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    Why must apt fall short of the mark?
    Contributed by robot101 on Friday, June 08 @ 19:06:36 BST

    Ask Debianplanet
    We all know that one of the major selling points of Debian is apt - the glorious command line package tool which will install, upgrade, download, moo and more. Before apt, and before Debian became so big as to be pretty inpractical in dselect, one of the major selling points was the package relationships, with Recommends and Suggests adding value and functionality to packages.

    More Below

    AGL: An interresting discussion point. Personally I always use apt on the command line - I wonder what packages I'm missing out on

    As a maintainer I use these on most of my packages, and lament the fact that they will in fact go un-noticed to a large proportion of users who stick to using apt-get to install just what they need. The problem worsens - the task packages (which havn't gone away quite yet... =) make extensive use of lesser relationships like Recommends and Suggests, and these are silently ignored by apt.

    So why doesn't apt-get support Recommends and Suggests? It was mentioned on IRC that it's because apt's meant to be a backend, not a user tool... that doesn't cut the mustard with me. Whoever heard of an interactive backend? How nice it would be to be able to say --recommends=yes, or --suggests=ask, or specify similar options in apt.conf, and have apt include the recommended packages and prompt us with a list of the suggested packages, or something along those lines.

    I know I'm not the only one who thinks Debian's pride and joy falls short of the mark on this count, and as a consequence users miss out on information and functionality, not to mention informed choice. Whilst I lack the knowledge to solve this, I'm sure it's doable. Who else thinks this is a much needed feature? Can anyone who's reading this add it? Maybe we should start a petition or have a DP poll. What do you all think?

    -Rob

     
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  • "Why must apt fall short of the mark?" | Login/Create Account | 21 comments
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    The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Friday, June 08 @ 19:10:22 BST

    apt-get dselect-upgrad

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 2, Informative)
    by Robot101 (robot1<zero>1@debian.org) on Friday, June 08 @ 19:45:03 BST
    (User Info)

    That only acts on selections that have already been made by dselect and stored in dpkg. It doesn't solve the problem of not even being told about the suggested/recommended packages when you use apt on the command line alone.

    -Rob

    [ Reply ]


    It Existed (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Saturday, June 16 @ 19:10:34 BST

    If any of you had Gotten Storm Linux before it filed for Chapter 11 you would have seen the dream you speak of. It came with a graphical front-end for Apt-get, with recommends not sure about suggestions..It built a list of dependencies, packages that should be removed, what it recommends to be removed, and what it revommends to be installed. Truly a great front-end for apt-get, too bad there gone.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: It Existed (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 19 @ 18:15:57 BST

    You talking about stormpkg? It exists in unstable, probably in testing also.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: It Existed (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Thursday, June 21 @ 18:26:17 BST

    Your saying if i got Potato today, it would have a front-end like stormpkg?

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Friday, June 08 @ 22:30:54 BST

    While you make valid points, I think that you're forgeting that apt is primarily a command line tool, meant to be used in scripts and such. And while most people use "apt-get update ; apt-get upgrade" your suggestions would make scripting needlessly difficult.

    Personally, I use apt when I want a quick upgrade without thinking about it. I use deselect to peruse and make selections. I really don't find anything wrong with this arrangement.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 1, Informative)
    by Anonymous on Friday, June 08 @ 23:55:42 BST

    This is just plain silly. Many CLI tools have optional interactivity features, dpkg itself being a good example. dpkg might ask you questions about the setup of a package, but still is used in a few zillion scripts.

    Apt could get CLI options that would make it more verbose, and possible interactive, if the current options were unchanged, and that as such, it was still possible to run it as a batch tool.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 12 @ 13:50:52 BST

    I'm not sure I understand you correctly, but when you say:
    "dpkg might ask you questions about the setup of a package."

    Are you referring to what happens during a package installation where the whole process pauses and asks the user some questions?
    In that case, it is actually debconf that is responsible for the interactivity. It is a matter of configuring the package correctly during install. This behavior can be changed by configuring debconf to make more/less assumptions.

    DISCLAIMER: I'm not a Debian developer, just a user/admin since '98 (other UNIX since '94).

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 12 @ 21:25:06 BST

    Actually, yes I was referring to that. (You're right about debconf tho). That doesn't change the slightest thing from a user perspective though. dpkg still is 'guilty' even if technically, it's debconf.

    Nor does that cripple my argument (IMHO), giving apt optionnal interactivity features doesn't cripple its batch-mode, if done correctly. Most 'advanced' console programs have such interactiveness built-in anyway. Think 'cat', 'tex' or any single language interpreter. (Sure, its not _technically_ the exact same thing, but the user couldn't care less)

    Christian

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 1)
    by Robot101 (robot1<zero>1@debian.org) on Saturday, June 09 @ 03:37:59 BST
    (User Info)

    You're missing the point. Apt doesn't even offer the /possibility/ of the suggests/recommends. I don't see their being added will make apt any more or less interactive than it already is. The default could be to prompt seperately for recommends and skip suggests, or even to ignore both and only consider them if you turn them on in the config/command line.

    Either way, it'd give apt the ability to fulfil all requirements without needing to launch dselecy, which currently it does not, and for no good reason.

