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

On 09-Jan-03, 00:45 (CST), "Nikita V. Youshchenko" <yoush@cs.msu.su> 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.

Please don't do this. 

One of the best things about Debian is the conffile system, which allows
seamless updates of many configuration files, requiring administrator
intervention only when both the maintainer and the admin have made
changes to a file. True, it presumes that if I was happy with the
defaults before, I will be happy with new ones, but for the vast
majority of packages that's true. I can also trust that when I change a
conffile, my changes will be preserved.

Generating configuration files during the install doesn't allow this.
Or, more accurately, it can still be done, but it puts a big burden
on the maintainer to get it right, and most don't bother. Since the
safest course is not to update the configuration file at all, that's
what happens.

For this reason, Debian policy strongly recommends that packages
which can provide a sane default conifiguration do so, using the
conffile system, and ask *no* configuration questions. Debconf does not
change this policy. Debconf exists to provide a consistent interface
for packages that cannot ship a useful default, and to allow all
configuration to be done at the beginning of the install process.

Unfortunately, there has been a trend towards more and more packages
asking "fine-tuning" questions during install. Maintainers who do this
tend to say "Well, it's low priority, and you can avoid them if you
wish", but that misses the point: if you can provide reasonable defaults
for all the questions (which must be the case, otherwise they wouldn't
be low-priority), then why not just provide a good default conffile?
If the conffile is properly documented, there's no real advantage to
duplicating that documentation in a debconf template, and you lose the
convenience of the conffile mechanism.

Now, if you want to develop some sort of general front end to
configuration editing, that's fine, but let's not pervert the
unfortunately named debconf into that, ruining[1] one of the best things
about Debian in the process.


[1] The first time I upgraded a Redhat system (7.1->7.2), it stomped
all-over my customized configuration, and I was literally shocked;
I'd been running Debian so long it never occurred to me that a normal
upgrade would, for example, disable half the network services, with no

Steve Greenland

    The irony is that Bill Gates claims to be making a stable operating
    system and Linus Torvalds claims to be trying to take over the
    world.       -- seen on the net

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