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Re: How to make Packages file 50% smaller

On Sat, Mar 03, 2001 at 11:41:46AM +1100, Brian May <bam@debian.org> was heard to say:
> I can't think of any useful role this long description serves to
> apt-get, other then displaying of package information for users (with
> apt-cache), in which case, you could use
> <URL:http://packages.debian.org/$package instead>.

  apt-get is not the only package frontend in Debian.

  aptitude, console-apt, dselect, and (I assume) stormpkg, gnome-apt, and
platypus can all display the description.  If you know what you're looking
for, it's probably useless; however, for browsing at random it's
unbeatable. [0]

> However, I imagine this might upset some people, so why not split the
> description into a separate file, so you only have to download it if
> you really want it? (perhaps even only for one distribution instead of
> all of them).

  As long as libapt can support this transparently, I don't care for my
own use.  However, I'd be concerned as to whether this will cause undue
trouble for users who suddenly lose their Package files for "no reason".
(see below for more on this)

  [rsync, rproxy, etc]

  Whatever happened to using bzip for Packages files?  Was there a
memory concern, or concern over making libbz2 Essential?

> I think this proposal has the benefit that it is simple, easy to
> understand, and can be achieved without *now* without major changes,
> except perhaps some way to use the separated description file.

  I think you underestimate the importance of the description field to
most people..

> Comments?

  Personally, I don't like this idea; I think it unnecessarily complicates
things.  But as long as I don't have to majorly hack aptitude to support this,
I don't care that much from the point of view of it inconveniencing my own

  However, I'm concerned that this be implemented so as to cause minimal
trouble for people who don't care about it.  In particular, no-one should lose
their description fields without asking to.

  Specifically, I think we'd need to take the following approach *IF* this
proposal is accepted:

  (a) implement it in apt, with the current "deb" archive type automatically
    attempting to download an auxillary description file, if possible.  A
    new archive type would specify that the description file should be
    ignored.  (I dunno, "deb-undescribed")  For faster transition, I'd
    actually suggest that the stripped Packages files have a different
    name (eg, "Packages-stripped"), so both old and new apts can access the
    archive.  (yes, this might end up being cruft..)

  (b) Convert the unstable archive to use the stripped format, assuming that
    it's done with a separate file from the standard Packages (so that
    people pointing stable apts at unstable can see descriptions)

  If you don't have stripped Packages files alongside unstripped, you'll
want to wait a few releases before converting the archive itself, which
significantly delays the time it'll take for the benefits to get to the


  [0] well, not quite; a better package-classification system would probably
    tie it.

/----------------- Daniel Burrows <Daniel_Burrows@brown.edu> -----------------\
|                          "Inconceivable!"                                   |
|                            -- "The Princess Bride"                          |
\----------------- The Turtle Moves! -- http://www.lspace.org ----------------/

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