Debian Weekly News - May 27th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 21st issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. The GNOME project released their unstable snapshot of GNOME (version 2.3.2) for testing. The miniwoody CD, which offers a stripped down variant of Debian woody, has been renamed to Bonzai Linux.

Donations Wishlist. Wouter Verhelst proposed to create a donations wishlist similar to the one FreeBSD developers maintain. The list requires people to state how they would use the hardware. If someone works on something which is important to someone else's business, a donation could be to the benefit of both.

Proposal to remove Mosix. Francesco Lovergine proposed to remove all Mosix packages from the archive. Currently, Debian ships both Mosix and OpenMosix. However, OpenMosix is more actively maintained and even contains support for IA-64. It was forked off of Mosix when Prof. Barak changed the license into a proprietary one.

Packages with I18n Support disabled. Denis Barbier compiled a list of source packages that contain gettext files which are not distributed in the corresponding binary packages. He will continue to investigate these packages and file bug reports when internationalisation (i18n) support is not enabled at build time or if the translated files contain bugs that prevent the translation from working.

Debian used on Pegasos Platform. Eugenia Loli-Queru reported that Debian GNU/Linux comes preinstalled on Pegasos machines which are based on the IBM/Motorola PowerPC G3 and G4 CPUs. Through the use of Mac-On-Linux the Debian systems allows you to run Mac OS or OS X without requiring Apple hardware or a BIOS.

Interview with Andrew Tridgell. Alexander Antoniades was lucky and spoke with Andrew Tridgell about the pizzaware he created which is called Samba. Andrew also revealed that he only uses two GNU/Linux distributions regularly, Debian and Red Hat. However, he prefers Debian and runs the unstable distribution on his development machine, updating every couple of weeks.

Retain GCC Binary Compatibility? Matthias Klose wondered if it is worth striving for binary compatibility between hppa based distributions. For GCC 3.3 exceptions were changed from sjlj based to dwarf2 based on hppa and m68k. Since there are no hppa or m68k distributions released using gcc-3.2, compatibility with other released distributions may not be an issue, though.

Maintaining the Kernel Source. The discussion covers the problems with too many kernel packages per architecture per distribution. Manoj Srivastava explained that there is a mechanism to specify the order in which kernel-patches are applied and that all architectures should only provide patch packages. By consolidating the kernel source packages we should be able to shrink the distribution by one CD.

Hosting a DebConf in the U.S.? Aaron Ucko wondered whether an upcoming Debian Conference could be organised in the U.S. He reports that a professor is interested in sponsoring a Debian conference in Washington, DC, next spring, in conjunction with an international conference on Open Source in government. Joe Drew added that there are a number of non-american developers who will not set foot on American soil, due in part to the DMCA, something Alan Cox warned about already.

Firebird 0.6 packaged. Eric Dorland announced that he has uploaded packages of Mozilla Firebird, formally known as Phoenix, to his personal apt repository. Eric plans to upload this package to unstable after a few more tweaks, if there are no objections. The packages don't conflict with the Phoenix packages he provided earlier, since they were also unofficial packages.

Debian Multimedia List created. Marco Trevisani announced that the debian-multimedia mailing list has been created by the lists administrators. It intends to combine the efforts of A GNU/Linux Audio Distribution and Debian to create a GNU/Linux distribution for professional audio users based upon Debian.

Debian Wiki back Online. Michael Ivey announced that the Debian Wiki is back online, and should stay that way. He experienced a lot of trouble with Zope on his tight server. He finally learned about Kwiki, which is written in Perl, and has converted. All old links are still working with the help of mod_rewrite.

NetBSD Kernel Package Policy. Joel Baker has resolved problems with the libc on his Debian/NetBSD system and realized that if you install a new libc on a system with an older kernel, the system may end up in a hardly recoverable state. To address this he wrote a mini policy which documents a way to prevent this.

