Thursday, February 2, 2012

What about my precious Xpdf ?!?!?

I keep getting e-mails asking me why app-text/xpdf is masked for removal from the portage tree. It's getting too much to reply individually, so let me sum up the situation here in a blog post.
# Andreas K. Hüttel <> (27 Jan 2012)
# Has developed into an unmaintainable mess, and everyone who
# knows about it is either retired or missing in action.
# Several minor bugs and one ugly security issues (#386271).
# Masked for removal because of lack of maintainer.
# Please try app-text/epdfview as light-weight replacement.
Xpdf is a package with a long history, and in a way a strange remnant of bygone times. Since PDF rendering is a function that many different programs could use, some years ago the Poppler library was forked from the Xpdf codebase. By now, Poppler is a much more active project, and used by dozens of packages in the Gentoo portage tree, all the way from LibreOffice and PDFTeX to Calligra, GIMP, and e.g. Okular or Evince. Being the more active project is important in this case, because PDF files are frequently shared and distributed and PDF rendering is thus a security-relevant task.
The original Xpdf remained independent of Poppler, not using the library - with the effect that every now and then security bugs kept popping up. Some time ago, some Gentoo developers started modifying and patching Xpdf to use the Poppler library. What resulted was the complicated construct that right now noone here is willing to maintain anymore. (Otherwise some Gentoo developer would have contacted me in the meantime.) Implementing a version bump to a more recent Xpdf version is a non-trivial task because all the Gentoo-specific patches have to be reviewed and if necessary rewritten.
Thus, app-text/xpdf needs to go the way of the dinosaur. Two alternatives exist, but both do not seem realistic at the moment:
1) We could go back to the original, unpatched Xpdf from upstream. I'm not going to do it, and I doubt anyone else of the Gentoo devs will.
2) Rogério Brito has started maintaining a fork of Xpdf at Github, which uses the Poppler library. However, there is no released version yet, and as he told me myself, he's rather busy in real life right now...
In the meantime, please try one of the following packages:
Ironically, the first mail reply to the last-riting of xpdf was from one of our security team members, promising me a beer the next time we meet in person. Only afterwards the complaints started.


  1. Many people fail to realize that just because a package is removed, you can still access it in the Attic and add it to your personal overlay.

  2. Feels weird to have xpdf gone from the tree.. When I started using Gentoo in 2002 (my first Linux distro) xpdf was one of the applications you just NEEDED and that almost worked well enough, compared to the Windows equivalent. Feels like cleaning out the attic and finding letters from your old girlfriend ;)

    A suggestion though, perhaps you should recommend an alternative that isn't unmaintained in the package.mask text?

  3. Meanwhile I'm screaming: what about my precious compiz-fusion that's leaving portage? =[

  4. Well, one of the things I know I am going to miss from the loss of xpdf is the ability to just highlight a section of a PDF doc and paste it somewhere else. That feature has been *SO* helpful in my personal life as well as the professional, and I find the "replacement offerings" I've tried don't seem to have anything close to it.

    And, like Peter above, I have also known xpdf from my early days of linux, back to '96. So, another one of the original apps that allowed us to walk away from windoze without looking back has also gone by the wayside. :-/

    Kind of a shame, but as Dennis Miller loves to point out:
    "... Life is about change! In fact, Life is like riding the bus; It *requires* change!"

  5. And what about app-text/texlive-core-2011-r7 (current!)
    which fails to build with:

    checking requested system `kpathsea' library... ok
    checking requested system `zlib' library... ok
    checking requested system `libpng' library... ok
    checking requested system `xpdf' library... failed
    configure: error: some requested system libraries failed

    !!! Please attach the following file when seeking support:
    !!! /ebuild/working/portage/app-text/texlive-core-2011-r7/work/texlive-20110705-source/config.log
    * ERROR: app-text/texlive-core-2011-r7 failed (configure phase):
    * econf failed

    Itchy trigger finger?


    1. It's actually trying to use poppler (and fails). How about you file a bug on our Gentoo bugzilla? Please dont forget to attach the *full* build log, your emerge --info output, and the config.log (see above)!