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Re: Top 5 things that aren't in Debian but should be :-)

On 04-Feb-04, 15:39 (CST), David Nusinow <david_nusinow@verizon.net> wrote: 
> On Wed, Feb 04, 2004 at 08:44:28AM -0600, Steve Greenland wrote:
> > Debconf is NOT a general configuration tool. Debconf is a standard
> > interface for asking questions during installation that cannot be
> > defaulted to a reasonble value. 
> True, but that doesn't mean that it can't be used as the UI to
> configuration tools that aren't run at install time. This is even
> mentioned in the debconf tutorial. There are distinct advantages in
> having this sort of uniformity within the distribution. Just because no
> one else has done it yet doesn't mean that it's not a good idea.

I'm all for uniformity, I'm against expecting or even encouranging
packages to use debconf rather than providing sane defaults in

And no, low priority questions in debconf are NOT a suitable solution,
until you figure out a way that is *at least* as good the current
conffile mechanism in preserving local modifications while allowing
package updates to configuration. It's a hard problem. I'd guess[1] that
currently about 25% of the debconf using packages get it wrong, and
overwrite local changes on a regular basis. Another 50% avoid this by
simply never integrating upstream changes on upgrades, even if I've not
touched the defaults.

If people want pretty GUI for configuration, that's fine. If it's
consistent with the existing debconf UI, even better. But if it
interferes with installation by asking tons of questions that 98% of the
users don't care about, and screws up ongoing maintenance and upgrades
of the system, then it needs some more thought. And currently, debconf
and dpkg-reconfigure are not up to the task. (Or rather, getting it
*right* is too hard for maintainers, using only those tools.)

Perhaps ucf is the missing piece, and solves the overwrite vs. upgrade
dilemma. If so, then we need a proper set of examples, and to mandate
usage of ucf when debconf is used for configuration.


[1] "Guess", as in I just pulled a number out of the air, based on my
experience with a couple of systems. I make no claims to archive wide
accuracy, it's entirely possible that I've just happened to pick up
all the packages that get it wrong, and it's skewing my perception. 

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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