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Hi again,
I have something for the dselect etc. wish list: We would like to be able
to put the packages in an unpacked state on a read-only NFS disk and then 
automagically create symlinks from the system directories to the NFS
disk on our target systems that form a cluster. 
This of course makes sense only for application-level programs, not
for basic system utilities. 

An ideal dpkg implementation would allow to store all files that belong to
a package in a special directory, the packages directory. In our installation,
it is named /usr/local/packages and located on an NFS disk. Each package
has its own subdirectory. Now, we install new packages only there, and then
"activate" them on each machine in the network by simply creating symlinks
from the system directories to the packages directory.

To automate this, the installer program should unpack the debian package 
into a subdirectory and create a list of links to be made from the 
system directories into that subdirectory.  This implies that the files 
in a package can only be installed in some well-defined set of system

To activate a package on any system that mounts the packages directory, 
we would just need a script to set up the symlinks. The packages directory
could reside on CD or on read-only NFS disk, no local disk space beyond 
the links would be used. If a package gets removed or changed, we just have 
to remove dangling symlinks.

There are some problems: 
- Most installation scripts install the info files
  using install-info. This could easily circumvented by providing a file that
  stores the information needed to link in an info file, and scanning this
  file when the package gets activated on a system.
- Configuration files must be created/edited when the packages directory
  is created. If a target system requires different configurations, it just
  replaces the symlink by the actual config file.
- Directories in /var must be created on the target systems, and the files
  copied in, instead of linked, in the assumption that they will be modified.

I have used a semi-automatic version of this scheme for some time, and it
works very well. I should be happy to contribute our experiences.


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