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    Does www-browser belong in /etc/alternatives?
    Contributed by bronson on Friday, November 30 @ 05:38:48 GMT

    Many programs now spawn browsers (dhelp, gnome-term, ...). Unfortunately, the user must configure each program separately to tell it which browser to launch. It's very time consuming.

    Debian has the perfect solution to this: /etc/alternatives. Every browser package would provide a "www-browser" alternative. By default, Debian packages would launch "www-browser" when they want to spawn a web browser. Now the user can then select his or her favorite browser using update-alternatives, and the change would be noticed instantly and everywhere.

    To implement this, the following packages need to be patched:

    Browsers: konqueror, galeon, mozilla, netscape, skipstone, lynx, w3m ...
    Packages: dhelp, gnome-term, ... (I'm sure there are many more)

    I'm happy to create and submit these patches if they would be accepted. Is this a good idea?

    There might one minor issue: browsers aren't real consistent with their command-line arguments. I don't think this is a problem because currently all of them accept a URL on the command-line. That's all we need right now. Packagers can write shell scripts for the weird ones.

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  • "Does www-browser belong in /etc/alternatives?" | Login/Create Account | 17 comments

    The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

    Re: Does www-browser belong in /etc/alternatives? (Score: 4, Informative)
    by joeyh on Friday, November 30 @ 05:50:28 GMT
    (User Info)

    There is already a better solution -- the BROWSER environment variable. man environ, and scroll down to BROWSER for details.

    This is not manadated by policy (yet), but support has been added to several packages. It beats out the alternatives system for this application because it allows a list of browsers to be specified, so you can run one in X and have a different one run if you're at the console. It deals with the varying command line issue. And most importantly, a BROWSER, like an EDITOR, is a personal thing best configured on a per-user basis.

    [ Reply ]

    Rantings from #debianplanet (Score: 2, Funny)
    by GehRehmee on Saturday, December 01 @ 18:55:27 GMT
    (User Info)

    Maybe I'm totally insane here, but the following conversation I had on #debianplanet got me thinking a bit, maybe it will here too:

    <Geh`rehmee > personally, i like the idea of expanding debian's alternatives system to a) handle mime types directly, and b) allow per-user customization.

    <Geh`rehmee> afaik, anyone can define a mime type, but it doesn't mean anybody will pay attention to it. 🙂

    <LordBrain> hmm

    <LordBrain> what is debian's alternatives system?

    <Geh`rehmee> let's see...

    <Geh`rehmee> for example, the x-window-manager command.

    <Geh`rehmee> /usr/bin/x-window-manager is a symlink to /etc/alternatives/x-window-manager

    <Geh`rehmee> /etc/alternatives/* are managed by debian's 'update-alternatives' system.

    <LordBrain> hmmm

    <LordBrain> perhaps it would be better to have it be in ~/.alternatives/*

    <Geh`rehmee> 'update-alternatives -config x-window-manager' allows you to select which actual window manager binary the /etc/alternatives/x-window-manager symlink points to.

    <Geh`rehmee> well, the real issue would be replacing the alternative symlinks with some type of script, which could dynamically decide which potential option is correct.

    <Geh`rehmee> if [ -x ~/.alternatives/x-window-manager ]; then ~/.alternatives/x-window-manager; else /etc/alternatives/x-window-manager; fi

    <Geh`rehmee> that sort of a deal.

    <LordBrain> a deal?

    <Geh`rehmee> this is all my personal rantings, and i'm no debian maintainer, so i could be completely on crack. 🙂

    <LordBrain> well i'm not a maintainer either

    <LordBrain> yet ... 😛

    <LordBrain> hehe

    <Geh`rehmee> heh.

    <Geh`rehmee> gnome already has it's gnome-url-handler, which performs the same purpose, essentially, but only for web browsers.

    <Geh`rehmee> 'gnome-moz-remote' actually.

    <LordBrain> yeah, that doesnt seem like a real solution tho

    <Geh`rehmee> oh?

    <Geh`rehmee> which, the gnome-moz-remote one?

    <LordBrain> not if its only for web browsers, there's no reason for data centrism to stop there, and if we're gonna have it in other parts, it makes more sense to me if we do it in a uniform way throughout the system

    <Geh`rehmee> in my case, i'm irc'ing from a headless vnc box in another city, so i've got gnome-moz-remote set up to email the URL to an address that automatically forwards to my jabber account.

    <Geh`rehmee> oh, yeah. definately.

    <LordBrain> simplifies things, for users and developers

    <Geh`rehmee> you mind if i copy/paste this discussion as a comment on that debianplanet story? maybe it'll get somebody's brain turning.

    <LordBrain> and this is only inside gnome, are we gonna start neglecting the command line the way of windows?

    [ Reply ]

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