Debian Weekly News - April 1st, 2003

Welcome to this year's 13th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Gentoo made an interesting move to adopt RPM as its package format and abandon its source archive. This leaves RockLinux as the only distribution that provides make world. Additionally, a security flag was added to the IPv4 header in order to distinguish between packets that have malicious intent and those that are merely unusual.

Martin Michlmayr is the new DPL. Manoj Srivastava announced that the winner of this year's Debian project leader (DPL) election is Martin Michlmayr. He won over Bdale Garbee by only four votes. Congratulations! The new DPL quickly thanked everyone who voted in this election and noted that the first three candidates were very close. He will therefore look at the other candidates' platforms again in detail and incorporate some of their ideas into his program.

Setting up Sid on a Laptop. Jay Docherty has written an article for Linux Journal in which he describes how to get a laptop up and running with a base installation of the unstable (sid) version of Debian GNU/Linux. The article covers how to compile and install a 2.4.20 Linux kernel using apt-get and make-kpkg. The laptop used was an IBM ThinkPad R32 and users may also find Thomas Hood's Debian GNU/Linux on IBM ThinkPad 600 and 600X page useful.

Independent Count of Votes. In response to Moshe Zadka's request for an independent count of votes in the Debian Project Leader Elections, Bdale Garbee announced the appointment of Ryan Murray to produce an independent count. Ryan is well-known and trusted within the project and has agreed to audit the scripts used to process raw votes. He will then run them himself shortly after voting closes on a copy of the mailbox containing the raw votes to independently determine the results of the election. If the two counts result in different winners, Bdale will refer the matter to the Technical Committee Chairman for resolution.

Bug Helping System. Mark Howard proposed an advanced bug helping system to coordinate bug fixing efforts. He thought that the help tag in the current bug tracking system (BTS) is under-utilized and that a more advanced system could encourage developers who have the time and skills to help fix bugs in other packages. Adam Heath thought this could be achieved through the current BTS and Hwei Sheng Teoh believed it wouldn't be too different from having dedicated mailing lists and posting requests when you need help.

Debian Desktop User's Guide. John Pisini is actively working on a Debian Desktop User's Guide, which is based upon the Progeny Debian User's Guide. John's goal is to bring the manual up to date for the next release of Debian. This will include bringing all Gnome related info in line with the 2.2 version and eventually incorporating KDE 3.1 to broaden its use. John would like volunteers to help with writing material, fixing errors and generating screenshots.

New-Maintainer Process improved. In the past the Debian project received many complaints about the tedious procedure for adopting new Debian developers. After some months of work on the reorganisation Martin Michlmayr and Andreas Schuldei proudly announced an improved new maintainers' corner. From now on the registration, the philosophy & procedures and tasks & skills tests can be passed online. Every day a new combination of questions is generated from a spool of hundreds of questions. According to Martin it should now be possible to join the project within three days.

GNU/Linux illegal for Adolescents in Germany? Today a new law to save young people from suffering from violent computer games takes effect in Germany. From now on no games may be sold to underaged, if the games are not explicitly marked harmless for certain age levels. Boxed GNU/Linux distributions, however, often if not always contain games like gcompris or tuxracer that were not explicitly marked. Depending on the interpretation of this law, GNU/Linux boxes may not be sold to young people anymore.

Alioth provides SourceForge for Debian. Raphaƫl Hertzog, Wichert Akkerman, and Roland Mas announced the availability of a Debian server running SourceForge software. Hosted as, it allows collaboration on Debian-related free-software projects. Debian developers can use their existing Debian accounts to access the alioth system. All developers of Free Software may use the system, though new projects must have a Debian developer on their core team. (Projects without a Debian affiliation should consider the Free Software Foundation's Savannah service.)

New Archive Sections. James Troup announced a change in the Debian archive. Six new sections have been added. The section embedded was added in response to the recently added Opie packages. The other new sections were added to help reduce the size of some of the biggest sections in the archive. The sections gnome and kde are designed to help split up the x11 section. The other new section libdevel is for library development packages and almost halves the size of devel. And finally, the sections perl and python are designed to help split up the interpreters section.

HTML summary for local Repositories. Jarno Elonen announced a PHP script to create an HTML summary page for Packages.gz files that were created for private archives of Debian packages. This script produces a nice web-based frontend to a local repository.

Scanning orphaned Packages against local System. Steve Robbins remembered a nifty script from Arthur Korn that sends mail when it sees an installed package marked as orphaned or up for adoption on the WNPP list. Since the script had stopped working he wondered if somebody had fixed it already. Jack Moffitt, however, has released a rewrite in Python.

Closing Bugs for removed Packages. Martin Michlmayr noticed that about 300 bugs are still open for packages that were removed by the release manager prior to the woody release. He wondered what the best action for them would be since you cannot reopen archived bugs. Adam Heath mentioned that adding code for this would be very easy. Martin also plans to close bugs that were reported particularly against potato.

Manual Pages and UTF-8. Vineet Kumar reported problems he experienced with several manual pages and the UTF-8 locale he uses. When using a UTF-8 locale, those pages use incorrect characters. Groff converts many of these characters to reasonable characters in ASCII locales, but some things break in UTF-8 locales.

Splitting the EKG Package. Marcin Owsiany reported about the need to split the EKG package, an instant messaging program. The new version can link against both readline and SSL libraries. However, since they have conflicting licenses this must not be done in the same package. Junichi Uekawa proposed using the GNU-TLS library instead, however this doesn't seem to be possible. James Troup suggested using editline instead of readline, there are even two copies in the archive.

Debian Wallpaper Package. Steve Kemp announced two wallpaper packages for Debian. They intend to be independent of the used window manager or desktop environment. The base package contains a couple of images and the script needed to do the real work. The second package is a collection of Tolkien inspired artwork. There is also a third package which is a collection of images inspired by, and taken from the Star Wars films.

Debian Accessibility Manual. Boris Daix posted the first draft of the Debian GNU/Linux Accessibility Manual, which contains only the structure of the document. Currently it only has illustrations for those with impaired sight, but other stuff will be included as it comes. Boris seeks feedback about the structure.

Building a GNU/Linux Mainframe. Kenneth Geisshirt wondered if it would be possible to build a mainframe-like computer based on Free Software. One could use OpenSSI or OpenMosix, MPI for process management and Plex86 or Bochs to create virtual server. Useful information for a such project is already collected.

Debian Installation for blind People. Mario Lang has been playing with the debian-installer since November and recently managed to do a complete installation with the brltty enabled debian-installer disk. However the driver still has to be added to the command line.

Handling of multiple Library Versions. Stephen Frost contacted the technical committee in order to find an answer to the following problem and to document it in the policy. He seeks a decision on how to properly handle multiple library versions which end up linked into the same process. Versioned symbols would potentially break compatibility with other distributions and the LSB, while conflicting library packages would render several packages uninstallable.

Debian-Installer Port Status. Alastair McKinstry is working on a status page to track the builds of debian-installer on various architectures. He believes that we need to get builds happening on all ports soon if debian-installer is to be released this year. Volunteers on non-x86 platforms are wanted. Sebastian Ley has also done some good work on the graphical installer.

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. 12 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 184 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, Thomas Bliesener, Andre Lehovich and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.