Debian Weekly News - January 27th, 2004

Welcome to this year's fourth issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for the Debian community. Ognyan Kulev fixed a long-standing drawback and released an unofficial patch for the Hurd to finally allow ext2 filesystems with more than 2 GB. Joe Barr was looking for a large escape key for the brain, a mind-rotting time waster that truly allows you to escape for a bit. Then he discovered frozen-bubble, but managed to write his article as well. The February issue of the Italian Linux Pro magazine contains a snapshot of Debian sarge (testing) on a DVD or on 4 CDs respectively.

New deaf portmap Package. Josselin Mouette announced a new portmap package that doesn't listen on the network by default. The package has been modified this way since it is installed on a wide range of desktop boxes without the need to listen to the whole network, introducing a potential security weakness for desktop users.

FOSDEM: Call for Papers. Wouter Verhelst called for papers about any subjects to be held in the shared developers' room at the upcoming FOSDEM. Given the general context of the event, which is aimed at developers rather than users, talks should be of a more or less technical manner, and should have a duration of about one hour.

Removing the Exim Dependency. Marc Haber wondered what to do with about 50 packages in the archive that still declare a dependency to exim instead of exim4. Since Exim 3 is no longer supported upstream, and Exim 4 is the default MTA for sarge he intended to file wishlist bugs against these packages. However, Exim 4 is not a drop-in replacement for Exim 3, since it uses a different configuration file format that cannot be converted in an easy way.

Removing the "operator" User. Colin Watson wanted to know which home directory should be used for the "operator" user. Historically, this user existed only to run dumps of the disks and log in remotely without NIS, NFS and the like. However, since it doesn't have a real home directory as default, the account didn't provide this functionality anyway. The discussion persuaded Colin to remove this user from fresh installations.

Amending the Debian Release Process? Lucas Nussbaum proposed to disregard stable releases and only assign working branches, where packages would go when the maintainer ask for it, like Raphaël Hertzog described in his platform. Adrian Bunk objected and explained that many packages have to go into testing at exactly the same time to avoid uninstallable packages. He also raised the question of security support for these snapshots.

Comparing the two General Resolutions. Anthony DeRobertis compared Raul Miller's draft and Andrew Suffield's proposed general resolution for amending the social contract. He compares both proposals sentence by sentence. This should help people to understand the differences in both intentions.

Public Debian GNU/Hurd Machine. Gürkan Sengün announced a public machine running Debian GNU/Hurd which he has made available. Interested developers should send him a mail and ask for an account, if they want to explore Debian GNU/Hurd or test or compile their packages.

Installing Debian on Thunderbird mini-ITX. Henry Kingman explained how to install Debian GNU/Linux on a Lippert Thunderbird mini-ITX motherboard based on a Pentium-M processor. It is not specifically an embedded project, but it does present obstacles similar in nature to those faced by embedded Linux developers working with boards with relatively new chip sets. The article included descriptions of starting with the bf24 boot-floppies and setting up X11 and sound.

Linux on Mac Primer. David Mertz explained that Linux isn't only for x86 boxes, but runs equally well on PowerPC machines. He explained the reasons why users would want to run Linux on a Mac and evaluated Debian, Knoppix, Yellow Dog, and Mandrake on the PowerPC. David felt he couldn't really recommend Debian, mainly because of difficulties he experienced trying to get X11 working.

MD/Software RAID Support in debian-installer. Paul Fleischer announced that he has been working on getting MD support into debian-installer. He has prepared a mdadm-udeb package and a mdcfg udeb package, which contains the debconf stuff needed for setup, and the necessary block file for partconf. Paul has made the source packages available, although the process currently fails when trying to configure a kernel for the system, requiring the user to install mdadm on the target partition, and retry the operation.

New Popularity Contest. Bill Allombert announced that contains package usage statistics. If you want the survey to include information about the software used on your own machines, simply install the popularity-contest package. Among other things, the results are used to decide which packages should go on the installer CD instead of on supplementary discs.

Proper Use of Addresses. Michael Banck released the results of his survey about the proper use of addresses. About one hundred developers responded, which is about one ninth of the registered developers. Using addresses in relation with Free Software or on personal homepages was clearly considered to be alright, while uses not connected to Free Software or just as general purpose email address were quite clearly considered not alright.

New Standard Text Browser. James Troup announced that he demoted the text browser lynx from priority standard to optional. The new standard text browser is now w3m, which features e.g. support for tables. There were some discussions whether links should have been promoted instead, but up to now the decision hasn't been reverted.

Booting from a USB Stick. Rene Mayrhofer announced a new version of mkinitrd-cd which supports booting from USB CD-ROM/DVD drives, USB sticks and USB harddisks. Hence, it is no longer only an all-in-one package for creating live, bootable CD-ROMs. He wondered if he should rename the package.

KDE 3.1.5 in unstable. Chris Cheney reported that all components of KDE 3.1 were uploaded into unstable. However, since the buildd network hasn't updated their g++ due to its policy to spend as little time as possible, most packages weren't yet built for other architectures than IA-32.

Build Daemon Statistics. Ingo Jürgensmann announced additional information about the Debian build network. It reads the wanna-build database and displays it. Additional information was added about machines for all architectures, including the status, machine types, CPU and disk specification.

Documentation of Source Archives. Henning Makholm noticed that Debian doesn't ship sufficient documentation about pristine and other source archives and hence prepared draft text. He is seeking feedback on the draft and would also like to know where to add it.

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.

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This issue of Debian Weekly News was edited by Michael Banck, Matt Black, Andre Lehovich, Tobias Toedter and Martin 'Joey' Schulze.