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Re: A case study of a new user turned off debian

on Mon, Nov 03, 2003 at 04:57:34PM -0500, Greg Stark (gsstark@mit.edu) wrote:
> "Julian Mehnle" <lists@mehnle.net> writes:
> > First, I think what Daniel Jacobowitz said is entirely true. Why didn't you
> > start with "testing"?
> Sure testing is less likely to trigger this. 

Frankly, I'd have started stable.  Moving up's tons easier than moving
down.  As you've noted.  And largely trivial.

> > Or, you could create a file /etc/apt/preferences and pin the
> > "testing" version of the package with a high enough priority. See
> > `man apt_preferences`. Then do a `apt-get dist-upgrade`.
> That's about the last place I would send a new user. I read that man
> page about three times during this crisis before I decided it would be
> hopeless to try to explain this procedure online. 

Explain what?

    Greg:  Grab this file, copy it to /etc/apt/preferences:
    Friend:  OK.

> This is what I meant about there not being an "interface". 

File copying, particularly for an experienced sysadmin, is a damned
useful "interface".

> If apt said "Hm, version 1.2 of libc failed to configure, would you
> like to install the previous version (1.1) from testing and hold back
> the following packages that depend on the new one (awk, grep, sed)
> [Yn]?" That would be an interface. 

Pinning can get you much of the way here.

Problem is that dependencies work forward:  you can't be sure of getting
a package in a prior release -- it may not be available.

libc is a particularly pathelogical case, for all the obvious reasons.

> Telling people, go edit this random file with to set "pin priorities"
> for things to arbitrary numbers, find out what package dependencies
> fail, add those to your list of pin priorities, etc. That's not a
> useful interface for this case.

Telling people to start off with unstable is about as useless.

> In any case having the granularity of "stable", "testing", "unstable"
> really doesn't help. All the package versions are in the pool. I want
> to be able to tell apt to try such and such version, or at least put
> back the version I had before and restore whatever other packages it
> must to satisfy dependencies.

Look:  Either KISS and stick with stable, accept the pain of testing, or
learn how to use pinning and come up with a perferences file that works.
Your friend can copy this from any given website you can access.

> I didn't say it was a good idea or that it was going to work. 
> My whole point is that that approach sucks and we should make
> something more effective rather than leave the admin stuck.

Assuming _you_ have experience with Debian, and are aware of limitations
and trade-offs, you've led your friend astray.

I spend a fair amount of time in IRC support for #debian.  Lots of n00bs
come on wanting to install Debian unstable.  The advice is consistent:
Don't.  Not if you don't know your way around tha packaging system yet.
I've had a number of friends convert to Debian -- most of them love it,
aggressively.  But to a one they all wanted to go straight to unstable.
After nearly five years, I still hold to testing with a few exceptions
handled through pins.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Bush/Cheny '04:  BU__SH__!

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