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Re: -dbg packages; are they actually useful?

On Tue, Mar 03, 2009 at 03:11:12PM -0800, Don Armstrong wrote:
> On Tue, 03 Mar 2009, Steve McIntyre wrote:
> > I've got to wondering: are the large -dbg packages actually really
> > useful to anybody?

> > Thoughts?

> I think they are useful, but probably not for the vast majority of
> users. [I've used them on a few dozen occasions.]

There are 785 packages matching '*-dbg' in unstable on i386.  327 of them
are for applications (well, !libraries).  Does it really make sense to ship
all of these in the archive if, out of the whole set, they're useful to
people on "a few dozen occasions"?

According to popcon[1], 433 of these packages have an install count of 10 or
less; 616 have an install count of 30 or less.[2]  For orphaned packages,
these are the kinds of numbers where the QA team starts talking about
removals.  Granted, the numbers on -dbg packages are going to be lower
because they're often installed just for debugging and then removed again,
but I think we should seriously look at whether all these one-off debug
builds are really justified, and whether they really belong as part of the
main archive (and on all our mirrors).

> What I really wish for is the ability to have a relatively centralized
> location where the symbols from every single package ended up that was
> separate from the normal mirrors.

Yes, absolutely.  Doing this right, though, requires integration with the
buildd network, so that the debugging symbols can be extracted as part of
the official build instead of being lossily reconstructed after the fact.

> The above, coupled with a coredump submission site which would accept
> coredumps and automatically generate backtraces for them (or a script
> that downloaded the -dbg packages, unpacked them and backtraced the
> coredump) would be a great help in debugging some of the relatively
> rare segfaults. [We could probably even hook up a coredump handler to
> such a script.]

> There was some talk that Ubuntu was going to implement such a thing at
> the Prague UDS, but I've no clue if it ever came to fruition.

'apport' in Ubuntu does exactly this (and has been in use since well before
the Prague UDS); it hasn't really been worth evaluating for inclusion in
Debian without first resolving the problem of lack of systematic debugging
symbols.  If there's a will to get that done in Debian now, I will
definitely be happy to ditch the samba-dbg package for one.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

[1] Well, popcon also thinks there are 887 such packages, rather than 785; I
guess there are some of these no longer in unstable.
[2] Unfortunately, thanks to bug-buddy Recommending gnome-dbg, we also have
almost 40 GNOME -dbg packages with greater popcon stats than libc6-dbg!

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