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Debian Weekly News - November 14th, 2001

Nov 15, 2001, 20:07 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier, Jean-Christophe Helary, Tollef Fog Heen)

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Debian Weekly News - November 14th, 2001

Licensing Something Other Than Software. Sunnanvind brought up an old issue again. The discussion covers the question of whether the GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL) is compatible with the DFSG and the philosophy of Free Software. The GNU FDL allows the author to mark certain paragraphs as invariant which could render the entire work non-free since it would fail the Debian Free Software Guidelines item 3. Strict interpretation of the DFSG would render many GNU Manuals non-free, because they contain invariant sections like "Funding Free Software".

Debian Menu Items. Karl M. Hegbloom emphasized the need for package maintainers to add an item for the Debian menu system for each and every X GUI application. If programs aren't added to the menu system, people often will not find the software at all. The menu system is a great development since it keeps menu items in sync with installed packages and most X11 window managers benefit from it.

Keywords For Debian Packages. Erich Schubert sent in a proposal for using additional keywords for all packages. The problem of organizing and grouping Debian packages, now numbering in the thousands, is no longer merely academic. With the current size of Debian, only a few are able to keep track of all the software available. Even though experts have tools such as apt-cache search at their disposal, newer or less experienced users commonly use packaging frontends which lack a proper search interface.

Very Old Intent to Package Requests. Taketoshi Sano analyzed the bug tracking system with regards to Work-Needing and Prospective Packages (WNPP) and posted a report. WNPP is split up into several pages on our web server for better readability. However, the pages are still large and Taketoshi revealed an impressive number of old requests. The problem remains: statistically, packages with ITP requests older than six months tend to never be uploaded.

Sourceforge a non-free Demo-Site? Although not directly related to Debian, many users and developers of Debian use the SourceForge facility for hosting the development of software projects. The Free Software Foundation Europe recently published a news article reviewing the past and current situation of VA Linux hosting and developing SourceForge. The article is worth reading. Basically it says: SourceForge has been a great help for Free Software devlopment, but it's time to "escape entrapment". A while ago, the GNU project launched Savannah, their own effort in providing development resources to authors of free software, which uses a fork of the Sourceforge code base.

ATLAS Enables Massive Speedups in Mathematical Software. Dirk Eddelbuettel wrote a report about great speed enhancements by simply using the Automatically Tuned Linear Algebra Software (ATLAS) on unstable and testing. With the current version of the glibc library, ldconfig now loads the ATLAS optimised BLAS library without any user intervention beyond installating the ATLAS and R or Octave packages. Dirk demonstrated a very dramatic speed increase up to a factor of ten for a sample matrix.

No mplayer Packages In Debian. In recent times a lot of people have asked about mplayer packages. At the moment no packages for mplayer can be included in Debian. Even though the package basically is licensed under the GNU GPL it uses non-GPL code, which doesn't fit together. Additionally it is said to have patent issues which prohibit its inclusion as well. In addition to these problems the upstream developers do neither recommend nor welcome binary packages, since the source uses processor optimizations defined at compile-time which they feel is important. However, Christian Marillat is providing precompiled packages privately.

New Boot-Floppies 3.0.17. Adam Di Carlo told us that Boot-floppies 3.0.17 have just been released. Packages of the i386 version are in Incoming but should be available in the archive and for other architectures over the new few days. Adam calls for help with (a) identifying any remaining release critical (RC) bugs in boot-floppies, and (b) help in fixing the RC bugs we know about. Those who are interested should ask on

Revealing The Secrets Of The Hurd. Neal Walfield, Debian and Hurd developer, was recently interviewed at Kerneltrap. Neal explains the differences between classic Linux-like operating systems and the Hurd, which tries to address certain design flaws of current operating systems. With respect to usability, the Hurd works quite well as a desktop system, however, Neal would not yet recommend it to anyone as a server.

New or Noteworthy Packages. The following packages were added to the Debian archive since our last issue.

  • cvsgraph -- Create a tree of revisions/branches from a CVS/RCS file.
  • gnucap -- GNU Circuit Analysis package.
  • nocc -- PHP web-based e-mail reader over POP3 or IMAP.
  • nbtscan -- A program for scanning networks for NetBIOS name information.

Security Announcements. One security announcement reached us this week. You know the drill, if you use any of the affected packages be sure to update them.

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