Debian Weekly News - October 29th, 2002

Welcome to this year's 42nd issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. This week we are pleased to include items by Matt Black and Andre Lehovich. As if we didn't know this already, IndustryWeek reports that more and more companies are adopting Linux. After reading many of the posts regarding the recent Debian review Clinton De Young took the opportunity and wrote a very verbose installation walkthrough. The Danish Board of Technology suggested the use of an open exchange format for text documents within the public administration, paving the way for Free Software.

Debian Desktop Subproject Initiated. Colin Walters started the Debian desktop subproject that aims at bringing Debian, GNU, and Linux to the mainstream world. The goal is to create the best possible operating system for home and corporate workstation use. In short, this subproject wants to ensure that installing, configuring, and using Debian is as easy and foolproof as possible. Slashdot notes that the Debian Project is now officially addressing its usability on the desktop.

New Progeny Graphical Installer Images. John Daily writes that, in light of recent negative reviews of the current Debian distribution in which the installer was roundly criticized, it may be interesting for users to know about PGI. Progeny has made available an image based on PGI, the Progeny Graphical Installer for the i386 architecture, targetting Debian 3.0 (woody).

Geek Activism forces Congress to reconsider Open Source. Robin Miller writes on Newsforge about how Open Source advocates are lobbying the U.S. congress as members decide which software licenses are and are not allowed for release of government-sponsored software. The original letter had no anti-GPL language in it, but language was added by a Representative from Washington State whose largest campaign donation source is a well-known corporation.

Debian at UK Linux Expo 2002. Wookey wrote a report about the Debian booth at this years' Debian at UK Linux Expo 2002. Phil Hands gave a talk on Debian and Free Software. The trend of recent years continued with a large contingent of Debian/ARM showing off interesting devices and entertaining the visitors. Debian/NetBSD was also demonstrated at the booth.

LWN Subscription for Debian Developers. Bdale Garbee announced that he has arranged group access for Debian developers to Linux Weekly News (LWN). They offered to treat Debian developers as a group, and HP offered to fund Debian's subscription fee. His thanks go to both parties for their continuing support of the Debian development community. If you're a Debian developer and you want to have full access to LWN, you should create a normal account first and contact him afterwards.

Removing Packages from Unstable. Anthony Towns reported that he plans to remove a large set of packages from unstable which look like they are not maintained anymore. These packages are listed on one page denoted with the string [REMOVE]. This would remove packages like emacs20, kaffe, kpackage and RFC packages.

GNOME 2 Transition. Colin Walters finally announced that the GNOME 2 Desktop will be uploaded to unstable this Sunday (Oct 27th), and it will replace the GNOME 1.4 Desktop. However due to weather delays the upload did not occur on schedule; upload from incoming to unstable is in progress and should complete over the next few days. Looks like the plan to keep GNOME 1 while working on GNOME 2 was reverted. Third party applications like Evolution and others should continue to work, though. Colin and Christian Marillat even wrote transition scripts for .gnome directories.

Auditing the Debian Distribution. It's been reported that Steve Kemp started a project in which he tries to track down software that is susceptible to buffer overflow attacks, etc. Drew Scott Daniels started a related project which is a more general audit, but only a rough automated audit which may make developers and code auditor's jobs easier. Both projects could use more manpower.

Including the VESA Framebuffer? There is a dispute discussed on the list for the Technical Committee concerning the VESA framebuffer. Eduard Bloch would like to see this framebuffer included in the Debian kernel image package, however, Herbert Xu argued against this, and he's the maintainer. The upstream author noted that this framebuffer is not used by default, though.

MPlayer to be added to Debian? The latest release of MPlayer announced that the DivX4 code is finally released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Apparently, this was the only source code that was not GPL'd, so this may ease earlier work at getting MPlayer into the Debian main archive.

Debian: The Past, The Present and the Future. Christoph Lameter gave a talk Tuesday at the Free Software Symposium in Tokyo. In the talk he gave an overview of Debian and discusses packaging and core elements. Although Christoph calls it "very superficial stuff; not for hardcore people", there are nice graphs on the statistics for maintainers, packages and architectures over time and an attempt to extrapolate the future development from those.

Cdrdao License Issue Resolved. Earlier this month there was debate about the non-free library libedc_ecc which is used in the cdrdao package. Andreas Metzler has now advised that the issue has been resolved upstream and the libedc_ecc library is finally released under the GNU GPL.

Desktop Linux Summit. Major technology companies and announced their sponsorship of the inaugural Desktop Linux Summit. The Summit will be devoted to GNU/Linux on the Desktop and the companies involved are trying to make 2003 the 'Year of Desktop Linux'. The summit will be held in San Diego on Feb 20-21, 2003.

Debian and the LSB. Jason Lim started a discussion about the Debian distribution not being certified by the Linux Standard Base (LSB), while other distributions were certified. However, after a hint about the lsb package people continued to exchange their experience to use Debian as a commercial software platform.

Debian/OpenBSD ceased. Andreas Schuldei announced that he is discontinuing the effort to combine OpenBSD and Debian. He found out that there are several indications that security in OpenBSD is mostly at the same level as it is in Debian. Since the reason to work on this port was primary to provide a more secure environment for Debian users this port doesn't seem to be worthwhile anymore.

License Clarification for Debian/NetBSD. Joel Baker sent a clarification request to Richard Stallman. Files in the NetBSD source tree use widely varying licenses. While source code owned by the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) is unproblematic, the NetBSD Foundation previously expressed a resistance to requests to move from an old BSD license to a revised one without the advertising clause. Such code is not compatible with the GNU GPL.

News from Debian/EDU. Raphaƫl Hertzog announced that debian-edu metapackages were added to the Debian archive. He's looking for volunteers for various tasks like wiki editors, web editors for, documentation writers and people who maintain packages with educational aspects.

Global Technology Policy Institute Created. Bruce Perens, former Debian developer and project leader, sent out a call for donations to set up the Global Technology Policy Institute (GTPI), a new non-profit organization focusing on Free Software issues. GTPI will operate under section 501(c)6 of the US tax code, allowing it to engage in political activism. Other non-profits such as Software in the Public Interest, Inc. use section 501(c)3 of the tax code which limits their political activity, but allows them to receive tax-deductible donations. Among other issues, GTPI will lobby to protect publicly-funded researcher's right to release their code under the GNU GPL.

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. 12 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 143 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.

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