file: classify unknown files on the console
on 29.06.2008, 05:00
in packages-news
Talks for DebianDay wanted
on 27.06.2008, 02:24
in debconf-news
Debian Project News 2008/05
on 23.06.2008, 00:00
in weekly-news
zsh: a REALLY nice alternative for bash
on 18.06.2008, 14:49
in packages-news
Debian Installer Lenny Beta 2 released
on 12.06.2008, 15:00
in news, release
Debian Project News 2008/04
on 09.06.2008, 00:00
in weekly-news
Ghextris: tetris clone with a hexagonal makeover
on 08.06.2008, 18:58
in packages-news
Reconfirmation deadline approaching
on 06.06.2008, 18:14
in debconf-news
JOE Joe’s own editor: a really usable text editor
on 02.06.2008, 07:49
in packages-news

file: classify unknown files on the console

published on Sun Jun 29 05:00:36 2008 in packages-news

Article submitted by Caspar Clemens Mierau. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

Somebody just sent you a mail with attachments that don’t have usable file extensions so you don’t really know how to handle them. Audio file? PDF? What is it? The same problem might occur after a file recovery, on web pages with upload features, etc.

While you can try to give the file an extension and open it with a software you think might be suitable, the better way is to let your computer find out what is all about. As a GNU/Linux user you probably already think “There is surely a command line tool for this”. Of course there is: the file by Ian Darwin.

It often gets automatically installed by dependencies. In any case, aptitude install file will help you. file depends on libmagic which provides patterns for the so called “magic number” detection.

Let’s assume we have the following directory with unknown files:

$ ls -l
total 2152
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm    4118 2008-03-30 06:32 unknown.0
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm   10220 2008-05-06 02:23 unknown.1
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm   12693 2008-05-06 02:23 unknown.2
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm   25933 2007-10-26 07:41 unknown.3
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm    2121 2007-10-26 07:41 unknown.4
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm     185 2007-10-14 20:14 unknown.5
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm 1189011 2008-05-17 22:37 unknown.6
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm  824163 2008-02-02 05:02 unknown.7
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm   82367 2007-09-20 06:18 unknown.8
-rw-r--r-- 1 ccm ccm    8872 2006-04-24 12:43 unknown.9

Now we want to know what’s inside those black boxes. Therefore we just call file * on the console:

$ file *
unknown.0: XML
unknown.1: ELF 32-bit LSB relocatable, Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV), not stripped
unknown.2: ASCII C program text
unknown.3: PDF document, version 1.4
unknown.4: LaTeX 2e document text
unknown.5: perl script text executable
unknown.6: gzip compressed data, from Unix, last modified: Wed Oct  8 16:27:09 2003
unknown.7: Ogg data, Vorbis audio, stereo, 44100 Hz, ~192003 bps, created by: Xiph.Org libVorbis I (1.0)
unknown.8: PNG image data, 492 x 417, 8-bit/color RGBA, non-interlaced
unknown.9: HTML document text

Hey, that’s all. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? file does even not only distinguishes binaries and text files, it even tries to guess what programming language a text file is written in. And the magic is not that much magic: for example, in case of the ZSH script it just sees a shebang pointing to the zsh in the first line of the file, a PDF file typically starts with “%PDF” and so on. It’s all about patterns.

file provides you with some command line options that make it’s usage even more helpful. The most interesting is -i as it prints out MIME-types instead of verbose file types. If you are a web developer and want to know the exact MIME-type for a file download, this can save you a lot of time:

$ file -i *
unknown.0: text/xml
unknown.1: application/x-object, not stripped
unknown.2: text/x-c; charset=us-ascii
unknown.3: application/pdf
unknown.4: text/x-tex
unknown.5: application/x-perl
unknown.6: application/x-gzip
unknown.7: application/ogg
unknown.8: image/png
unknown.9: text/html

Great, isn’t it? The Apache web server also uses libmagic for this purpose. With file you just use a wrapper for the same task.

file is available in Debian and Ubuntu for a long time.

