Managing Expectations (was Re: Debian 3.0 CDRs)

Matthew Hawkins matt at
Thu Aug 8 17:57:51 EST 2002

Alex Satrapa (grail at wrote:
> The hardest part would be becoming familiar with the apt system over the 
> rpm system.

(Taking this post amongst many as an example, not a direct reply to
Alex, just an easy way to stand on my soapbox again on the general

You cannot compare apt and rpm.  They are two completely different
systems.  You can compare dpkg and rpm, both are package tools.
Apt is not aptly named ;-)

Apt is akin to rpmfind, though it is tied in to the local package
management database, and what it knows of the remote, so that it can
deal with the dependency issues in true Debian style.  So pretty much
its a better rpmfind than rpmfind.

Quite frankly I don't see the big deal about apt becasue of this.  So
many people claim its the reason Debian is the best, these people
obviously don't understand that apt is *pointless* without the Policy
behind it.  Policy is what makes Debian great, that, and the enthusiasm
and effort on behalf of the thousands of maintainers to have their
packages conform to this policy so they can play their part in providing
an extremely high quality distribution.

Policy dictates where files will go, how libraries will be named, and
how the different levels of bugness will affect release, amongst other
important things.  Redhat put out any old crap.  I know, I had an rpm or
two on their contrib CD, and I was really embarrased about it, to be
honest :)  Debian usually [1] enforces strict compliance with policy, so
there is extremely little chance of a release being crap [2].  May be old
eventually, but it won't be crap ;)

So in short, if you want to name tools, its not apt which makes Debian
great, it's dpkg.

[1] There's a few instances it's been broken this time around, but this
cycle has been dogged by all sorts of political and technical issues...

[2] By crap I mean packages screwing with other ones, or being incomplete,
resulting in a non- or semi- functional system.  This is the result of
no QA at all, to generalise the problem.

The big problem with Redhat is that it is a company with a handful of
responsible people, and relies on "contrib" to get things they're too
lazy/snowed-under to package.  And the rules for "contrib" packages are
wishywashy at best, and the people making them have no responsibility
whatsoever.  Then there's the confusion of rpm-based packages from other
distributions using RPM...
Every debian maintainer has a selection process to go through, must be
sponsored by an existing maintainer, and is responsible for their package(s).
So Debian has all the advantages of contrib (lots of people able to
contribute useful software) with none of the drawbacks (no rules
governing how the entire distribution with their package must fit
together and work, hence trivial breakage; no responsibility and hence
motivation to get things right)

That's how you end up with a distribution of over 11,000 packages where
things simply work.

"So, logically, if she weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood, and therefore a witch!"
(Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
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