Debian Project News - April 12th, 2010

Welcome to this year's first issue of DPN, the newsletter for the Debian community. Topics covered in this issue include:

Upcoming elections for the Debian Project Leader

Four Debian Developers are nominated in the currently running election for the Debian Project Leader: Stefano Zack Zacchiroli, Wouter Verhelst, Charles Plessy and Margarita marga Manterola — the first woman ever nominated for this position. The voting period ends on Thursday, April 15th.

Some of the questions asked and topics discussed in the campaigning period were:

Bits from the Release Team

Release manager Adam Barratt sent Bits from the release team which gave an overview of the state of the upcoming release, Debian 6.0 Squeeze. Adam admits that the situation is not as good as the release team hoped, but that it is possible to release Squeeze in a few months. He also gave a list of known transitions and asked people to inform the release team about missing items. Regarding the timeline, he asked all involved people to work hard, so a freeze in late May or June would be possible. He concludes with some hints on how to help. Most important is to fix release critical bugs or organise face-to-face meetings to fix these. Andreas Barth later blogged a more detailed list on how to help with the release.

Estimates of the number of Debian users

In the discussion about the upcoming elections for the Debian Project Leader, Anthony Towns wondered how many users Debian has. Several people discussed who is a Debian user and if users of Debian derivatives would count, too. Another topic was how accurate popcon.debian.org (a service where Debian users can report anonymously what packages they have installed) reflects the number of installations. Mike Hommey analysed the installations reported for xulrunner (the rendering engine used by the Iceweasel browser) and compared them to the hits of the page displayed after an upgrade. He came to the conclusion that for every one of the 13,000 Iceweasel installations reported to popcon, there are at least 7.7 additional Iceweasel installations, which do not have popcon installed or activated, while Simon Paillard found 1.5 million unique IP addresses in the access logs of security.debian.org.

Bits from the DPL

Shortly before the end of his term Debian Project Leader Steve McIntyre sent a (Final) Bits from (this) DPL. He announced personnel changes in several teams and mentioned some press contacts and their outcome. He also announced the availability of Debian Certification for official Developers: It seems that more and more companies are keen to hire Debian folks, so it can be useful to have this kind of documentation available. Steve also talked about suggestions made in the last few months for ways to productively spend Debian money, including funding of needed hardware and a large number of developer meetings, as well as funding for the Debian Edu subproject, to help them to continue their developer meetings into the future. He closed by wishing the candidates of the current election good luck and is looking forwards to having more time for some hacking.

New archive snapshot service available

A new service called http://snapshot.debian.org/ has just been announced. snapshot.debian.org is a wayback machine that allows access to old packages based on dates and version numbers. The ability to install packages and view source code from any given date can be very helpful to developers and users alike. It provides a valuable resource for tracking down when regressions were introduced, or for providing a specific environment that a particular application may require to run. The snapshot archive is accessible like any normal apt repository, allowing it to be easily used by all.

The archive currently holds almost all packages from the main and security archives since March 2005, as well as selected additional archives like debian-volatile, debian-ports and backports.org. This new service currently holds about 6.5 terabytes of data and will grow constantly.

MiniDebConf held in Panama

More than 50 people participated recently in a MiniDebConf in Panama. Starting March 20th and lasting two full days, the MiniDebConf touched on a variety of subjects involving Debian with the participants sharing their experiences with both Debian and Free Software. As Alejandro Rios said: All this is possible thanks to several sponsors from Panama and SPI, and the hard work from many people, specially Anto Recio, Mauro Rosero, Carolina Flores, Gunnar Wolf and the local team. SPI is Software in the Public Interest, a non-profit organisation which was founded to help organisations develop and distribute open hardware and software.

The MiniDebConf got quite technical, some of the subjects they covered were: Packaging, Debian's Bug Tracking System, the Linux Kernel, pbuilder and quilt. There was also time for some socialising as there was a visit to the Panama Canal as well as a group photo and apparently some people even gathered to drink beer. Sounds to me like a successful MiniDebConf. More info on Alejandro's blog (in English).

First German Debian Mini Conference

The Debian Project announced the first German Debian Mini Conference to be held on the 10th and 11th of June in Berlin. Embedded into LinuxTag, one of the most important Open Source events in Europe, it will feature two days of talks, workshops and panel discussions for Debian Developers and Maintainers to contributors, users and otherwise interested persons. In parallel to the conference, in a neighbouring hacking area a Bug Squashing Party will be held. Details are available in the DebConf Wiki.

Graphical Installer for ARM-Based netbooks

Frans Pop blogged about his work on porting Debian and the debian-installer to ARM-based netbooks from ChiTech. After solving some problems due to the limitations of the bootloader, he even managed to get the X11 based graphical installer running on that device.

QEMU image for SH4 port available

To make debugging of problems with the (unofficial) port to the SH4 architecture easier, Aurelien Jarno provides SH4 images to be used with qemu. The images have some limitations as they can only use 64MB and need the current development version of qemu.

The role of the Debian ftpmasters

lwn.net published a lengthy article about the role of the Debian ftpmasters (article will be freely available from 15th April) and their kind of unique position compared to other distributions. Based upon explanations and a recent call for volunteers from ftp-master Jörg Jaspert, the article explains the duties and problems the ftp-team is facing.

Other news

The Atlantic Canada Open Source Showcase published an interview with Ben Armstrong about his work on the Debian Eee PC project.

DSA Martin Zobel-Helas announced, that the Debian Project got four powerful MIPS machines donated by Movidis. Two or three will be used as build daemon, the remaining one is accessible for all Developers as porter machine.

Christine Spang asked Debian Developers listed on the keysigning offers list to check their data regularly. She also added that it is possible to subscribe to changes in the list of people requesting keysigning.

Sune Vuorela reported about the Eckhart slope: quite a drop of the number of KDE related bugs.

Sylvestre Ledru gave an update about linear algebra libraries (e.g. blas and lapack) in Debian, which are used by various numerical programs in Debian (e.g. OpenOffice.org Calc). He emphasised how the packages deal with optimisation for different CPUs (like SSE in different versions).

New Developers and Maintainers

Seven applicants have been accepted as Debian Maintainer in the last two weeks. Please welcome Joachim Wiedorn, Kai Wasserbaech, Gabriele Giacone, Ahmed El-Mahmoudy, Niels Thykier, Stephen Leake and Daiki Ueno into our project!

Release-critical bugs statistics for the upcoming release

According to the unofficial RC-bugs count, the upcoming release, Debian 6.0 Squeeze, is currently affected by 445 release critical bugs. 108 of them have already been fixed in Debian's unstable branch. Of the remaining 337 release critical bugs, 53 already have a patch (which might need testing) and 21 are marked as pending.

Ignoring these bugs as well as release critical bugs for packages in contrib or non-free, 196 release critical bugs remain to be solved for the release to happen.

Important Debian Security Advisories

Debian's Security Team recently released advisories for these packages (among others): drupal6, php5, ikiwiki, spamass-milter, mediawiki, curl, moin, icedove, xulrunner and xpdf. Please read them carefully and take the proper measures.

Please note that these are a selection of the more important security advisories of the last weeks. If you need to be kept up to date about security advisories released by the Debian Security Team, please subscribe to the security mailing list for announcements.

New and noteworthy packages

The following packages were added to the unstable Debian archive recently (among others):

Work-needing packages

Currently 594 packages are orphaned and 139 packages are up for adoption. Please take a look at the recent reports to see if there are packages you are interested in or view the complete list of packages which need your help.

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This issue of Debian Project News was edited by Jeremiah Foster and Alexander Reichle-Schmehl.