Wednesday, 12 October 2005

From sarge to etch

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Big changes on stakhanov last weekend: I switched from sarge to etch, mainly for (and yes, also because I like having daily upgrades and stable releases are so boring!). debian is great for this type of things, I simply modified /etc/apt/sources.list and ran apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade, more than 500 packages were upgraded (included the kernel image) and dozens were added or removed. I had to respond to some questions and to check few configuration files and only the x-window-system-core package (that had been kept back) needed an additional apt-get install x-window-system-core. After reboot I had a perfectly working and configured debian etch, excellent!

Unfortunatly not all is good with debian. After upgrading I had to mess around with source packages to:

  1. building a DRI module,
  2. building the PostGIS library for the new version of PostgreSQL.

Well, In my opinion managing source packages is a pain. The key principles are solid and I like them, every package includes:

  • the original source,
  • a patch file to yield the debian version of the code,
  • debian magic to build and set up everything in a consistent manner.

The problem is in the magic that is often too much complicated! They are many tools to help with it (man dpkg-source) but, if one is not a geek (and I'm not), he has to toil a lot to create his customized binary package.
So one contents oneself to build the sources and to use the binaries outside the debian packaging system :-( but odd things still happen. For example, in my case:

  1. xorg-xserver source package had dependencies problems and couldn't be builded. Ok, I'm using a testing release and there could be problems but also I'm presenlty using the binaries of xorg-xserver and so it is strange,
  2. the only way I found to obtain the source tree of PostgreSQL was building the package postgresql-7.4, a little bit inconvenient.

Maybe all these complications and oddities with the source packages are the price to pay to have a so powerful binary packages management system but I feel that it could (and it should) be simpler. Maybe the next time I'll install an operating system I'll try another distribution (gentoo? Or something of totally different?)

Posted by Nicola Piccinini at 11:55 AM CEST in debian/