Debian Weekly News - 1999 Timeline
This special supplement to Debian Weekly News is a review of the most important happenings of 1999 in the Debian world. This is certainly not a comprehensive list. The focus is on unusual and notable events, not the continual background development activity and discussions.
To give some idea of the sheer volume of what has gone on behind the scenes this year, a few numbers: 22 thousand bug reports were filed this year, while 170 thousand messages were posted to the various Debian mailing lists and nearly 25 thousand new versions of packages were uploaded.
Here are the most memorable events of 1999 in the Debian Project:
- We've made one major release of Debian this past year and are rapidly approaching another freeze. At this time last year, deep in the interminable freeze for Debian 2.1, we were beginning to wonder if the freeze would ever end, and we were having some second thoughts about our plans for the release. We kept on working though, going into a deep freeze in late January.
- For the first time a minimal Debian GNU/Hurd system was available, based on the Debian base system.
- The first tentative work began on support for build dependencies in source packages. (At that time we called them "source dependencies".)
- Elections started for the new Debian Project Leader. This was the first time we chose a leader in this way, and it was an exciting process that happily didn't become too political.
- The temporary license on the old Debian logo expired for the nth time. We began discussing what new license we should use, and also decided to look for a new logo via a Gimp logo contest.
- Dpkg development, long stalled, resumed, with some nice new features added: automatic upload announcements and automatic bug closing enabled when packages are uploaded. Several people promised to do some more work on dpkg soon, and dpkg did become much more maintained this year than it had been in the past.
- Wichert Akkerman was elected Debian's new leader.
- Use of debhelper hit the 50% mark.
- Work on the release continued, and a release date of March 2nd was set.
- The idea of a version of Debian based on FreeBSD was raised for the first time.
- The release was delayed for a week. Some last minute confusion ensued as people didn't hear about the delay in time, and a party on IRC celebrated the release prematurely. In the rocky last few days before the release, tensions rose, and some unfortunate incidents made Brian White resign from being Release Manager (Richard Braakman later took over the job). Finally, on March 9th, Debian 2.1 was released.
- The Gimp logo contest ended, having generated several nice candidate logos, and we prepared to vote on the logo, while still trying to decide what license to use for it.
- Debian was used in the Empeg in-car mp3 player.
- With Debian released, another round of development began. The first major task was migrating to glibc 2.1.
- We began considering the idea of having two logos: one for official and one for liberal use. Voting on the number of logos and their licenses eventually started.
- Corel announced plans to create a Linux distribution based on Debian.
- The Bug Tracking System went down when an ancient a.out binary in it broke. This served as a wake up call about how unmaintained the Bug Tracking System was. In September, after a lot of work, the BTS was updated to use the new debbugs package.
- The results of the logo license vote came in: we decided to have two logos with different licenses. By the end of the month, voting on the actual logo was underway.
- Discussion on the debian-policy mailing list became more active, and weekly policy summaries started to be posted.
- The Debian JP project released a Japanese version of slink and indicated they wanted to become part of Debian proper and merge the changes into Debian. Several people from Debian JP became Debian developers, and started adding packages to Debian.
- A new server for non-us was put up, ending the long chain of problems with the old server. At the same time, non-us was reorganized to more closely match the layout of the rest of Debian.
- The "swirl" became the new Debian logo and was rapidly adopted by the Debian community. But the logo votes weren't over yet; a proposal was made to switch the official and liberal use logos, and the issue was brought to a vote in late June.
- SPI became an official US non-profit.
- A new Debian book titled Debian GNU/Linux: Guide to Installation and Usage was published, the first of several new Debian books to appear.
- After a lot of work, perl 5.005 was introduced into Debian. The perl upgrade affected a great many packages, and turned out to be rather painful. Some infrastructure was put in place to make future perl upgrades easier by letting several versions of perl coexist on a single system.
- Another Debian-based distribution called Storm Linux was released.
- Ending the long logo saga, we voted to swap the two logos. After a contest, lots of discussion, and three votes, this marks the end of the logo issue.
- A major new revision of Debian policy was released, mandating FHS compliance. This raised the question of how to migrate from /usr/doc to /usr/share/doc. Several proposals were made and rejected on the debian-policy list and in what looked like a breakdown of the policy amendment process, no decision could be reached. After much confusion and some long delays, it was referred to the newly-created technical committee. Due to further delays, the committee did not arrive at a decision until September.
- Debian became 6 years old.
- People started to complain that the new-maintainer queue was stuck, and rumors began circulating that Debian had stopped accepting maintainers until potato was released. Within a few weeks, a mechanism for getting around this had sprung up, with developers sponsoring uploads by people stuck in the queue. Later, in October, the closure of the new maintainer queue became official, and a reorganization of the new maintainer team began. But at year's end, the queue remained closed.
- At Linuxworld Expo, Debian received an award for "Best Client Distribution" and was a runner-up for 3 other awards.
- Gpg 1.0 was released, and Debian hurriedly embraced it for signing packages, finally making it possible to build Debian packages with entirely free tools.
- Another Debian book called Debian Gnu/Linux 2.2 Unleashed became available, and we learned that O'Reilly also had a Debian book in the works, to be sold by VA as part of a Debian boxed set.
- Corel's Debian derivative entered a closed beta test, annoying many.
- The developer database went online, containing lots of information about developers. Nice maps were generated from this, showing the distribution of developers worldwide.
- Adam Di Carlo took over leadership of the boot-floppies team, and work on the boot floppies heated up as we neared a scheduled freeze date of November first.
- A license incompatibility in Corel's apt frontend was found and quickly resolved.
- The freeze was postponed first for a week, and then until mid-January. The main problem was the boot floppies, which probably won't be ready until then. This pleased no-one, especially when we realized that Debian 2.1 was not yet Y2K safe, and would need to be updated.
- Build dependencies were codified in policy and started to appear in source packages.
- Corel Linux was released. It received only a lukewarm reception from within Debian, but questions about it soon began to appear on the Debian mailing lists.
- The Bug Tracking system passed the 50,000 bug mark.
- Debian with a FreeBSD kernel came up again, and received a lot more attention this time, from people in Debian and from the outside world.
- Debian 2.1r4 was released, consisting of y2k fixes and security updates.
- Ian Murdock (the "Ian" in "Debian"), and Bruce Perens announced Progeny Linux, a forthcoming Debian-based business and distribution.
- Debian won the Linux Journal Readers' Choice award for Favorite Distribution.
As Debian Weekly News enters its second year, I want to thank everyone who made the first year possible: Substitute editor Randolph Chung, contributors Josip Rodin, Brandon Mitchell, Robert de Forest, Aaron Van Couwenberghe, Rob Tillotson, Michael Dahlberg, Stephane Bortzmeyer, Pablo Averbuj, Branden Robinson, Mike Renfro, Christian Meder, Katsura S. Yoshio, Raphaël Hertzog, Mike Linksvayer, and Simon Holgate. Also, thanks to Linux Weekly News for being a continuing inspiration, and for never complaining about my copy-cat attempts. And finally, thanks to everyone in Debian for providing such a plethora of interesting discussions, events, and hard work for me to report on.
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Debian Weekly News is edited by Joey Hess.