Policy is your friend

July 24, 2009

On the debian developers mailing list madduck asked about various package checking tools in debian. The resulting discussion revealed how many tools there are in debian to check packages; tools like piuparts, PET, and packagecheck. In contrast to Maemo, debian hackers seemed to be obsessed with the quality of their packages. The mantra “Policy is your friend” is ubiquitous in debian.

I don’t want to place the differences between the two projects in a negative light since the goals are so different. Debian aims to be an easy to use operating system whereas Maemo is a device. Maemo developers often want the device to do cool things, for them packaging is an after-thought. This is why there is a maemo.org debmaster of course; to help developers with packaging and integrate into the operating system so they can focus on cool features and libraries.

Having a debian background I am constantly thinking about the overall system, trying to assure that packages install well, that things “just work” for users. This sometimes makes me wonder if I am doing everything I can for maemo developers and what is the most effective way to encourage best practices and assure quality. While I am excited by the work Niels has done with package promotion and the potential that maemian has, I feel there is more that one can do. While I am sure it is boring to many developers, packaging policy is critical for building the kind of tools that Niels has built. You need to know that the developer has submitted the right email address, declared the correct dependencies, etc. Policy truly is your friend.

I hope to get the chance to speak about packaging at the Maemo Summit, I have submitted a talk anyway, we’ll see if it gets accepted. I also would like to encourage developers who target the Maemo platform to think more about making life easier for their users – after all, it will bring you more users if you can easily install and use your application. I would also like to know more specifically where the pain is, what sucks about the QA process, what sucks about packaging (aside from having to do it at all. :P) Let’s make packaging policy a tool to make everyone’s life easier.

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