Talks for DebianDay wanted

published on Fri Jun 27 02:24:00 2008 in debconf-news

This year, DebianDay will take place in Buenos Aires, on Monday August 18th, the day after DebConf ends. We are still in need of talks for DebianDay, so, if you are coming to DebConf and you’ll be staying a few more days in Argentina after the conference, you are invited to give a talk on whatever you want as long as it’s Debian related.

Some suggestions for talk subjects for DebianDay:

  • Debian in Latin America
  • Internationalization in Debian
  • How to help Debian
  • Debian Live
  • Making a Debian derivative distribution
  • Packaging for Debian
  • … And anything else you feel might be interesting to people who are not DDs, but are interested in Debian.

We are planning on having two tracks, one for newbies and one for advanced talks; talks in Spanish are welcome, but don’t worry if you don’t speak the language, for talks in English, we will probably have a translator.

To submit a talk, just log in to your DebConf account and click in the “New event/Paper” link.

Debian Project News 2008/05

published on Mon Jun 23 00:00:00 2008 in weekly-news

Welcome to this year's 5th issue of DPN, the newsletter for the Debian community.
Some of the topics covered in this issue:

Call for new New Maintainer Application Managers

Marc Brockschmidt, member of the New Maintainer Frontdesk, sent a call for Application Managers taking care of New Maintainers. Application Managers should have a broad experience in sponsoring and mentoring of prospective developers, a firm knowledge of the Debian Policy and Developer's Reference and at least a rough understanding of the current New Maintainer process. keyring package?

Robert Milan stated his intention to package the keyring of the unofficial service. This would ease the usage of this service, since the current approach to establish a trust path for the package management system is quite complicated, especially for inexperienced users. Concerns were raised because is an unofficial service. Robert argued in favour of the inclusion, since it is often recommended to users to use the Backport service when they are in need of newer packages.

How to write proper get-orig-source targets

David Paleino wondered how to deal with the get-orig-source target for debian/rules files. According to policy, this target should create the latest upstream tarball, which might mean to export a version from a version control system. During this process timestamps of files are included, causing different checksums, even if the files haven't changed. Calling gzip with the -n switch didn't solve the problem entirely, but pristine-tar seems to be the solution to the problem.

Usefulness of Debian Release Goals?

Peter Eisentraut wondered about the so called Release Goals (global goals which should be implemented with the next release, but won't block a release if not completed). While they are good to improve the overall quality of the packages, most won't be noticed by users and most should rather become part of the policy. He also added that searching for bugs concerning release goals isn't very easy and proposed to set up an SQL database. Marc Brockschmidt added that such a database is part of a project in Google's Summer of Code.

Removing lilo?

William Pitcock asked for opinions about the removal of the boot loader lilo. Since lilo has a grave bug that is not trivial to fix and grub is pretty stable, he wondered if lilo is still needed at all. Frans Pop, member of the team developing the Debian installation system, disagreed. They would regularly receive installation reports having lilo installed. Since it needs several steps from the default installation routine to install lilo, he concludes that there's still demand for lilo packages.

Report of the BSP in Utrecht

On the weekend of 14-15 June a Bug Squashing party was held in Utrecht. Thijs Kinkhorst summarised the results, which included testing of the Debian-Installer on various platforms, resolving various release critical bugs and moving to an official Debian server, improving reliability and responsiveness of this popular service.

Debian powers Max Planck Institute 32.8 TFlops supercomputer

The Observational Relativity and Cosmology Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover has created Germany's 4th largest supercomputer using Debian GNU/Linux. By using Debian GNU/Linux on its clusters, the Research Group reduced the amount of work needed on the hardware and software infrastructure, compared to other scientific clusters running on other distributions, allowing them to focus on their objective of detecting gravitational waves. Dr. Aulbert, one of the cluster designers said: Thomas Lange's FAI package is extremely useful for automatic deployment of Debian. For example, without much tweaking and using only two hosts, we were able to reinstall the cluster in about 2.5 hours and were only limited by those two servers' network connection.

