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Re: Bug#175647: ITP: configure-debian -- Central configuration program for packages using debconf

On Thu, Jan 09, 2003 at 09:45:33AM +0300, Nikita V. Youshchenko wrote:
> Hmm.
> Tool like this will become extremely useful if packages will add 
> low-priority debconf questions that configure each and every aspect of the 
> software in package. Such detailed questions are often not acceptable for 
> installation time, but if it will be possible to configure and fine-tune 
> every installed package from a single place (eventually integrated into KDE 
> control center and other desktops' equivalents), it will be great for 
> users.
You see exactly what I had envisioned for this program. While debconf
is obviously not suitable for configuring each and every aspect of a
program's behavior, it is useful for some configuration, particularly
system-wide configuration which is what it's used for now. I would
never want debconf to replace the kde and gnome control panels, but I
think using it as it was intended, to provide customizable
configuration for packages is a good thing. There is no reason why
there can't be a kde control-center debconf frontend that I can see.
Debconf is, after all, just a way to run wizards.

The other advantage to focusing on debconf is that it avoids the
linuxconf trap. Linuxconf tries to do any sort of configuration by
using modules, and it ends up doing none of them well. Using debconf as
a simple wizard system limits the packager in what they can use it to
configure, and so it generaly is used to configure a few things well.
The xserver-xfree86 config, in particular, is a good example of debconf
done right. So long as the packagers remain aware of debconf's
limitations (and it's hard not to once you start using it) they won't
overstep the abilities of the system and try and configure everything
for the user. You simply can't configure everything for the user
through one app, it's just too complex. This is a balancing act.

The other nice thing about using debconf is that the work becomes
distributed. While I've followed the ximiain-setup-tools for years now,
I'm not ultimately convinced that it's any real improvement to the
linuxconf problem. XML does not an improvement make. Using debconf
leverages the distributed nature of Debian in such a way that no one
person or upstream is responsible for everything. This has been part of
the reason for our success in the past, and continuing in this
tradition is wise.

Finally, I'm hoping that this gives the desktop people some sort of
concrete way to move forward with configuration if they want. Rather
than just some hand waving, there is now a tool that provides the
necessary interface to configuring lots of program variables. If you
want to improve the situation, help by adding debconf templates to
programs that would benefit from them. Don't go crazy (configuring each
of KDE's options via debconf would drive anyone insane, and would be a
pointless exercise) but perhaps just make some improvements where
programs could use some system-wide configuration. Again, debconf is no
universal solution, and if what's there is not enough for you, then go
and move in some other direction. This at least provides a good working
option for attacking many configuration problems right now. I'm hoping
this will end the whole argument though, so that we don't see the same
tired configuration argument resurface again in a few months. 

 - David

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