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Re: Caldera installation - something Debian should learn

On Fri, Apr 23, 1999 at 10:46:34AM -0700, R Garth Wood wrote:
> On Fri, 23 Apr 1999, Craig Sanders wrote:
> > > Keeping data in a text file that needs to be parsed is an
> > > antiquated notion that needs to be eliminated.
> >
> > with that one comment, i think you have guaranteed that debian won't
> > take your config system at all seriously.
> I hope you're wrong.

i hope i'm right. if you fail to see the flexibility and usefulness
inherent in text files, then i can't see how it's possible for you to
design a decent configuration system for unix...you're missing something
fundamental to the unix way of doing things.

the fact is, you CAN engineer in robustness and backups etc into
databases. that's true. however, you can't put back in the flexibility
that you've sacrificed.

text files are essentially free-form, and comments can be left in them
to provide instructions, commentary, and examples.

by contrast, databases are a rigid structure and a menu or GUI config
tool is severely limited in that it can only do what someone has time to
program.  In a text config file you can leave a human language comment
saying "Do X if you want Y" or "uncomment the next line to do blah".

In a pretty config program, you have to write hundreds or thousands of
lines of code to allow for "Y" and to handle all the ramifications and
possible error conditions.

text files are cheap. they are flexible. they depend on an intelligent
human being to handle and resolve error conditions.

config tools are not cheap. they are useful for guiding novices into
configuring basic functionality, but they are not flexible and they tend
to get in the way of an experienced unix admin.

for debian to take any configuration tool seriously, it has to support
novices without hampering experts. this means that it should be a
front-end to text files, reading and parsing existing text files and
generating new versions of text files as output.

we've had this discussion many times on debian-devel and
debian-admintool - if you're interested, check the archives.

> > unix runs on text files, whether hand-edited or generated by a
> > program. that will never change.
> UNIX will change. Get used to it(paradoxically).

unix changes all the time - it's an evolving system.

unix runs on text files.  that will never change.

> > like most long-time unix users, my attitude towards replacing text
> Ok. I see now. My dad still only uses cash. :>

a good idea if you don't want credit card and marketing companies
profiling you and recording your every transaction so they can slot you
into some demographic and bombard you with mounds of garbage. cash is
anonymous. credit cards are more conveninent in some situations, but
they are not anonymous.

credit also encourages over-consumption and living beyond one's
means...which is why it's possible to hear people on $30K, $50K or even
higher salaries moaning about how poor they are. that's absurd, they're
NOT poor...they just fail to manage their money wisely and fail to limit
their spending to what they can reasonably afford.

some people value convenience less than they value their privacy or
priding themselves on buying only what they can afford to pay cash for.

new ways aren't always better. there are pros and cons to all ways of
doing things.


craig sanders

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