Other News

Brice Goglin sent a report from the X strike force concerning the upcoming stable release. Since Xorg 7.4 and Xserver 1.5 which were scheduled for this year's February are late, they won't make it into the upcoming stable release, which will be shipped with Xorg 7.3 and Xserver 1.4.2.

Important Debian Security Advisories

Debian's Security Team released among others advisories for the packages xorg-server and typo3. Please read them carefully and take the proper measures.

Work-needing packages

Currently 453 packages are orphaned and 111 packages are up for adoption. Please take a look at the recent report if there are packages you are interested in or view the complete archive of packages requesting help.

Want to continue reading DPN?

Please help us create this newsletter. We still need more volunteer writers who watch the Debian community and report about what is going on. Please see our HOWTO contribute page to find out how to help. We're looking forward to receiving your mail at

zsh: a REALLY nice alternative for bash

published on Wed Jun 18 14:49:21 2008 in packages-news

Article submitted by Danilo Martins. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

After years using ZSH instead of BASH, I still don’t understand why isn’t everybody using it. ZSH is a complete shell that will certainly make your life easier. Give it a try.

First of all, you need it installed (duh). APT and its super cow powers will do this for you. You can simply use:

$ sudo apt-get install zsh

and you should be all set. Alternatively, you can install the package “zsh-beta”, but it tends to crash once in a while… ZSH is available on any repository of Debian and Ubuntu.

To try it out, you can simply type zsh, but you wouldn’t be very happy with the result. Let’s personalize it first. First of all, create a file named .zshrc on your home directory. Inside, you should put the text listed below (note: see the commented lines —be sure to try each of them out sometime)

### Uncomment the following line if you want to use the "command not found" Ubuntu command
#. /etc/zsh_command_not_found

### These are a really nice view of the command line. If you do not like it, comment all lines.
PS1='\033[30;47m\u:\w>\033[0m '
prompt='%U%n%u:%B%~%b# '
PROMPT2='%_> '
echo "\e[1;9]\e[8]"
RPS1='< %U%m%u >‘

### General config sets
LS_OPTIONS=”-F -B –color=auto”

### Default definitions
## I use MOST as my default pager. You should too, but it’s up to you

ulimit -c unlimited
umask 022
mesg y

### LS and V aliases
alias ls=”ls $LS_OPTIONS” #–format=vertical
alias v=”ls $LS_OPTIONS –format=long”
alias l=”v”

### Export everything so far

### History configuration
export HISTFILE=$HOME/.zsh_history
export HISTSIZE=8192
export SAVEHIST=8192

### CD shortcuts
export CDPATH=.:~

### List of file extensions you wish to ignore on a ls
export FIGNORE=”~:.o”

### These are very interesting. I will explain some of them at the end
setopt share_history
setopt appendhistory
setopt autocd
setopt automenu
setopt autopushd
setopt autoresume
setopt complete_in_word
setopt extended_glob
setopt hist_ignoredups
setopt hist_ignorespace
setopt list_types
setopt mailwarning
setopt no_flowcontrol
setopt no_hup
setopt no_notify
setopt printexitvalue
setopt pushd_ignoredups
setopt pushd_silent

### Making sure your keyboard will work on any terminal
bindkey ‘^[[1~’ beginning-of-line
bindkey ‘^[[4~’ end-of-line
bindkey ‘^[[2~’ overwrite-mode
bindkey ‘^[[3~’ delete-char
bindkey ‘^[[6~’ end-of-history
bindkey ‘^[[5~’ beginning-of-history
bindkey ‘^[^I’ reverse-menu-complete
bindkey ‘^[OA’ up-line-or-history
bindkey ‘^[[A’ up-line-or-history
bindkey ‘^[[B’ down-line-or-history
bindkey ‘^[OB’ down-line-or-history
bindkey ‘^[OD’ backward-char
bindkey ‘^[OC’ forward-char
bindkey ‘^P’ history-beginning-search-backward
bindkey ‘^N’ history-beginning-search-forward
bindkey ‘^[[[A’ run-help
bindkey ‘^[[[B’ which-command
bindkey ‘^[[[C’ where-is
bindkey ‘^D’ list-choices

