Debian Weekly News - August 26th, 2003

Welcome to this year's 34th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. The editorial of the last issue seemed to imply that LinEx did not contain non-free software, which is obviously wrong. The most important event for this week is probably the decision in the European parliament regarding the legalizing of software patents in Europe. EuroLinux and FFII call for an offline demo in Brussels and an online demo against software patents.

The next Debian Release. Anthony Towns proposed December 1st as the sarge release date. He also explained why the Debian project maintains stable releases at all. He also explains that this release will feature a distributed release management, consisting of at least four people. The use of the experimental distribution is also recommended for cvs snapshots and the like. Of course, Anthony also added a timeline for the sarge release. You're also strongly encouraged to work out your own schedule for packages you work on.

Debian's Popularity as a Web Server. Gerrit Griebel informed us about a report by Netcraft, which shows this popularity. Despite the absence of funding and being an amateur effort, Debian is the second most popular GNU/Linux distribution they find on Internet web sites. Debian's success is a testament to how little difference money sometimes makes. It is the most cosmopolitan of any of the GNU/Linux distributions. According to the geographical distribution, France and Germany contain more than half of all Debian's web server installations.

Libranet: TCO-Friendly GNU/Linux. Timothy R. Butler, the Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business, wrote a review of Libranet. He says that "the Debian GNU/Linux distribution is built entirely by volunteers. Because of this, and because of the large volunteer base size, Debian has a very strong and clear future. It is also known for meticulous packaging and release standards, meaning it is extremely stable and secure." Later he writes that Libranet is a real treat to deal with and is certainly an administrator's dream.

Debian Retrospective by Ian Murdock. Ian Murdock, the founder of the Debian project, wrote a retrospective on LinuxPlanet. He writes that in 1993, what he saw happening seemed completely illogical and wondered how people without any master plan, from different parts of the world, speaking different languages and not getting paid, could come together to build something as complex as an operating system. In those days people generally bootstrapped their own GNU/Linux systems from the ground and the term "distribution" wasn't widely used yet.

Debian Birthday Party Aftermath. The first set of photo galleries were released for parties in Liege, Belgium, Wallenrod, Germany, and Cambridge (here, here and here as well), United Kingdom. The people in Liege were also quite proud of the cake. Additionally, Axel Beckert wrote a report about the German party and János Holányi reported about the party in Hungary.

Tool of the Month: apt-iselect. Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier selected apt-iselect as his tool of the month, which is written by Dobrica Pavlinusic. This tool uses apt-cache to search for packages matching one or more terms using a text-mode menu and makes installing packages on Debian GNU/Linux systems even easier than before. It adds interactivity to apt-cache and makes it more friendly to users.

Debian Keyring with non-Developer Keys? Martin Quinson wondered if it would be possible for contributors to Debian who have not reached developer status to get their GnuPG key in the Debian keyserver. He said that the trust relationship would be eased if he could sign his mails and contribution with an easily available key. However, uploading the key to a public keyserver makes it easily available.

Ruby Policy Draft. Fumitoshi Ukai (鵜飼 文敏) announced that he's going to upload ruby-defaults soon and that he will rename the current ruby package into ruby1.6. He also wrote an initial draft of the Debian ruby policy which also covers the transition from Ruby 1.6 to 1.8. Comments are welcome, also about packaging Ruby 1.8.

Stack Protection in Debian? Russell Coker wanted to know who is interested in stack protection. He believes that it would be good to have some experiments with stack protected packages in Debian. Probably the best way to do this would be to start with ssh-stack and sysklogd-stack being uploaded to experimental. A kernel image with PaX could be interesting as well.

Monitoring release-critical Bugs. Colin Watson announced a new release critical bugs mailing list. All mails sent to bugs with release-critical severities, including acknowledgements of control messages, will now be copied to the new list: People interested in keeping the RC bug count under control are encouraged to subscribe in the usual way and help out.

Survey about the Freeness of the FDL. Branden Robinson started a survey to measure the level of consensus on whether the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL) is considered a free license according to the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) or not. The purpose of this survey is so that the participants in the debian-legal mailing list can make an informed recommendation to the rest of the Debian project.

Sarge and non-free Documentation. Adam Warner pointed out how the release of sarge is treating documentation. The release manager's policy says that documentation in main and contrib must be freely distributable, and wherever possible should be under a DFSG-free license. This will likely become a requirement for after the release of sarge. Members of the FSF have approached us to give them some more time to come up with a GNU FDL which is DFSG-free before we move packages in question to non-free and experience bigger controversies.

Managing /etc/shells. Karl Ramm announced that he has uploaded a version of the shadow package that provides scripts for the maintenance of /etc/shells. He decided very quickly when he became the shadow maintainer that he didn't want to be an arbiter of acceptable shells. This file is no longer a config file, but is maintained by the add-shell and remove-shell programs.

LSB v1.9 Public Review. Martin Michlmayr suggested people review the Linux Standard Base (LSB) v1.9 in order to make sure Debian agrees with its content. Porters should also check the architecture specific documents. These preview specifications are unapproved documents for feedback purposes only, in preparation for LSB v2.0 which will released at the end of the year. The LSB should be discussed on the debian-lsb mailing list. Feedback to the LSB is due by 30 September.

Work on new stable Revision for Woody. Bernd Eckenfels wondered if there were any plans for a 3.0r2 revision. The last update was released on December 16th 2002 and many security updates have been released since then. Martin Schulze, the Stable Release Manager, replied that he is trying to get back to his original bi-monthly plan. He also mentioned this page which contains his current plan for this update.

Where to place Kernel Modules? Martin F. Krafft wondered where to install additional kernel modules. Some packages use a directory of their own in the top-level modules directory, while other packages seem to prefer a subdirectory. Christoph Hellwig explained that one of the reasons for the module directory layout change with Linux 2.4 is so that each package gets its own top-level directory.

Information leaked into Debian Packages. Joey Hess noticed that information about the build system of some Debian maintainers was leaking into their binary packages. He said that home directories are just one thing that can get trapped in a binary. Other likely candidates include the build system's hostname. Slrn used to use the build hostname at runtime when posting articles, for example.

Closing Snort Bugs. Sander Smeenk announced that he plans to close 25 bug reports against the stable version of snort. He wrote a nice message telling the submitter that the bug was reported against an old version, including a URL to an up to date version of the package, where these bugs were likely to have been fixed. In a reply Noah Meyerhans explained that snort should be removed from stable releases completely, as it is not useful without a means of updating its data.

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

Orphaned Packages. 25 packages were orphaned this week and require a new maintainer. This makes a total of 214 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, Frédéric Bothamy and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.