Donating Debian CDs to Libraries. Matthew Briggs wondered if it would be useful to donate his Debian CD collection to his university library. However, libraries often use cataloging data to keep track of their materials and this probably doesn't exist for Debian CDs.

Debian powered autonomous Robots. The Inquirer reported about a team of scientists at SRI International, a non-profit research institute split off of the Stanford University in 1946, who are working on robots that can perform tasks autonomously and report findings back to a central controller. The camera on the robots provide realtime feedback. The operating system controlling the whole thing is Debian GNU/Linux.

W3C approves Patent Policy. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has approved the W3C Patent Policy based on review by the W3C Advisory Committee. Tim Berners-Lee explained the decision and says that this policy discourages revenue generation strategies that work by forcing standards-compliant applications to pay licensing fees. However, the problem with a "royalty free" patent, is that it can be sold to someone who then charges for it, which happened to the JPEG patent, for example.

Debian Package Tags GUI. Enrico Zini announced the new website for the Debian Package Tags system. He also created a graphical user interface (GUI) for massive editing of the tag database. This tagcolledit package has been uploaded into the Debian archive and will be available in a couple of days. Additionally Enrico created a logo for Debian Package Tags.

All Systems Boot CD? Alastair McKinstry wondered whether an image could be created that would be the only necessary boot CD for the 4 Debian kernel ports: GNU/Linux, GNU/Hurd, GNU/NetBSD and GNU/FreeBSD. Many of the "all" architecture packages overlap and it should take less than 500 MB in total. This wouldn't happen in time for the sarge release, but once all issues are dealt with it should be possible to build a single boot CD that will install a working system using any of the 4 Debian systems.

Upcoming Keysigning Parties. Peter Palfrader is responsible for the upcoming keysigning parties at LinuxTag in Germany, Karlsruhe, and DebConf in Oslo, Norway. Gerfried Fuchs is also organizing the keysigning party at LinuxWochen in Vienna, Austria. All parties will use the Zimmermann/Sassaman method and expect a lot of participants.

Priority of a Developer over a Non-Developer? Stefan Schwandter found himself without a Debian machine and had to orphan the packages he maintained. Raphael Goulais wondered whether the Debian policy says that a registered Debian developer has a priority over a not (yet) registered developer when it comes to package adoptions. Josip Rodin explained that it is instead a first-come-first-serve method.

More MIME Improvements to the BTS. Colin Watson announced that the web interface of the Bug Tracking System (BTS) decodes each part of MIME messages for display. Quoted-printable and base64-encoded text will be displayed in a readable form. In addition, attachments are now only displayed as a download link rather than as a download link plus the full encoded attachment. The changes were also committed to the CVS repository.

Debian Sub-Projects. Gustavo Franco wondered why some Debian sub-projects are listed on the official website while others aren't. Raphaƫl Hertzog explained that this merely depends on somebody dedicating time to write web pages. Ben Armstrong explained that Debian Jr. is a personal subproject of his within Debian, that received a lot of contribution by others.

Packages per Maintainer. Petter Reinholdtsen reported that he had discovered that the distribution of number of packages per developer is very uneven. Very few developers maintain a lot packages and a large number of developers maintain only a very small number of packages, as the histogram reveals. He didn't honor other Debian work and Ben Collins even said that these numbers mean absolutely nothing.

What makes a DebConf a DebConf? Joe Drew asked what criteria a conference needs to meet until it can be called a DebConf. In particularly he wondered, if the conference in the US ends up happening will it be a DebConf or not. Andreas Schuldei said that he would like to see as many Debian meetings as possible. David Harris explained that people who can get expenses reimbursed and sponsors need to have a focus and hence there should only be major events called DebConf.

New or Noteworthy Packages. The following packages were added to the unstable Debian archive recently or contain important updates.

Orphaned Packages. 9 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 189 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 Dan Hunt, Matt Black, Daniel K. Gebhart and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.