Debian Weekly News - April 22nd, 2003
Debian Weekly News
Debian Weekly News - April 22nd, 2003
Welcome to this year's 16th issue of DWN, the weekly newsletter for
the Debian community. Steven Frank took a look at patents and Free
Software and estimated the danger of the recent lawsuit against
IBM. Bruce Perens also examinated patents and Free Software. The
European Parliament is likely to ratify a Software Patent Directive in
May. The ffii is calling for people to sign their proposed
Resumé from Bdale Garbee. On the last day of Bdale's leadership of
Debian he sent in a final report about his term and in which he
also talks about the future. Bdale will continue to give talks
about Debian and several events are already being negotiated. His
future focus will be the IA64 port of Debian and keeping it healthy.
He remains concerned about the health of SPI, and SPI's
relationship to Debian.
DWN translation in Alioth. Ignacio García Fernández reported about
the effort to translate DWN into his native tongue. Over the previous
months the Spanish translation of DWN became a group task. Now that
alioth is available, the team thought that it could be a good idea
to use it and started the dwn-trans project. This project intends
to be language independant so could be utilised by the other
translation efforts for DWN as well.
Bits from the new Project Leader. Martin Michlmayr sent his first
message as Debian Project Leader. He thanked Manoj and Bdale for
their work and encouraged anyone to feel free to contact him with
ideas or concerns. Martin is concerned about the next release, because
at the moment there are many open release-critical bugs. Furthermore
the new debian-installer project still requires a significant
amount of work.
Improving the Speed GNU/Linux Applications. Cameron Laird has written
an article about two different approaches to increasing the
performance of applications: the easy way and the hard way. The easy
approarch is to give the user more feedback on the progress of the
application, since this allows the user to feel more content with
waiting. The hard way is more difficult since it requires algorithm
tuning and careful measurement of the used tools and libraries in
order to speed up the process itself. The old Unix rule applies: first
make it correct, than optimize for speed.
Total Computer Newbies meet Debian. Charles Williams wrote a
usability study about a family that had decided it wanted
GNU/Linux installed on their new computer. In the second part of
the article the author describes what happened after the installation
and after the users spent some time using their Debian system.
Debian Freebies illegal? In our April 1st issue we reported about
a new law in Germany that intends to save young people from
suffering from violent computer games but which is likely to affect
the Debian project as well. Michael Banck received a response from
a journalist who advised us to apply for child-safe classification for
the entire Debian CD that some Debian people plan to give away at
upcoming exhibitions. It only costs EUR 1000.
Implementing W3C Recommendations? Thomas Bliesener noted that
almost the whole Debian website meets the HTML standards except some
online documentation which seems to be caused by a problem with
debiandoc2html. However, some packages ship documentation that is non
conforming and some produce HTML code which is not
standards-compliant. Ray Dassen explained that having our
documentation conform to W3C standards and recommendations is
desirable, but not a binding requirement.
Multiarchitecture Binary Packages. Barak Pearlmutter remembered
that some years ago, NeXT modified GCC and the rest of the GNU
toolchain to allow them to produce multi-architecture binaries, so
that a single binary executable could run on both m68k and i386
platforms. They also had a tool that could strip out hunks for
unwanted architectures. He proposed to resurrect this code and build
11+ architectures into each architecture-binary Debian package.
Maintainers and RC Bugs. Andrew Suffield created a sorted (most
release-critical bugs first) list of maintainers who have excessive
numbers of old RC bugs open against their packages. Bugs less than 30
days old are not considered. The list is sorted using a score
proportional to the age and severity of each bug. It is fairly likely
that some of these are bugs which should have been closed.
Debian violating Copyright of ReiserFS? Hans Reiser, the author of
ReiserFS, asked Debian to explain why the credits and
attributions from the reiserfs utilities had been removed in violation
of the copyright. He explained that clauses were included forbidding
the removal of credits, although he never expected Debian to be a
culprit. Jarno Elonen pointed out that these extra clauses are
located in the README file rather than the COPYING file and the
reiserfs maintainer probably inadvertantly overlooked them. Ben
Collins noted that this could render ReiserFS non-free.
Debian for Lawyers Sub-project. Jeremy Malcolm proposed a new
sub-project called Debian-Lex, which would target Debian at
lawyers. This would contain some obvious selections from the existing
pool such as OpenOffice.org, Evolution and Gnotime, but it would also
need some other packages that aren't yet in Debian such as SQL-Ledger
(which will be packaged soon). Jeremy also intends to put together a
database schema that will serve as the basis for a legal client and
matter database. There was support for the idea, although there
was some discussion over the Debian-Lex name.
Management of Configuration Files with Debconf. Colin Walters
demanded that packages do not use debconf to manage their
configuration files. He pointed out that policy requires that
local changes must be preserved during a package upgrade. When a
package defaults to managing its configuration files with debconf,
local changes can be destroyed without the user knowing. Joey Hess
also demanded that debconf not be used for notes that properly
belong in README.Debian. He knows that some packages do things
right, but even if 10 % of packages misuse debconf the whole system
looks bad. Joey's debconf presentation might be a good starting
place to learn about the proper use of debconf.
