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Re: CERN ROOT in debian

Hi Kevin, Brad,

On Fri, 2005-08-12 at 23:11 -0400, Kevin McCarty wrote:
> Hi Brad,
> [Ricardo, I'm CC-ing you on this since I don't know whether you're
> subscribed to debian-science.  Hope you aren't getting it twice...]
> On 8/10/05, Brad Sawatzky <brad+debian@swatter.net> wrote:
> > This is a compilation of what I've picked up through google searches.
> > 
> > The licensing for ROOT is a bit of a mess (clearly not GPL compatible,
> > despite the fact that ROOT links with other explicitly GPL'd software...)
> > The problematic clause is the "explicit consent" bit in
> >     ...the authors grant permission to modify this software and its
> >     documentation for any purpose, provided that such modifications are not
> >     distributed without the explicit consent of the authors...
> > (from <http://root.cern.ch/root/License.html>).
> > Google "debian root license cern" if you want to work through some of the
> > relevant threads.  Upstream is aware of the problem but have been unwilling
> > to address it.  If anyone is aware of the current state of affairs, please
> > post to the list!
> Thanks for the concise summary.  We really ought to put this in an FAQ
> somewhere.

> > (As an aside, I think Kevin did a fantastic job of disentangling the
> > astonishingly bad PAW build system, package file-structure, and licensing
> > mess into something that conforms to debian Policy.)
> If you are ever bored, run "apt-get source cernlib" and poke around in
> the debian directory.  Hours of excitement! :-)
> > Christian Holm Christensen has been involved in the 'debianizing' of ROOT.
> > He has some build instructions up at
> >   <http://cholm.home.cern.ch/cholm/root/debs/>
> > (FWIW, I haven't been able to get the build process to work under sid yet.
> > I suspect the culprit is g++-4.0, but I haven't had time to work on it
> > yet.)

> Now to the real point of my email--I have a bit more information to
> add about ROOT Debianization efforts.  Ricardo Yanez is working on
> .debs that will be Policy-compliant and suitable to upload into Debian
> as soon as the licensing situation is fixed.  I think the preliminary
> .debs are publicly available but I don't recall the URL offhand.

You can find these packages compiled in sarge at,

deb http://debian.calel.cl/root stable non-free

There are packages compiled in sid (prior to the g++-4.0 mess) which are
available at,

deb http://debian.calel.cl/root unstable non-free

These are the final resting place for these packages (I've changed the
pointers a couple of times since reported to debian-mentors).

I've tried to use Holm's scripts to generate a debian directory. I don't
know if Holm tries out these scripts in a clean Debian environment, but
the compilation fails every time. Just to mention a specific error: the
script forces a configuration that uses Debian shipped afterimage
library instead of the builtin library. This fails. To link against
Debian's afterimage library the code needs a simple patch (which I do in
my debian/). But Holm's script does no such thing, forcing a rather
trivial error. A newbee would scratch his/hers head just to pass this
little hurdle.

> (Ricardo?)  Other than licensing, the biggest difficulty is that the
> ROOT libraries are both shared libs and also modules dynamically
> loaded by the main executable at runtime.  Unfortunately the main
> executable expects them to be named "libfoo.so" with no soversion, so
> (contrary to Policy) it currently isn't possible to have the libfoo.so
> symlinks only in the development packages.  Figuring out how to hack
> the code to dlopen "libfoo.so.4.04" instead seems non-trivial.

I took also at quick look at this and my assestment is the same. This is
perhaps something the ROOT Team would be willing to comply with, being a
rather unconventional thing to do.

> If it turns out that the license doesn't get fixed in the near future,
> there is one possibility that would allow us to put a bowdlerized
> version of ROOT in non-free.  There exists a C++ version of Minuit
> that is licensed under LGPL.  If ROOT was hacked to link against this
> library instead of using its own TMinuit class (derived from Cernlib
> FORTRAN code), it would no longer be in violation of the GPL with
> respect to Cernlib.  (However, the g2root and h2root
> Cernlib-compatibility utilities would have to go, as well as a lot of
> add-on modules that link against other GPL'ed software.)

I've brought this up at RootTalk. My feeling is that the Root Team is
not particularly interested in changing their license, nor to be careful
about derived work and other issues just to make Debian happy.

I took also a quick look at the possibility of linking ROOT against the
SEAL Minuit library. Inevitably various pieces of code would have to be
re-written. As Kevin puts it, ROOT would have to be hacked. A major

> We would also need to get permission from the XClass project for ROOT
> to use their (LGPL) GUI library code.  (Note that ROOT uses a derived
> version of the code, instead of just linking against it!)  Since
> XClass mentions ROOT, apparently with approval, on their own project
> page, getting a formal permission might not be too hard.

I mentioned this (Kevin's idea) to RootTalk as well. Maybe I expressed
myself unclearly on this matter, but the reaction was ???. Perhaps the
better way to proceed is for Debian to ask the XClass team for
permission, not to go through the ROOT team. Again, my feeling is that
they are not particularly interested in scratching Debian's back.

> Of course, putting such a hacked version of ROOT in Debian non-free
> would be dependent on the permission of ROOT's upstream to allow its
> distribution, which might not be forthcoming.

We could ask the authors for permission before making a real attempt,
i.e. to allow distribution after we fix all these issues, just to avoid
putting a lot of effort in vain.


> > I did find some pre-built ROOT debs at
> >   <http://www.physi.uni-heidelberg.de/~gbrandt/root/non-free/>
> > They installed smoothly and a few simple tests work.
> > 
> > Christian also points to the PaiPix distribution as a source of ROOT debs.
> >   <http://aamorimsrv.fis.fc.ul.pt/>
> > I poked around but didn't see any simple way of obtaining specific packages
> > (just links to the PaiPix live DVD iso).
> I do hope that once ROOT finally can be part of Debian, we don't have
> to support upgrades from too many different unofficial .deb packages
> -- could be quite challenging.  These forks could have been avoided if
> ROOT had been re-licensed two years ago :-(
> regards,
Ricardo Yanez
PO Box 156
Penaflor CHILE
phone: +56 2 8140550
mobile: +56 9 5112241
email: Ricardo.Yanez@correo.calel.cl
jabber: ricardo.yanez@jabber.org
web: http://www.calel.cl/
PGP public key: 5B625B93

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