OCaml support on Ubuntu & Proposal to improve it

James Westby jw+debian at jameswestby.net
Sat Sep 27 10:35:00 UTC 2008

On Sat, 2008-09-27 at 12:26 +0200, David MENTRE wrote:
> [ Bcc: to Erik and Stefano for information. ]
> Hello,
> == Current situation ==
> I am a user of the OCaml programming language and I switched from Debian
> to Ubuntu a few years ago.
> While I'm very satisfied by Ubuntu for the desktop, the OCaml support on
> Ubuntu is quite flaky. The main reason behind that is that OCaml has
> *very* stringent dependencies between its various packages (at both the
> core compiler level and at the various libraries and programs level)
> that needs careful synchronization. If one makes a batch import of
> Debian packages into Ubuntu at a random time, it is pretty sure that it
> will break.
> Hopefully, there is not that much to do on the Ubuntu side. As Debian
> developpers are doing a wonderful job for OCaml support on Debian, one
> only needs to supervise careful synchronizations from Debian to Ubuntu.
> == Proposal ==
> I'm volunteering to help improve the OCaml support on Ubuntu.


That's good to hear.

> I do not plan to become an Ubuntu developer (i.e. make packages for
> Ubuntu) but I do plan to:
>  1. Follow Debian side development and tell the Ubuntu side when to
>     synchronize for one or more Debian packages;

That's a good plan. A pair of keywords here will be "sync request". Once
you have identified a set of packages that meet the dependency 
requirements during the development phase of a release you can ask for
that set to be pulled from Debian.

It does require some work to test build all of the packages and check 
that they all install and work as you expect, but you will generally
be able to avoid writing patches etc.

>  2. Build a kind of status table to have on overview of OCaml packages
>     under Ubuntu;

That's sounds like a good idea. Being able to track things is important
to knowing where the problems are.

> == To do list and call for help ==
> It is probably too late to do anything for Intrepid Ibex, but my aim is
> to improve OCaml support for the next Ubuntu release.
> Is somebody willing to mentor me in that process?

I would say that asking questions on #ubuntu-motu on IRC, or the 
ubuntu-motu mailing list will get you some help when you get stuck.
There is a formal mentoring scheme, but I'm not sure how well it
would suit you, you may wish to discuss it with the organisers
of that scheme.

> What specific documentation should I read? (I already looked at the wiki
> but the documentation is *huge*)


would be a good place to start I would say.

> Is there any other mailing list I should subscribe to?

I would suggest ubuntu-motu, but it's not vital.



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