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Bug#1003653: Revision of removal of rename.ul from package util-linux

Dirk Kostrewa <kostrewa@genzentrum.lmu.de> writes:

> Say, the bsdutils package provides "rename.ul", and the perl rename
> package provides "rename.pl". Debian's alternatives system could then
> make each of them available as "/usr/bin/rename". If both get installed,
> the user could be prompted to choose a default "rename".

> Would this apparently simple solution really create any problems?

Alternatives cannot be used in this case because the command-line syntax
is entirely different.  One of the requirements we use to determine
whether something can be an alternative for another program is whether
it's (mostly) a drop-in replacement; if, in other words, a user running
the program from the command-line will roughly the same behavior in simple
use cases regardless of which alternative they pick.  This is important
since otherwise it would be impossible to write shell scripts, aliases,
etc. that use the alternative name without knowing which alternative was
chosen on any given system (which defeats the point of alternatives).

We can tolerate some minor disagreement (missing non-core features,
slightly different command-line flags, etc.), but in the case of rename,
the syntax is just totally different.  The Perl rename will take the
replacement string in the util-linux syntax as a file to operate on (and
thus will probably fail), and the util-linux rename will take the Perl
expression as the string to replace and the first file name argument as
the replacement string, and thus will probably do nothing.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)              <https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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