Thoughts for assisting those with limited bandwidth

Davyd McColl davydm at
Sat Jan 31 14:09:04 UTC 2009

I'm just putting this "out there", for some consideration and discussion.
I'm hoping someone can come up with a better idea than I have and that
perhaps there will be some kind of positive response to the request.

Here it is: whilst I totally appreciate all the hard work that goes into
patching and maintaining the current release version of large packages (like
the kernel,, or even just warsow, which has a large data
component), I don't appreciate a 78mb download every other day because one
config item in the kernel config has been changed or tweaked. I know there
are people who are sitting with hardware doing odd things or the like, who
need those patches, so I'm not expecting the development or release to cease
or slow in anyway -- I'm just wondering if there isn't a better way to
distribute the changes to the end user.

In particular, what comes to mind is how the modification of ONE kernel
module requires the re-download of the kernel, headers and (if, like me, you
have it installed) the kernel source package. Debian has an awesome
packaging system which has allowed the segregation of larger packages into
smaller, dependant ones so that changing something small doesn't have to
cause a monstrous bandwidth load for the end-user. I know that a lot of
people sitting on uncapped (or large-cap) broadband are thinking "who
cares?" but there are a lot of people (especially in the country of origin
for Ubuntu - South Africa - who get by on dial-up or a 1Gb capped
"broadband" (because it's not broadband by the standards of the rest of the
world) internet connection. Forcing a user like that to download 400-600mb
over a 2 or three weeks really eats into their allotted bandwidth.

So, the simplest proposal is to split out the kernel package into smaller
packages (much like XOrg, with the video drivers and other parts split out
separately) so that, for instance, a bug fix for intel wireless doesn't have
to cause a massive download for everyone, regardless of whether or not they
have intel wireless; conversely, it means that fixes can be conveyed to the
end-user as quickly as before (probably quicker, because of the smaller
download!). Getting more complex, one could look into binary diffs between
packages. But, using the existing architecture that is in place, simply
breaking the kernel up into smaller pieces will definitely help. I remember
a time when Debian had at least two packages for the kernel -- the image and
the modules, and the modules were just a dep of the image, so first-timers
got both. But updates to the image didn't require a re-download of the
modules and vice-versa.

Thoughts, anyone?
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