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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: 19 June 2006


1.  Gentoo news

Userrel wants YOU! - User Representatives Nominations

As one of the major distributions at the moment, Gentoo's organisation can be a fiendishly complicated thing to understand, and it can be difficult to know how you can help out. To this end, we have created the position of ‘user representative’, and would like to take this opportunity to explain something about the role.

“Know thy users” is popular advice, and often we attempt to achieve this by consultation with one or more users. People will tend to err towards the idea of the statistical ‘average user’ – one speaks for all. Although this approach is a simple and oftentimes effective way to find a representative user, the results are only valuable if the user base, their day-to-day tasks and work settings are homogeneous. If there are significant variations, this approach will fail to support some users, and can result in a product that does not meet their needs. It relies heavily upon having selected the most important user attributes for sampling and consultation, and can easily tempt us to think that knowing the characteristics of the average user, we need not consult with them. In this way it discourages us from challenging our own assumptions, and may deny us a source of valuable information that could prevent mistakes.

The User Relations project focuses on bridging the gap between the developer and user communities, actively seeking out ways to improve communications between the two and encourage user involvement. It aims to ensure that high standards are met, and to work closely with other user focused projects to produce the best distribution possible for the user base. To this end, it is looking for user representatives to help in this quest.

The project has decided that 5 user representatives should be enough to provide a sufficiently diverse range of opinions and interests while avoiding the issues associated with having too many. Nominations are now open; see this forum thread for more information and to nominate any users you would like to see considered for the position.

What does a User Representative do?

Becoming a user representative may take some time, energy and commitment, but it can also be very rewarding. The role of user representative involves:

  • Present the views, and represent the interests, of all elements of our diverse user base.
  • Be a ‘critical friend’ to the User Relations project, offering alternative opinions and perspectives, and challenging the assumptions of all involved wherever appropriate.
  • Engage positively with developers and Gentoo projects
  • Interact with a wide range of groups and individuals to find out what our users think, and what they would like to see happening.
  • Suggest ways in which other users could be engaged and involved in the project, in planning and delivering information and elsewhere.
  • Channel information back to the users regarding proceedings of and decisions made in meetings.

If you were thinking of becoming a user representative, you will not be left alone. The user relations project will be there to support you, and you will be assigned a current developer as a point of contact with whom you can discuss any questions or concerns about your role or the group as a whole.

Why become a user representative?

  • You will have the opportunity to influence how information, news, and support are delivered to users, and to ensure that they are organised in the best way possible for all our users.
  • You will gain experience as an advocate for the user community, and useful knowledge and skills that can be applied in many areas of life.
  • It is a great way to give something back to the community, and to get involved as a user.
  • You will have the chance to meet and get to know other users and developers.

What makes a good user representative?

The ideal user representative would:

  • Be willing to network with a wide range of other users.
  • Be seen as approachable by others, so that people will be open about their views. Be non-judgemental and show sensitivity towards what may be difficult issues.
  • Work constructively with developers and staff. Not be scared or intimidated by developers, but to view them as people doing the best they can within constraints. Should it be necessary to challenge them, do so in a supportive manner wherever possible.
  • Be able to negotiate, to make the case for a particular course of action, and willing to compromise where appropriate.
  • Be able to step outside of his/her own experience, and be able to argue a viewpoint with which you may not fully agree.
  • Present users' views with confidence, and not be afraid to raise issues about the role or the workings of the project.

Where can I learn more?

We hope that most questions will have been answered above, but for any more information please do get in touch with the user relations team by one of the following methods:

  • gentoo-userrel mailing list -- to subscribe, send a blank email to; the address to post is then
  • By email to
  • In IRC: #gentoo-userrel on

Other ways to get involved

There are a number of areas in which interested users can contribute to Gentoo:

