How to clean up apt-get

Tyler Strickland tyler at
Sat Sep 17 09:54:09 MDT 2005

On 09/17/2005 09:32 AM, Michael Torrie wrote:
> On Fri, 2005-09-16 at 09:36 -0600, Tyler Strickland wrote:
 > ...
>>Fortunately, since moving from RedHat 9 to Debian a few years ago, 
>>dependency hell has been a rare thing, and when it does happen it's 
>>generally easy to fix.  Back in the RedHat days, though...  The day my 
>>distaste for RPM's reached its peak was the day I had to download a 
>>package from CPAN to satisfy an RPM dependency.  I have had no desire to 
>>run an RPM-based distrobution since then.  Ich.  Just thinking about it 
>>gives me chills.
> I guess I'm a weird one then.  I have had an order of magnitude worse
> dependency hell with debian than any redhat distro.  Invariably I want
> something newer than a package that debian has, but when I try to switch
> repositories and upgrade it, I run into all sorts of dependency
> problems.  Compounded with the fact that on different platforms the
> debian packages may or may not be stable (sparc support for unstable was
> spotty for example).  On my linode I wanted to upgrade to apache 2 and
> php 4.3 (over a year ago), and trying to accomplish this with debian was
> a nightmare.  I've since switched to RHEL (CentOS).

Yes, managing several repositories together can be tricky - my server 
has a mix of packages from testing, unstable, and my own make.  Learning 
to make everything happy has been an interesting (and sometimes 
frightening) journey, but definately an educational one.  Fortunately 
I've been relatively free of package management problems once I learned 
how to balance everything.

> No wonder you hate RPMs so much.  You can't possibly satisfy an RPM
> dependency with a CPAN package.  Things are much better there now that
> someone has build a standardized build system to convert CPAN packages
> to RPMS.  For the last 2 years I've found 99.99 percent of everything I
> needed for FC from one of the 4 apt/yum repositories I use.

Sadly, the CPAN download did work to satisfy the dependency. It was 
gnucash, I believe, that pulled that little trick on me... :(  I'm glad 
to hear that with yum things are better - I did use apt-rpm back in the 
day but it was still a bit touchy.  If you did a forced install on 
something (ignoring a dependency, etc), your package management system 
stopped working until you rectified the "problem".  Admittedly, I have 
had issues with apt in debian on occasion, but never to the degree that 
I experienced in RH.

> Dependency hell is definitely not a redhat phenomena.  *Any* package
> system whether it be dpkg or rpm will suffer from it.  How bad the
> symptoms are depends on how well the packages are maintained.
> Fortunately FC these days does a very good job at this.  As far as I can
> tell dpkg === rpm.  Only Gentoo's approach seems in any way novel.
> Ideally the package system should be able to look at the entire system
> and take into account files from any source (dpkg, rpm, cpan, or from
> source) and try to solve it.  Of course that is probably NP complete.

Very true.  I'd love to see a package management system that worked 
between distros and versions - another aspect of RPM's that I disliked 
was the requirement to have a different RPM for every version of every 
distro that used RPM's.  I imagine Debian will start seeing the same 
problem, to a degree, with Ubuntu, but thus far I haven't had issues.

Admittedly, Gentoo has intrigued me over the years, but the thought of 
the time involved with compiling everything from source has thus far 
deterred me.

Could it be that someday we'll reach a wonderful place where a 
programmer just has to make one package and all the distros will 
recognize it and work with it?  Oh, well.  One can dream.  Gentoo's 
probably the closest to that goal, but somehow I doubt many other 
distros are likely to get excited about source-based packaging.


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