DEP14 policy for two dots

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Thu Nov 3 19:37:41 UTC 2016

Nish Aravamudan writes ("DEP14 policy for two dots"):
> [ Raphael, apologies for sending twice, had a error in the headers in
> the prior one ]
> Not sure exactly where to ask this better than debian-devel, but I am
> working on an importer for the Ubuntu Server team which parses published
> versions of source packages in Debian and Ubuntu. I ran into an issue
> today where there is a published version of src:pcre3 with version
> '8.30..2'. `man git-check-ref-format` says that reference names "cannot
> have two consecutive dots ..  anywhere." DEP14 specifies appropriate
> substitutions for : and ~, but it seems like .. should also be accounted
> for so I can correctly tag historic versions?

Urk.  How exciting.  I think we may need a more general escaping
scheme for these and other weirdnesses.

I have an interest as dgit uses DEP-14 tag escaping.  I have CC'd the
vcs-pkg list.

tl;dr: I think we should insert `#' characters as needed.

Looking at git-check-ref-format(1) and

  .    special to git, generally permitted in versions,
       and we want it usually to be literal - this is our problem

  ~    special to git, permitted in versions, handled by DEP-14 as _
  :    special to git, epoch in versions, handled by DEP-14 as %

  @    special to git (although sometimes allowed), forbidden in versions

  % _  not special to git but already used by DEP-14

  # , =
       not mentioned in the git manual as special, forbidden in versions

  ]    not special to git, although [ is so let's not, eh ?

  + -  not special to git, permitted in versions

  " ' $ & ( ) * ; < > ? `
       not mentioned in the git manual but troublesome shell
       metacharacters which we would be insane to use here

  [ / { }
       interpreted specially by git some of the time,
       forbidden in versions - not really useful

  ^ ? * \
       all of these are forbiden by git, not permitted in versions

So I think in fact the only thing we have a problem with is multiple
dots.  Looking at the summary above, we have the choice of one of

  #   Its use as a shell comment character is fine, because when inside
      a version tag it is always preceded by some string like
      "debian/" or "upstream/".  We would almost never need to put it
      at the start of the encoded version string anyway, and we have
      already tolerated a similar situation with ~.

      There is possible confusion with HTML fragment identifiers, and
      possibly in languages other than shell which use # for
      comments (athough hopefuly they aren't dealing with our versions
      as literals anyway).

   Proposed rule:

   Insert "#":
      - between each pair of adjacent dots
      - after any trailing dot
      - before any leading dot

        8.30..2 => 8.30.#.2
        8.30.   => 8.30.#
        .42     => #.42

  ,   I would like to avoid this because lots of people are probably
      using it as a list separator in ways that are difficult for us
      to predict.  If we used it, I would suggest the same as for #.

  =   In principle we could use this.  I don't like it for a similar
      reason to above.  If we did use it it might look a bit like
      Q-P encoding in some contexts.

  @   We could use this although I wouldn't like to rely on the fact
      that git dislikes `@{' and `@' but not @ followed by other

  % Reusing this is tempting because an epoch separator can never
      follow `.', so any `%' after any `.' would unambiguously mean
      `escape for dot rather than colon'.  But in principle `.' can
      occur at the start of the version, so `:3' and `.3' both =>
      `%3'.  There would have to be some horror of an exception rule.
      (Although `:3' and `3' compare equal as Debian versions, they
      are different textual strings and the tag needs to convey the
      whole string.)


Ian Jackson <ijackson at>   These opinions are my own.

If I emailed you from an address or, that is
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