Debian Weekly News - November 4th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 44th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Bruce Perens reserved as a possible home for non-free if it ever spins off of Debian. Currently it's just a CNAME to but with a little work it could be a good facility to manage a non-free cut-over.

Debian faster than Gentoo? Matt Garman wondered why his C++ program ran dramatically slower when compiled on a Gentoo machine than when compiled with Debian Sid. He later reported that recompiling the Gentoo C++ libraries with less aggressive optimization flags (-O2 instead of -O3) eliminated the speed difference. William Kenworthy added that Debian and other distributions are conservative, but set up by very experienced people.

System Recovery with Knoppix. IBM Developerworks has an article by Carla Schroder that describes how to rescue a non-booting Linux system, edit files, mount networked filesystems, and do a bare-metal rebuild with only a Knoppix disk and an Internet connection.

Improving KDE Maintainership. Some people may have been alarmed to see that many of the core KDE packages were orphaned last week by Chris Cheney. Fortunately, this was done to pave the way for the Qt/KDE Maintainers group of which Chris Cheney is a member. A mailing list for this group was created and a draft policy document is being discussed.

Amendment of the Social Contract. Branden Robinson proposed to amend the Social Contract. Some of his amendments change the meaning of the Social Contract, whereas others are only editorial. One of his key proposals is that Debian's commitment to a non-free archive be deleted. This means that Debian would be free to stop providing non-free software if it chose. The proposal was discussed on Slashdot, where Bruce Perens suggested how removing non-free might work. The proposal would also make the Social Contract a bit separate from the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

Debian in the Enterprise? James Maguire wondered if there is a place for Debian in the enterprise world. He talks about certification or rather the lack of and missing vendor support which is compensated by third party support from different companies. Use of Debian depends on the requirements of the end user. If they were technically self supporting, and they don't want to pay a different vendor, they could deploy Debian -- and it would lead to greater return on investment.

Draft Position Statement regarding GNU FDL. Manoj Srivastava reported about the effort writing a document that attempts to address some concerns that members of the Debian project have about the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL). This document attempts to present the reasoning behind the conclusion that the GNU FDL is not regarded as a license that can easily satisfy the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

Constitutional Amendment Results. Proposal A in the vote to disambiguate Constitution section 4.1.5 succeeded over the other options. This means that the Debian Social Contract and Debian Free Software Guidelines are now "Foundation Documents", and may be modified by a 3:1 majority of Developers. The amendment also clarified the status of non-technical documents, ensuring that Developers may issue, supersede and withdraw various statements, including position statements about issues of the day.

Debconf Templates Style Guide. Christian Perrier announced a style guide for writing debconf templates. During his work translating debconf templates to French, Christian often found templates which seemed to be inconsistent with some written or unwritten rules. It became evident that some formalisation of writing rules and recommendations could help package maintainers to prepare "well-written" debconf templates. General style harmonisation could also greatly improve the perception of Debian, giving it a more "professional" presentation.

NetBSD Status Report. Joel Baker posted a NetBSD status report. Joel will be restarting the archive using debpool (which should handle uploads via HTTPS PUT, without needing logins on the box itself). The archive will be based on -current again (aka, pre-2.0), since he has run into problems which can only be resolved by having working POSIX Thread support. He is also continuing to work on the 4-to-3-clause BSD license conversion, with the permission of the NetBSD Foundation (contacting authors and asking them to relicense, submitting patches, and working with the Core team to get them integrated cleanly). So far, this has been dramatically successful.

Getting HP Hardware supported for Debian. Kianusch Sayah Karadji is trying to convince HP to add Debian support to their hardware. HP claims, that since Debian has no figures on how many users it has on HP servers, they do not know if supporting Debian would make sense. If you do, please get in touch with Kianusch at Several HP employees are members of the Debian development community.

Tasksel and custom Debian Distributions. Andreas Tille wondered how tasksel is supposed to support custom Debian distributions such as Debian Jr. or Debian-Med. Currently tasksel displays the debian-jr task but ignores the others. Of course, a more sophisticated solution should be found to handle them equally.

Multiple PostgreSQL Packages. Oliver Elphick pondered whether and how to have multiple versions of the PostgreSQL packages installed at once. This is to get round problems with upgrading major versions, and to allow people to have multiple database clusters, possibly at different software versions.

Debian Project at COMDEX. There'll be a Debian installation festival at this year's Comdex in Las Vegas on Thursday, November 20th, from 12:00pm to 1:30pm. Everybody is welcome to help or be helped. Also at Comdex, in the "Open Source and Linux Innovation Center", on Tuesday 18th from 1:30pm to 2:00pm a half hour talk introduces Debian to corporate users and, in the Open Source conference track, on Wednesday 19th from 3:30pm to 4:45pm a discussion panel titled "A Practical Guide to Open Source Operating Systems" will include Debian.

Alternative Postscript- and PDF-Viewer. Matthias Urlichs noticed that there are virtual packages for postscript-viewer and pdf-viewer, but no alternatives, i.e. there's no /usr/bin/postscript-viewer. Mark Brown explained that Debian uses a MIME handler registration system which viewer programs should be making use of. The run-mailcap program can be used to find an appropriate program for a given MIME type.

Localised Bug Reports. Magosányi Arpád wondered if there is a known or planned way to report bugs to the Debian Bug Tracking System in a non-english language. He proposed that if a non-english language is detected, the bug report is sent to a language package instead the real package. The maintainers of the language package would then mediate the communication between the user and the package maintainer.

Request for a Debian Kernels List. Francesco Paolo Lovergine proposed to create a new mailing list debian-kernels in order to ease the coordination and maintenance of kernels and patches in Debian. This list would not be limited to Linux kernels but also include Hurd and *BSD. He also requested the list to be created.

Circular Build Dependencies. Anthony DeRobertis wondered if he is the only one who believed that one could build Debian from source, starting with only essential and build-essential packages. In particular he stomped over the cdbs - libgd-gd2-*-perl - cdbs chain. Joel Baker would like to see Debian main in stable and testing as closed sets in terms of build-dependencies. The current situation is a pain for porters to a new architecture or kernel.

Split Kernel Header Files. Otto Wyss wondered why libc6-dev suddenly depended on linux-kernel-headers. Mark Brown explained that there have always been some kernel headers included in libc6-dev. They have just been split out into a separate package now. Several of these headers are referenced by headers provided by glibc which would break those headers if linux-kernel-headers is not installed.

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 190 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, Frank Carlos, Drew Scott Daniels, Matt Black, Alex Perry and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.