[Debian-l10n-devel] Removing long descriptions / english from Packages files

Joerg Jaspert joerg at ganneff.de
Wed Aug 12 22:47:46 UTC 2009

Heyho everyone,

i hope I have everyone copied in that needs to be. If not please feel
free to forward/add more/whatever is appropriate.

As I already said multiple times in the past, ftpmaster does want to get
rid of long descriptions in the Packages files. This should get them
noticably smaller, so faster to download and probably also faster to
process. We do want to end up with english being handled just like any
other language is - as a translation pack available to download from
your nearest mirror.

 - smaller Packages files everywhere.
 - faster processing of the files due to less data in them
 - user that do not want english no longer need to download the double
   size of data.
 - user that do not want long description could opt out totally (if
   tools like aptitude/apt allow them to)

Now, it needs a bit of work and input from multiple teams inside Debian,
so lets start discussing what needs to happen / start working on it.

Lets start with l10n: I assume you do get new descriptions and updated
ones (english) from our Packages files? In that case there wouldn't be
the input for you anymore, so you couldn't provide us an english
"Translation". My current plan would be that the archive will provide
the english translation file, so you can grab that and do with it
whatever you do today with Packages.
If that does work for you, it will mean in the i18n tree *we* will
provide Translation-en.bz2, you fetch that, you get that back to us in
the normal way. Or somehow like this.

It will also mean changes to apt-ftparchive, so lets get to the apt
It would mean changes to apt-ftparchive, so it can (at least in generate
mode) output the description in a different file. That files layout is
simple 822 format of lines as

Package: $PACKAGE
Description-md5: $MD5
Description-en: $DESCRIPTION, short and long

which should be easy enough to output. When such an output file is
configured, the descriptions should no longer get written to the
Packages files.

(Sidenote: Can we PLEASE DROP MD5 when we are going to work on it?)

Do you see any problem with us simply going this way and throwing away
descriptions, without providing backward "compatibility" files for one
release? I just did a short test and neither apt-get nor aptitude nor
apt-cache did fail on a missing long description (note that we keep the
short one!). So the only bad point I see from a users POV is that on
dist-upgrade time they will, for a short timeframe, see packages without
a description, unless they use a translation anyways. Actually - would
apt just start to download the Translation-en.bz2 file if it appears to
be there?
*I* think missing long descs right in the middle of a dist-upgrade is of
small enough impact, especially as we want people to update apt and
friends first in a seperate step anyways and can be dealt with with a
proper paragraph in the release notes, and its not bad enough for us to
have a legacy file around for a year.

But I may have missed an important tool breakage, so feel free to
correct me.

If possible I would want to have this done within the next few weeks.

Current workload seems to be:

 - Find out if anything breaks if long descriptions are now elsewhere.

 - Modify apt-ftparchive to be able to output long descriptions into a
   different file.
   apt-maintainer: I do not speak C++ myself, so I am unable to provide
   a patch. :(
   Can you, (i don't know your workload) implement this change sometime
   soon, and if so can you give me a rough timeline for it?
   If you don't have time for this I can go and ask via planet, and will
   probably get help and a patch from there. Leaves integration and
   upload "only" for you.
   As I do need this on ftp-master machine too, it would even rock if we
   could backport that function in apt-ftparchive to stable, if not I
   have to backport the whole apt and depends, which I would rather

 - Modify the l10n side (and here its partly guess-work from me what
   needs to happen) to use the new file for the english descriptions as
   input, and adapt the sync process l10n<->ftpmaster. Also who of you
   is/will be behind this?

bye, Joerg
> Or write yourself a DFSG-free replacement for that piece of software.
Using the copy and paste method from the old source, obscured by 
irrelevant changes.
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