Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho

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en/debian/build-essential.txt

2005-01-13

On build-essential

The build-essential package is not a definition of the build-essential policy. The actual definition is given in the policy manual:

It is not necessary to explicitly specify build-time relationships on a minimal set of packages that are always needed to compile, link and put in a Debian package a standard "Hello World!" program written in C or C++. The required packages are called build-essential, and an informational list can be found in /usr/share/doc/build-essential/list (which is contained in the build-essential package).

The build-essential package is an informational list, it is documentation. The idea of the build-essential package is to document which packages are always needed to compile, link and put in a Debian package a standard "Hello World!" program written in C or C++. The build-essential package maintainer's main job is to make sure that the informational list is correct.

When I maintained build-essential, I got multiple bug reports asking (and sometimes demanding) that debhelper be added to the list of build-essential packages. I closed all such reports (#64827, #70014, I thought there were more but can't find them) with a suggestion that the proper place to make this request is the policy list, not the build-essential package bug list. In fact, when I asked for a new maintainer (Colin Walters ended up taking the package), I specifically listed the following requirement:

I consider the capacity to deal with stupid requests (like "plz add debhelper"; lately, there have been not so many of these) and an understanding of the relationship between this package and Policy as essential qualities of the maintainer of this package.

I'm a little concerned that the current build-essential maintainer apparently does not understand the relationship between the package and policy. For the build-essential package maintainer, it is irrelevant whether debhelper is used by 92 % of the archive. That argument might be a good one, but the proper place to make that argument is the policy list, seeking to amend policy in such a way that debhelper is included in the set of build-essential packages. But it is not the job of the build-essential package maintainer to decide it!

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