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Re: Bug#688772: gnome Depends network-manager-gnome


The Debian GNOME team is well aware of the discussion regarding #688772, which
unfortunately went down an unconstructive path. As such we thought it best
to step back for a little bit to try and formulate our position more clearly
and see if we could find a constructive way to get out of this mess.
Luckily the last few mails on the thread by Don Armstrong and Michael Biebl
already showed there was some light at the end of the tunnel :)

First of all, we want to make clear that the position Joss has been defending
on this exhausting thread is shared by most, if not all, of the Debian GNOME
team members. In other words, we all consider NM an important and integral part
of the desktop system we're delivering, and its absence does degrade its
operation in such a way we find inacceptable.

It is worth to point out that GNOME 3 as we will get in wheezy is a big
departure from the GNOME 2 as delivered in lenny. Among other things GNOME now
strives for a tightly integrated desktop, with NM being a core part of this
desktop. In the opinion of the GNOME team the intended GNOME experience can
only be delivered when all these tightly integrated parts are used together.

Network manager is  not an arbitrary requirement, even if GNOME Shell can
currently run without it. NetworkManager allows GNOME to:
- access all present and commonly used networking technologies (VPN, Wireless,
  3G) via an integrated, very prominent icon in the main desktop bar.
- networking needs have changed over the past years and has become much more
  dynamic and diverse. Connecting to the internet via wireless, 3G or VPN
  should be painless and easy. It should work out of the box and require a
  minimum of fuss.
- only NetworkManager currently offers this kind of features, ifupdown is too
  static/cumbersome to setup, wicd is too limited in functionality.
- GNOME upstream developers embraced NetworkManager as an external dependency
  and seamlessly integrated them into various parts of the desktop.

better integration / software being network-aware
- on/offline detection: GNOME relies on NetworkManager's D-Bus messages to
  establish if the system has a working network connection or not, and how to
  behave in either case.  Applications like Evolution or Empathy will only try
  to fetch mail if NM says there's an appropriate network link, avoiding errors
  like "Could not connect to IMAP server". Epiphany will enable offline mode
  automatically, etc.
- PackageKit will avoid costly downloads when you're on 3G setting up new
  connections is easy
- integration into gnome-control-center
- setting up a new wireless connection requires a single click via prominent
  integration into GNOME Shell

upgrade problem
- NetworkManager was first introduced in lenny, the first release installing
  recommends by default.
- network-manager-gnome was added a Recommends to the "gnome" meta-package in
- misuse of Recommends was a widespread problem in lenny, so quite a few users
  disabled Recommends back then.
- NetworkManager 0.6 in lenny was very limited, e.g. only supported DHCP. It is
  not comparable with the version we ship in wheezy.

NetworkManager and static interface configurations

Some of the concerns raised in the discussion revolve about the
possibility of NetworkManager starting in the middle of an upgrade and
taking over a statically configured interface in /etc/network/interfaces.
We don't think there's much discussion about that: if that happens, it's a
critical RC bug that needs to be fixed. The same already applies to
regressions network drivers in the kernel, libc6 or other basic core
components which could break a remote Debian dist-upgrade.

multiple connection managers problem

One of the real issues when NM is a Depend of the meta-packages is that it
violated the principle of "do no harm" when being installed on a system
which already has a connection manager (such as wicd or less commonly
connman). While this is not a problem specific to NM (installing wicd on
an NM system causes the same problem), the problem is of course triggered
by the Depend in the gnome meta package.

Solving this issue properly will not only make the biggest issues seen with
gnome depending on NM go away, but will also improve Debian as a whole, which
is of course always worthwhile.

The best solution we can currently propose for this issue is to add some
maintainer script logic to present a debconf prompt (similar to how we
currently manage multiple display managers like gdm and kdm which can be
installed at the same time). To avoid unnecessary debconf prompts, the
debconf prompt would only be shown if such a "conflict" situation is

Michael has done a proof of concept implementation [1] which is one step
in that direction, by simply having NM provide a prompt when it detects
that the wicd binary is installed. A more full implemenation would of
course require modifications to the wicd package (and connman) as well.

If the details of the technical implementation of this solution aren't
considered out of scope for this bug report and the CTTE, we are happy to
discuss a more detailed plan.

On behalf of the Debian GNOME team,
Jordi Mallach
Sjoerd Simons
Michael Biebl

[1] http://anonscm.debian.org/gitweb/?p=pkg-utopia/network-manager.git;a=shortlog;h=refs/heads/wip/debconf
Jordi Mallach Pérez  --  Debian developer     http://www.debian.org/
jordi@sindominio.net     jordi@debian.org     http://www.sindominio.net/
GnuPG public key information available at http://oskuro.net/

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