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Re: Potato to Woody dist-upgrade problems

On Thu, Jan 24, 2002 at 01:29:16PM -0500, Theodore Tso wrote:

> What folks want is a "apt-get dist-upgrade" that doesn't require
> navigating through a long list of possible packages.  (Do you think the
> average user has any understanding what "xfs" or "exim" means?)

No; that is what package descriptions are for.  A proper UI would display:

xfs - X font server
exim - Exim Mailer

(while the exim short description is not very good, and I just filed a
wishlist bug about it, but it at least gives enough information to show that
it has to do with mail, and the user can read the extended description for
more information)

> Something that would really be helpful would be if "apt-get
> dist-upgrade" asked the question, "do you want all of the following
> extra suggested packages (will require an extra 50 megabytes) [Y/n]?"

* #40181: apt-get could mention suggests
Package: apt; Severity: wishlist; Reported by: "Mark W. Eichin"
<eichin@thok.org>; 2 years and 216 days old.

* #42266: apt: wish: an option to treat recommends as depends
Package: apt; Severity: wishlist; Reported by: Nicolás Lichtmaier
<nick@debian.org>; merged with #54461; 2 years and 179 days old

> That helps with the folks who get screwed because they lose functionality
> when suggested packages aren't included, while still making it relatively
> painless for naive users who just want to run a command, and answer a few
> questions, no muss, no fuss, etc.  

Installing every package listed in the Suggests: of an upgraded package is
likely to consume an extreme amount of disk space, and more with each
upgrade.  Furthermore, as indicated in #40181, asking individually for each
package would overwhelm the user with questions and information that they
are probably not interested in.

Suggests relationships are defined such that suggested packages can enhance
the functionality of a given package, but that the package can be quite
useful on its own without them.  These are packages which should not be
installed by unless the user specifically requests it.

But I think that this whole thread was started over a Recommends
relationship, which is quite different, and has somehow drifted to talk
about suggests.

The trouble is that it is not possible to present these concepts to the user
with a simplistic, one-shot command line tool.  A more sophisticated UI is
required in order to get this right without additional, specialized
knowledge, and that has been the plan all along.

But good UIs tend to lag behind the rest of free software development, and
that is the case here.  There are currently no UIs which match the
sophistication of the packaging system itself, though several are under
development and making progress.

> While I'm sympathetic to the whole attitude that upgrading should require
> someone with half a clue, I'll note that Red Hat *only* require half a
> clue, and its upgrade process (although it requires a reboot), is
> remarkably smooth.  The big question (for which I don't know the answer)
> is whether the Debian developer community wants to strive to be as easy to
> install as Red Hat, in the long run.

I don't speak for all developers, but I don't think that Debian is
interested in gaining market share over Red Hat.  None of us will get
bonuses or raises if that happens, nor will our Debian stock options be
worth a small fortune.

There is work on a greatly enhanced installer for woody+1, but in my
opinion, the most lacking portion of the installer (for purposes of this
discussion) is dselect, which is the only integrated way for new users to
see what is available and select individual software programs to install.
Tasksel helps by allowing the user to skip this step in certain standard
configurations, but doesn't help the user who just wants to install their
favourite program X.

The amount of software in Debian is so immense that we have trouble just
classifying it, much less presenting it through a logical, consistent UI.
How do you show a user 9000 packages with descriptions and dependency
information and ask "what would you like?".

If we can solve that problem, the upgrade UI would be a subset of it, I

 - mdz

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