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Re: Debian derivatives and the Maintainer: field (again)

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Thomas Viehmann wrote:

> Matt Zimmerman wrote:
>> It is important, in particular, to account for the fact that Ubuntu is not
>> the only Debian derivative, and that proposals like yours would amount to
>> Debian derivatives being obliged to fork *every source package in Debian*
>> for the sake of changing a few lines of text.
> Yeah, and it seems unreasonable to suggest that anyone should be
> hindered to ship unmodified source packages as just that.
> In fact, Debian does try to ship unmodified upstream source tarballs,
> why shouldn't other people ship unmodified Debian source packages?

I see no problems with Ubuntu (or anyone) shipping unmodified Debian
*source* packages.  The problem comes in when they also ship *binary*
packages that are built in a different way from those in Debian (due to
different libraries, different default compiler, etc.)  This may cause
bugs in the rebuilt binaries that don't appear in Debian.  If the
package maintainer is left as the Debian maintainer, s/he gets blame for
these bugs.

This isn't a hypothetical.  One of my packages (binary package paw, from
source package cernlib) has seriously broken functionality in Breezy
because it was compiled with a buggy version of gcc.  The breakage did
not appear in Debian until later [1], since Ubuntu switched to gcc-3.4
before Debian switched from 3.3 to 4.0.  Once the breakage occurred in
Debian I promptly uploaded a workaround and filed a bug on gcc [2].

Since paw is not very widely used, no one was bitten by the bug in
Ubuntu until recently.  An Ubuntu user emailed me about it [3] upon
finding my name in the package maintainer field (and also asked upstream
about it).  If the Maintainer field included something like
ubuntu-motu@lists.ubuntu.com, instead of keeping my name and email, I
imagine the question would have worked its way to me eventually, but
without first making it look like I must be clueless not to have fixed
such an obvious bug.

I think this explains my preference for the package maintainer listed in
Debian-derivative distributions to be changed even for otherwise
unmodified source packages.  To avoid forking source packages, maybe
Ubuntu could cause the maintainer field to be changed in the binary
packages by small modifications to the build tools, as suggested
elsewhere in this thread.

[1] the Debian bug report on paw: http://bugs.debian.org/324902
[2] the Debian bug report I filed on gcc: http://bugs.debian.org/325050
[3] the Ubuntu bug report on paw:
(the user who filed the bug was nice enough to add my emailed response
to him as the second reply in the Launchpad entry)


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Kevin B. McCarty <kmccarty@princeton.edu>   Physics Department
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