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Re: stop the "manage with debconf" madness

On Sat, Apr 19, 2003 at 11:11:59AM -0500, Steve Greenland wrote:
> On 18-Apr-03, 10:28 (CDT), Steve Langasek <vorlon@netexpress.net> wrote: 
> > If the package maintainers are correctly using the debconf priorities,
> > and the admin has chosen a debconf priority that accurately reflects
> > their preferences, why do you care?  By definition, any prompts at
> > priority medium or lower have reasonable defaults,

> If it has a reasonable default, then it should be defaulted. You should
> not ask questions about it. That's what Debian policy says. If you don't
> like this, then get policy changed. 

I agree that turning a config file into a non-conffile *just* so you can
ask medium- and low-priority questions is a bad thing.  But in the case
where there are already questions that need to be asked because there
are no reasonable defaults, throwing in some medium- and low-priority
questions doesn't hurt anything at all.

As for policy, please provide a reference to the section that says
maintainers are prohibited from providing greater configurability for
users who elect for it.  I must be overlooking that section.

> In particular, if you start asking questions about defaultable
> configuration values, then you can't make the file a conffile. Debian
> conffile handling is one of the great things about Debian. Breaking that
> is A Bad Thing(tm).

There are many other reasons why one might need to have a non-conffile
config file.  The generalization that "all debconf prompts for
medium-priority questions lead to gratuitous non-conffiles" is not

> > > That's it. Any other use is a clear violation of Debian configuration
> > > file policy. In particular, using debconf to modify existing
> > > configuration files, whether conffiles or not, is wrong.

> > This claim is not reflected in our actual policy.  It's perfectly valid
> > for a maintainer script to make changes to non-conffile config file in
> > response to a user's expression of assent.

> But only if that assent is obtained each and every time, not by checking
> what the admin answered 8 months ago on the original install.


> And the whole thing is better handled using conffiles, where I can 
> diff and merge the changes, when it's convenient for me, rather than 
> hiding them scripts in the middle of a massive upgrade.

In many cases, yes, conffiles are preferable.  In the cases where I use
debconf, I don't think so.  There are still many configuration settings
on the system for which there is no sane default, and maintainers should
not be discouraged from dealing with these settings in a
policy-conformant manner.  Indeed, some of my debconf-based config file
handling is among the most satisfying code I've written for Debian --
certainly far outstripping upstream's own ability to handle
configuration and upgrade issues.  Clearly, your experience differs.
Are there specific packages you could point out that might be worth
looking at in this context, with the hope of helping the maintainers
improve them?

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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