### See for yourself, at the end
alias -g …=’../..’
alias -g ….=’../../..’
alias -g …..=’../../../..’

### Push History from previous sessions

### Forcing the rehash
_force_rehash() {
  (( CURRENT == 1 )) && rehash
  return 1

### Loading the completion style
zstyle ‘:completion:*’ completer 
  _oldlist _expand _force_rehash _complete

### Aliasing “run-help”
unalias run-help
autoload run-help

### Loading the compinit
autoload -U compinit

Now do run zsh. If you see a different prompt (specially if you did not comment the prompt lines on the .zshrc example above), it’s working. Now, it’s time you see what you can do with this.

First example. Lets suppose you’re doing a long command (cat /etc/mailcap | grep “^audio” | sed s/mplayer/gmplayer) and forget the command syntax for the sed program. You simply move your cursor to the command “sed” and press ALT-H. This should open the man page for sed. After you close the man page, you will automatically be returned with the command you were typing.

Second example. You’re connecting to a remote host using SSH. You remember that you want to use the X11 forwarding, but you don’t remember how to do this. Then, you type “ssh -” and press TAB. Yes, ZSH auto-completes not only files, but also command parameters. Be sure to try it out with whatever command you want to use.

Third example. You have a SSH key to a remote host, and you wish to copy a file from there using SCP. But you do not remember exactly where the file is. You simply type “scp user@remotehost:/home/myuser/myf”, press TAB and watch ZSH doing its amazing trick. Not only ZSH auto-completes files and parameters, but also remote files (remember that for this to work you need to have the RSA/DSA key on the remote host).

Fourth example. You want to install a Debian package (I love this one), but you don’t remember (or are too lazy to) type the whole name of the package. Instead, you simply type “apt-get install mysql-client” and press TAB, and watch ZSH magically auto-completing the package name. If you have more than one, it will list all available below, and if you keep pressing TAB it will complete through each one of them, one at a time. And yes, not only ZSH auto-completes files, parameters and remote files, but it also auto-completes package names. Well, I think we had enough of the “auto-complete” examples, didn’t we?

Fifth example. Yesterday you used a loooooong command and you are too lazy to type it all again. You also do not want to press UP until it appears. Instead of it, you simply type the beginning of the command and try the ALT-P combination. ZSH will auto-complete your command from the history. You can keep using ALT-P and swapping to the previous entries. If you missed it, ALT-N gets you to the next.

Last example. You typed apt-gey install foo bar foo2 bar2 foo3 bar3 foo4 bar4 … foo239 bar239 and pressed ENTER. Oh, shit, apt-gey does not exist. Instead of pressing UP, HOME, going to “gey” and changing it to “get”, you can simply use ^gey^get. This is a shortcut to “repeat the last command, but all occurrences of “gey” are now “get”.

If you liked the way ZSH works and want to use it as your default shell, you can always use the chsh command, and put /usr/bin/zsh there. It's now your default shell.


Debian Installer Lenny Beta 2 released

contributed by Frans Pop, published on Thu Jun 12 15:00:19 2008 in news, release

The Debian Installer team is proud to announce the second beta release of the installer for Debian GNU/Linux Lenny.

