Suggested improvements for ports

Paul Schmehl pauls at
Fri Jan 11 07:29:16 PST 2008

Some of this has been discussed ad infinitum, but, in an off-list conversation, 
I came up with this list of suggested improvements for port.  I'd like to see 
these things done, but I'm not sure how.  Improve the docs?  Create a checklist?

1) You can't build a dependent port and first set the config for the options 
that you want.  So, when you select sasl in postfix, you never get the chance 
to check the saslauthd option, for example.
2) There's no standard for some of the details of port building.  So, it's 
entirely up to the port maintainer and the committer to decide how to build the 
port.  The postfix port maintainer *could* include a dependency for saslauthd. 
He chose not to.  He *could* include a note in pkg-message that warns you that 
saslauthd needs to be installed as well.  He chose not to.  His choices are 
both reasonable and customary, but they don't serve the customer well.
3) There's no standard for the format of pkg-plist, pkg-message or pkg-descr, 
so port maintainers are free to put whatever they want in there.  There's a 
customary way of doing it, but it's not set in stone and variations are found 
throughout ports.
4) There's no standard for config files.  Do you overwrite?  Do you ignore?  Do 
you create port.conf-sample?  port.conf-dist?  port.conf-example?  Do you check 
to see if port.conf is there, and, if not, copy it to ${LOCALBASE}/etc? 
5) There's no standard for pkg-plist.  When is it required?  When is it not? 
(IOW, what's the maximum number of files you can put in Makefile so you don't 
have to create a pkg-plist?  Do you use unexec always?  Or only when you 
want/decide to?  Do you just ignore the conf file and not uninstall it?

I don't know the right answer to these questions, but I think they need to be 
answered.  I'm willing to volunteer to do some work if someone will tell me 
what that work is.  Docs?  A committee?

Suggestions welcomed.

Paul Schmehl (pauls at
Senior Information Security Analyst
The University of Texas at Dallas

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