Debian Project News - August 18th, 2008

Welcome to this year's 9th issue of DPN, the newsletter for the Debian community.
Some of the topics covered in this issue include:

Debian turns 15

On 16 August 1993 Ian Murdock announced a new Linux distribution named Debian. 15 years later the project started by him is the biggest Linux distribution worldwide, offering more than 20 000 software packages maintained by over 1'000 volunteers, supporting more hardware architectures than any other Linux distribution, and providing a base for more than twenty active derivatives, like Knoppix, Skolelinux or Ubuntu.

Users, journalists, and Debian Developers congratulated, sometimes just happy, sometimes thoughtfully, and celebrated the birthday of the Debian project worldwide with parties and single day conferences (sometimes even with live streams of the sessions). Even a virtual birthday party was held in Second Life (a virtual world powered by Debian) where musicians Blue4u Nowicka and Jaggpro McCann gave concerts as an opener to the virtual party. In Argentina Steve McIntyre, current Debian Project Leader, opened the 8th Debian Conference with a talk describing the current state of the Debian project and the long way it has come until today. His talk is already available as a downloadable video.

The Debian project would like to thank its users and developers for the confidence placed in our distribution over the last 15 years and is looking forward to the upcoming release of Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 Lenny and many happy returns.

Freespire 5 to be based on Debian

Recently acquired by the Xandros Corporation, the upcoming release of Freespire will be based on the Debian GNU/Linux Lenny release. The current release of Freespire (2.0.8) is still based on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon). A combined Xandros/Linspire development effort will return Freespire to its Debian GNU/Linux roots and put it in sync with Xandros Desktop Pro, said Andreas Typaldos, Xandros CEO. Freespire 5 is slated to be released in the fourth quarter of 2008.

8th annual Debian Conference finished

The 8th annual Debian Conference, allowing Users and Developers to come together, learn new techniques and discuss further development has finished yesterday on the 17th August 2008. Some results of the discussions which took place there are mentioned in this issue. Videos of the conference sessions are available (or will be soon) at the meetings archive. The video team asks for feedback. It is also possible to give feedback to speakers and topics. Since most attendees are still on their way home, the next issue of the Debian Project News will have a deeper coverage of the Debian Conference and the associated Debian Day at Buenos Aires.

Debian on the OpenMoko FreeRunner

Joachim Breitner announces the start of an official Debian port to the OpenMoko FreeRunner, a smartphone that was designed and developed in a free and open manner. This enables Debian users to use the distribution of their choice even on their telephone. Installation instructions can be found on the Debian wiki.

Bits from the X Strike Force

Julien Cristau reports on the newest developments within the X Strike Force. The X Strike Force is happy to announce that the configuration of the Xorg server has been considerably simplified and it is now also possible to configure video output at runtime. Furthermore new drivers have been packaged, namely the nouveau driver, a reverse-engineering effort for nVidia cards and openchrome, which will support via chipsets instead of the unmaintained via driver. The nouveau driver does not yet have release-quality but the X Strike Force asks for testing of the experimental build. xorg-server 1.5 and mesa 7.1 are also currently in experimental and are scheduled to advance to sid after the Lenny release. At around the same time, the team plans to enable hotplugging of input devices, and their configuration through hal. The X Strike Force concludes their report with a call for maintainers (DDs and non-DDs). People interested in joining the team can contact them on #debian-x on, or on

Request for adoption: The Debian Jr. project

Ben Armstrong is looking for someone to take over the Debian Jr. project, since he is currently too involved with other Debian-internal projects and can no longer spend the necessary time on it. He recommends several measures to move the project forward and hopes to find a new leader for the project who will tackle these and other tasks and carry on his work on a child-friendly custom Debian distribution.

Upcoming changes to supported architectures

One of the problems discussed during this year's Debian Conference was, the main host for the Debian archive, running into resource constraints. Joerg Jaspert announced the results: Hardware architectures, which have failed to be included in 2 successive official releases, will be moved to an other host (e.g. The main purpose is to free space for architectures that are in a better shape and therefore have higher chances of being in an release.

The current candidates for removal are m68k, hurd-i386 and arm (which will be replaced by armel anyway), while kfreebsd-i386 and kfreebsd-amd64 as well as other architectures could now be added to the official Debian archive machines. Of course removed architectures can be re-added to the main archive, when they have proven to be fit for release.

Dropping packages in main building packages in contrib

Joerg Jaspert wondered if it is a necessary feature, that source packages of a specific component (main, contrib or non-free) may create binary packages within an other component. Some source packages in Debian main use that feature to create binary packages in contrib. Dropping this feature would ease a re-design of the central project database. When asked for the benefits of dropping this feature, Stefano Zacchiroli explained further that the database should reflect the structure of the project, especially since only the component main is an official part of Debian. Blurring the difference might confuse our users and is weird at best.

Bits from the GNU/kFreeBSD porters

Aurelien Jarno gave a status report about the kFreeBSD port. Overall it is in very good shape. Currently i386 and AMD64 based architectures are supported. It has a complete toolchain (including java) and more than 85% of all packages are built. He asked for help to qualify as a releasable architecture, since a port of the debian-installer is currently missing.

FAI developer workshop at the Linuxhotel in Essen/Germany

At the weekend from 8th until 10th of August, the FAI (Fully Automatic Installation — an installation and update-management framework for Debian and other distributions) developer team met at the Linuxhotel in Essen, Germany, to make FAI fit for the Lenny release. In a productive as well as fun meeting, seven people got a lot of things done, but most importantly, they did a lot of testing of the current FAI functionality in the Lenny context.

