Debian Weekly News - October 9th, 2001

DDP Needs You! The Debian Documentation Project was formed to coordinate and unify all efforts to write more and better documentation for the Debian system. It contains quite a lot documents, ranging from a FAQ, several users manuals, some administration and network manuals concluding with the Securing Debian Manual which we mentioned in our last issue. Only a few of these documents are maintained properly, most of them are in an unfinished state which doesn't render them quite useful. Writing documentation has always been a pain for software developers, but it is a very important task. Volunteers should select a manual they want to work on and find out how to access its recent source using cvs, then contact our debian-doc list.

No DDTS Mails Anymore. Some weeks ago the Debian Description Translation Server which controls the translation effort of packages descriptions started sending out automatic notification mails to all maintainers whose package description were initially translated or when a translation was modified. This resulted in some confusion because the mail didn't tell maintainers what to do with the translation and all affected maintainers got these mails, regardless of them wanting to receive such mails nor not. The situation has escalated. However, the problem seems to be resolved now, since no automatic mails will be sent out by the DDTS anymore. In the future maintainers will eventually be able to subscribe to such mails, but the default will be: no automatic notification. Latest news: improved server with subscribe mechanism.

HTML from DocBook XML. Wolfgang Bogert writes with a summary of the help he's received for putting together HTML documents from a DocBook XML document.

Packaging and Database Access. A question came up on the debian-devel list with regards to php and databases, wondering how things should be packaged if the package requires access to a database. This raises two questions, first of all, how should the system be packaged, should databases and access automatically created? The second issue covers running systems on which such a database may contain confidential information. Since PHP is running as www-data for all users and virtual hosts, this effectively opens all databases to any user who can include PHP in their web pages.

New List Debian-Books. Ben Collins requested a new mailing list called “debian-books” in order to isolate discussions of proposed book titles. The list is open for anybody interested and could eventually be used for rough draft review and editing as well. The Debian distribution is popular enough to have books written about it already. As a sidenote, The Open C Book Project has just been started, after a request for volunteers was sent.

Cleaning up the Lists. Joey investigated the use of our mailing lists for the last three weeks, that are served by He came up with a list of mailing lists proposed for removal. Some of them were previously moved to a different server without our listmaster noticing. Among the other lists are several -changes lists which didn't serve any content, or lists for expired sub-projects like debian-freshmeat or debian-pool.

On Using "Open Source". There have been controversies if using the term "Open Source" rather than "Free Software" is a good thing or not. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) made their position clear in 1998 already. The Open Source term was established as a marketing term for free software (also in 1998) and was quickly adopted by many companies. It makes a big difference which name we use: different words convey different ideas. As an example Dale Scheetz reported a use of the term to refer to intelligence information that could be made public. I (Joey) truly expect the FSF to start a new campaign for companies to use the term "Free Software" instead.

Fixing the SDL Mess. Branden Robinson posted his intent to fix the problem that has arisen with shared SDL and static X libraries. Some of the X extension libraries are available only as static libraries, since their interfaces are subject to change and they are not standardized yet. On about half the architectures in Debian (hppa, ia64, m68k, mips, mipsel, and powerpc), it is not legal to link static objects into shared ones. The linker will bomb at compile time if you attempt to do so. However, this is what is packages that depend on the SDL libraries do, making them unbuildable on certain architectures. Read Branden's mail for details.

Undistributable by License. Again we have been hit by a license incompatibility. This time it has happened to our Tomcat packages, which uses the Apache License upstream, while the Debian maintainer has formerly used the GPL for his own patches. According to the FSF both licenses are incompatible. This issue is resolved already, but we'd like to mention it so people are aware of license problems.

Installing Debian on RiscPC. It came up a long time ago, that our installation manual didn't properly mention how to install Debian GNU/Linux on an ARM RiscPC. The discussion revealed that the linloader license prohibits its inclusion in Debian and the author has not shown an interest in changing this.

Debian Expo and Conference Week in Germany. The upcoming week and this weekend will be important for German Debian enthusiasts. There are three exhibitions and conferences taking place: Wizard of OS (Berlin, October 11-13), Linux Weekend (Kassel, October 13-14) and Systems 2001 (Munich, October 15-19). The Debian project will be present at all of them. Use this chance to get in touch with Debian developers.

New and Updated Packages. There are some nifty new and updated packages available in unstable and testing this week:

Security. No security announcements relating to Debian were made in the last week.

Speak up! If you've got a tip, comment, announcement or other important information, please send it to

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