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Re: dselect oddities

Steve, I think you misunderstand what "stable", "unstable" etc are.
Let's consider slink, for example. It begins as unstable (eg it is
unstable now). Contrary to the name, this does not mean that it is
not stable -- it means that it isn't tested to be stable, and that
it is undergoing further development.

After a suitable period of time, slink will become "frozen", meaning
only bug fixes are applied to it. Then it will become released
-- it will be called "stable", then.

Once a distribution is "stable", it does not change! bo has not changed
since it was released. Even if there are new versions of the package,
they are not placed in to stable. They may well BE stable -- but that
has not been tested and verified.

(Actually, packages with dire bugs can get upgraded in stable, which
is why stable is version 1.3.1r8 now, not just 1.3. Security bugs in
particular are fixed for older distributions as well as the new.)

If you want continued upgrading of your applications, then you should
track unstable -- currently slink. If you don't, then track stable,
currently bo (soon to be hamm). In this particular case, the bo->hamm
upgrade was a big job so hamm is quite out of date (eg Apache 1.1).
The bo-unstable directory contains newer versions of software, but
compiled for the bo system. It's unstable though, which means it
hasn't been tested as well as stable has.

>     As I have stated there are times when this is catagorically untrue.  In
> my particular case, to provide as an example, I have placed the "unstable"
> directories into dselect's path so I could keep up with new versions of
> *applications* while leaving the *libraries* alone.  

This is, of course, not always practical. Some newer applications
will require new libraries.

>     Hamm does not have the latest SLRN, for example.  It has which is
> a few months old.  There are features in the later 0.9.5.x series I want. 
> Since hamm is frozen no new versions of SLRN will be placed into its tree. 
> That means, if I want to upgrade that application when someone packages it up
> I must put the "unstable" directories into the path.

Yes, if you want to do it with dselect. No, if you do it with dpkg,
which is far easier.

> Another example that comes to mind is ncftp.  You are aware that ncftp 2.4.x
> broke scripting, right?  Ncftp 2.3.0 does not have the broken scripting.  The
> bug has been reported, by me, and has not been fixed.

It's an upstream bug, by the sounds of things -- what do you expect
the maintainer to do? The beauty of open-source software (as NcFTP now
is) is that if nobody else will fix something, you can always do it yourself.

>     So what is a person to do when they want to update applications which are
> mislabeled as "unstable" and leave the underlying libraries at the "stable"
> level?  This is not an uncommon want or desire.  Just as people want easy
> updates I feel people also want reasonable control and the ability to get
> applications up to speed.

Actually I think generally libraries are more likely to be stable even
in the unstable tree than applications -- people will scream a lot louder
if there are broken libraries.

>     I don't know what versions are in bo but hamm hasn't even been called
> "stable" yet and most of its applications are outdated.  JED is up to .98.4,
> SLRN is in the 0.9.5 series which uses the SLANG 1.x series (which was not
> present in slink when I last checked, bad dependancy there).  Another is mtr.
>  Hamm has it at 0.14, the latest is 0.22 IIRC.  

At some point in time, we have to draw the line and say this is what
will be released. Then it needs testing -- integration testing, which is
where the stable or unstable label comes from. If we continued to
put things in to hamm it would never be released. It is already a long
time since bo's release.

>     What has happened is that when I switched from Slackware to Debian, to
> the latest reasonably "stable" Debian most of my applications took 2-3 steps
> backwards.  If I sit down, get my username and PGP in as a developer and

But what you get is a system that is tested to be stable. If you keep 
upgrading your system from tarballs, then you have no guarantee that it
is stable. You can follow slink in Debian, get the latest software,
and still not get the guarantee. So following unstable is no worse
than DIY with Slackware.

Having said all that, I have absolutely no idea what it is you want done.
You want stable software, yet you want the absolute latest versions
of some software, but not others. I think these goals are incompatible.

Hamish Moffatt, hamish@debian.org, hamish@rising.com.au, hmoffatt@mail.com
Latest Debian packages at ftp://ftp.rising.com.au/pub/hamish. PGP#EFA6B9D5
CCs of replies from mailing lists are welcome.   http://hamish.home.ml.org

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