Improvements in this release of the installer

  • This new version of the installer uses and installs the 2.6.24 kernel.
  • Support for the armel (arm little endian) architecture, using the new Embedded ABI. Note that none of the currently supported systems support installing from CD images.
  • Installer images for i386 and amd64 have a new boot menu using syslinux's vesamenu. This allows for a more user-friendly selection of for example the regular or graphical installer. For the multi-architecture CD/DVD images this change means the 64-bits version of the installer needs to be selected manually from the menu. See the \ Installation Guide for details on how to use the new menu.
  • The graphical installer now has full support for encrypted partitioning.
  • Support for column alignment in cdebconf resulting in improved language selection in the graphical installer. This will be extended to other installer components (notably the partitioner) in future releases.
  • Many improvements in the component for language, country and locale selection. The most visible are that it's now possible to back up between dialogs within the component and that the overly long full country list has been split into separate dialogs for continent and country.
  • The installer will warn users when the translation of the installer to their language is incomplete and displays which language(s) the installer will fall back to.
  • Improved support for mouse configuration for the graphical installer makes use of a serial mouse possible.
  • The relatime file system mount option is now usable.
  • Issues during installs from CD/DVD due to the addition of support for multiple CDs have been resolved.
  • When using the KDE or Xfce CD images it is now possible to select additional tasks, similar to the normal CD set (which by default installs GNOME).
  • The following additional languages are now supported: Marathi (only in the graphical installer).

Known issues in this release

  • As a result of a recent switch to Perl 5.10, the installation logs will show some Perl warnings. As far as we know these are harmless and can be ignored.
  • Installations in Russian (and possibly some other languages) may fail due to an error from aptitude; most languages seem unaffected.
  • i386: for this release installation from floppy disk is not supported.
  • i386/amd64:GRUB installation on cpqarray RAID volumes (/dev/ida/cXdX) may fail.
  • arm: this release does not support Netwinder systems.
  • There are still a few issues for some PowerPC subarchitectures.
  • Known issues for the graphical installer:
    • some non-US keymaps are not fully supported (deadkeys and combining characters do not work);
    • keys for accented or special characters may not work correctly; this is a regression compared to previous releases which will hopefully be fixed again soon;
    • touchpads should work, but support may not be optimal; if you experience problems, you should use an external mouse instead;
    • should work on almost all PowerPC systems that have an ATI graphics card, but is unlikely to work on other PowerPC systems.

See the errata for details and a full list of known issues.

Our thanks to everybody who has contributed to this release.

Installation CDs and DVDs, other media, errata, and everything else you'll need are available from our web site.

Debian GNU Linux powers Max Planck Institute 32.8 TFlops supercomputer

contributed by andremachado, published on Wed Jun 11 23:48:45 2008 in success-stories

Debian GNU/Linux powers Max Planck Institute 32.8 TFlops supercomputer

A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics have created Germany's 4th largest supercomputer by using Debian GNU/Linux.

The Observational Relativity and Cosmology Research Group is a team of scientists working at the Hannover Branch of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Hannover, Germany. Their goal is the direct detection of gravitational waves, which were first predicted by Albert Einstein. They are working with the friends and colleagues within the LIGO Scientific Community and VIRGO.

The massive computing effort necessary for this research is provided by a Debian GNU / Linux cluster of 1342 nodes called ATLAS. Using 10+ TB RAM, approximately 1.3 PB storage and a special network able to transfer almost 4 days worth of DVD movies each second, the cluster achieves a measured performance of 32.8 TFlops. This performance places the ATLAS Debian GNU / Linux supercomputer at 4th place in Germany, 11th in Europe and 34th worldwide, at a cost of EUR 1.8m (~ US$ 2.8m).

The ATLAS Debian GNU / Linux cluster was designed, built and has been managed by Dr Henning Fehrmann and Dr Carsten Aulbert, who have been using Debian GNU / Linux for years.

ATLAS has smaller brother and sister systems in Potsdam, Germany: "Merlin" (1.3 Tflops) and "Morgane" (6 TFlops) -- also running Debian GNU / Linux and managed by Dr. Steffen Grunewald for many years; "the experience with them had been very, very good", according to Dr. Aulbert.

"Thomas Lange's FAI package is extremely useful for automatic deployment of Debian [GNU / Linux]. For example, without much tweaking and using only two hosts, we were able to reinstall the cluster in about 2.5 hours and were only limited by those two servers' network connection.", said Dr. Aulbert. Dr. Grunewald added, "FAI with its class model was a major breakthrough, in readability, functionality, and maintainability. There's no way back now."

