xchat and hexchat

Gianfranco Costamagna costamagnagianfranco at ubuntu.com
Wed Apr 4 06:01:38 UTC 2018

Hello Steve and all,

>Lacking quorum, there was no actual TB meeting the other week.  However, as
>I noted on IRC, I also don't consider this a matter requiring the Technical
>Board's input.  In the first instance, this falls within the purview of the
>archive team, and I'm happy for us to field it as such.

I agree, thanks for simplifying the things :)
>If there are concerns about the archive team's decision here, that decision
>may always be appealed to the TB.
>The original bug report,
><https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xchat/+bug/1753169>, was filed
>per my request on #ubuntu-release[1], but I overlooked the actual filing
>which came with some delay after the IRC discussion.
>This does not mean I agree that the package should be removed, but as you, I
>think it's important to have this discussion and take a decision.

>I do have concerns about the quality of this software, as well as about the
>maintainer's response to the concerns that have been raised.  Comments

lets try to answer

>An IRC client, in its default mode of operation, requires zero>authentication of a remote server.  The server must therefore be considered
>untrusted and potentially hostile.  Even *with* authentication, a remote
>server could be compromised.
>Any security vulnerability involving a network client failing to validate
>input from a remote source is a significant one.
>And in my opinion, any network client whose upstream maintainer didn't
>consider such vulnerabilities worthy of serious attention should not be
>included in a stable Ubuntu release.
>So please don't try to argue for xchat's inclusion by downplaying the
>significance of security vulnerabilities.

ack here, but sorry if I made this false assumption. the mean of that
sentence was not "don't care because internet is broken or evil",
but more a "hey, such vulnerabilities exists in probably *all* irc clients,
including hexchat and others, at least in stable releases. You can do fuzzy
testing against the versions to check them.

So, while I *always* fixed CVEs on my packages, I also think we should focus
more to real bugs, not something discovered by a fuzzy test, that affects probably
most irc clients, with an userbase really low, and with a crash as effect and not
a personal data leak or similar.

My assumption was just to mention that a "crash" for a vulnerability is something
we might really like at the end :)

>I have no problem in principle with a package that is orphaned upstream and
>is now maintained only in Debian/Ubuntu.  There have certainly been many
>other examples of this, and such packages are not categorically worse than
>those that have a separate upstream.
>My understanding is that most former xchat users find hexchat to be a
>reasonable replacement.  Can you explain why you do not?

it is, but new features breaks it from time to time (eg. 1.14.0 vs 1.14.1, the latter
has been pushed because of the previous one not being suitable for usage), moreover
we still don't have a clean upgrade path from xchat to hexchat, at least for configuration files.

People might want to keep it, until we smoothly upgrade them and move around configuration.
(this is something somewhat slowly ongoing=

>I'm afraid I don't agree at all with this argumentation.  For better or
>worse, it is a fairly common practice across Free Software (and otherwise!)
>for security vulnerabilities to be fixed by upstreams without disclosing
>these were security vulnerabilities; and this doesn't have to indicate ill
>intent on the part of the upstream.  Sometimes the upstream has nothing more
>than a vague sense that a bug might be exploitable and it's not worth the
>effort to prove it.
>I don't think it in any way disqualifies hexchat for inclusion in stable
>Ubuntu releases to know that upstream has fixed security bugs without going
>through a particular disclosure process.  It is not even the responsibility
>of the upstream maintainer to notify Ubuntu of such vulnerabilities (though
>we certainly welcome having such notifications!), and for packages in
>universe, many known vulnerabilities will unfortunately remain unfixed
>anyway.  It is definitely not the upstream's responsibility to disclose the
>details of security vulnerabilities for the benefit of an unrelated fork
>from an older codebase.

sure, this wasn't a really strong point on my side :)

>I do question the wisdom of maintaining software exclusively via
>debian/patches over the long term, if indeed that's what you're doing here. 
>But that's my personal opinion as a developer, and has nothing to do with
>whether the package, today, should be removed from the release.


>What, in practice, do you believe this maintenance will consist of?  Are you
>planning to monitor CVE activity of related codebases to watch for issues
>that may also affect xchat, or will this maintenance be entirely reactive in
>response to critical bug reports?

yes, as I'm doing with all the packages, I fix them, SRU/Security fix them,
as I always did.
>Do you have any collaborators on the upstream maintenance of xchat, or is
>this truly an individual committment, with all the caveats that apply?

no collaborators, even if at least other 2-3 DDs asked me to help, so I might not
be alone, but since the package is "working" right now, nobody will add himself
to the uploaders list, because right now there are a reason for a new upload
>Nothing so far says to me that we should indeed remove xchat, but I would
>appreciate your answers to these questions which will help make it clear to 
>the Ubuntu community where things stand.

I can just say that my ubuntu membership is dated 2005, I never left the committment
for my packages to anybody else, including stuff more critical, like virtualbox
(and please trust me when I say that vbox is such a difficult piece of software to maintain).
I don't plan to stop contributing in the foreseeable future, and I want to keep
the package safe and in the archive, with my best knowledge around it, and all the good
faith from my side I can have.

You can see that I'm alone even for vbox, but I know there are a lot of other people around
knowing it, just they won't do any kind of work, probably until I stop doing it :)

It is up to you, I can just say that I care of my stuff and I fix it.
(BTW the newly discovered vulnerabilities, are probably affecting only hexchat, I can't find in xchat
codebase the missing boundary checks), so, at least from my POV, one more point wrt xchat :)

Last point, I live near hexchat maintainer, we talk daily about our packages, and we disclose issues
and fixes, this is not really a war, neither an "issue" at least from maintainers opinion.
Mattia is a great packager, I even had a chance to meet him some days ago, and I think
having two packages (and eventually a safe upgrade path), will make things better for everybody,
if the cost is to maintain a software for 5 years more in the archive.

(sorry for the delay, but I still prefer to use my time for bugs and fixing stuff,
even if such discussions are really important for the community!)


More information about the Ubuntu-release mailing list