  • Gentoo Linux Development team: Prospective developers are encouraged to become active on bugzilla. The bug reports are monitored by development recruiters, so start squashing bugs and you will become noticed.
  • Gentoo Bugdays: On the first Saturday of each month both developers and users gather in #gentoo-bugs on where bugs are tested, discussed and resolved. Bugdays offer a great way for developers and users to work together and get to know each other. It also provides an opportunity for potential developers to be scouted. For further information the Bugday team can be contacted.
  • Gentoo Linux Documentation team: The team provides users with clear and concise documentation. It consists of Writers/Editors and Translators for various languages. For more information on joining take a look at the Gentoo Linux Documentation Policy.
  • Gentoo Weekly Newsletter: If you would like to offer your help to the GWN team as a contributor or translator then contact information can be found in the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter Overview.
  • #gentoo IRC Channel: Knowledgeable users are encouraged to come and help out in #gentoo on
  • #gentoo-dev-help IRC Channel: Anyone wanting to know more about ebuild writing and/or Gentoo development is welcome to come and ask in #gentoo-dev-help on Freenode, where developers and other users are waiting to help.

Project Sunrise - Gentoo User Overlay

Last week there was the announcement of an overlay for user-submitted ebuilds. This was intended to help users to find and use ebuilds that for now only exist in Gentoo Bugzilla and to ensure that these ebuilds adhere to quality standards. Also it might offer a good environment for recruiting new ebuild developers from the user community.

Giving commit access to this repository to trusted users has caused some very intense debates, centering mostly around policies and potential problems from malicious users. During the council meeting on June 16th it was decided that while the idea is quite good the execution was lacking.

As a consequence the Sunrise overlay has been suspended from official Gentoo hardware, but it does continue on as an unofficial project.

Sunrise is looking for more users to add ebuilds from bugzilla to the overlay. You can find more information about Sunrise and its goals on the project page and have a look at the FAQ as well as the actual overlay. Feel free to visit the IRC channel - #gentoo-sunrise on awaits you!

Java 1.5 progress and changes in Java handling

As some might have noticed, Java 1.5 has been package.masked for some time now. There are a number of issues introduced with 1.5 that have kept it in package.mask. Please see the Java 1.5 FAQ for more details.

About a year ago, work was begun on improving our part of the build system (read: Java related eclasses and our java-config tool) in a way to make it much more flexible in general, but specifically improve it to get around the known issues. It took about six months to fully develop. Unfortunately, the new system was not quite a drop-in replacement. So, it took from then until now to determine how to migrate from the current system to the new one in a sane way.

But now we are ready to move to the new system.

Highlights of the new system:

  • Ability to switch the current VM on the fly
  • Changes to the user and system VM take effect immediately, and no longer are tied to the shell environment (ie no more running env-update && source /etc/profile after switching the sytem VM)
  • Now has the concept of a ‘build VM’, which is used to emerge packages, and is configured independently of the system VM.
  • For each version of Java, ie 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, etc, the build vm can configured as to which vendor and version of a VM to use
  • The VM at emerge time will be switched on the fly according to its configuration, as well as the dependency of the package. For example, some packages won't compile with 1.5. In these cases, a 1.4 VM will be used at build time.
  • Java packages which build with ant will have their build.xml rewritten at build time, in order to ensure that the correct version of Java bytecode is compiled.
  • We'll be able to unmask Java 1.5 soon, and be able to handle Java 1.6 when it comes out this fall.

The new system is currently being discussed on the gentoo-dev mailinglist, and assuming no major issues come up, will likely make their way into the tree in the next few weeks.

nss_ldap breakage and how to prevent it

With the upgrade to nss_ldap-249 and later many users found their system in an almost unusable state: Upon boot it could take an extremely long time (up to an hour) to get to a login prompt. This is caused by a small change in behaviour: What used to be a fixed timeout is now a configurable amount of attempts with increasing time between them. Information how to fix this problem can be found here:

Hungarian GWN translators

Recently a Hungarian GWN translation has been considered. Right now we are looking for some translators to help with the task - if you are interested please send a notice to Many thanks in advance!

2.  Heard in the community

Gentoo multimedia FAQ

After seeing lots of similar questions on the Gentoo Forums and the #gentoo IRC channel Steve Dibb started collecting questions for a multimedia FAQ. If you like to see common questions being answered in his FAQ let him know.


Project Sunrise

The User Overlay project by Stefan Schweizer and Markus Ullmann has caused much discussion and has been suspended for now. The following threads spawned from this announcement:

Defining the Tree: a proto-GLEP.

