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Bug#994388: dpkg currently warning about merged-usr systems

Helmut Grohne <helmut@subdivi.de> writes:

> What is supported is a bit subjective I fear. At this point, neither
> merged-/usr nor unmerged-/usr is supported well. Both are broken in one
> way or another and nobody steps up to fix the mess. In particular, the
> dpkg maintainer does not support merged-/usr in dpkg (which is his
> constitutional right as long as he does not block reasonable patches),
> but neither does anyone else.

I think this accidentally confuses the related states of "unsupported" and
"buggy."  We know that merged-/usr is buggy, in that one can construct a
set of package operations that leave the system in an invalid state.  We
have a project disagreement over how serious those bugs are.  No one is
stepping forward to fix those bugs, which is indeed quite unfortunate.  I
personally strongly disagree with the belief that simply because Ubuntu
hasn't seen many instances of this class of bugs while using a package set
where people have not moved files between packages and out of /lib and
/bin very much if at all, it is acceptable to leave dpkg in that buggy

However, I think this is similar to many other disagreements over the
severity of bugs, particularly ones that are hard to fix.  It doesn't
really imply that this configuration is *unsupported*, which would mean
that if someone had a system in that state and reported a problem we would
say that we couldn't help them because their system is not in a supported
configuration.  This is not the case; merged-/usr is supported in that
sense.  Guillem may not be willing to support the user in that case but
other people most certainly would.

That said, I personally am disappointed that the folks who have been
pushing merged-/usr forward are willing to leave dpkg in a known-buggy
state without attempting to patch it to fix the remaining issues.  I
realize that there are various obstacles in successfully doing that, not
all of which are technical, but I want to believe that Debian is the sort
of project that will do the hard work (both technical and social) to fix
edge cases and maintain a high level of consistency and correctness.

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

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