[Pkg-ruby-extras-maintainers] Re: Debian/Ruby and RubyGems

Branden Robinson / Debian Project Leader leader at debian.org
Fri Sep 30 06:15:54 UTC 2005

Hi Paul,

Please excuse my somewhat hasty reply.

On Sun, Sep 25, 2005 at 02:09:28PM +0200, Paul van Tilburg wrote:
> Hi Branden,
> I am mailing on behalf of the Debian/Ruby Extras team.  Note that this
> team indeed is new and still growing.  The team concerns itself only
> with libraries and applications that not belong to the Ruby core stuff
> (standard library, interpreter etc.).  That part is still in the hands
> of our crafted Japanese developers.


> It seems that because of the past split-up of the Ruby core packages[0],
> Debian has fallen in discredit within the growing Ruby community.  We
> have worked hard to get it all fixed for sarge, but now a new issue has
> come up: RubyGems.  All seems to collapse again, we are taking "heavy
> fire".

Hrm, not good.

> RubyGems[1] is a system for creating and distributing Ruby upstream
> packages.  However it does not seem to work well with other
> distributions[2] such as ours because of two (maybe more) critical
> design decisions they seem to be willing to revise:
> * A gem consists of one dir and is installed as such.  This means that
>   installing a gem would install some files in /var/lib/rubygems/<gem>
>   and this can be any (combination of) binary libs, arch-indep Ruby libs,
>   scripts/binary apps, data files and this will violate the FHS.
> * The packaging requires changes in upstream source[3]. The require_gem
>   adds the gem dir to the load path of Ruby so it can find the library.
>   Note that there is no mapping between the gem name and the library,
>   we can not write some stub solving this.

I see.

> Now, RubyGems is about to be moved to CVS HEAD of Ruby and becoming
> mainstream.  We have uttered some criticism, but it seems there is no
> willingness to listen[4].  (You must know that this Austin Ziegler guy
> seems to have had bad Debian experiences and one must see through all
> his FUD.)

Also not good.

> I've summed some of the issues up on our Wiki:
> http://pkg-ruby-extras.alioth.debian.org/cgi-bin/wiki/index.cgi?RubyGems
> Generally, this is the same as having CPAN, PHP-pear in Debian, except
> that this is much more high-profile.  Having both RubyGems and Debian
> lib pkgs will inadvertedly lead to a mess, but can we remove this choice
> for our users?  Can and should we bypass the whole system?  Should we go
> with IMO unclean solutions as converting a gem to a deb[5] or shipping a
> binary gem within a binary deb and install/remove it in the
> post-install/pre-rm scripts as suggested? 
> Why mail you?  Well first of all, you have much experience in packaging,
> also have you been a part of the project a long time and may know
> similar problems.  Secondly we hope that you can give us some advice or
> refer us to other developers struggling or have struggled with this.

Here's what I think:

1) Get this problem higher visibility.  Your mail to me was the first I've
heard of it.  I can of course help you with that, by mentioning in the
issue in my DPL report, but first I think it might be a good idea to raise
its profile to Debian developers generally.  Of course, I may have
overlooked this because 1) I'm buried alive in email, and 2) I'm not a Ruby
programmer.  But still.  When seeking advice of this sort, I think it's a
good idea to get multiple sources.

2) The problem sounds superficially similar to the .jar/package problem
that the GNU/Linux distributions are fighting with and which was discussed
at great length at the Debian Java DevJam in Oldenburg this past weekend.
Fedora Core in particular has developed some technology for grappling with
jar identities within packages, and jpackage.org is tracking dependencies
between them.

This week's LWN has a write up about this by Mark Weilaard, who was present
at the meeting.  All Debian developers are eligible for a subscription;
Bdale Garbee <bdale at debian.org> is the contact point for this.

Here's the URL:


I hope my advice was of some help.

> 0: http://lists.debian.org/debian-ruby/2004/08/msg00002.html
> 1: http://docs.rubygems.org/read/chapter/1
> 2: http://docs.rubygems.org/read/chapter/14#page62
> 3: http://lists.debian.org/debian-ruby/2005/02/msg00009.html
> 4: http://ruby-talk.org/cgi-bin/scat.rb/ruby/ruby-core/5853
> 5: http://ruby-talk.org/cgi-bin/scat.rb/ruby/ruby-core/5958

G. Branden Robinson
Debian Project Leader
leader at debian.org
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