Building a Firewall with Pebble. Glenn Stone described how to use
Pebble, a Debian-lite distribution to get a homemade firewall up
and running. He described installation and setup on an old Dell
486D/50, with 16 MB of RAM. Pebble is only 17 MB compressed and the
final system ended up being 81 MB on the disk. Glenn thought this
would be a good way to build a firewall on a budget. It also makes
adding extras like a mini-web server or mail proxy as simple as an
apt-get install command.
Call for Debian Conference Topics. With two Debian conferences taking
place later this year, a call went out for ideas on which topics
and parts of Debian those who might attend would like to see covered
by talks and/or workshops. The coordinator of Debian's LinuxTag
involvement would love to be flooded with ideas to add to his list and
for which speakers could be sought. Ideas for Debian Conference 3
can be added to the to do list in the hope that somebody will
submit a talk on that subject.
Update on Debian for x86-64. Arnd Bergmann reported that the
toolchain and basic utilities for x86-64 work. He made available
biarch packages that are able to produce code for the new architecture
as well as for i386. These packages should work as a drop-in
replacement for the single-arch i386 packages in Debian/sid. They were
tested in Bochs, an IA-32 and x86-64 PC emulator.
Missing Support for UTF-8? Nikolai Prokoschenko noted that
recently released font packages only contain latin1 characters and
not, for example, Russian which he needs. Manoj Srivastava replied
with a note about how Free Software works: If it scratches your itch,
fix it and send patches. Henrique de Moraes Holschuh added that he
would create a sub-project "Debian-desktop-RU" that had all defaults
tweaked so that it would work properly.
Security Updates. You know the drill. Please make sure that you update
your systems if you have any of these packages installed.
* OpenSSL -- Decipher vulnerability.
* rinetd -- Denial of service.
* sendmail-wide -- DoS and arbitrary code execution.
* ircII -- DoS and arbitrary code execution.
* mime-support -- Temporary file race conditions.
New or Noteworthy Packages. The following packages were added to the
unstable Debian archive recently or contain important updates.
* bootcd-mkinitrd -- bootcd extension to create an initrd-image
usable for bootcd.
* cherrypy -- Python-based tool for developing dynamic web
* cvm-dev -- Credential Validation Modules (development files,
* dbus-1 -- Simple inter-process messaging system.
* duplicity -- Encrypted bandwidth-efficient backup.
* eclipse-source -- Eclipse source code.
* fastlink-doc -- [Biology] Some papers about fastlink.
* fluidsynth -- Real-time software synthesizer based on the
* foomatic-filters -- Linuxprinting.org printer support.
* geki2 -- Vertical shoot'em-up.
* geki3 -- Horizontal shoot'em-up.
* glark -- Pattern matching tool similar to grep.
* gnupod-tools -- Collection of Perl-scripts for iPod.
* gringotts -- Store passwords in an encrypted file.
* hostapd -- 802.11x access daemon for hostap driver.
* initscripts -- Standard scripts needed for booting and
* kde-amusements -- The K Desktop Environment (Games and Toys).
* mordor -- Multi User Dungeon game server.
* multitail -- Views multiple logfiles windowed on console.
* pork -- Console-based AOL Instant Messenger client.
* quickml -- Very-easy-to-use mailing list system.
* sonar -- Console chat via ICMP (ping) echo-request packets.
* sqwebmail-de -- German translations for the SqWebMail webmail
* ttf-dustin -- Various TrueType fonts from dustismo.com.
* xt-aterm -- Data type (Tree) for exchange in distributed
Orphaned Packages. 21 packages were orphaned this week and require a
new maintainer. This makes a total of 196 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.
* bg5cc -- Big-5 wide-characters rectifier. (Bug#189818)
* bg5ps -- Utility to print Chinese Big5/GB documents using
TrueType fonts. (Bug#189816)
* cce -- Console Chinese Environment - display Chinese (GB) on
* ccf -- Chinese encodings (GB/Big5/HZ) conversion filter.
* cedictb5 -- Chinese/English dictionary data file (Big5).
* cedictgb -- Chinese/English dictionary data file (GB).
* cedicttools -- Various tools to use with the CEDict data.
* cxterm -- Chinese terminal emulator for the X Window System.
* dnrd -- Proxy DNS daemon (Bug#189659)
* doc-linux-zh-s -- Linux HOWTOs and mini-HOWTOs in Simplified
Chinese in HTML. (Bug#189525)
* icmpush -- ICMP packet builder. (Bug#189625)
* lpkg -- Newton MessagePad PDA Package Loader.
* ptknettools -- Selection of Internet service clients written
in Perl/Tk. (Bug#189809)
* slmon -- Simple S-Lang based system performance monitor.
* sphinx2 -- Speech recognition library. (Bug#189693)
* t1lib -- Type 1 font rasterizer library. (Bug#189694)
* ttfprint -- Utility to print Chinese text using truetype
* xautolock -- Start a program if the X session is idle for
some time. (Bug#189522)
* zh-sgmltools -- Wrapper for SGMLtools to process Chinese.
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