    Personally, I and I'm sure many others find dselect to be un-navigable with this many packages in unstable, and no effective way to filter them besides the overstretched sections and priorities. I use apt-cache search|show and apt-get install because of this, but that doesn't mean I don't want to consider recommends or suggests.

    -Rob

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 1)
    by joeyh on Saturday, June 09 @ 16:46:05 BST
    (User Info) http://kitenet.net/~joey/

    However, note that dpkg itself does not offer suggests/recommends to the user when they install packages. While I like suggests/reccomments relationships a lot (one of the two main reasons I continue to use dselect), I'm not so sure they belong in lower-level tools like dpkg and apt-get.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 2, Informative)
    by MadHack (madhack@nospam.debian.org) on Tuesday, June 12 @ 20:29:05 BST
    (User Info) http://www.madhack.com/~madhack

    I'm not convinced that we should still be thinking of apt as purely a low-level tool. Most of the Debian users I know, from casual desktop users to sysadmins with lots of Debian boxes doing a variety of things, use primarily apt-get to install packages.

    Despite its original intentions, apt-get is no longer a low-level tool by most definitions. Certainly it's not at the same level as, say, dselect or aptitude, but as a command-line tool it's become fairly commonly used for user purposes. I don't think it should be re-architected or anything; I just think a few additions to allow it to have some intelligence about such relationships would be a nice and useful thing.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 1)
    by ressu (ressu@debianplanet.org) on Saturday, June 09 @ 17:43:00 BST
    (User Info) http://www.uusikaupunki.fi/~ressu

    how about Just showing what other packages recommend. this would satisfy a few needs.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: -1, Redundant)
    by Anonymous on Friday, June 08 @ 22:31:08 BST

    While you make valid points, I think that you're forgeting that apt is primarily a command line tool, meant to be used in scripts and such. And while most people use "apt-get update ; apt-get upgrade" your suggestions would make scripting needlessly difficult.

    Personally, I use apt when I want a quick upgrade without thinking about it. I use deselect to peruse and make selections. I really don't find anything wrong with this arrangement.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 1)
    by Anonymous on Friday, June 08 @ 22:32:17 BST

    Sorry for the double post, I got an error when I hit ok.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Saturday, June 09 @ 06:25:23 BST

    I personally find the default behaviour of dselect to mark packages for installation to be so annoying that I tend to avoid it at all costs. 90% of the time, I use pure apt. Whether or not this is recommended is irrelevant, it's how the tools are being used. Obviously the real needs of the users were overlooked, and things must change.

    Sorry, but there's so damn much in dselect as well, that I can rarely find what I'm looking for. apt-cache rocks. Dselect misses the point. Command-line output can be combined with other Unix tools like grep and cut. That is where the real power is.

    [ Reply ]


    Alternatives to dselect (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Saturday, June 09 @ 09:45:48 BST

    I used to use dselect, but now I use aptitude. I think it's easier to use - it solves the problem of a massive list by having a foldable tree of packages.

    There are some other interfaces to apt too: kpackage, gnome-apt, stormpkg, deity. I haven't tried these yet.

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Alternatives to dselect (Score: 1)
    by ressu (ressu@debianplanet.org) on Saturday, June 09 @ 18:28:43 BST
    (User Info) http://www.uusikaupunki.fi/~ressu

    for me aptitude is the one.. i had an interesting debate with tausq a while back where we tried to find out why i like aptitude more than deity.. neither one of us got an answer for that question, and i still use aptitude =)

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 1)
    by drone0709 on Saturday, June 09 @ 16:06:29 BST
    (User Info)

    Have any of you used console-apt, this is a very easy to navigate tool and much easier for the newbie (ie me) to understand rather than dselect.

    Console-apt gives a tree view of package dependencies (installing them automatically)and lists recommends and surgests (to the best of my knowledge)

    Just my 1 pence, but its what i use to upgrade my testing distro and I like it

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Sunday, June 10 @ 12:34:10 BST

    I tried console-apt (I think it?s called deity now) once but I couldn?t find out how to install the suggested pakages. It?s nice if it lists the pakages but it?s worthless if you could not select it to install.

    Moreover deity crashes fairly often with a segmentation fault.

    I think debian needs a working command line tool (or even a graphical frontend similar to stormpkg) in the near future to maintain it?s status as a distro with an good pakagig system (especially as other distributions are creating easy to use pakaging tools of their own).

    Nik

    [ Reply ]


    Re: Why must apt fall short of the mark? (Score: 2, Insighful)
    by arcterex on Wednesday, June 13 @ 00:48:54 BST
    (User Info)

    Wouldn't a better solution be to build a 'better' dselect? I've played with aptitude/deity and it's, well, not as easy as dselect 🙂 Course, I've grown up with dselect and feel very comfortable in it. Wouldn't it make more sense if dselect was made better while apt-get remained a command line tool?


    To be honest I wouldn't object to a --recommends/suggests option as well, but 99% of the time I use apt-get to install a specific package, and dselect to search for new ones, and quite enjoy the recommands/suggests it gives.

    [ Reply ]


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