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Re: Sorting out mail-transport-agent mess

Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> writes:

> On Thu, May 15, 2008 at 11:33:04PM +0200, Sune Vuorela wrote:
>> Noticing among others this bug report 
>> http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=322751 and observing the 
>> many packages depending on $MTA | mail-transport-agent with $MTA having 
>> values like postfix, exim, exim4, sendmail, nullmailer and probably others. 
>> And some packages just depending on mail-transport-agent without providing a 
>> preferred.
>> The latter, just depending on mail-transport-agent, makes apt, at least 
>> currently, pick the package first in the alphabet providing m-t-a. (A bit 
>> ago, this was courier. now it is citadel). This definately needs fixing, but 
>> why not sort everything out while we are at it?
>> I think something needs to be done somewhere. There is several solutions, 
>> among others the following:
>> 1) Exim4 is currently the default installed MTA. So any package requiring a 
>> MTA should depend on exim4 | mail-transport-agent. Defined by policy and all 
>> packages should be fixed to this.
>> 2) Introduce a default-mta package (currently) depending on exim4. All 
>> packages requiring a MTA should depend on default-mta | mail-transport-agent.  
>> This will have the extra advantage that we (and others like CDDs and derived 
>> distros) easily could swap default MTA.
> I believe that 2) is the correct option, and can see no reason that it
> shouldn't be implemented straight away.

Anthony Towns did mention (WRT the inet-superserver virtual package)
before the release of etch that there was some ongoing work to do
something to specify the default for virtual packages globally
(i.e. not needing an alternative dep in each and every package
depending on a virtual package).  This would make updating the
defaults and writing the dependencies much simpler, and reduce any
inconsistency between the alternative deps in each package.

Does anyone know if there was any progress made on this in the

At that time I did suggest creating a single package (virtual-defaults
IIRC) which I prototyped.  This implemented defaults for all packages,
including the default-mta package (by a slightly different name), but
the idea was rejected because (IIRC) of the untidiness of leaving a
dummy package around when the reverse deps were removed.

(I can't see the replies in the archive, though.)


  .''`.  Roger Leigh
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