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Re: Request to contribute to Debian


Thanks for your interest in contributing to Debian! And thanks for not
only being interested, but showing up early and with an idea, too!

Disclaimer: two times GSoC student and member of the team behind apt,
libapt, python-apt and co (contact point is deity@lists.debian.org
mailing list and/or #debian-apt on IRC). And as that might also color my
vision: Hardcore console user. That isn't true for the other through.

On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 07:58:14PM +0000, Himanshu Shekhar wrote:
> I was planning to work on some decent graphical package manager for Debian
> (backed with libapt/python-libapt or better if backed with packagekit), and
> wish if this could be one of the topics for GSOC'17. The concept needs some
> discussion to attain sanity, which has to be done.

I guess the first question would be which "graphic" you are envisioning.
Debian ships many desktop environments and they all tend to have
a preference on a technical level in terms of toolkit usage: GTK (2 or
3), Qt, KDE, … and perhaps even more importantly as you say "decent" on
a user-interface convention level: Having a decent GNOME3 one basically
rules out declaring it decent for KDE5 (or Plasma, I guess) and vice
versa as they follow different user interface patterns (beside that
a hardcore GNOMEr isn't going to install KDE tools and v.v.).

Given you are limiting yourself at least to a certain toolkit if not
desktop environment your aim should then at least be to be distro-
agnostic as otherwise your target audience is too small. It also means
Debian might not be the best org for it – many desktop environments are
their own org.

Perhaps worse is something else through: Package managers are one of the
things nearly every user will encounter at some point: So the good thing
is that you have millions of users, but the bad thing is that you have
millions of users. The stream of bugreports and wishlist items basically
never stops, but your time as GSoC student eventually does, so before
someone will even only consider your package manager as the default (or
even only as a second-class option) the question of continued
maintenance will be asked as there is only one thing worse than
a stagnant software project: Needing to change to another. Especially
worse for package managers as it is kinda identity-giving software for
a distribution and changing your identity is hard (that is perhaps less
a factor in higher level package managers, I just know that Debian
without its lower level apt (or even dpkg) would be… strange. On the
other hand, phone-people are oddly attached to their appstore, too).

And as a third point: That is a huge project. Sure, you are leaving all
the "interesting bits" like dependency resolution and data acquisition
to the lower levels which are a huge timesink by themselves, but there
is still a lot of ground to cover. GSoC is a lot shorter than you might
think (it at least was for me).

Now, you could say that I am making this all up and practice will be all
different. And I kinda do make it as I go as I wasn't around back then,
but many years ago Debian had as GSoC project a GTK2 frontend for
aptitude and you can see how that turned out…

As a sort of summary: I would strongly advice looking for an existing
package manager to contribute to rather than trying to roll your own.
I get the desire to make it all by yourself as its yours then, I have
that all to often, too, but that path leads to the NIH syndrome if
overdone – and GSoC and co are an overall better experience in the end
(I know it looks scary and like more work/pain in the beginning/middle)
if you have to work with an existing team on existing software as that
teaches you many good skills in the process you (and your future
employer) will be happy to have in your tool belt later on.

Feel free to contact the APT team if you are still interested in package
managers – desperate the name you will find aptitude guys as well as the
brain behind synaptics, (ubuntu) software center and co there!

Perhaps I could even interest you in an 'apt' project: Adding a decent
amount of color all over the place is e.g. on the agenda for a very long
time now and there are other things the UI could be better at…  but this
mail gets even longer if I start talking about potential projects now,
so I will stop here and say again: contact us!

Best regards

David Kalnischkies

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