Beyond FAI, there are other useful tools for massive scale installation, deployment and management of Debian GNU / Linux machines for various scenarios. "Debian features an extremely large set of packages, making it THE distro of choice for keeping us out of the hassle to package needed software ourselves", said Dr. Aulbert.

As additional benefits of using Debian GNU / Linux, he cited:

* the simplicity of creating own packages

* how repositories can be set-up easily (using the reprepro package)

* using clean build environments ( pbuilder and similar packages)

* and, of course, the superb packaging infrastructure in general ( dpkg, apt, aptitude, synaptic and many useful APT tools)

By using Debian GNU / Linux at its clusters, the Observational Relativity and Cosmology Research Group reduced the amount of work needed on the hardware and software infrastructure, compared to other scientific clusters running on other distributions, allowing them to focus on their objective of detecting gravitational waves.

About the ATLAS cluster

The ATLAS cluster, linpack measured 32.8 TFlops and a theoretical peak of about 50 TFlops, consists of 1342 Supermicro computer nodes ( Intel Xeon 3220 quad-cores 2,4 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 500 GB Hitachi HDD, IPMI remote management) along with 31 data servers (2x Intel Xeon E5345 2,33 GHz, 16 GB RAM, Areca 1261ML, 16x750 GB Hitachi HDD) plus 4 similar head nodes with 4 x 750 GB HDD. Those are all running Debian GNU / Linux 4.0 Etch with a few modifications like custom kernel and Condor queuing system. Additional storage space is supplied by 13 Sun Fire X4500 running Solaris 10. The system was built from off-the-shelf computers from a German company, Pyramid Computer GmbH.

One of the many special hardware components they have is the network from Woven Systems which is a hierarchical fully non-blocking network. The EFX 1000 core switch features 144 10 Gb/s CX4 ports and connects currently to 32 TRX100 edge switches which feature 48 1 Gb/s ports and 4x10 Gb/s uplinks, reaching 2880 Gb/s. Also their Sun Fire X4500 are directly connected to the core switch.

According to Dr. Grunewald, the Merlin Debian GNU / Linux Beowulf 180 nodes cluster (launched in 2002) initially ran on a rpm based distribution, but in 2004 migrated to Debian GNU / Linux after the rpm distro vendor changed its licensing model. The total computing power of the 360 CPU cores has been estimated to be more than 1.3 Tflops peak; the data storage capacity is about 20 TB mirrored.

The Morgane Debian GNU / Linux Beowulf cluster, consisting of 615 compute nodes, 15 storage nodes, and some head nodes, launched in December 2006. The total computing power of the 1230 CPU cores has been estimated to be more than 6 Tflops peak, the data storage capacity is about 100 TB.

About the Debian Project

Debian GNU / Linux is one of the free libre operating systems (GNU/Linux, GNU/Hurd, GNU/NetBSD, GNU/kFreeBSD), running 18733+ officially maintained packages on platforms, from cell phones and network devices to mainframes and supercomputers, developed by more than two thousand volunteers from all over the world who collaborate via the internet on the Debian Project.

Debian's dedication to Free Libre Open Source Software, its constitutional non-profit nature, its open and meritocratic development model, organization and social governance make it a first among free libre operating system distributions.

The Debian project's key strengths are its volunteer base, its dedication to the Debian Social Contract and the Debian Constitution, and its commitment to provide the best operating systems attainable, following a strict quality policy, working with an established QA Team and helpful users reporting bugs, suggestions, exchanging ideas, and registering experiences.

You can help Debian Project without joining it and even not being a programmer, or being a development and or service partner company or institution at the Debian Partner Program, or simply making various donations to the Debian Project.

Debian Project news, press releases and press coverage can be found from the official Debian wiki page. PR contact at debian-publicity list.

