimmerman and Joe Drew, apt-listchanges will now display NEWS.Debian entries for upgraded packages. These are displayed before the regular changelog entries, and Matt plans to later let it be configured to only display news, if the user wants (more useful for users of stable). The NEWS.Debian file is installed as /usr/share/doc/<package>/NEWS.Debian.gz. It is always compressed and always with that name.

Debian Mini-Distribution for Diskless Routers. Vadim Berkgaut announced a new project with the goal of making Debian boot from flash and work from a filesystem in memory. It produces a boot wrapper for Debian that is intended for diskless routers. The project features Debian woody (stable) with some packages from sarge (testing) to add support for 2.5 kernels. It boots in two stages: first a script from initrd copies the root filesystem from flash to tmpfs and makes tmpfs the new root, then init runs as usual. Vadim would welcome feedback and comments.

Finalising the DDP Policy. Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña proposed that the draft Debian Documentation Project Policy be published on the Debian website. Noone has spoken against the document that Javier presented as a proposal and questions about licensing and documentation seem to come up often. This would give the document a wider audience, and with help Javier may be able to remove the draft status of the document.

Debian at Conferences in Europe. Debian announced that several developers will meet in Metz, France, on July 9th - 12th at the Libre Software Meeting. On July 10th - 13th many developers and users will attend LinuxTag in Karlsruhe, Germany, where they will staff a booth and maintain a one-day conference and give additional talks. After this, on July 18th - 19th, a lot of Debian developer will meet at this years' Debian Conference in Oslo, Norway, which is preceded by a hacking session.

Explanation for the FDL Issue. Michael Crawford summarised why the Debian community has decided that the GNU Free Documentation License is not actually a free license at all, and is starting work to remove GFDL-licensed work from its main distribution. Such will only be available in non-free, which some people never install out of principle and CDROM vendors cannot distribute in whole because the licenses on some packages forbid it.

Guide to GNU/Linux Desktop Survival. Graham Williams book Guide to GNU/Linux Desktop Survival was introduced on as "Good Debian desktop survival guide that covers all the major applications a user would need." The aim of this book is to rapidly get the reader going with GNU/Linux and to deliver a fun and productive environment. It guides him through the many different regions of a GNU/Linux system with a focus on getting the desktop environment to do what he wants.

Status of KDE for Sarge. Drew Scott Daniels wondered about the status of KDE and its entry into sarge (testing). He noticed that there are a few release critical bugs in kdelibs, although work on kdelibs seems to be proceeding. Tomas Pospisek advised that some issues have been resolved, but that work on kdelibs is becoming a problem because of the huge time it takes to compile. He wondered if kdelibs would fall apart, since probably not many people are able to afford compiling, running, and testing the current CVS version.

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 191 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, John Watts, Dan Hunt and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.