Re: Benefits (and risks) of using Sid

* Florian Kulzer <florian.kulzer+debian@xxxxxxx> [2008 Aug 09 07:29 -0500]:
On Wed, Aug 06, 2008 at 20:01:46 -0700, Daniel Burrows wrote:

[ snip: a bit of goofing off ]

I actually am curious to hear what people like about the program,
because I'm (slowly) working out ideas for redesigning the interface
and I don't want to accidentally break useful features. Any breakage
should be fully intentional, that's my motto.

Hence my oh-so-subtle prodding...

Here is a list of my favorite aptitude-interactive-UI features (I run
Sid; many of them are probably less relevant for "stable" users):

- browsing the list of new packages, then clearing it

- the quick way to evaluate aptitude's proposals for resolving
dependency conflicts during an upgrade

- the summary of the scheduled actions, especially the sorting in
categories (upgraded, installed as a dependency, removed since no
longer needed, etc.)

- Fine-grained control of installation of recommended and suggested
packages: Before any scheduled action is carried out, I can look at
the relevant list of recommended and suggested packages and decide
which ones I want to install and if I want to mark any given one as

- quickly put a hold or a forbid-version on a package

- looking at changelogs before I let aptitude do something

- consulting apt-listbugs and apt-listchanges before things actually
happen (I think that this one is the same in command-line use,

- the "limit view" function combined with the powerful search patterns
when I don't yet know which packages I need for $FEATURE

- quick traversal of dependency chains, forward and reverse, for the
rare cases in which aptitude cannot figure out what to do by itself

Excellent summary, Florian, and I found myself nodding that I've used
each and every one of these features on multiple occasions.

Some very subjective ideas for possible improvements (not necessarily
simplifications of the UI, though):

- Sometimes it would be handy if I could fine-tune the aggressiveness of
aptitude's conflict resolution behavior, i.e. when I notice that the
normal "U" behavior leads to undesirable actions then I would like to
be able to gradually move from "safe-upgrade" to "full-upgrade"
behavior while I can see what is going to happen in the interactive
interface. I could stop at the optimal point and would only have to
fix a few things manually.

Nice. That would be sweet.

- I would like to be able to declare "favorites" among packages, to
guide conflict resolution.


- It would be nice to have "apt-cache policy"-equivalent information in
the versions display of packages. Right now I find it difficult to
figure out in which archive a given version can be found. (As a matter
of fact, that is the only reason I still use apt-cache, aside from
very simple searches for which apt-cache's dumber-but-faster search
function is sufficient.)

Okay, here I'm out in left field as I don't know what apt-cache policy
would do. I tend to avoid policy whenever I can. ;-)

I am also looking forward to seeing how the summer-of-code GTK+
interface will turn out; maybe that will help to bring the remaining
benighted souls towards the light...

What convinced me to use Aptitude back in 2000/01 or whenever was the
improved way packages were grouped and displayed. Being informed of
new packages and then easily "forgetting" them has led me to discover
some things over the years that I would have missed. To me the killer
function of Aptitude is being able to start at some arbitrary package
and work one's way through its dependency chain, either what it depends
on or what depends on it.

For the record, I've yet to use Aptitude in commandline mode as I
always use the UI. I've nothing against a GUI package manager per se,
but I guess I'd rather reach for Aptitude since I now know it rather
than something else. Synaptic was going to involve its own learning
curve that I didn't care to devote time to so I just open a term window
and fire up Aptitude. Also, Aptitude does carry forward some of the
good aspects of dselect in the way the packages are presented. This is
very much like the IDE thread where some philosophies of EMACS and Vim
are presented. I can relate as far as Aptitude is concerned even
though I avoid both editors like the plague even though I spent a lot
of time last winter wanting to like EMACS. Go figure. :-/

- Nate >>


"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all
possible worlds. The pessimist fears this is true."

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