Debian Project News 2008/04

published on Mon Jun 9 00:00:00 2008 in weekly-news

Welcome to this year's 4th issue of DPN, the newsletter for the Debian community.
Some of the topics covered in this issue:

Release Update

Marc Brockschmidt reported about the status of the upcoming stable release. After some major transitions, like the ocaml transition Lenny is in good shape, but still a lot of work needs to be done. Since the armel architecture made great improvements the release team decided to upgrade it to a proper release architecture.

Debian Installer for Lenny Beta-2 ready for testing

The second beta version of the Debian Installer for the upcoming release Lenny has been released. Some new or improved features are:

Bits from the ftp-masters

Joerg Jaspert sent out bits from the ftp-masters containing recent activities of that team, including some personnel changes as well as a lot of code changes regarding Debian's infrastructure improving the overall teamwork, for example by making it easier for the release team to handle transitions. He also asked for volunteers for new ftp assistants. Later he reported that he already got four volunteers as well as several other suggestions for improvements.

Report from LinuxTag 2008

Bastian Venthur and Noel Koethe reported about this year's Debian booth at the LinuxTag 2008, a major conference about free software in Europe. Marko Jung, one of the organisers, added thanks for the good job the booth staff did. He also notes, that there was a high demand from the visitors' side for a Debian sub-conference at next year's LinuxTag.

Handling of removed packages

Marc Brockschmidt wondered about the proper way to handle packages removed between two releases. One of his major concerns are packages becoming unsupported without users noticing it. Several people replied, that package management tools are already trying to notify users, while Frans Pop pointed out, that the release notes have a chapter handling this issue.

French debconf translations completed

Christian Perrier reported that the french translation team finished translating all templates for the debconf system, helping users to configure packages on installation time. He notes, that some of these packages still need to add the translated templates. German, Czech and Portuguese are also quite close to the 100% mark.

Call for help by the German translation team

The German translation team sent a call for help for the translation of package descriptions. The upcoming stable release will support showing users translated descriptions of available packages, but currently only 2100 of the more than 18000 package descriptions are translated to German. The statistics for other languages are similar. Information on how to help the ongoing translation effort is available at our website.

Other News

The 8th issue of the miscellaneous news for developers has been released and covers the following topics: Minor update to the mailing list code of conduct, Document aimed at upstreams in preparation, d-i beta2 in preparation (breaks beta 1), New transition check tool.

Important Debian Security Advisories

Debian's Security Team released among others advisories for the packages Samba, Linux 2.6.18 and tomcat 5.5. Please look at them and take the proper measures.

Work-needing packages

Currently 450 packages are orphaned and 107 packages are up for adoption. Please take a look at the recent reports if there are packages you are interested in or view the complete archive of packages requesting help.

Want to continue reading DPN?

Please help us create this newsletter. We still need more volunteer writers who watch the Debian community and report about what is going on. Please see our HOWTO contribute page to find out how to help. We're looking forward to receiving your mail at

Ghextris: tetris clone with a hexagonal makeover

published on Sun Jun 8 18:58:21 2008 in packages-news

Article submitted by Alex Drachmann. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

The object of the game is much the same as with tetris, only the frame and the falling objects are hexagons. You have to slot the coloured pieces together making rows, which disappear once they are complete, the game ends if the stack of pieces reaches the celling.


Hexagons are hard to stack, so the game is more challenging than other games of its type, but it gets easier with practice. The game play gets rapidly challenging, as you make mistakes or run out of room and to make it worse, the objects you get are often the most useless for the job, plus it seems as if they fall at an increasingly faster rate. A score is kept based on how many lines you complete. Your current score and the highest score can be viewed on the bottom of the window, so you can try to match or beat your best score or that of a friend.

The interface and graphics are simple and integrates nicely in with the gnome environment. The colouring of the pieces is plain, with no texture or shading, so it doesn’t distract away from the game play. The top bar has two entries: play and hepl. The play menu has three actions, «play» (keyboard shortcut: ctrl+n), «pause» (ctrl+p or just p) and «quit» (ctrl+q). The help menu only has the infamous «about» option, with details about the version and author available.

