[nSLUG] Upgrade tools, or... (choosing a new distribution)

Ben Armstrong synrg at sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
Tue Sep 11 08:37:27 ADT 2007


On Tue, 11 Sep 2007 08:09:45 -0300
David Potter <dlpotter at ns.sympatico.ca> wrote:
> That certainly sounds like what I'm looking for... can it actually 
> handle the number of dependency issues that seem to turn up when you 
> upgrade between Debian distributions? And is this same (apt-get) tool 
> available in other distributions?

Put it this way: I have a system that has been installed and upgraded
from a single install for a decade.  Debian does a reasonably good job
at handling dependency issues, though the further you stray from a
"pure Debian" system (i.e. "taint" it with packages of unknown quality
from third party sources,) the more likely you are to screw things up.
Also, upgrading within "testing/unstable" introduces issues you'll
need to be prepared to deal with if you like to track the "cutting
edge" rather than using the "stable" release.

Yes, apt-get *is* available on other platforms, but the "secret sauce"
that really makes the whole thing work is not apt; it is this document:


Debian developers are bound by this policy manual to make packages that
conform.  Non-conformant packages that violate "must" directives have
release-critical bugs filed against them.  If they are not fixed by the
time a new stable release comes out, those packages are removed from the
distribution.  Packages in testing/unstable may have release-critical bugs
in them, though it ought to be every developer's priority to fix these
as soon as possible, whether on the brink of a release or not.

I'll give you a couple of examples below.  Imagine a distribution with
apt-get that does not follow these policies, and therefore allows
packages to be shipped that violate the rules outlined in either section.
And these are only two small sections of the whole document.  If you have
the patience for it, I highly recommend reading the whole thing.  It will
give you a better appreciation of what makes Debian so solid.  It will
also help you spot and identify problems, and help get them resolved more

To be fair, other distributions do have their own policies and standards
for quality, but I think Debian has done a remarkable job in this domain
that is too often misunderstood and glossed over by those who say "oh,
apt-get is what make Debian so great; all we need is apt-get!"


3.5 Dependencies

Every package must specify the dependency information about other packages
that are required for the first to work correctly.

For example, a dependency entry must be provided for any shared libraries
required by a dynamically-linked executable binary in a package.

Packages are not required to declare any dependencies they have on other
packages which are marked Essential (see below), and should not do so unless
they depend on a particular version of that package.[7]

Sometimes, a package requires another package to be installed and configured
before it can be installed. In this case, you must specify a Pre-Depends
entry for the package.

You should not specify a Pre-Depends entry for a package before this has
been discussed on the debian-devel mailing list and a consensus about doing
that has been reached.



6.2 Maintainer scripts Idempotency

It is necessary for the error recovery procedures that the scripts be
idempotent. This means that if it is run successfully, and then it is
called again, it doesn't bomb out or cause any harm, but just ensures
that everything is the way it ought to be. If the first call failed, or
aborted half way through for some reason, the second call should merely
do the things that were left undone the first time, if any, and exit
with a success status if everything is OK.

 ,-.  nSLUG    http://www.nslug.ns.ca   synrg at sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
 \`'  Debian   http://www.debian.org    synrg at debian.org
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