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Re: Debian-AI

On Sun, 2008-01-06 at 11:41 -0600, Andrew Dougherty wrote:
> The issue of "automatic packaging" is IMHO a red-herring.  Even if the
> rough packages are done completely by hand, the problem remains that
> there is a lot of useful, properly licensed software for which no
> package exists.  Consequently, the software has not been mapped to the
> FHS properly, it is more difficult to develop additional software
> which depends upon it, it is more difficult for any user to install
> the software, etc.  The benefits of packaging are great.  It promotes
> code reuse, and also makes it easier to discover functionality.

The benefits are great because the quality of the packages remains high.
The quality only remains high when packages have maintainers with the
time to keep the packages in line with other developments within Debian.

This package set will not be used in isolation - all component packages
must function alongside the rest of Debian and they must also function
as individual packages - e.g. where only a single package (with
dependencies) of your set is installed on a particular system. No matter
how you might expect the packages to be used, no matter how you may
protest that this isn't the way the packages should be used, unless you
have good reasons for dependencies that prevent use in isolation then
packages will be used in unexpected ways that raise a whole new set of

> Any ideas as to how we can make all these packages?  Is there any
> interest in some kind of effort aimed at this, to increase the package
> coverage?  It's not possible to spam WNPP, nor create all the packages
> myself.  Can Debian create some kind of official USE AT YOUR OWN RISK
> repository of user-contributed packages? 

Anyone can create a repository but tagging it "official" when the
packages are not of sufficient quality for Debian itself doesn't help
anyone, really. I've seen quite a few horror packages in unofficial
repositories. The only way to get decent packages is with a maintainer
who has the time to keep the packages in good order.

>  Would people like to work on
> making rough packages from the list?  Would they like to write tools
> that reduce rough package creation to a wizard, so that Linux users
> with no Debian expertise with an interest in having packages can
> create them (and link to this tool from Sourceforge and Freshmeat
> saying: "Want a package of this?"). 

Such packages would be just as useless as the ones currently available
on various non-Debian homepages. Packaging isn't easy and automation is
very difficult to do well.

>  Can we start a business where we
> contract to make packages for people? 

I get the impression you think making a package is a one-off. Someone
needs to make a commitment to maintain the package into the future. At
some point, if you simply keep adding packages, that commitment becomes
a crushing burden. Volunteers need to be motivated and overload is a
very common reason for that motivation to disappear. Quite often, the
end result of such burdens is that Debian QA has to remove the packages
for lack of maintenance, so it just adds more work to other volunteers.

>  Can we build mappings between
> packages in Debian and other distributions and automatically convert
> these using Alien plus some tools to correct dependencies?  Would
> anyone like to join my project to create these packages, or give me
> advice how to go about creating them?

What you are trying to do is bring an entire environment / package set
into Debian. I'm doing the same thing with a different package set for
embedded devices.

It takes a lot of time. Wherever possible I try to keep to the same
build system for all packages. I try to apply changes across all
packages at the same time. In reality, there is no quick fix for such
situations and I don't see that automation is even desirable either.
Scripting can help around the edges (reports, summaries, status etc.).

Break the problem down into smaller chunks, work on the base packages or
a few popular ones and gradually move into the rest of the field. You
won't be able to package them all but by bringing some into Debian, it
is very likely that others will see the appeal and join with the work.

Concentrate on what you can actually do yourself - get that done and
then see about the rest. Like many other areas of volunteer work, if you
have the itch, you need to scratch it because nobody else is likely to
have the time or motivation.


Neil Williams

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