Debian Weekly News - October 3rd, 2001

Debian international. We noticed that another language has been added to the list of supported languages of Catalan was added a while ago, and now Indonesian has been added as well. Translation statistics show we have about one thousand Web pages and no more than 100 per language are outdated. Our translators seem to do a really good job. Including Indonesian and Catalan, the main page on our web server is available in 25 languages.

Stripping down busybox. Busybox is the tool which is used on embedded systems and the Debian boot-floppies. On our boot-floppies it provides most of the programs (like ls, mount, umount etc.). Busybox, however, has grown from Potato to Woody and has become too large on SPARC and PowerPC. Erik Andersen, its author, explains more ways to save space on our boot-floppies.

Boot-floppies 3.0.14 released. Adam Di Carlo has had a hectic week, but managed to release a new version of boot floppies. This version contains all required fixes for S/390, MIPS, MIPSel, ARM, M68k, HPPA and IA64 as well as patches required to get add support for ReiserFS and ext3 on IA32. Packages for several architectures (hppa, ia64, i386, m68k, mipsel, powerpc and s390) have already been uploaded, others are scheduled for building. In the meantime Anthony Towns has decided that mips, mipsel and s390 will be part of the woody release.

LaTeX too old? A couple of users stomped over this problem in the past. After installation it simply wasn't possible to compile a LaTeX file, since there was no latex.fmt file. This file normally gets created during installation, which will fail if LaTeX is too old. An internal check prohibits its compilation if the originating file is older than one year and some months. There were some concerns about this which revealed that the time span was increased to 30 months, however, this could still cause problems once woody is released. Therefore the default LaTeX build on Debian will ignore this test.

Securing Debian HOWTO needs help! Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña asked for help with this document. He is currently suffering from an overload of information to be added to the Securing Debian HOWTO which was formerly edited by Alexander Reelsen. If you can afford some spare time dedicated to this task, please help Javi by providing patches to the current CVS version of the document, see here for details.

Debian Mirror Infrastructure. There have been intermittent problems with the mirror infrastructure over the last year or so, but we haven't kept debian-mirrors up to date with that, thinking nobody would mind a few glitches. This may change in the future, Josip Rodin, active member of, predicts in an announcement of hardware changes on our ftp-master system.

dput gone? People were missing this package. Due to a newly added dependency to GnuPG, which is only available in non-US, the dput utility had to be removed from the main archive and re-uploaded to the non-US archive as new package. It has been installed into the archive now, but was unavailable for a couple of days before. Even though checking of signatures could be made optional, more crypto support is to be added, so it has to stay in non-US until we are allowed to add crypto software to the main archive.

Checking a Debian mirror. Grahame Bowland has announced that he wrote a tool called deblint which tests the integrity of a Debian mirror. He was inspired to write this tool by the frustration caused by missing files on some mirrors. The name will change though, because there was a deblint once before.

Packaging NSA Security Enhanced Linux. Russell Coker sent an ITP for packaging a kernel patch for NSA Security Enhanced Linux. However, when downloading the source files you're forced to agree to the NSA's disclaimer. It was unclear whether Debian may distribute the software without that disclaimer, though the software has been released using the GPL. This problem was clarified later, so the only thing that holds an upload into the archive is the quality of the packages, the maintainer told us. Preliminary packages are here.

Bad package descriptions. Daniel Burrows has examined descriptions of our packages. His results are distressing. A statistically significant number of them weren't even properly formatted according to our own definitions, and many were grammatically incorrect, stylistically awkward, or just plain unhelpful. In general, the guidelines of good (technical) writing should apply. Be clear, be concise, be unambiguous, be informative, and be correct. The mailing list debian-l10n-english could be used for discussing detailed problems with the English language.

Now for something completely different... While not specifically Debian-related, we thought it might be of interest to our readers that the W3C has extended the public comment period for their Patent Policy Framework. Essentially, there's a proposal afoot to adopt a second licensing mode for W3C Recommendations, "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) Licensing." Any licensing fee, however, is bound to be unreasonable for Free Software developers and will have the effect of locking out Free and Open Source developers from implementing Standards and Recommendations under this licensing policy and/or marginalizing the W3C role as a standards body. You can also read Alan Cox's take on the Patent Policy. If you make any comments, be sure to address specific objections to the Policy, don't just say "I don't like it."

Interview with Ben Collins. Debian Planet has an interview with the Debian Project Leader, Ben Collins. He admits that he was a regular user for three months before becoming a developer. "It's kind of hard to use Debian without becoming active in it's development", he says.

LSB Application Battery. George Kraft announced on the lsb-spec list that there's a need for someone to create a list of Linux Standards Base compliant applications to run on compliant LSB systems. If you're interested in helping out, take a look at this discussion and jump aboard.

New Packages. New and notable packages this week.

No recent Security Announcements this week.

Stay in touch. If you have any suggestions, comments, tips or other goodies, send 'em to

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This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.