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Re: apt, deity, dpkg, aptitude history

Big disclaimer: I joined the APT team roughly 7 years ago (oh my god,
I am getting old…). That sounds like an oldtimer, but back then the
team existed for more than a decade already. It is important to realize
that nobody who is currently on the team started apt through. In fact,
nobody of the current team was working at the same time with anyone who
started apt. You are therefore not likely to get first-hand info here.
Not even second-hand. Third hand at best, I am more like fourth hand
really… so my responses on that matter aren't hardfacts: I could be
lying my ass off without even knowing!

If you want to know how things were back in the day for real, find
someone from that time who is still active and interview him. You were
at this years DebConf, perhaps you already meet the right people in

On Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 08:30:25AM +0000, shirish शिरीष wrote:
> benign/naive idea that these tools were made by Ubuntu/Canonical and
> only much later I came to know that it's in fact Debian which does
> much of the work. In that sense, I would be forever grateful to
> Ubuntu/Canonical for introducing me to the deb Universe.

apt existed long before Ubuntu did, so, by definition it can't have
created it. That said, some of the past and/or present apt developers
were or still are at one point employees of that company.

> Coming to my question what I've been trying to figure out is when the
> project/distribution started have repository updates and being able to
> upgrade in-place and using which tool to do that ?

Kids rejoice, its uncle Davids camping fire story time!

Back in the early days there was only dpkg. You would get your packages
from a mirror by hand and install them with it. After a while various
scripts appeared which automated that task. The repository was growing
and growing, so that soon you would need a tool like dselect to keep on
top of the action. Also, the scripts got hackier by the minute, so in
1997 people set out to create the godfather of package management: It
should be a GUI, replace dselect and even dpkg and its name was deity.
Eventually it was decided that 'deity' isn't a good name, so on the 1st
April of 1998 it was publicly announced that the project would be from
now on called 'APT' (or Apt, or apt, or… everyone seems to have used
a different style. As well as different things for what 'APT' stands
for). A few days later the first version hit the archive.

The GUI never came to be, dselect was never directly challenged and dpkg
remained as part of the ecosystem. In other words: An all around
failure! apt-get, apt-cache and co which were first made as kind of
demos for how to use the underlying libraries (from the apt project,
too!) until the GUI surfaced became over time the product instead. Time
passed, people come and most also go.

Eventually, in a moment of apt development inactivity a project called
'aptitude' came to be. The goal as easy as before: Take over the world,
replacing the old hardly maintained apt with a funky new all around
better tool which would have a GUI this time and a better resolver.

That turned out to be slightly more successful as a plan in that it
actually produced a GUI. Still, apt survived and regained traction so
now both apt and aptitude live together in Debian happily ever after
with a usually loyal servant called dpkg and an ugly older stepbrother
hiding in the dark corners of the castle called dselect.

That is at least how I see it, but all of this story happened before
I came here and as all good stories it avoids details for the sake of
the story arc. I think I deserve some credit for not including a fire
breathing dragon through…

> Another query - I have been following apt for quite some years and
> even though it has some limitations (safe-upgrade not being there) it

'apt-get upgrade' is there since ever and is even safer than
'safe-upgrade' as it only upgrades packages you already have installed.
The aptitude command also installs new packages, but no problem, 'apt
upgrade' does that, too. There is also a flag for apt-get to do it.
aka: The "safe-" just means that it isn't removing already installed
packages, not that it makes the upgrade itself in any shape or form

> seems it has been quite active in the last 2-3 years at least. It also
> seems to have had an impact on aptitude development also as David K.
> has also become a bit more active. Is my sense of things on the

I don't think "that guy" became particularly more active in the last
few years. He absolutely went from new kid on the block to evil master
mind, but I think that was earlier already as there was no hope for him
after 2010 (implementing Multi-Arch in APT) anyhow. As he is still
a student with a million other (side-)projects (in reallife) time
investments vary of course, but as objectively as I can be while talking
about him: At times he does too much.

He has no direct impact on aptitude whatsoever through[0]. He doesn't
even use it. He started it like once or twice in his life and declared
it to complicated for himself. Between you and me, I think that is more
his brain telling him he can't adopt yet another pet-project which would
happen if he would use it. That's how he ended up in APT a few months
after he started using Linux…

All the glory for resumed aptitude development in the recent past (after
its original author went MIA) needs to go to the new team formed around
it – especially to Manuel.

Best regards

David Kalnischkies

[0] As said in the story, apt and aptitude happily co-exist. The teams
share even an IRC channel and frequently read/comment/reassign each
others bugreports. Of course by proxy apt developers have an impact on
the other frontends like aptitude. At the very least because we maintain
the underlying shared library and deal with most of the non-user facing
features in it like the secure download of packages.

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