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Re: metaconfig source control/distribution and Debian's DFSG

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Andy Dougherty
October 6, 2014 12:47
Re: metaconfig source control/distribution and Debian's DFSG
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On Sat, Oct 04, 2014 at 05:50:51PM +0100, Dominic Hargreaves wrote:

> On Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 09:07:59PM -0400, Andy Dougherty wrote:
> > On Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 10:16:32PM +0100, Dominic Hargreaves wrote:

> > The way it's set up now, we encourage people to simply patch Configure.
> > If someone wants to go the metaconfig route instead, it's a lot of
> > extra work, but presumably the person deliberately chooses that route
> > knowing it's extra work.
> Again, there is an ideological point here. It *shouldn't* be a lot of
> extra work to do things in the way that upstream developers would.
> Clearly perl isn't going to be kicked out of Debian because of this,
> but a less important package might well be.

I think we may have confused you here such that you have it exactly
backwards.  It *isn't* a lot of extra work for anyone to do things in
the way the upstream developers would.  Everyone has access to the exact
same source.  What a few upstream developers do have is *experience*
using the package, so that they can do that work somewhat more easily.

Those few upstream developers (well, really only H.Merijn these days) have
volunteered to help do that work for people who would rather spend their
time fixing something else rather than learning a complete configuration
system.  Thus if a casual hacker wants to make a simple Configure change,
they can simply make it directly to Configure.  Thus it is *easier* for
the casual hacker to get involved.  If they want to do it the way the
upstream developer would, then they have to do the same hard work that
the upstream deveveloper does, and they are certainly free to do so.

Both the dist subversion repository and the perl metaconfig git
repository are freely available, so anyone can check out the appropriate
versions to recreate Configure (subject to machine-dependent ordering).
I hadn't realized that the precise versions used weren't clearly labeled
because I don't recall anybody ever asking before.  Encouraged by this
request, I will try to remember and document that more clearly in perl's
documentation.  If someone else wants to do it first, the patches would
certainly be welcome.

> Okay, so clearly from a pragmatic view we would need to ship our own version
> of dist along with the rest of the stuff from the metaconfig repository.
> Depressingly this violates another part of Debian policy relating to
> embedding copies of code not intended to be embedded, but the freedom
> to modify the code using the preferred form clearly overrides that in
> my mind.

You could instead separately package dist-3.5.20 and depend on that,
if you liked.  (Presumably, that package would point to the standard
'dist' package as the recommended starting point for new projects,
and would not overwrite the standard 'dist' package files.)  I don't
see how this situation is fundamentally any different from that of any
other program built with a particular version of an external tool (such
as bison, for example).

> > Rebuilding Configure would not be easy or automatic, but all the necessary
> > files would be available.  Would that satisfy the Debian guidelines?
> I think it would satisfy the letter of the law, if not the full spirit.

I'm sorry, but I really fail to see why, and suspect that there is
a lingering misunderstanding.  Rebuilding Configure is not easy or
automatic for *anyone*, but that's not an issue of freedom.  I want to
be helpful and share what we have, but we can only share what we have.


    Andy Dougherty

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