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Re: Asking for maintainer for astronomical packages and some important (and related) issues

On Tue, May 27, 2003 at 08:53:35PM +0200, Javier Fernández-Sanguino Peña wrote:
> Since I'm overloaded with work (in and out of Debian)

    Heh, I'm just now coming back from that state.  This makes me
think that I am about to seriously regret what I am about to do
(especially, since I'm still trying to package the new IRAF, without
much success, and still have to contact the Tulip folks).

> I'm considering
> orphaning a number of packages related to astronomy, they are:
> - openuniverse
> - starplot
> - spacechart
> - yale 
> and
> - gliese
> The first three are GUIs to view astronomical date whileas the last 
> two include astronomic data themselves. There is a reason for separating 
> both, mainly that the legal status for this data files is not all too clear.
> I would rather given them all to the same person than breaking them up,
> since I expect that a prospective maintainer would take care of 
> the following issues:
> 1.- Copyright issues, these impact on quite a number of 
> astronomical-related packages. 
> I made the decision of breaking the star catalogs into packages 
> into non-free but others have not (see bug #174456 - which details 
> some of the copyright issues).

    Okay, after reading that, I'm not only worried about the data
files being non-free, but them being completely unredistributable, in
main or otherwise.

> This issue should be pursued to:
> 	- determine wether or not the star data can be distributed in
> 	  main (I have a number of mails that need pursuing)
> 	- contact maintainers to coordinate the use of a single data
> 	  package instead of having the same star catalogs in every
> 	  astronomical packages (maybe even ask for a 
> 	  'star-catalog' virtual package that all could provide)
> This issue needs to be coordinated with other maintainers since other
> packages (like kstars?) might be affected.

    Well, other packages might be able to *make use of* a central star
catalog, but only if it contains all the formats that all the packages
need.  This is probably best handled by simply making such a package,
and then asking everyone else what they would need it to provide in
order to use it.  However, this may well involve fairly invasive code
changes that might be difficult to keep in sync with upstream changes.
    Kstars got its information from the ADC, which has since been
terminated by NASA as as project.  I poked around their FTP site for a
while, and while the data files are there and I found a request to
cite use of the data in any paper, I couldn't find any permission to
redistribute the data as is.  A couple of contact e-mails were
listed.  I suppose if I take everything I can start writing to
everyone to ask about the status.  It'd fit in with the writing I have
to do to Tulip, anyway.

> 2.- New releases (bug #169603 - startplot new version and
> bug #172203 - spacechart new release mainly) although the data files
> might need to be updated (haven't checked)

    Easily fixed.

> 3.- The issue on wether to keep or remove openuniverse
> (its no longer maintained upstream, and maintainers have moved to
> improve celestia but it's not a full replacement for it). The 
> relevant thread in debian-devel starts here:
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2002/debian-devel-200212/msg01597.html

    Heck, I'm still maintaining ssystem (the predecessor to
openuniverse, and I just recently uploaded a package pointing ssystem
users at openuniverse unless they have ancient hardware), so if
nothing else, I should probably pick this one up.  It's more a toy
than a scientific tool, though.

> 4.- Determine if a new section should be created for astronomic-related
> packages. Some are in section 'science' some in section 'math'...

    Much of physics works out to be applied mathematics.  I'd move
anything not directly used for direct computation out of math and into

> Of course, maintainers should also consider checking out
> bugs #188183 (gstar package, now orphaned),

    Bugless, so easy to pick up.

> #170824 (celestia is now also orphaned)

    Looks like it needs fairly serious and potentially difficult work,
as well.

> and #173440 (an ITP for yet another astronomy program: nightfall) in
> order to make a coordinated action. Writting an astronomy-related
> mini-policy for Debian could be in order.

    Nightfall doesn't look like it uses the same kinds of data, though
I haven't looked very closely.

> So, after all this rant, any takers? (I hope somebody raises his hand) :-)

    I'm a little nervous about picking up a heavy load until I'm
finished cleaning house on my own packages, but I have sufficient
interest in keeping astronomy-related software in Debian that if
nobody takes you up on your offer by June 15, I will take:


and start e-mailing about the licensing conditions for the others.  If
the data turns out to be redistributable, I will generate a single
package, starcatalogs, containing everything I can legally
redistribute in a logical way, and see if I can keep the ftpmasters
and mirror operators from lynching me.

    Please send me direct mail on June 15 to remind me if you haven't
had any other offers.

Zed Pobre <zed@debian.org> a.k.a. Zed Pobre <zed@resonant.org>
PGP key and fingerprint available on finger; encrypted mail welcomed.

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