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summary and notes on this bug

So since this bug report has accumulated an astonishing amount of
irrelevent cruft, this is a summary for my own use when I get around to
dealing with the bug, or for the use of anyone who might feel more
inspired to deal with it due to recent events than I do.

I should add that this bug remains pretty near the bottom of my TODO
list, and moreover that base-config and debconf have been effectively as
frozen as I can make them (which hasn't been too much, but it could be
much, much worse..) for the past several months, in preparation for the
rest of the base freeze. I would need to see significant evidence that
making any large code changes would be worth maybe impacting the freeze
before I would think about accepting them.

Conversely, there is an obvious and simple woraround -- commenting out a
single line -- which will not impact the freeze, but I will not do that
unless I am provided with significant evidence that doing that will make
the installation a better experience for more people than it will make
the installation a PITA for. Since commenting out that line makes it a
lot harder to install on systems with only a few hundred MB of disk
space, and since exactly one person has stated that commenting that line
out would help him, justifying such a simple fix would be a pretty tall
order. I'm not really too interested in the "you shouldn't go around
deleting the debs behind our backs; it's just not morally right!"
arguments I have seen; I want solid technical or situational (eg, will
it bite you or someone you know?) justifications.

Anyway, to get back to the larger changes that could be made to address
this bug report, if someone is inclined eventually to do the work --
most of the people who have proposed non-working patches and so on have
missed some fundamental points about base-config that I as the
maintainer can't ignore. These include:

  - base-config is run by utterly new debian users (and even reviewers
    -- ugh!!), and so everything has to be exaplained clearly and 
    concisely with a minimum of jargon.
  - Every question added to base-config is one more step folks have to
    sweat through during an install, and as such I try to keep the total
    number of questions they'll see to the minimum, at least at the
    default verbosity level.

So, base-config could simply ask every time if the apt cache should be
deleted. But to do so it will need to explain what the apt cache is, why
you might need to delete it, and the esoteric reasons why someone might
want to keep it. In 20 lines or less. I'm sure that can be done, it's
just a pain. The issue of adding another question to the typical install
is something I'd dearly like to avoid though, if possible.

And there are ways to normally avoid the question. It could be asked
only if the install was done in verbose mode (asked at low priority,
that is). This might be a reasonable compromise, it means that the 10 or
so people on earth who might ever use this can figure out how to boot up
in verbose mode and sit through several extra questions, while the rest
of the planet doesn't need to bother. I still don't like it much.

Another idea is to detect if the system is getting dangerously low on
space, and only then ask about deleting the debs. This is probably a lot
better, because we don't *need* to delete them from most modern disks,
and folks who are installing on a 150mb drive can probably deal, and are
a small enough group that it doesn't matter if they have to do a bit
more work.

This is about where I have gotten in my thoughts. Coming up with
appropriate heuristics for when to ask about deleting[1] the debs, when not
to ask (and when to just go ahead and decide that you're not going to
run a debian mirror on a system with a nn MB drive, and delete them
pre-emptively?), will be interesting. It's the kind of thing that I don't
want to toy with when people are dying to begin freezing base. See top
of rant.

see shy jo

[1] Even if the disk has 2 gb free right now, if the user picks a lot
    of stuff in tasksel, and this will require .75 gb of debs be
    downloaded and will use 1.25 gb once it's installed, then the measly
    60-odd mb that taksel leaves in the apt cache is too much, and the
    system is actually dangerously low on disk space. OTOH, if you have
    2 gb free and decide to install only standard with dselect, there
    are oodles of space.

    Oh yeah, and I should mention that this all gets more complicated if
    /var is on its own partition...

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