Debian Weekly News - August 19th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 33rd issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Aryan Ameri wrote a user review of Libranet 2.8, which is based on Debian. Richard Stallman said he now prefers the GNU/LinEx distribution over Debian because of non-free software on our FTP servers. There's been a lot of discussion on the debian-legal list about the definition of the word "software", with much heat generated.

Birthday Present: Rescue CD. As a special birthday present for the 10th anniversary of the Debian project Jörg Jaspert has created a business card sized rescue CD. Although only 50 MB in size, it contains most tools required to rescue a GNU/Linux systems, plus some tools which are useful to rescue other systems. The CD can be ordered at LinuxLand.

Origins of the DFSG. Bruce Perens explained that when he designed the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG), his intention was that the entire contents of that CD would be under the rights stated in the DFSG, be they software, documentation, or data. His view is that invariant sections in documentation, such as those allowed by the GNU Free Documentation License, are OK for attribution, the copyright statement and license only, and not for other aspects of the document.

Public Release of xml-core. Ardo van Rangelrooij announced the first public, highly experimental version of the xml-core package. It contains the update-xmlcatalog tool to manage XML catalog files. For more details see the draft of the Debian XML Policy. Note that the next version of the policy will require a local catalog for often-used stylesheet files, which is already implemented in update-xmlcatalog. Issues or bugs should be reported to the debian-sgml mailing list.

Open Source good Choice for Companies. In a short story by Jan Stafford, editor of Debian Developer Tony Mancill says "Because most open source software is based upon open standards and written to fill functionality gaps left by proprietary offerings, conversion from Proprietary A to open-source can be easier than the conversion to another proprietary product." Tony Mancill talks about two examples of how open source technology helped two firms he has worked with.

Continuing the G++ 3.x Transition. Matthew Wilcox noted that work on this transition plan has slowed down. He reveals that there are more than 120 maintainers who maintain packages that still depend on libstdc++2.10. There are still 145 source packages compiled with g++ 2.95 in the archive. If Debian wants to hit this release goal, it's time to get working on these packages.

Installing Debian on an Indy. Jan Ivar Pladsen wrote a document which describes how to install Debian GNU/Linux on Indy. In detail he describes how to fetch and configure the MAC address to boot the machine via the network. He continues with a detailed calculation for partitioning the harddisk. Most of this information should already be part of the Debian installation manual but apparently isn't.

Debian's Founding Moment. With Debian's 10th Birthday, Ben Finney wondered if there was an inaugural email or some other document that marked the start of the Debian project. This news posting from Ian Murdock was pointed out. Matt Zimmerman thought the goals of an "installation procedure that doesn't need to be babysit" and a "system setup procedure that will attempt to setup and configure everything from fstab to Xconfig" may still need work. But Peter Makholm noted that at least the "Be warned that it will be rather large :)" message was accurate.

Mounting the Root Filesystem read-only. Thomas Hood noted that one of the remaining obstacles to running cleanly with the root filesystem mounted read-only has been the mount program, which can only write the mtab file in /etc/. If this file is a symbolic link then mount will not write to it. People have wished that mount would follow a symlink so that it could point somewhere like /run/mtab. Thomas has developed a patch for this, so did Goswin von Brederlow.

When a Build requires Kernel Headers. Jörg Wendland experienced problems with including kernel header files in a regular package. Ben Collins explained that userspace applications should not require kernel headers for building. Herbert Xu added that the solution in this case is to include a copy of the said header file in the package itself.

Support for encrypted Swap and Data Partitions. Vincent Bernat wondered if Debian would like to support encrypted swap and encrypted data partitions. He has modified to allow encrypted partitions. Encrypted partitions need user interaction to be mounted, since the password is not generated on the fly (like for the swap), so it is only usable on laptops and maybe on some home systems.

Protest against Software Patents. Felix Klee informed us that on September 1st the European parliament will vote on a directive that legalizes software patents in Europe. If this directive comes through we will be stuck with software patents in the foreseeable future. Chances of changing the patent law back are close to zero. The FFII is organizing a conference in Brussels on August 27 as a last minute protest to raise the attention of yet undecided members of the parliament and asks webmasters to close their websites on August 27th.

Introducing Mepis Linux. Mepis Linux is derived from the Debian GNU/Linux code base. LinuxOnline is hosting a series of articles on this LiveCD. The first is an overview of the CD, which reveals that there are not that much cheat codes like Knoppix. It is followed by a full review. Finally, Mepis creator Warren Woodford is interviewed, and said that Mepis wouldn't be possible without the high quality committed work of the Debian community.

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. 15 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 195 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 Alexander Schmehl, Matt Black, Dan Hunt and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.