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Re: 'editor' alternative policy?

On 22-Jun-00, 04:09 (CDT), Jordi Mallach <jordi@sindominio.net> wrote: 
> What I see in /v/l/d/a/editor is the priorities are random now. In my
> system,
> /bin/ae 20
> /usr/bin/joe 70
> /usr/bin/nano 40 (I copied from Pico, IIRC)
> /usr/bin/vim 20
> And I don't think a priority of 70 conforms to any rationale.

It's not random. It was discussed/decided by all the developer's who
maintained editors at the time the editor alternative was created, with
Dale Scheetz doing most of the work. I finally tracked down the original
mails. Dale: I'm going to assume that re-publishing these is OK, since
even though they weren't originally list mails, they're hardly personal.

First Dale sent out an e-mail with a proposed list of priorities, and a
rationale for them:

> Date: Sun, 2 Nov 1997 
> First, without wishing to start an "editor war", I am going to make
> the assumption that vi should be the "default" editor in a "standard"
> installation. As nvi is marked standard, it fits the criterion for
> the standard vi and thus the standard editor. It should therefore
> have a priority above all other non-vi candidates (with one exception
> {elvis-tiny, which I will group with ae, and friends}). The other
> vi-clones (vim, and elvis are the only two that come to mind) should
> have higher priorities than nvi, so that, when installed, they will
> become the default. That is, if you are installing optional software
> the easy assumption is that you are doing so because you like it
> better than what is already available. This implies that you would
> prefer it to be the "default" editor. If, instead, you are only
> providing for a limited number of your user-base (greasing a squeeky
> wheel) and don't want it to be the default, there is an easy way to
> "lock in" the sysadmin's preference.
> Second, I made the assumption that there were some editors on this
> list that would, under normal circumstances, never wish to be used as
> the default editor. While emacs is the first thing to spring to mind
> ;-) in this context. I have assumed that, if all other "good" default
> editors were removed from the system, emacs is not the worst thing to
> be left with. (This should appease the emacs purists ;-)
> While it is not explicitly stated (even in the code) anywhere what
> range of values are permissable, the code for update-alternatives says
> that a priority must be an integer. It turns out there are no other
> restrictions on the value of priority, which means that both positive
> and negative values are permissable up to the value of MAX_INT. While
> I don't think we need quite this much range for this project, I will
> use the negative numbers.

Then followed his initial list. I'm not including it, because it changed
quite a bit during the ensuing discussion. After a few rounds, here's
the final list (as I have it -- if there have been changes since, I've
lost them..)

> Date: Thu, 13 Nov 1997 
> Here is my proposed priority list:
>                         elvis           120
>                         vim             110
> Standard        ____    nvi             100
>                         fte             90
>                         jed             80
>                         joe             70
>                         beav            60
>                         ee              50
>                         pico            40
>                         elvis-tiny      30
> Base            ____    ae              20
>                         ed              10
>                         emacs           0
>                         kedit           -10
>                         wily            -20
>                         axe             -30
>                         nedit           -40
>                         sam             -50
>                         sex             -60
>                         xcoral          -70
>                         xwpe            -80
>                         xemacs          -100

Note that both by rationale and list, vim should be *higher* than nvi,
but it's not. (It's should also be higher in the vi alternative, and
it's not.) I don't know whether the vim maintainer of the time decided
to ignore the list, or quite possibly simply didn't get added to the CC:

Also, I'd raise nano to 45....

I honestly don't think this needs to go into policy, except perhaps
as an adjunct file. I'm willing to create this file and coordinate
additions and removals. If we do that, can we move this discussion
to (only) debian-policy (which seems like the right list, even if it
doesn't belong in the main policy document)?


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