Ports system quality and trolling

Doug Barton dougb at FreeBSD.org
Sun Aug 28 21:43:15 UTC 2011

On 8/28/2011 1:54 PM, Michal Varga wrote:
> On Sun, 2011-08-28 at 15:30 -0400, Sahil Tandon wrote:
> [...]
>> Criminal?  Indifference?  This sort of troll-ish hyperbole is decidedly
>> unhelpful. 

FWIW, I agree with Sahil that this post of Jerry's was over the top, as
several of his have been of late. To use the word "criminal" in this
context is sufficient all on its own. To accuse people who spend an
enormous amount of their own free time trying to make this thing work of
being indifferent is just plain rude.

> To contribute my random few cents to the debate (without actually
> contributing anything of worth, so you don't really have to read it):
> Replies like these already made me discard like 20 of my own emails in
> the past, mid-write, exactly because of this expected outcome -
> accusations of trolling, because, why not, that's really what it's all
> about, right.

Well, no. :)  Personally I find this message of yours to be well thought
out and well stated. You raise some valid concerns without making
personal attacks. That kind of feedback is always welcome.

> So to say for myself - I do not know Jerry, but I definitely share his
> sentiments and even find his tone quite funnily (is that a word?)
> appropriate, as the ports quality, over the last year, went totally,
> horribly, down the drain.
> On some of my desktop setups, I keep about 900-1000 installed ports (and
> there are some ~200-300 for servers in general). There already seems not
> to be a single week, even once, without some MAJOR breakage that always
> takes hours (sometimes days) to track down and fix by my own ...

FWIW, my experience has not been even close to yours, although I do find
broken things occasionally.

> And I know that every time I'd start writing a mail about it, my tone
> would be exactly the same as Jerry chose. With the expected result of
> "Zomg stop trolling",

First, if you find something broken, please report it; in a calm,
factual manner; ASAP. That will help us fix it ASAP and help avoid other
users having to share the same frustration. Second, if you have concerns
about the direction that things are heading in a more general way, feel
free to express them as you have here. You may find that people agree
with you. :)

> or for a change, the ever popular megahit "Patches welcome"

Sometimes that *is* the correct answer though. There is only so much
that the existing pool of volunteers can do. If we don't get new people
who are willing to get their hands dirty, the project dies.

> On a weekly basis, again and again, there are port
> updates being introduced with what seems to be absolutely no testing
> whatsoever, some breakages take multiple takes on fixing by their
> respective port maintainers,

While I'm certainly not going to say that mistakes never get made, with
very nearly 23,000 ports, and a nearly infinite number of possible
OPTIONS combinations, shaking out all of the corner cases can be very
difficult for even the most dedicated of maintainers. But, see below.

> new versions of major dependencies get introduced only to be rolled back few days later;

If you're talking about the recent ruby update, an enormous amount of
work went into that prior to the trigger being pulled in an effort to
make it as smooth as possible. It's unfortunate that in spite of that
effort there were still some "issues" that were only discovered after
users rushed to perform the upgrade. In this case backing out the change
was the responsible course of action.

> So, was really Jerry's tone so trollish?

Yes. There is a world of difference between expressing concern about the
issue (as you have done) and attacking people on a personal level.

Now, how do we fix this? It has been suggested numerous times that one
solution to this problem would be a "stable" ports tree. The idea being
that after changes have had a chance to shake out for a while in the
head of the ports tree they get merged back to a stable branch. This
needs to happen, yesterday.

The other thing that will help between now and then is to manage your
change windows a little more conservatively. Except for security-related
updates there is almost always zero reason to upgrade to new versions of
things immediately after they hit the ports tree. With all due respect
to those involved, one of the reasons the ruby thing was such a mess was
that users jumped in and started upgrading stuff without knowing what
they were doing, or why. Personally as soon as the notice about the
upcoming change went out I put the knob in make.conf to keep my systems
at 1.8 to make sure I wasn't affected.

So all this is not to say, "You're wrong!" but instead to try and
constructively address the concerns you've raised, and hopefully provide
some suggestions on how to address them.




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