Patch systems in packages

Jordan Mantha laserjock at
Tue Aug 19 18:10:19 BST 2008

On Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 9:25 AM, Steve Langasek
<steve.langasek at> wrote:
> On Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 11:31:27PM -0700, Jordan Mantha wrote:
>> On Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 9:49 PM, Nicolas Valcarcel
>> <nvalcarcel at> wrote:
>> >        Currently there is no policy about how to make changes in the packages,
>> > there are some good practices and a lot of developers try to use patch
>> > systems whenever they can and don't touch the source code outside
>> > debian/ directly, but that's still at the developer's discretion.
>> >        For that reason i wanted to start a discussion on the topic, to start
>> > working with debian on preparing the packages with a patch system, so we
>> > (and other derivatives) can make patches without the need of changing
>> > the packaging. Also i will suggest to the revu reviewers to ask the
>> > packagers to add a patch system on their packages.
>> >        What did you think about it? Any comments?
>> > 1.
>> I think our job as downstreams is to provide patches to Debian, not
>> tell them how to maintain their packages. IMO anyway, it's our
>> obligation to either 1) give ordinary diff patches 2) use whatever
>> patch system or lack thereof that upstream uses. There are so many
>> common ways to patch and maintain a package (debhelper, cdbs, quilt,
>> dpatch, svn, git, bzr ...) that I can't foresee a comprehensive,
>> archive-wide policy.
>> Additionally, IMO again, a primary goal of at least MOTU should be
>> minimizing the divergence from Debian. The more changes we make, and
>> the more useless they are (bumping standards version??) the more time
>> we spend maintaining the divergence and the less time we have for more
>> important tasks. Adding a patch system really *should not* be done in
>> Ubuntu. If we're maintaining that much divergence we need to talk to
>> Debian about how we can better minimize and maintain it.
> If you have more than one change to the upstream source of a Debian package,
> then you need some system to manage the changes to indicate which parts of
> the patch belong to which functional change -- i.e., a "patch management
> system".  This can be a set of VCS feature branches, if you prefer (in which
> case it's important to use the Vcs-* headers in debian/control in the Ubuntu
> upload), or it can be an in-package patch system; but it is important to
> have /some/ mechanism for labelling your changes so that you aren't left
> with a single massive diff.

My point was that if people are pushing patches upstream and talking
with Debian maintainers then I imagine Ubuntu adding a patch system
would be a quite rare occurrence. Certainly in Universe this should be
the case. Main seems to have more Ubuntu-side maintenance so I can see
it happening more there.

> If the Debian maintainer already has a patch system in place, it's far
> better to continue using that one (no matter how bad it is, sometimes);
> otherwise, adding a patch system *should* be done when needed.

For sure, I'm just saying that it's probably in our best interest to
not let divergence from Debian get so far that the "when needed" kicks
in. Most packages that have heavy patching usually already have a
patch system. For the not-so-often-patched packages it's better to
move changes upstream.


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