Michal Čihař - PPA for Debian

PPA for Debian

There seem to be lot of momentum in discussions about making Debian testing more attractive to users on debian-devel mailing list (see Lucas's summary for summary of the lengthy discussion).

One of the raised points there is that Debian misses equivalent of Ubuntu's PPA or openSUSE build service. As Debian is usually about do-ocracy, it will be there once it will be implemented, but I still don't think it is always useful to have such thing.

The problem with both (but this is especially the case for openSUSE build service) is that you need to add dozens of home: projects with questionable quality of the software. This usually leads to horrible mess, especially in case of incompatible libraries with different build options (anybody using wxWidgets?).

It can definitely lower barrier for people to create packages for the distro, but is it really good to lower barrier that much? I'd really prefer new things to be uploaded to Debian itself without need to use any external repositories, it would ensure at least some level of quality and compatibility with other packages.


OdyX wrote on May 2, 2011, 5:39 p.m.

I don't think we should refer to this idea as "PPAs". PPAs open to anyone are a problem, sure. Naming them as "DD-accessible overlays to unstable" sound much more sensible: integration with the buildd network, DD-signed packages, … This would render mozilla.d.n or qt-kde.d.n semi-official repositories completely moot.

wrote on May 2, 2011, 5:46 p.m.

You're right on the risks, but I think you're missing what many of us believe to be the "killer feature" or PPAs. Namely, that they enable lightweight "forks" of Debian, that would enable people to test changes that go past the boundaries of their packages and show, with working code, that "they are right" in proposing a specific change.

That possibility is meant to address part of the inertia problem in Debian, a problem which might go hand to hand with strict package ownership as we used to have, and partly still have, in Debian.

I suggest you have a look at one of the first mail by Pierre Habouzit in the monster thread that explains the above way better than what I might be able to do here.

If you want, this could be an "internal" use of PPAs that we can have independently from the "external" use of PPAs which have the risks you mention.


wrote on May 2, 2011, 6:16 p.m.

I believe this is a great idea, and generally something that Debian was missing.

For beginning all PPA's could be considered as "external" until its package quality shows otherwise and gets the point where it could be considered to enter "unstable" or "experimental".

Maybe even have an option where you would be able to say something along the line: "request inclusion into Debian" or something like that.

I think having PPA's would make it much easier for people to have their packages somehow associated with Debian, instead of having to go through mentors every time there's even a single update of a package.

Bernhard R. Link wrote on May 2, 2011, 10:35 p.m.

I fear what you describe is not only a risk, it is almost certainty. There are not that may external sources currently available or have been in the past. And apart from backports, most of them badly sucked. From what I remember from long time ago, the situation with rpm was the same. (Never tried ubuntu ppa, though)

warren wrote on May 3, 2011, 10:16 a.m.

I'm not a DD, but I have my own package repository for the collection of servers I maintain. It isn't that hard to roll your own package repository, so the Ubuntu PPA doesn't buy Debian much - with some hefty downsides.

A Project Package Archive however would appear to simplify coordination of preparing for transitions. planet.debian.org sees postings warning of X, Gnome and KDE transitions at the beginning of every cycle, followed by breakage for some period of time. Formal tools allowing simpler coordination in a team/project decreases the time that unstable is broken by changes within a team. Fewer rough transitions in unstable makes testing and rolling easier to maintain in usable shape.

Mircea wrote on May 28, 2011, 7:28 p.m.

Where in the discussion do you factor in what PPAs will do for your users? PPAs are one of the reasons I use Ubuntu and not Debian. So yeah, feel free to be stuck in the proverbial stone age.

There is a whole ecosystem evolved around the use of PPAs. Take a look at webupd8.org and omgubuntu.co.uk to see what I'm talking about. PPAs give users a flexibility that, so far, isn't offered by anything else. Take Ubuntu Natty for example: if you don't like the version of compiz shipped in natty you can downgrade to the one from maverick simply because a user has packaged it in a PPA. How would you acomplish this in Debian?