Debian Weekly News - April 27th, 2004

Welcome to this year's 17th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. In light of recent events Nathanael Nerode is working hard on splitting binary firmware blobs out of the Linux kernel so they can be loaded via the request_firmware command which would resolve incompatibilities with the Linux license. Steve Kowalik announced a new major release of linda, a policy checker, that adds full support for internationalisation.

Report from the Linux User & Developer Expo. Vincent Sanders reported about the Debian project attendance at the Linux User & Developer Expo in the London Olympia hall. Debian presented a very professional appearance to the public. Less common Debian CDs could be cut to order as Steve McIntyre had production facilities at the booth.

Progeny Debian 2.0. Ladislav Bodnar looked at the alpha release of Progeny Debian 2.0 (ISO Images). This is the first example of Progeny's componentised GNU/Linux idea previously mentioned in DWN. Each component, for example XFree86 or GNOME 2.4, is in its own apt repository. This is intended make it easier to upgrade individual components.

Kernel Security Support for Sarge. Martin Schulze described the issues raised by the frequent need for kernel security updates in the stable Debian release. The sheer number of packages and releases to support places an unbearable burden on the security team. Thus the number of packages in sarge needs to be reduced before the release. A particular problem is posed by the dependence of some architectures on the 2.2 kernel line which the security team will probably not be able to support for sarge.

Request for Help by the Installer Team. Joey Hess called for help with the next debian-installer beta release by processing installation reports. He reported that there are more than 480 uncategorised installation reports for which nobody had found time yet. We could have lots of serious problems we don't know about.

Purge of Firmware to recommence. Herbert Xu reported that he will recommence the removal of non-free firmware blobs from the kernel where no acceptable solution using user-space firmware loaders has been provided. This is in accordance with the release manager's decision to treat violations of the GNU General Public License as serious.

Collection of DFSG-compliant Licenses. Joachim Breitner announced that he has started to collect licenses that are compliant with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG). He also lists those that are not compliant, though. Frank Lichtenheld confirmed that he is working with Andreas Barth to create such a directory on the Debian website.

Survey on Debian Usage. Enrico Zini announced an exploratory survey of Debian usage. The goal of this survey is to understand the purposes for which the Debian operating system is being used and the ways in which people use Debian to achieve these purposes.

Squeak License. Roland Stigge restarted the discussion about whether the Squeak license is DFSG compliant or at least suitable for non-free. Lex Spoon asserted that Apple has abandoned Squeak and will not be changing the license in the foreseeable future so the issues will probably remain.

ReiserFS 4 License. Sami Liedes wondered if the license for reiser4progs (GPL and clarifications) renders this package non-free. The license also tries to declare plugins and a clustering file system built to work on top of this file system as derivative works, which Sami denies. People seem to agree that the current license renders reiser4 non-free or even non-distributable at all.

Editorial Amendments to the Social Contract passed. Manoj Srivastava announced that the general resolution covering editorial amendments to the social contract has passed with a 4:1 majority (3:1 required). From 213 valid votes 174 were in favour of these changes while 39 people voted for further discussion.

Sarge Release Status. Anthony Towns reported that he cannot justify the policy decisions to exempt documentation, firmware, or content any longer, as the social contract has been amended to cover all these areas and not only software. Hence, these blobs need to be removed from sarge before it can be released. This will make a release impossible for this year, though.

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. 21 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 169 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, Thomas Viehmann and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.