I have written a few posts on debianising haskell packages in the past. Back then I stopped looking at it because of the age of the ghc-related packages in Debian Sid. Things have since improved and I’ve finally found some time to revisit the problem. This isn’t however a technical post, but rather a post on the strategy I think would be best for making Debian the best Haskell development environment in the universe.
In my opinion there is no point in trying to get all packages on Hackage into Debian proper. The few Debian developers (DD) who are interested in Haskell and maintain the existing packages are already terribly short on time and adding further burden would improve the chance of timely availability of GHC in the future. Sure, it would be possible to recruit more DDs with an interest in Haskell (I’ve considered in the past to try to become a DD, but the timing was off on both sides and I decided to postpone it) but it would take time. Maintaining 1000 packages is a huge task, and would require quite a large team I think. I suspect the recruiting would be such that if one were to plot the number of packages the team could maintain as it grew over time, compared to the number of packages on Hackage, then the lines would diverge rather than converge
Instead I think all packages on Hackage should first be debianised and put in a source-only repository. As some packages grow in importance and get added into Debian proper (e.g. a killer-app written in Haskell) then it and its dependencies are removed.
I believe that with this solution it’d be possible to quickly make a large part of Hackage available on Debian while still giving the DDs time to grow the number of “Haskell-friendlies” within Debian.
This of course rests on a few assumptions:
- It would require a smaller team to maintain source packages than binary packages. At least it would require less time from DDs.
- There is some space to store the source packages, ideally non-Debian space since that would mean even less involvement required by DDs.
- There’s a tool available in Debian that makes it easy for end-users to download, compile, and install source packages.
- There’s a tool that automates the creation of a Debian source package from a Cabal package.
In my optimism I’ve decided to not worry about the two first points and instead focus on the last two. Besides the optimism they also feel like the points I can actually address on my own, I’ll need help with the first two.
The tool in Debian for handling source packages is
apt-src. In my opinion it will suffice, but if the developer would address one issue then it would be perfect.
The tool for automating the creation of Debian source packages could be
cabal-debian. It is a very good tool, and it seems to be suited for maintaining Debian packages. I only have two objections to it. The first objection I have is that it is almost too well engineered; it does more than is necessary, e.g. there is no need to maintain proper changelogs in the source repo. The second is that it requires all dependencies of a package to be installed when it’s debianised. It is almost certainly the tool for the team charged with maintaining a large set of Cabal-based packages in Debian proper, but for the source-repo it might be too much. Because of that I’ve started hacking on a simplistic tool that I feel would be better suited for the source-repo.