Subject: Re: Debian out of hand?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 09:39:57 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Craig" == Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com> writes:

    Craig> Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com> writes:

    rn> Yada yada yada.

    Craig> Yada yada yada.

Of course I agree with all that yada.  More packages is better.  Finer
division of packages is better.  Debian bug tracking is cool.  But,
Craig, you should emphasize that what you're talking about (Debian for 
the long term) is an issue of organizational process, not merely
quality and infrastructure.  One could surely build a business around
repacking Debian for the masses---except that Debian is already doing
an excellent job of that, despite being basically developer-oriented.

My point is that surely there is an implicit opportunity in the
existing state of affairs.  This business of listing packages like

    roxen-yada
    roxen-ladida
    roxen-rocks
    roxen-smokes
    ...

in dselect (the standard user interface to Debian packages) is absurd.
What one really wants is an indexed database such that not only does
one only see a "roxen" section (collapsed by default), but one can
easily cross-check for an "apache-ladida" package (more precisely,
whether _some_ apache-* package supplies the 'ladida feature).

And how about nesting systems with their own package systems?  Ie,
generalizing alien so that you can feed it say XEmacs's package DB
schema, including the new XEmacs 21 standard (require 'package-ui)
interface for automatically updating lisp libraries, and a list of
XEmacs's existing packages and it will on the fly add them to
dselect's database and add `xemacs -batch -l package-ui -e
'(package-get %s)'' to apt-get's download method list?  These are not
complaints, rather examples, just examples; but they're hard problems
and the distribution that gets them right first will have an advantage
for a while.

Solving problems like the above is one place where I see continued
value-added in distributions.  Sure you can borrow the software and
the database, but you'll always be a little behind the times unless
you're simply a mirror, and that is not a value-added business; that's
the kind of business where you can expect Wal-Mart to come in and
clean your clock for you.  (Yup, I'm out on a limb again, but I can
smell the leather of that other shoe waiting to drop.  CheapBytes,
watch out.)

One reason I like Debian is that they already have long had `alien'
and package management kaizen continues, ie, philosophical head is on
shoulders instead of in some warm dark damp place.  It's possible that 
a startup FSB can attack those issues (it's not like Debian hasn't
modularized its archive access routines into a separate .so to make
it even easier) and steal a lot of Debian's thunder---but Debian sure
isn't ignoring the opportunity itself.

-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."