Debian Weekly News - January 30th, 2002

Welcome to the fifth issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. The past week has been an exciting one. A lot of talk with regard to the upcoming release of woody took place on the debian-devel list. This issue contains items by Tollef Fog Heen and Yooseong Yang, which are greatly appreciated. The mail version of this issue uses a new style for embedding links which was generated by a script provided by Aaron Schrab. Please let us know if it makes DWN easier to read or not.

New GDB Manuals free? Thomas Bushnell reports that a new upstream GDB release has been made which fixes the copyright problem on the GDB manuals. It fixes the fact that the GDB manuals (for some presumably accidental reason) labelled various technical sections as being invariant. Thomas says that this makes GDB now in the same category as Emacs and GCC: not unproblematic, but also not horrible.

Package Tracking System. Raphaël Hertzog announced the new Package Tracking System. It allows developers to subscribe to all messages regarding a source package: Bug messages and «Installed» messages (not yet implemented, though). This service can be used by "backup maintainers" to follow a package, or by upstream authors who wish to follow how their package is handled within Debian, or by people doing an NMU. Send a message containing the word «help» to for instructions.

Packaging an O'Reilly Book. Stefano Zacchiroli wanted to package the electronic version of an O'Reilly book covering Objective Caml and was wondering if the package could go into the main distribution. Even though O'Reilly believes that the license meets the DFSG opinions vary, so the book was about to be packaged for non-free. However, O'Reilly later modified the license, so it now meets the DFSG and can go into the main distribution.

Outdated Netscape Packages? Although Netscape 4.79 was released on November 16th, 2001, the Debian package is still at 4.77. DonDiego wondered whether the Netscape package is orphaned or not. Several bugs are outstanding for more than 600 days. Packages for other browsers seem to be better maintained. Netscape has lost the browser battle, while Mozilla (or Mozilla-based browsers respectively) and Konqueror prevail among Open Source web browsers in the Debian distribution.

The Emacs Operating System. Adam Major wondered about a couple of strange manpages distributed with the Emacs 21 package. Replies to his original mail uncovered phases of the moon, pong, tetris and display-battery. The latter is useful for all notebook users who like to keep an eye on the battery. The discussion ended in Adam saying: "Will this madness never end? I'm trying to get some work done!"

Desktop Entry Standard or Debian Menu System? Chris Cheney suggested to switch to the Desktop Entry Standard which has been adopted by recent Gnome and KDE. Even though a distribution neutral menu system would be a good thing, Ben Armstrong pointed out that the Debian menu system does more than just provide a way of specifying desktop-neutral menu entries. It provides the mechanism for implementing the same set of menus across all window managers. Joseph Carter added that the Desktop Entry Standard lacks support for requirements (such as: needs x11, a virtual console, a terminal etc.).

Adrian Bunk Retired. Since the woody release is making only very little progress (if any), Adrian Bunk decided to retire from the Debian project entirely, and has orphaned all of his packages. The current release process has led to very little motivation on Adrian's side and he doesn't see his work honored in Debian in the form of a new stable release in the foreseeable future.

Addressing the Release. Anthony Towns posted a roundup targetting the woody release. Basically he says that there is currently no real progress. There is absolutely no magic that can be done to make a bunch of buggy useless software acceptable as a Debian release. We shouldn't resign, though. Indeed, it is quite obvious what needs to be done: we need to fix these bugs.

Besides, NMU (non-maintainer uploads) are okay as of now. However, please keep in mind that a maintainer upload is still better, passing on patches and helping the maintainer to integrate them, is preferred as well. There's also a system implemented for NMUs that will delay the installation up to 10 days (see details in Anthony's mail). Please note that once you've made an NMU it is your responsibility to make absolutely sure you didn't break the package.

Upgrade Problems. The Debian distribution is known for smooth upgrades from one stable release to the next one. Upgrading from potato to woody, though, does not seem to follow this path. Several reports demonstrate problems during the upgrade, such as this one from Dale or this one, to name some examples. Ted T'so asked if Debian can only be used by experts or by regular users as well.

Installation Problems. During an exhibition (HCT, in Germany, see the trip report) several Debian people tried to install a plain Debian woody system onto another exhibitor's machine. This should have worked just as smoothly as expected, but didn't. We failed with the Malformed release file error and even the patch from the debian-boot didn't work as expected. It only went worse. After patching the file manually, nano-tiny received a segmentation fault. This clearly demonstrates that Debian needs more testing of boot floppies and more clueful people working on this system.

Debian as a CORBA Component? Colin Walters was annoyed that the web interface to only displays i386 packages. He started thinking about how to implement a replacement, and realized that he requires access to the database on auric. That alone cried out for a CORBA interface. Once there is a CORBA interface to the archive, why not a CORBA interface to the bug tracking system and to other services? He has already implemented a working prototype.

XFree86 4.2.0 is Out! On January 18th XFree86 4.2.0 was released. On DebianPlanet the question came up whether Debian is going to package it anytime soon. Branden Robinson updated the X Strike Force pages on which he explains that he is currently preparing packages for 4.1.0-14. He has also started to work on version 4.2.0 but cannot promise when packages may be ready. As in the past, the first packages of the new upstream version that will be available will be experimental pre-releases from his private repository.

New or Noteworthy Packages. The following new or updated packages were added to the Debian archive recently.

Security Updates. Under normal circumstances we would recommend to upgrade your packages. However, since the most recent security advisory breaks what it ought to fix instead, please be careful when upgrading on a machine which acts as anonymous rsync server. You would fix a remote root hole, but you would also shut down the service. It may be advantageous to recompile the package from unstable on your potato machine instead.

Orphaned Packages. 18 packages were orphaned this week and need a new maintainer. This makes it total 113 orphaned packages. Please see the WNPP pages for the full list.

Got News? Please keep us informed! We don't want to miss it. Be sure to send us feedback and tips about new or old packages to If you only want to meet Debian people, we suggest you consider attending the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo currently taking place in New York.

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