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Bug#42870: update-alternatives and missing alternatives

package: dpkg
severity: wishlist

Since I was thinking about dpkg, I've decided to pass along a minor peeve
with the alternatives mechanism.  I don't know if this belongs to dpkg
documentation or policy or just to common wisdom, but I hope you won't mind
routing it.

The request is that packagers ensure, wherever possible, that an alternative
be easily usable when not the highest priority alternative, ie without being
linked from the generic name.  Several packages seem to assume that they
will be the only alternative installed (or at least used), and do not make
it convenient to use the package when a higher priority alternative is also

For example, the package navigator-smotif-461 installs an alternative for
/usr/X11R6/bin/netscape.  The alternative is
/usr/lib/netscape/461/navigator/navigator-smotif .  If I also have
navigator-smotif-408 installed, I have
/usr/lib/netscape/408/navigator/navigator-smotif , which is a lower priority
alternative.  Since the actual binary isn't in my PATH, I can't conveniently
run the lower priority navigator.  This is annoying and inconsistent with
the principal that users might legitimately want to use any of the

I filed a bug against the package and the packager added symlinks in
/usr/X11R6/bin called navigator-smotif-461, etc (although he didn't make
these the alternatives, which would be preferable), so now any version can
be used.  I intend to file bugs against other packages (kaffe and jdk1.1 are
the ones I just noticed).  So the problem seems fairly common.

I hope this can be added to some documentation somewhere.


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