About forwarding bugs and patches to Debian and documenting your changes

Lucas Nussbaum lucas at lucas-nussbaum.net
Wed Jun 18 08:44:56 BST 2008

On 17/06/08 at 20:11 -0500, Nicolas Valcarcel wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 5:52 AM, Lucas Nussbaum <lucas at lucas-nussbaum.net>
> > Secondly, you generally could improve a lot at documenting your changes.
> > If you put more effort on properly documenting what you change in your
> > packages, it would allow Debian developers to understand why you made a
> > specific change, and they would be a lot more likely to merge the change
> > in the Debian package (which means less work for you during the next
> > merge). If a DD can't figure out why you made a change, it's likely that
> > he won't ask you, and will just ignore the change.
> Can you please give an example of that i don't think i'm fully understanding
> your point (not a real example, just whatever comes to your mind first)

Sure. Here are a few examples:

+  * Merge from debian unstable, remaining changes:
+    - usbmount creates /var/run/usbmount if it does not exist.
If you said that this breaks the package on systems where /var/run is
emptied at boot time (which is FHS-compliant), it would probably help.
(also, you might want to push that change to a release goal in Debian
for lenny+1, that would allow to fix all those packages at the same

+  * debian/control: add missing libxext-dev build-dependency (fixes
If you said that this was going to be needed in Debian with libx11
2:1.1.4-2, I'm sure more maintainers who have merged it.

+  * debian/rules: Set ARCH_FLAG
(where the diff in debian/rules is:)
+ARCHFLAG = -B $(shell dpkg-architecture -qDEB_BUILD_ARCH)
Everybody can see that you set ARCHFLAG (not ARCH_FLAG, btw). Why was
that necessary? Which problem is it fixing? Is Debian affected as well?

+  * debian/patches/03_missing_includes.dpatch: Added. Fixes FTBFS
Under which conditions does it FTBFS? Is Debian affected as well, or
likely to become affected as well?

+  * Merge from debian unstable, remaining changes:
+    - Use dpatch
+    - debian/patches:
+      * kubuntu_01_branch_patch.dpatch
+      * kubuntu_02_installer_mode.dpatch
+      * kubuntu_03_fix_desktop_file.dpatch
+      * kubuntu_04_libparted17.dpatch
+      * kubuntu_05_german.dpatch
+      * kubuntu_06_english.dpatch
+      * kubuntu_07_root_is_sudo.dpatch
$ grep "^+## DP:" xxxxxxxxxx-3ubuntu1.patch 
+## DP: No description.
+## DP: No description.
+## DP: No description.
+## DP: No description.
+## DP: Fix mistakes in German translation, thanks to Christian A.
+## DP: Fix mistakes in English strings.
+## DP: Replace references to root and fix some sentence in the Catalan
Patches without description....

> > It would be great if, in addition to listing the remaining changes in
> > the last changelog entry, you could also list for each change:
> > - the URL of the corresponding Ubuntu bug (if any)
> > - the URL of the corresponding upstream bug (if any)
> > - the URL of the corresponding Debian bug (if any)
> > - a summary of the changes (pointing to URLs explaining the context of
> >  the change, if possible/needed)
> > - whether the change is Ubuntu-specific, or should be merged upstream
> >  or in Debian (with a rationale if is Ubuntu-specific)
> >
> We already work like this, we use to use (LP: #XXXX) which means Launchpad
> Bug report #XXXX as DD's use (Closes: #XXXX), so there is no much more to do
> for LP Bugs (Ubuntu ones). For the upstream and debian bugs we link them on
> the LP Bug report, so if the DD is interested on following links he can from
> them, with this i'm not saying is the best to do and rejecting your
> suggestions, just noticing it if you didn't know it, maybe is not as good as
> it could and we can do it better, so if you have anything to add please do
> it.

Linking to bugs is a good thing, but many changes are done without any
bug in launchpad (or the bug wasn't linked in the changelog). So
answering the "But why are you making this change? Should I merge it in
the Debian package?" question requires a lot of effort. I'm not asking
you to write a ten-line rationale for the patch. Often, 1 to 3 lines
should be enough. And you could link to a wiki page to provide a more
detailed explanation of the problem.

For example, instead of:
+  * debian/control: add missing libxext-dev build-dependency (fixes FTBFS).
You could write:
+  * debian/control: add missing libxext-dev b-dep. See
+    http://wiki.ubuntu.com/Changes/libext-dev
+    Should be merged in Debian.
And then, explain on the wiki that Ubuntu ships a more recent libx11,
where the dep on libext-dev was removed, so many packages needed to be
updated, and the change will arrive in Debian too, so it's better if the
Debian maintainer fixes it as well.
| Lucas Nussbaum
| lucas at lucas-nussbaum.net   http://www.lucas-nussbaum.net/ |
| jabber: lucas at nussbaum.fr             GPG: 1024D/023B3F4F |
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