Discouraging automatic creation of configuration files
I'm aware that this may be an invitation to be flamed, but I would like to
suggest an addition to the Debian policy: to discourage packages from creating,
installing or modifying configuration files altogether when at all possible.
The reasoning behind this is that configuration file handling is (in my limited
experience) one of the least clean aspects of Debian packaging, mainly due to
the fact that configuration files are something that users are expected (or at
least explicitly allowed) to create themselves; the Debian Policy Manual already
discusses a number of problems associated with packages handling configuration
files. Another problem is that it makes reproducible setups more painful by
encouraging a profilation of configuration files which are part manually, part
Some alternatives to packages creating configuration files (often best handled
in co-operation with upstream) are:
* Ensuring that the package has reasonable defaults if no configuration file is
* Cleanly separate distribution configuration files (i.e. in /usr/lib) and user
configuration files (i.e. in /etc), whereby the second overrides the first.
* Have the package do autoconfiguration when it is run, allowing the
autoconfiguration to be overridden by user configuration if appropriate, and
caching any bits which are not reasonably to do at every start-up (e.g. because
they involve long disk operations) in var-files or dotfiles (noting that the
last are also rather ugly and suffer from many of the same problems, especially
if there is no clean separation between user and application-generated dotfiles).
I await replies with interest.