Important bugs were found and solved and future development has been discussed, e.g. integrating tests for classes as well as software regressions, how to deal with copyright issues and how contributors should be mentioned in the Debian copyright files. Further issues that were tackled during the meeting were how more developers could be attracted to add their code into FAI, how to make it available for testing by users, and how to get external patches into mainline FAI — which is currently only written to by the main developer. An first documentation of the meeting's outcome can be found in the faiwiki. The meeting was sponsored by the Linuxhotel Essen, the Linux Information Systems AG and LT-ec.

Debian Lenny to Support Low-Power NAS Systems

Martin Michlmayr updated kernels for MIPS and ARM for kernel version 2.6.26. These kernel updates bring major improvements to the ARM architecture support, which helps running Debian on low-power NAS devices like the QNAP TS-409. With 2.6.26 coming closer to lenny, lenny is coming closer to run on these devices.

Future of

Since — a service storing all versions of all Debian packages ever uploaded to the archive including useful symlinks e.g. for browsing to specific days — has problems from time to time keeping up its disc space, Eddy Petrisor wondered, if a distributed, user supported structure for storing this huge amount of data would be a good idea. Andrew Pollock answered that Debian could spend some of its fund for this service. Cyril Brulebois added that it has been announced that should be made an official service provided by Debian, making it easier to spend funds on it.

Artwork and Desktop themes for Debian Lenny

Valessio Brito announced that the work for artwork and themes for the upcoming stable release of Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 Lenny started during DebCamp, the hacking session before the annual Debian Conference. In the meantime an updated version of the desktop-base package has been uploaded including a new default theme as well as an extra alternative theme.

CD/DVD Image Downloads — A Reminder / rsync on

Josip Rodin noted that there seems to be a rush of CD/DVD image hoarding happening. Particularly, it seems that many people are not only downloading the first image, but the additional images (CDs 2-20+) as well. The full set of images is published so that they can be downloaded by those who do not have regular access to a reliable internet connection. However, for those who do have solid Internet connections, it is more efficient to retrieve packages directly from the repositories.

In related news Josip Rodin noted that the rsync service on has been deprecated since 2001 and has now been disabled completely. Everyone who has used that mirror to synchronise his own mirror using rsync should switch to an other mirror. A complete list of Debian mirrors is available at

Bits from the DPN editors

The editors of the Debian Project News sent a first status report on the start-up period of the DPN. After a rough start a workflow has now been established which overall works but still has some issues, including the often missing time for native speakers to proofread the drafts and for translators to prepare versions of the project news in their own language, to be sent out simultaneously with the original news. But most importantly more people are needed to contribute to the Debian Project News by writing small texts on the noteworthy news collected at each issue's development page.

Other news

Lucas Nussbaum wondered if the technical solution of freezing the propagation of packages from the unstable development branch to the to-be-released-soon testing branch is adequate. Since the requirement of non-disruptive changes are more a social problem, it shouldn't be solved by strict technical measures and manual approval of exceptions.

Joey Schulze announced the 2008 M68k Linux Porter Meeting, which will take place from August 29th to 31st at the University of Kiel, Germany.

Lucas Nussbaum asked for final reviews for the Debian Enhancement Proposal 1, which tries to improve the way how to deal with non maintainer uploads (NMUs).

Sandro Tosi noticed that the #debian-devel@OFTC channel topic is often used to give status messages in the case of severe or exceptional situations (outages, downtimes, etc). In order to stay informed even if not connected to oftc he recommends subscribing to the Debian Wiki page that mirrors that channel's topic.

Neil Williams summarized the usage of PO for anything for maintaining translations of various documents, including manpages.

Nicolas Francois announced that the services hosted on (for example the web frontend to the Debian Package Description Translation Project) is now available via SSL, too.

Stefano Zacchiroli reported several improvements he did for the package tracking system. He fixed several bugs and feature request including tighter integration with lintian, a tool for checking Debian packages for common errors, and, a service used by package maintainers searching for Debian Developers to sponsor their upload to the Debian archive.

Lucas Nussbaum blogged about an important usecase for the Ultimate Debian Database, a Google Summer of Code project integrating several information sources within Debian: recently removals of important packages from the testing Distribution have caused some discussion. Tracking these important packages will be easier through this database.

Debian Project at FrOSCon 2008

From Saturday the 23rd of August 2008 to Sunday the 24th of August 2008, the Debian Project will participate with a booth at Free and Open Source Software Conference 2008 in St. Augustin, Germany. Please see the respective events page for further details.

Important Debian Security Advisories

Debian's Security Team hasn't released any important advisories since the last issue.

If you would like to be kept up to date about the security advisories released by the Debian Security Team, please subscribe to the mailing list for security announcements.

New and noteworthy packages

The following packages were added to the unstable Debian archive recently (among others):

Work-needing packages

Currently 468 packages are orphaned and 120 packages are up for adoption. Please take a look at the recent reports to see if there are packages you are interested in or view the complete list of packages which need your help.

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This issue of Debian Project News was edited by Martin Michlmayr, Joachim Breitner, Rainer Dorsch, Henning Sprang, Jeff Richards, Alexander Reichle-Schmehl and Meike Reichle.