The keys for playing the game are the direction keys, left and right on the keyboard, which moves the pieces left or right. The up and down keys turn the pieces 90 degrees in one direction or the other. Pressing the space bar makes the current piece crash into the slot directly beneath it.

The version I played was version 0.9.0, which is the current version in the universe repositories of Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 and in the Debian repositories. Ghextris is available in all current releases of Debian and Ubuntu.

The official site of the game is:

The author of the game and lone developer of it is Mikko Rauhala, who admits to being inspired by a similar game called Xhextris by David Markley.

Reconfirmation deadline approaching

published on Fri Jun 6 18:14:00 2008 in debconf-news

June 15th is the last day to reconfirm your attendance to DebConf8. If you are certain that you are coming, please reconfirm by setting the ‘Reconfirm Attendance’ box in your PentaBarf’s account.

If you have decided not to come to DebConf8, we are truly sorry about it, but we ask you to please state this by unchecking the ‘I want to attend this conference box’.

Currently, 397 people have registered for DebConf8, 340 plan to attend, but only 122 have reconfirmed (live stats).

JOE Joe’s own editor: a really usable text editor

published on Mon Jun 2 07:49:57 2008 in packages-news

Article submitted by Neil Stewart. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

Back in the day, when I was new to Linux, joe was the first text editor that I managed to quit without having to reboot my machine. That I am still using it today, many years later, goes to show just how simple yet powerful joe is. If you don’t want to use emacs (because what’s the point of running two operating systems?) and still can’t work out how to use vi, then joe is for you.

joe is started from the command line with joe or joe filename to edit filename. When you start joe you get a single header bar with information about where the cursor is, what time it is and, crucially, the message «Crtl-K H for help» (^KH in joe shorthand). So if you press Ctrl and K together, release them, and then press and release H, the top half of the screen is given over to a brief list of commands. And it’s here I learnt how to quit (without rebooting), how to open a new file, how to save a file. And how to move the cursor around, how to find and replace, how to skip over words and lines, how to marks blocks of text and move them about. And you can carry on working on your file —you just type— with the help up. So within a really short amount of time you’ll be up to speed.

But joe is powerful too. For example, you can process any block of text through any shell command. joe’s help file gives a good example. If you mark the block of text by moving the cursor to the beginning and ^KB, then move to the end and ^KK, then pipe the block of text through sort with ^K/ sort. joe then runs the block of text through sort and replaces the block with the result. Powerful, especially in conjunction with old faithfuls like tr and sed.

Search and replace is also easy. ^KF and enter a search term. That’s it. But search and replace is powerful too. You can reuse old search terms by pressing the up cursor key, including terms from previous sessions. You can use tab completion to complete from any of the words in your current document after you’ve typed the first few letters. Then you can choose what to do when you find it. To replace press R and enter the replace term. You can replace one by one, or replace all. ^L finds the next entry. And you can use regular expressions —this is unix after all. Again the help file has a neat example. If you search for \*,\*,\*$ (\* matches zero or more characters and $ matches the end of a line) and replace with \2,\1,\0 (\X matches Xth pattern found) the string «one,two,three» becomes «three,two,one». Bring up help with ^KH and skip a few screens with ^[. a few times to remind yourself of the regular expressions.

Macros are easy too. Start recording one of ten macros with ^K[ and then a digit. Finish the macro with ^K]. Then use ^Kdigit to play the macro.

joe has many more features. joe remembers where it was in the file when you next edit it. joe colours your C, Java, LaTeX, HTML, and many other formats by default. joe indents your source code and justifies your text. joe supports multiple windows. joe can set bookmarks. You can compile your source code from within joe (^[C) and then skip to the errors the compiler identifies (^C= next error, ^C- previous error).

Finally, joe is old, stable, and just works. It’s in version 3.5 in etch and lenny. I use it for everything, all day every day, and it never fails. Find out much more with info joe or at the Sourceforge home page.