Stephen Bennett starts a discussion that has its roots in the “alternative package manager” threads of the last weeks. One issue that was often mentioned is the lack of a formal specification of the ebuild format, environment and many other small details. So Stephen intends to write, together with the portage team and other interested developers, a full specification if there is enough interest and support within the developer community – and, almost obviously, this idea is almost universally accepted as a good thing.

Profiles Part 2

Following on from the lengthy and at times heated discussion in the Paludis and Profiles thread mentioned here two weeks ago, Stephen Bennett sent a new proposal to the list to make life easier for alternative package managers in the tree. This version is package-manager-agnostic and met with a much more positive response and no visible opposition. As things stand, it is set to be implemented at some point after the 2006.1 release.

GLEP 42 Revisited

GLEP 42, “Critical News Reporting”, has been waiting in a sort of limbo since its author left the Gentoo project. However, Stephen Bennett has now taken over sponsorship of it, and sent it to the mailing list again. The GLEP seems to have fairly widespread support, and should be sent to the Gentoo Council for approval in the near future.

GWN issues

Under the slightly unintuitive title "July Council Meeting: Requested Agenda Item" Christel Dahlskjaer starts a discussion about the state of the GWN. There were some issues with past GWNs, especially with the limited availability of Ulrich Plate. As a positive side effect Christel and some other devs have joined the GWN and will try to help where they can.

[RFC] i18n project

Diego 'Flameeyes' Pettenò asks for some input on one of his excellent ideas: An internationalization (i18n) project to make the life of our non-English users easier. Initial goals include translating error messages of Gentoo-developed applications and the respective manpages but the real span is yet to be defined.

3.  Gentoo International

Germany: FrOSCon, Bonn/Rhein-Sieg

Gentoo Developer Tobias Scherbaum will give two talks at the first Free and Open Source Software Conference taking place at the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg next weekend. His first talk is an introduction to Gentoo where he talks about Gentoo's history, Gentoo's current state and further development. The second talk covers Gentoo's usage in business environments and demonstrates Gentoo's strengths, but also areas where Gentoo needs to evolve. For more details check the FrOSCon lectures website.

Gentoo Summer Camp 2006

The second Gentoo Summer Camp will take place on 26 and 27 august on a campground next to the fourth largest lake in Lower Saxony called “Grosses Meer”. While this claims to be a Gentoo camp, the organization team around Forums moderator Uwe Hölzel focusses mainly on social aspects. Playing mini-golf, having barbeque or just discovering the nature is preferred over hacking. For everyone who is interested in attending, the GSC team already set up a web page which provides further information and a forum.

4.  Gentoo in the press Guide to Portage 2.1 (13 June 2006)

The German community website published an article on new features and changed behaviour in Portage 2.1. Author Tobias Scherbaum includes an overview, but also gives practical examples on how these new features can be used to improve your Gentoo experience. The article is currently only available in German, an English translation can be done on short notice if some people indicate interest.

Rapid GUI Development with QtRuby

Gentoo Developer Caleb Tennis has recently published a book called “Rapid GUI Development with QtRuby”. It is available as PDF on the Pragmatic Programmer Website. While it does assume some basic working knowledge of Ruby it is intended to be easy to read and informative even for people not yet familiar with Qt.

Although it is not Gentoo-specific all testing of programs for this book happened on Gentoo. The QtRuby bindings can be emerged with emerge qtruby, the KDE extension Korundum can also be emerged with emerge korundum, so Gentoo users will have it especially easy if they wish to play around with these programs.

Caleb Tennis has been a Gentoo developer for three years now and is part of the Ruby, Qt and KDE herds.

5.  Tips and tricks

Exploring portage features

The new release of Portage 2.1 brings many features and improvements. While most of them are documented in the example make.conf and the portage man page they may not be obvious to most users, so we will show how to use some of these features.

All the features have to be set in /etc/make.conf.

Portage is now able to download some package's source code while compiling another. This can considerably reduce installation time when emerging many packages. There's no need to run emerge --fetchonly while doing a normal emerge anymore. You just have to add the following option:

Code Listing 5.1: Setting parallel-fetch in /etc/make.conf


This feature appears to be non-functional in some of the Portage 2.1 releases, but is expected to be fixed soon.

