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source package descriptions: subtsvars are not enough

On Tue, Mar 02, 2010 at 11:05:14AM +0100, Raphael Hertzog wrote:
> > It would be nice to have support for a Description field in the source
> > stanza of debian/control.

So, beside a few notable exceptions, the thread has a bit drifted to a
set of appreciations on the idea of using substvars to factorize out
common parts of package descriptions.  I agree it is a nice idea, but it
is not something we need specific support for (unless I'm missing some
glitch we can use it right now) and has several shortcomings:

- Most importantly: it does not solve the infrastructure problem,
  i.e. it does not encode properly the source package description so
  that it becomes part of package _metadata_.  This means that all
  infrastructure parts (the PTS, DDPO, UDD, potentially the BTS) are
  still at square 0: they don't know where to find a source package

  IOW: it is a cool hack for package maintainers, but it is a hack that
  gets resolved at package build time and then vanishes.

- It is not standardized: substvars are set via custom commands in
  debian/rules and there are thousands ways of setting them. When
  opening a random source package, one would not know where exactly to
  look for the common part of source package description. Nor an
  automated tool can extract it.

To fix that, it seems to me that the most reasonable solution advanced
in the thread is to add a proper "Description" field to source package
stanzas. Then, in addition, we can setup an automatic substvar, whose
content is the source description, that can then be used in package
description stanzas to interpolate the source description.

The obvious drawback is that Sources file will increase in size. Given
that the size will be small compared to Packages file, I personally
don't see it as a showstopper.

The appreciation that translators expressed wrt factorizing out text
from binary package description still applies to this proposal.


Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science \ PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Dietro un grande uomo c'è ..|  .  |. Et ne m'en veux pas si je te tutoie
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