Limitations of Ports System

Matt Dawson matt at
Fri Dec 14 02:58:55 PST 2007

On Friday 14 Dec 2007, freebsd-ports-request at wrote:
> I was not planning to skimp on the requirements at all but the test
> case is xorg.

A far better test case, IMHO, would be to run a similar build to the pointyhat 
cluster if you're serious about *replacing* the ports system. Unless a new 
system can do this, as well as being able to produce packages for a 
centralised port build system for multiple machines (yes, you can do this 
with NFS and a little thought), the metaphor "snowball in hell" springs to 

The job you've given yourself is an elephant. I'll leave it up to others to 
decide if it's white or just too large to eat on your own all at once. 
Furthermore, if said elephant isn't consumed in its entirety, expect some 
resistance to your proof of concept code from some unexpected sources since 
the ports system isn't just the package management system some people seem to 
think it is.

Looking at all this from a user's perspective is fine and dandy until you have 
a release to do. The ports are tied into bits of the base system in various 
ways, for example, make release or USE_OPENSSL=base. The current system, 
although appearing to drip with legacy methods and what look like arcane 
rituals to appease the make god (until you understand how it all fits 
together), is very powerful - perhaps more so than any other package 
managment system I've ever used - and is structured to work for end users, 
the release engineering and ports management teams. I suspect this is why so 
many replies were negative.

I don't wish to rock the boat and start another 8 kids 1 toy discourse and 
there is certainly no malice or insult intended, but the ports system is so 
much more than getting X installed on a desktop box. First and foremost, 
release engineering depends on it. Change can be good, but always remember 
the alternate definition of progress: Taking the best of what you have. And 
ruining it.
Matt Dawson.

matt at

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