E-mail arrived a couple of days ago from Will E. from School District #33 in British Columbia, Canada:

Also thank you for all of the work you have put into your package archive. (we use your archive here in our school district on almost 1000 Kubuntu workstations and servers)

Wow, thank you! These e-mails are really motivational and encouraging!

Yesterday I learned Drobe, THE site for Risc OS and Acorn news was closing as its news service, thus remaining in archive-only mode. I have never used Risc OS or an Acorn and there is none in my classic computers collection but it is still sad news.

But I digress.

I cannot remember how but somehow, via Drobe, I discovered Risc OS had an Internet browser called NetSurf and it was available for Linux now. I backported the latest version (2.1) for Hardy and Jaunty.

Rendering-wise, it’s not too good. Plugins did not work for me and I’d say JavaScript is not working either. But there are some interesting points: NetSurf has its own rendering engine, split in several libraries:

Everything is MIT licensed.

Summary: NetSurf 2.1, libnsgif, libnsbmp, libparserutils and libhubbub are now available for Hardy and Jaunty from my PPA

From now on, I’m going to blog about the packages I backport/package.

Firefox 3.5.3 for Ubuntu Hardy and Jaunty is available from my PPA (and XUL Runner 1.9.1.3 too). It’s a backport from Karmic.

Doxygen 1.6.1 is also available for Hardy and Jaunty. Backported from Debian Unstable because it’s not yet in Karmic.

OpenSceneGraph 2.9.5 is finally available for Hardy and includes my fix for osg::Timer. It had been there for Jaunty for months but for the last months I’ve been working mostly on my Jaunty laptop so I didn’t need this backport.

Valgrind 3.5.0 is also available for Hardy and Jaunty. It’s a backport from Debian Unstable and I have added the Ubuntu-specific bits (i. e. built with -fno-stack-protector)

And finally, asciidoc 8.4.5, for Hardy and Jaunty too. This version has not arrived into Debian or Ubuntu Karmic yet, so I took the packaging for 8.4.4 and adapted it for 8.4.5.

PPA means “personal package archive” and it’s exactly what the name says: a repository of .deb packages for some Ubuntu version(s).

It’s a very convenient way to make packages available to other people: you submit the source package and a pool of virtual machines build the packages for different architectures (i386, amd64 and lpia; the ones supported by Ubuntu).

Canonical launched PPAs in the summer of 2007 in beta. I can’t remember when I joined the program but I immediately loved it: it made very easy for me to make packages available for several machines in several different locations. Easier than carrying a USB pendrive.

My PPA has had packages for virtually every version since Dapper but due to disk-space restrictions, I had to remove everything but Hardy and Jaunty.

What can you find in my PPA? A lot of stuff, really. What people tend to thank me the most for? Recent (meaning “usually the latest one”) versions of Firefox, git, Samba, CMake, Boost, Qt, glib and gtk, Wt, Valgrind, Pango, Doxygen, GStreamer, asciidoc, KDevelop4, QtCreator, the NVidia graphics driver, OpenVPN, Subversion, VLC and some other packages (even Open Cobol 🙂 ).

Generally, the same packages are available in the same version for all the distributions I’m “supporting” (keep in mind this is a best-effort repository: I can’t and won’t offer any warranty!). From time to time, it’s just too difficult to backport something (it requires too many dependencies to be backported too) or there are technical limtations (for instance, recent versions of VLC won’t build on kernel 2.6.24, which is the default kernel on Hardy, so the latest VLC for Hardy in my PPA is 0.9.4 -Hardy came with 0.8.6-)

I am adding two new categories to this blog: Debian and Ubuntu.

In the Debian category I will blog about the packages I maintain in Debian. As I am not involved in politics or technicalities in Debian, don’t expect too much posts about that.

Now for the Ubuntu category. I’m taking immediate action to try and fix the low profile my PPA has had so far in the Ubuntu community, something I talked about recently. I think my PPA is very useful for many people (from time to time, I receive e-mails thanking me or requesting new backports/packages). Given that I do a lot of backporting, this category will have quite some activity.

Getting included in Planet Ubuntu is proving to be quite difficult due to bureaucracy.

On one side, I’m too technical to apply for plain Ubuntu membership.

On the other side, given that all the work I do in my PPA (mostly backports for Hardy and Jaunty, but also some new packages not yet accepted in Debian) I do it on myself, with no external help, I don’t have a history of collaboration with other Ubuntu members/developers/MOTUs. Which means I don’t get any endorsement in my MOTU application.

In the end, I have the largest PPA in Launchpad, providing lots of backports for Hardy and Jaunty, but very few people know about it because I can’t blog about my backports in Planet Ubuntu. Weird.