Debian Weekly News - January 6th, 2004

Welcome to this year's first issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Debian Weekly News enters its fifth year, since on January 4th 1999, Joey Hess released the first issue. Richard Stallman wrote that he quit MIT 20 years ago to create a free operating system, a variation of which is used by thousands of people today. Merry Christmas to those celebrating the Orthodox Christmas on the 7th of January.

Coordination in Free Software Projects. Giampaolo Garzarelli and Roberto Galoppini wrote a paper about the coordination in modular organizations and used the Debian project as example. The paper asserts that the production process is hierarchical notwithstanding the modular (nearly decomposable) architecture of software.

History of the Social Contract. Raul Miller explained that historically the Debian Free Software Guidelines were about distributing software and not writing software because, originally, Debian was not supposed to be about writing software, but about pulling together a coherent distribution based on what's already out there.

Using Kernel Header Files. Ben Armstrong noticed that source code doesn't compile well on non-i386 architectures due to the use of kernel include files. Ben Collins advised that kernel headers are not meant for userspace programs. John Hasler suggested to include only the required definitions from the kernel header file into the package.

Planet Debian. Scott James Remnant announced Planet Debian which is a collection of recent blog entries by Debian developers and affiliated people. It reads RSS feeds of about 30 people and works similar to Planet GNOME.

Another non-free Proposal. Anthony DeRobertis formulated another proposal to remove non-free software from Debian archives with the sarge release. This time a rationale is prepended and helps understanding the issue.

Debian R Policy. Dirk Eddelb├╝ttel released a draft for a suggested policy for R packages within Debian. In the six years that Debian members have been maintaining R for Debian, the total number of R related packages has grown to a full thirty. This draft is a timely concern since R-based archives such as CRAN and BioConductor are experiencing enormous growth in the number of their packages. More and more of these may eventually be turned into Debian packages.

License Adjustment Letter. Roland Stigge reported about the willingness of the current maintainer and the former author of latex2html to alter its license. This is a requirement before the package can go back into main. However, this may need an agreement from Leeds University which is attached to the mail. Roland seeks comments.

APT-Howto Redesign. Gustavo Noronha Silva thought about rewriting the APT Howto for sarge. The main focus should be what new sarge users want to know, not necessarily unstable users. He also want to emphasise the use of aptitude instead of plain apt-get.

Debian-Installer Beta 2. Joey Hess announced that debian-installer in the Debian archive has been branched for beta 2 for the i386 architecture. The udebs and installation images have been copied to testing and changes necessary to get ports working for beta 2 can be propagated into testing as well. At this stage, the MIPS port is tentatively scheduled for January 17th release, and the IA-64 port for January 12th. The PowerPC port appears close to done, but no date has been set yet.

XFS Support in Debian-Installer. Steve Langasek announced that after several iterations, XFS-enabled debian-installer netinst images are now available for download. Testing of this (unsanctioned, unofficial) image is welcome, including testing by anyone not specifically interested in using XFS. The default image on the disk (typing linux at the boot prompt instead of xfs) should in all ways behave like the regular daily images.

Debian-based Distributions Compared. Barry Smith posted his fifth and final article reviewing Debian-based commercial distributions in a Small Office / Home Office (SOHO) environment. The article reviews Xandros 2.0 Deluxe, and compares it to the distributions previously reviewed: Lindows 4.0, Lindows 4.5, Libranet, and Mepis.

Partial GNOME Freeze. Jordi Mallach asked Debian GNOME maintainers to freeze all packages that are associated with meta-gnome2 packages. He listed 13 packages that bear one or more problems. Each of them is a reason to keep meta-gnome2 out of the testing distribution, which stops proper GNOME in sarge.

Security Updates. You know the drill. Please make sure that you update your systems if you have any of these packages installed.

Want to continue reading DWN? Please help us create this newsletter. We still need more volunteer writers who watch the Debian community and report about what is going on. Please see the contributing page to find out how to help. We're looking forward to receiving your mail at

To receive this newsletter weekly in your mailbox, subscribe to the debian-news mailing list.

Back issues of this newsletter are available.

This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Matt Black and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.