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debconf dilemma

I dont know if this issue has been talked about in great detail, but I
think more than just one or two people have the problem and perhaps a
best practices needs to be set.  The tutorial documentation doesn't seem
to cover this in much detail


The problem

Inconsistent amounts of information are reaching users through information
given by debconf.  Some developers have delt with this by including some
information but not others, or by including no information at all.

Case Study

'lilo' on the Open Projects Network came into #debian-devel puzzled as to which
X server he was running, and if it was even a 4.x version.  Later, it was
figred out that he didn't choose the correct XFree86 server in the debconf
questions provided.  He didn't know that the "xserver-xfree86" server is a
4.x server, and that the rest of the "xserver-*" servers are 3.x servers.
This led to user disconnect as to which server to pick for his card and he
chose the 3.x server that matched his card instead of the 4.x server, which
he would have chose with the proper knowledge.

I tried to convince the packages maintainer to include information as to help
users to make an informed decision of this option, and he refused to on the
grounds that the information should be in the release notes instead.  However,
after a user chooses a server they see a large statement on how the paths
to configuration files for 4.x servers differ from 3.x servers.

A possibly common user error could be helped by inserting information into
a debconf information dialog before a long list of choices or it could be
included in documentation.  However, another possibly common issue is allready
included in that packages debconf template.

The maintainer has also been asked not to add more "chatter" into the debconf
interaction, while others ask for more information to beable to make
decisions on questions such as the above.

One Possible Solution
Remove most informational displays from debconf that aren't relating to
critical or grave issues.  Put other information in either the README.Debian
or other documentation, such as the release notes.


Is this something that should be discussed before debconf is littered
with too much information that should really have been kept in
documentation?  Or should debconf be expanded into a tool to notify
users of anything about what they are just about to choose/do?

Thanks for any input.

Scott Dier <dieman@ringworld.org> <sdier@debian.org>
http://www.ringworld.org/  #linuxos@irc.openprojects.net

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