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Re: [desktop] Unix configuration nightmare

On Tue, 22 Oct 2002 21:05, Mark Howard wrote:
> Hi,
>   There has been much debate about unix system configuration [0]. This
> has resulted in discussion and even a message of support from the fsf,
> however no actual work has been done.
> [0] http://www.cat.org.au/maffew/cat/unix-config.html
> The main options seem to be:
> - Write an entirely new configuration format to be used by all programs.
> Write friendly programs for editing these

This is pretty much what debconf is all about.

> - Modify/Merge webmin/debconf/xst/gconf/... so that there is a single
> tool with multiple interfaces. This would most probably require a small
> script to be written for each program.

This is pretty much how debconf actually works.

> The problem: something has to be done for every program being used.

Not really - just most of the stuff that people use on a regular basis that 
you'd consider infrastructure for getting real work done. X but not apache, 
mta's for workstations but not for university, for example. If everything in 
Standard or above where configurable with debconf so that 80% of the people
can get the system running happily 80% of the time without having to grovel 
about in configuration files, then I think we're doing all right. Add more 
debconf to the rest of the desktop workstation oriented packages and you're
most of the way there.

> Therefore nothing concrete has been done. If that effort was split
> between say, 1000 developers, it would be far easier.

This is potentially the case with debconf, but I don't think there has ever 
been a strong drive to implement it across a lot of packages. 

> So, questions:
> - do you think this should be a (long term) aim of debian-desktop?

Obviously. I'd start with a push to getting everything in Standard or above 
priority under some sort of debconf control, so that the setup of basic 
services and the network are under one config system. Many of these settings 
tend to be used by lower priority packages, especially the network ones, so 
co-ordinationing across the base packages to eliminate unnecessary 
redundency, and exporting out the locations of commonly used settings to a 
reference will help other package maintainers use debconf to the fullest.

One of the ways a desktop team can help is to find away to get people who 
want to add debconf capabilities to a package (a task which tends to require 
UI/usability/localisation skills) to work with the package maintainers in a 
co-operative and productive way.

> - who's interested in helping?

I'm about to start major work on a debian derived distribution for use on 
gateway boxes for the company I work for. We want to debconf everything 
so we can manage updates and configuration of these machines in a fashion 
that scales to the thousands. IAMADD, but I'll happily share my experiences 
sticking debconf in places it's never gone before, and,with any luck, will be 
able to contribute some of the more generic code back to the project.


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