Another new option to reduce installation time yet a bit more is confcache. With this new feature portage caches many of the tests configuration scripts do, thus making execution faster. This comes with the small risk of caching wrong values, so be warned that this feature is known to have a few bugs. Since this package is currently keyworded on most architectures, the required steps to enable it are:

Code Listing 5.2: Enabling confcache

Add this in /etc/make.conf
We need to unmask the package before emerging it
echo "=dev-util/confcache-0.4.2-r1 ~arch" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords
Installing confcache
emerge -av confcache
On further installations. you'll see stuff like:
checking for i686-pc-linux-gnu-gcc... (cached) i686-pc-linux-gnu-gcc
checking whether we are using the GNU C compiler...(cached) yes
checking whether i686-pc-linux-gnu-gcc accepts -g... (cached) yes

Another important new feature is the ability to log all the messages ebuilds print. Which messages to log and how to do it is configurable. For example, to save just the warnings and errors in a separate file for each package we emerge, you have to add:

Code Listing 5.3: Configuring logging features in /etc/make.conf

This sets what to log
PORTAGE_ELOG_CLASSES="warn error log"
And this is how to do it

There are many more options like sending log messages via email. Please check out make.conf.example for further information.

6.  Gentoo developer moves


The following developers recently left the Gentoo project:

  • Chris White*


The following developers recently joined the Gentoo project:

  • Chris White (chriswhite) (random stuff)*


The following developers recently changed roles within the Gentoo project:

  • none this week

Note: Chris White resigned and then retracted his resignation. To show this change in status he is mentioned both as leaving and newly joining.

7.  Gentoo security

GDM: Privilege escalation

An authentication error in GDM could allow users to gain elevated privileges.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Asterisk: IAX2 video frame buffer overflow

Asterisk contains a bug in the IAX2 channel driver making it vulnerable to the remote execution of arbitrary code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

DokuWiki: PHP code injection

A flaw in DokuWiki's spell checker allows for the execution of arbitrary PHP commands, even without proper authentication.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

OpenLDAP: Buffer overflow

The OpenLDAP replication server slurpd contains a buffer overflow that could result in arbitrary code execution.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

PAM-MySQL: Multiple vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities in PAM-MySQL can lead to a Denial of Service, making it impossible to log into a machine.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Sendmail: Denial of Service

Faulty multipart MIME messages can cause forked Sendmail processes to crash.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Typespeed: Remote execution of arbitrary code

A buffer overflow in the network code of Typespeed can lead to the execution of arbitrary code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

Mozilla Thunderbird: Multiple vulnerabilities

Several vulnerabilities in Mozilla Thunderbird allow cross site scripting, JavaScript privilege escalation and possibly execution of arbitrary code.

For more information, please see the GLSA Announcement

8.  Bugzilla



The Gentoo community uses Bugzilla ( to record and track bugs, notifications, suggestions and other interactions with the development team. Between 12 June 2006 and 19 June 2006, activity on the site has resulted in:

  • 710 new bugs during this period
  • 366 bugs closed or resolved during this period
  • 21 previously closed bugs were reopened this period

Of the 10298 currently open bugs: 54 are labeled 'blocker', 138 are labeled 'critical', and 554 are labeled 'major'.

Closed bug rankings

The developers and teams who have closed the most bugs during this period are:

New bug rankings

The developers and teams who have been assigned the most new bugs during this period are:

9.  GWN feedback

Please send us your feedback and help make the GWN better.

10.  GWN subscription information

To subscribe to the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter, send a blank e-mail to

To unsubscribe to the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter, send a blank e-mail to from the e-mail address you are subscribed under.

11.  Other languages

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter is also available in the following languages:


Page updated June 19, 2006

Summary: This is the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of 19 June 2006.

Ulrich Plate

Patrick Lauer

Christel Dahlskjaer

Tobias Scherbaum

Mark Kowarsky

Markus Ullmann

Steve Dibb

Lucas Chiesa

Lars Weiler

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