Debian Weekly News - September 10th, 2002

Welcome to this year's 35th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. The most interesting news for this week probably is the removal of Qmail from Debian's list server. Thanks to the admin and listmaster team, the server now happily runs Postfix. Additionally, those who own an X-Box, may want to run Debian on it.

Placement of PHP Files. Matthew Palmer wondered where libraries and programs for PHP packages should be installed. There is a mini policy in development that will probably document the correct location for PHP extension libraries which are written in PHP. Installing the files into /var/www may end up in the wrong web space, however, installing them into another directory and linking it into the real web space may not work with all web servers.

Handling of Task Packages. Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña asked how tasks are currently handled in Debian. Joey Hess explained that the canonical source of the task information is the source of tasksel. Information about tasks is extracted by some program belonging to the release manager and used to generate the relevant overrides file. That in turn is used to populate the information to the Packages files, which are then seen by tasksel and aptitude.

CPU optimized OpenSSL packages? Christoph Martin wondered whether there is an opinion or policy on optimized library versions. Mike Stone added that OpenSSL has processor-specific assembly routines that are selected at compile time and Christoph explained that optimizing for 80486 instead of 80386 causes a speedup of 2 times and optimizing for sparcv8 instead of sparcv7 even results in a speedup of 8 times. Selecting some optimization at run time would probably be worth it.

Download of non-US illegal in US? Richard Atterer noticed that the CD FAQ tells US residents that it's OK for them to download software in non-us for private use. However, since crypto software is included in the main archive, much of what is left over in the non-US archive, includes patent-encumbered software. If a US citizen downloads and uses such software, he might violate U.S. patents unknowingly.

Input from Donald Knuth on TeX License Discussion. David Carlisle found a statement from Donald Knuth on the distribution of modified Computer Modern TeX fonts, that heats up the discussion. Even though the fonts are placed in the public domain, modified versions should not be named as the original, which would cause a violation of Debian's guidelines if this is required.

Debian Trademark in Spain. Back in May, a person associated to a Spanish training company obviously registered the term Debian as trademark. Jacobo Tarrio found out that there are three such applications. Ignacio García Fernández added an explanation by the company in question.

Java Policy Discussion. Ola Lundqvist wrote that since woody is released he would like to propose that the proposed Java Policy be made official. Ola is seeking comment on it and requests a discussion. The proposed policy talks about virtual machines, Java libraries, programs and compilers.

Renaming Boot Script Utilities. Henrique de Moraes Holschuh proposed the transition of invoke-rc.d, policy-rc.d and update-rc.d to rc.d-invoke, rc.d-policy and rc.d-update. The transition requires a policy change to demand the use of the new scripts now and another policy change after sarge is released to require the use of the new scripts. Symlinks for compatibility will be installed, so the transition won't break an existing installation or package. Anthony Towns, though, considers it a waste of time, for no technical benefit.

Monitorless Installation. Mario Lang tries to figure the best way to integrate accessibility support into the debian-installer. The goal is to allow installation with completely different display types than a normal monitor. This will allow easier installations for the visually impaired.

Graphical Installer? Michael Cardenas released his patch to cdebconf that adds a gtk2.0 frontend. It still required a little bit of work but others finished it and Tollef Fog Heen already committed it. This is an important step forward in the direction of a graphical installer for Debian.

Bug Reports as a Mailbox. Adam Heath announced that he installed a new CGI program for the Debian Bug Tracking System. The new CGI program supports mime parsing of the debbugs log data and thus provides the ability to download the entire bug report and answers as a standard mailbox file. All attachments to a particular mail also contain download links for easy retrieving of the attachment.

Evaluating Package Integrity. Jérôme Marant reminded developers of a talk Martin Michlmayr gave at Debian Conference 1 on regression testing of packages. Regression tests are tests that are made to ensure that the behaviour of a given program has not changed across releases. Testing the installation could done by using pbuilder. Additionally, an existing framework for testing the behaviour of a package is already included in Debian.

On Moving Configuration Files. Joey Hess exhorted that it is the duty of a package or its scripts respectively to deal with moving a configuration file if the files were moved between updates. The policy mentions that the maintainer should check for an upgrade to a version in which the conffile no longer exists, and use debconf to ask the user whether or not they would like the conffile removed.

New DebianEdu Subproject. Raphaël Hertzog announced the birth of the DebianEdu subproject. This subproject aims to make Debian the best distribution available for educational use. He hopes that this subproject will cooperate with similar initiatives like the French Debian Education distribution (French only) and SkoleLinux in Norway.

Technical Review for Debian Securing Manual. Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña is seeking people for a technical review of the Debian Securing Manual. Some sections require a rewrite, especially the configuration checklist, which is no longer reflective. Also, not all translations are up-to-date.

Changing the Documentation Structure. Rob Bradford proposed to tidy up the way the Debian Documentation Project implements its namespace. Currently there doesn't seem to be a consistent scheme. Therefore he proposed to use a directory structure like /doc/manuals/<lang>/<manual-name>/<format>/, together with specially crafted index files in each subdirectory. This will be quite an excessive change compared with the current directory /doc/manuals/<manual-name>/ for HTML and /doc/manuals/<lang>/<manual-name>.<format> for other formats for most (but not all) documents. Unfortunately this would also break content negotiation.

Reviewing Policy. Manoj Srivastava started to review pending bug reports against Debian Policy. He commented on twelve such reports. They cover perl module naming, postscript file requirements, adding the GNU Free Documentation License to the list of free licenses, the menu policy and others.

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 Debian archive recently or contain important updates.

Orphaned Packages. 2 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 113 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.

Want to continue reading DWN? Please help us create this newsletter. Currently, it's mostly a one-man show, which is anticipated to fail in the long term. We urgently need volunteer writers who prepare items. Please see the contributing page to find out how to help. We're looking forward to receiving your mail at

To receive this newsletter weekly in your mailbox, subscribe to the debian-news mailing list.

Back issues of this newsletter are available.

This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Martin 'Joey' Schulze.