Debian/Ubuntu netpbm is many years out-of-date with upstream

Bug #270479 reported by David Dean on 2008-09-15
This bug affects 25 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
netpbm-free (Debian)
Fix Released
netpbm-free (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

I'm having a little trouble following the difference between netpbm-free and the upstream version of netpbm available at, so I'm not sure if the version numbers are comparable, but it appears that the netpbm-free package is woefully out of date with upstream.

I'm trying to use the -data option of pnmmontage which is was introduced into (upstream) version 10.06 of pnmmontage in 2002 (see

While I'm not sure if the version numbers can be compared easily, it appears that Ubuntu is at 10.0 while the upstream netpbm libraries are at 10.35.51, which is 6 years covering 40 or so releases ahead of Ubuntu/Debian's version.

What can be done to bring Ubuntu (and Debian) back up to date with the upstream versions of netpbm? Are there some licensing issues that are holding the repackaging up?

Changed in netpbm-free:
status: Unknown → New
John Pye (jdpipe) wrote :

Confirmed, netpbm 10.0 (as current Ubuntu) is dated 2002.
Is Debian providing some kind of patched version of it own here?

Changed in netpbm-free (Ubuntu):
status: New → Confirmed
jnygaard (jens-olav-nygaard) wrote :

I just stumbled in here googling for a solution to my problem, which is that this really, really old netpbm coming with my Ubuntu 9.10 has a buggy (at least inferior) pnmnorm.

Guess I can compile and install from the sourceforge tarball, but it would be nice if something was available through the apt-system...

I used pgmtopbm(1) on 9.10 only to find users on other distributions had problems. Turns out later netpbms deprecate pgmtopbm, saying pamditherbw(1) is its replacement. Ubuntu's netpbm doesn't have pamditherbw; it's too old and crufty. Debian/Ubuntu have forked netpbm, with all the problems that creates. If there are licensing issues then can we have a netpbm-nonfree for those of us that want to co-exist with the other distros?

netpbm is a venerable workhorse. It's a shame that Ubuntu effectively doesn't have it.

Dan Muresan (danmbox) wrote :

This is indeed annoying. I need pamtodjvurle, will probably compile from source...

Debian has the same outdated netpbm as well.

Andreas Gustafsson (gson) wrote :

I was surprised and disappointed to find that the Ubuntu netpbm package doesn't include the "pamscale" program, which has existed since 2004.

The obscenely old netpbm tools are a showstopper for me to migrate my fax/document management system to Ubuntu. Please bring this package up-to-date with other Linux distributions!

Dan Muresan (danmbox) wrote :

As the comments in the Debian bug report show, Fedora 14 is packaging netpbm-10.47.17, so presumably the license problems invoked by Debian aren't that bad.

The Debian maintainer has quite clearly decided to kill this package. He hasn't posted updates in the bug report for almost 4 years. Is there something we can do about inactive Debian maintainers? Alternatively, who's in charge of the Ubuntu package?

Dan, good point about Fedora 14 being happy. As for the Ubuntu package, Andreas Barth is given as the maintainer; That's who the Debian maintainer is too though AFAICS. It's a real shame that a venerable workhorse such as netpbm isn't in a better state on Ubuntu. Perhaps Fedora's actions/analysis provide a way forward.

Morten Kjeldgaard (mok0) on 2013-05-25
Changed in netpbm-free (Ubuntu):
importance: Undecided → High

ppmglobe is missing too, and would be a useful inclusion (for me at any rate).

Ok, it's 2014; this bug has been here for 6 years.

I see , but I don't know what it really means.

If Ubuntu can't include it for license reasons, could someone post a DIY for getting or making a fresh version?


Apparently, the way forward is to uninstall netpbm and install the deb package from the official NetPBM site:

It works for me!

scruss (scruss) wrote :

Note previous comment #12 no longer works in 17.04, as Bryan's deb depends on superseded packages such as libpng12 and libtiff4.

Building from source is a little tedious, but not hard:

Changed in netpbm-free (Debian):
status: New → Fix Committed
Changed in netpbm-free (Debian):
status: Fix Committed → Fix Released
jimav (james-avera) wrote :

Thanks to whoever did the fix.

But can we please have a bit more (i.e. any at all) communication in the future? There is nary a word from any dev in this bug report about what the problem was or how it was resolved, or even what was done in the "fix".


What _is_ the current status of netpbm now?

How does Ubuntu's netpbm compare, now, with upstream? Is it the same?
If different, please give brief overview of why.

Are there any remaining issues (such as licensing) which will impede routine updates in the future (that is, can we expect future upstream changes to appear in Ubuntu)?

Dark Dragon (darkdragon-001) wrote :

I noticed that Fedora is removing "ppmtompeg". So I guess this is the "solution" to the license problem.

Dark Dragon (darkdragon-001) wrote :

This is also stated in their source preparation script: "removing the ppmtompeg code, due to patents" (

Dark Dragon (darkdragon-001) wrote :

Surprisingly, ppmtompeg is *not* removed in the updated Debian package...

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