[OT] Debian mailinglists [was: RE: Debian or Ubuntu?]

Avi Greenbury avismailinglistaccount at googlemail.com
Tue May 20 16:42:41 UTC 2008

On Tue, 20 May 2008 12:51:37 -0300
Derek Broughton <news at pointerstop.ca> wrote:
> > Yes. Less necessary hand editing is always a good thing. But
> > hand-editing is sometimes the ideal solution IMO.
> > I much prefer quickly changing, say, the resolution value in my
> > xorg.conf file than running dpkg-reconfigure and *hoping* that
> > somewhere along the way it'll ask me. 
> But again, that's a deficiency in dpkg-reconfigure (actually debconf) and
> not an argument against configuration tools in general.
I'd suggest that any automated configuration tools are infinitely more
prone to that kind of problem than plain text-editing ones, though.

When I want to reconfigure the whole of X, or make some change for
which I am not sure of the setting in xorg.conf, then debconf comes in
incredibly handy. 
But if I'm editing something where I *know* the value I want, and where
I want to put it, I really can't think of anything more efficient than
opening the file up, putting the right value in the right place and
saving the file.
Any attempt to safeguard against my putting the wrong value in, or the
right value in the wrong place, is likely to get in the way.

> > A tool that won't let you write invalid config files is not necessarily
> > a Q+A tool.
> Indeed - but you'd have to convince me that there was actually a more
> efficient way to do it.  I cited visudo which actually prevents you from
> saving the sudoers file if it's not valid, but I consider that a
> half-solution.  
I can't help but think that any more a 'complete' solution would be
akin to removing the red wavy line under spelling mistakes in a word
processor, and instead opening up the spellcheck dialog box.

> Especially for something as simple as sudoers - you only
> need to know: who can have privilege, from what hosts, and what commands
> they can use.  That just cries out for a Q&A system.
Or, alternatively, a simple text file. Like visudo

> > I very much like the idea of one that doesn't let me write invalid
> > files, but I also don't want to have to respond to potentially badly
> > worded questions. And what if my language isn't supported? 
> That's still an argument against specific implementations, and not the
> concept of GUI config tools.
I can't see how a question and answer system can get round the problem
of question wordings without resorting to the exact wording of the text
file. In which case, it might as well *be* the text file.

> > To edit 
> > config files by hand just requires that I understand the contents of
> > the text file, 
> And that's the problem.  Most configuration changes are performed by users
> who have, at best, a _vague_ understanding of the contents of the text
> files.  
For a GUI tool to be powerful enough to satisfy the needs of the 'power
users', it must also be powerful enough that idiots can break their
systems. There are plenty of examples of failed attempts at compromise.
That's one way people stop being idiots - they break and they learn.

Avi Greenbury

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