Debian Weekly News - January 21st, 2003

Welcome to this year's third issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking nominations for their annual Pioneer Awards, honoring those who extend freedom and innovation in the information technology. Nominations are due by February 1st, 2003.

Rescuing /var. Nicholas Petreley of somehow managed to backup the wrong partition and found himself with a Debian system missing the /var directory. All the important package information lives in /var/lib/dpkg, in particular the /var/lib/dpkg/status file. Nicholas describes the three lessons he learned in recovering from the accidental deletion of the /var/lib/dpkg directory.

Debian older than Humanity? Tomas Pospisek reported that the Debian Swirl can be cleary seen on one of the pictures taken by NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. For example, check the lower right hand corner of the image. Perhaps this is proof that the seeds for Debian were sowed long before the dawn of humanity.

Debian Presentations. Wolfgang Borgert was looking for a set of slides on dpkg, apt-get and debconf. Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña intends to provide a 'presentations' section in the Debian Documentation Project (DDP) and has already created an archive of slides. Whilst the Debian web site does link to talks given by developers and some sample slides, it is difficult to gather this information and publish it in a homogeneous way. Talks should be reported to and forwarded to him.

Making Debconf Mandatory for Prompting Users? Adrian Bunk suggested to change the Debian policy to require all user prompts in maintainer scripts to be performed by debconf. This would greatly ease things like automated upgrading of multiple computers. Petter Reinholdtsen provided a list of packages that he had trouble with because they do not use debconf. And as a bonus, debconf templates can easily be translated.

MingW32 for all Architectures? Currently, the MingW32 package is only released for the IA-32 architecture for no technical reason. However, Steven G. Johnson reported that he has modified the build process and built the package on the PowerPC platform. He emphasises that the only code that is actually compiled for a non-x86 host belongs to gcc and binutils. Hence, the package should work on all architectures, unless there is a bug in GCC. Ron Lee indicated that new packages will be uploaded, which should run on all architectures.

Antialiasing with GNOME. Bill Moseley discovered antialiased fonts, which however he wanted to turn off, Michael Sullivan also noticed a major upgrade with regards to font antialiasing. Fonts should look smoother but some people find that they just seem blurred, that they are more difficult to read, and even hurt the eyes. GTK 2.2 provides support for them but this feature can easily be turned off with an environment variable.

Documenting Package Tuning. Andreas Tille noted that there are several situations where packages have to be configured to work together under certain circumstances of operation or hardware technology. This may be difficult. He came up with an idea to collect some kind of knowledge base for those cases. This should probably be written by the community and could be maintained as a Wiki, DDP document or database.

Splitting out Documentation Packages. Adam Heath almost ran out of space and noticed that his /usr/share/doc directory contains 380 MB of documentation. Adrian von Bidder concluded that documentation which uses a significant amount of space should be split out into a documentation package and neither of them should depend on each other. Jochen Voss finally proposed a policy recommendation for such a package split.

License Problem with Glibc. Johan Walles reported about bug #171659 that reveals that glibc contains sourcecode from Sun Microsystems, Inc. Brian Carlson says that it places restrictions on distribution as an independent work, failing DFSG paragraph 1. It also fails DFSG paragraph 3 because it prohibits distribution of modifications of the original work as modifications. Jeff Bailey is working with upstream to start a reimplementation.

KDE 3.1 and Ägypten for Woody. Ralf Nolden announced that he has uploaded Debian packages for KDE 3.1 and woody and i386 to the KTown server. While he was at it he added a complete set of woody packages for Ägypten. This includes required packages that were backported from unstable where available.

Conferences in January. The Debian project announced that it will be present at three conferences this month. The first one refers to the Debian Mini-Conf prior to the Linux Conference Australia where many Debian developers will attend and give talks on various topics. From January 22nd to 24th Debian will maintain a booth at the Linuxworld Conference and Expo in New York and from January 23rd to 26th the Debian project will maintain a booth at the Hamburger Computer Tage in Hamburg, Germany.

Debian at CeBIT Exhibition? The Debian project has been offered to participate in the upcoming CeBIT exhibition in Germany. This could include installations on customers' notebooks, a booth, presentations and talks. Even though booths don't have to be present on all days, it would be easier to maintain if at least one person would be around on all days. Michael Meskes offered to give some talks and Roland Bauerschmidt volunteered for the booth. The time to organize things is very tight, so active people are needed.

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 unstable Debian archive recently or contain important updates.

Orphaned Packages. 3 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 165 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 Matt Black and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.