managing configurations, not packages

stephen white spwhite at chariot.net.au
Wed Dec 11 15:11:47 CST 2002


The debate's still going in private email, so I thought I'd post what I 
think the alternative is, for those of you interested in systems 
management.

> I'd suggest that having a central database which describes the 
> packages that are installed *is* the best way to do it.

I disagree, and there are many packaging problems to back my case.

sendmail configured for SMTP is operationally a different program than 
sendmail configured for UUCP. This is why you see sendmail-smtp and 
sendmail-uucp in the Debian packages list. This is an example of where 
the packaging system had to bend to cope with the reality of the 
situation.

Dividing packages by program is subtly different than dividing packages 
by functionality, and this is also seen in the Debian packaging system 
with dummy packages like "x-windows" that conceptually group multiple 
actual packages.

It's been a while since I thought about this issue in depth, but I 
recall that I was in favour of probing the filesystem to see what 
programs were installed, then retrieving configuration files based on 
the combinations.

If someone took out pine and put in elm with Maildirs, then they could 
submit the changes they had to make to the configuration files of the 
various programs they had installed. These changes would mainly be of 
interest to someone else who had the same installed programs and wanted 
to make the same change to elm.

So I'm more in favour of managing configurations than managing packages.

--
   spwhite at chariot.net.au

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