Debian Weekly News - August 5th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 31st issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Few of you may have noticed this already, but as per the results of last year's security survey the Debian Security Team doesn't support potato (Debian 2.2) anymore. Also, Robin 'Roblimo' Miller explained why governments should be allowed to specify Free Software.

Booting Debian with Eye-Candy. Martin Michlmayr wondered about having Debian show nice graphics during boot up, rather than boot messages in text mode. He discussed this with Herbert Xu, who explained that this is no longer a kernel issue. Once the framebuffer driver is loaded, a user space process can do arbitrary graphical operations on the console. Alastair McKinstry pointed out that debian-installer already uses framebuffer support in modules and that work is under way to divert all stderr towards a logging solution.

MPlayer moves closer to being Free. Andrea Mennucc and Dariush Pietrzak worked on mplayer checking copyright information and asked for volunteers to re-check the source code to ensure it satisfies the Debian Free Software Guidelines. Adam Warner was pleased with the work and made some suggestions. After it was pointed out that mplayer contains problematic DVD Content Scrambling System (CSS) code, Andrea repackaged it with the CSS code removed. He would appreciate feedback on its suitability for Debian main.

Linux is a Process, not a Product. In a commentary on Ian Murdock explained that Linux is not a product but a process. "To think of Linux as a product is to freeze an inherently dynamic thing in time and to close something that is inherently open. It cannot be done without losing something -- and something significant at that".

Philosophy behind Knoppix. Klaus Knopper was interviewed about Free Software, the roots of and ideas behind Knoppix, his interests and the future of his Knoppix project. In his opinion, the GNU software suite, together with the Linux kernel, have become the most flexible and usable operating system and application software available for a vast variety of hardware platforms.

More automatic BTS Reports. Nikita Youshchenko suggested that the bug tracking system (BTS) generates more automatic mails than just the list of release critical bugs and the work needing packages report. He would like to see a list of bugs that have a "patch" tag for (e.g.) 2 weeks and no "wontfix" tag, a list of bugs that are more than N months old and also don't carry a "wontfix" tag and a list of packages with huge bug lists that probably need community help.

DebConf 2005 in Vienna? Gerfried Fuchs proposed to organise the Debian conference for 2005 in Vienna, since he would like to attend a Debian conference as well. A good argument for Vienna is that it is centrally located in Europe and is close to the eastern countries of the continent, which could help our friends from Eastern Europe to attend the conference more conveniently. Finally, Tollef sent in his experiences from the Oslo Debian conference.

Synchronising the BTS and Bugzilla. Erich Schubert has written a small Perl script which queries the Debian bug tracking system for bugs forwarded to bugzilla (GNOME in this case) and creates a list of the bugs and their status in bugzilla. This should help tracking which forwarded bugs were closed by upstream.

Debian in Schools. Thomas Lindemans explained at the European Schoolnet, a partnership of 26 Ministries of Education, why educators should try GNU/Linux. Debian is mentioned as being "built for stability" and good for those who enjoy a "fast and secure operating system". The article suggests that using Debian in a school would require somebody with knowledge of Linux because of text configuration files, however no mention is made of Skolelinux or the Debian-Edu subproject.

Status of Debian/AMD64. Access to an Opteron machine was granted to the Debian project after a discussion with AMD at this year's LinuxTag. Bart Trojanowski also announced a birds of a feather session targeting the Debian port to AMD64 at this year's Ottawa Linux Symposium. Bart explained that a few libraries are ported to the AMD64 architecture but they are not yet sufficient to run applications.

Benchmarking Debian's Performance. Indranath Neogy tried to discover what kind of gains the source based nature of Gentoo might give it over Debian and Mandrake. The tests included timing how long it took to open a large sheet in Gnumeric, how long to compile the Linux kernel and how long to perform various operations in GIMP. Gentoo was expected to lead in the tests, but the results showed no significant variation between the distributions. Simple recompiling doesn't seem to speed things up, fine grained tuning may.

CUPS as the default Print Service. Petter Reinholdtsen suggested that the default print system in the next release of Debian (sarge) be changed to CUPS, because it is a more complete, more user friendly and RFC compliant printing system. Daniel Jacobowitz found that CUPS lacked functionality, but Cyrille Chepelov thought CUPS has improved over the last 18 months.

LinuxTag Show Report. Nicholas Blachford reported on his experience at this year's LinuxTag. He said that "the Debian stand seemed to be one of the most popular stands, constantly getting a crowd of people, many of whom picked up the Debian CDs they were giving away. At the back of the booth they ran an ASCII art animation via a beamer which got some very bewildered looks at times".

LSB Presentations at LinuxWorld. The Linux Standard Base (LSB) project will be delivering a tutorial, two presentations, and a "Taste of Linux" discussion at LinuxWorld in San Francisco. These presentations will take place on August 5 and 6 and will include "Designing and Implementing Great Shared Libraries", presented by Ted Ts'o. Amongst other things, Ted is a Debian Developer and Linux kernel contributor.

Inconsistencies in our Handling of Licenses. John Goerzen is getting an increasingly uneasy feeling about the consensus that appears to be starting to coalesce around our handling of the FDL, RFC issues and related matter. He mentions that the DFSG are guidelines, not a definition, that we allow information to be distributed with software under even more stricter terms than the FDL, that standards have to be handled different to software, and that we need to think about whether the actions we take are advancing our goals or not.

DeCSS for Debian? There has been an Intent to Package for DeCSS, a utility for stripping CSS tags from an HTML page. Sam Hocevar objected to this cluttering of the package namespace with a useless program. Brian Nelson quoted the project's website which admits that it is pretty much useless.

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 183 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, Dan Hunt and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.