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Re: Clarifying instructions on linking man pages

On Sat, Apr 21, 2001 at 06:57:48PM +0100, Colin Watson wrote:

> A recent discussion on debian-mentors brought it to my attention
> that packages frequently rely on an implementation detail of man:
> that it holds a database of whatis entries and happens to be able to
> find pages even if the file containing the man page has a different
> name.

"Implementation detail"?  I'm pretty sure that's been a feature of
every man program on every Unix-like system I've ever used, even such
bletcherous and broken derivatives as Xenix.  I suspect (though I
haven't checked) that it's required by POSIX.

> The current implementation of all of this could be improved somewhat,
> but that's not really the point. Since it's fundamentally a horrible
> mess, I'd like to deprecate the practice of relying on man working this
> out (very ... slowly ...)

It is deprecated (albeit mildly).  It says, "it is better to use a
symbolic link than the .so feature".

In any case, the fact that many upstream (and non-debian) sources seem
to rely on this means that if we remove the feature from man itself,
we potentially break locally installed packages.  IMO, that's a Very
Bad Thing.

I think the idea of replacing man with something which is similiar,
but doesn't support all the features that people expect is even worse
than the FSF's idea of trying to replace and dump man entirely.  At
this point, we're pretty much committed to using man, and not
standardizing on texinfo.  Let's stick with that decision, and support
man, not a crippled derivative.

Now, maybe we should try to encourage packages to use symlinks a
little more firmly.  I'd have no objections to that.  What I do object
to is throwing out the functionality entirely.  A little delay once
in a while may be annoying, but it doesn't actually hurt anyone, and
it does seem to be standard.

Prove me wrong (that this is standard, or at least widely expected as
normal behavior) and I'll withdraw my objection.

Chris Waters      |  Pneumonoultra-        osis is too long
xtifr@debian.org  |  microscopicsilico-    to fit into a single
or  xtifr@dsp.net |  volcaniconi-          standalone haiku

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