[Pkg-javascript-devel] Bug#614907: tech-ctte: please help maintainers of packages with a "node" command to have a reasonable conversation

Russ Allbery rra at debian.org
Wed May 2 23:50:12 UTC 2012

Ian Jackson <ijackson at chiark.greenend.org.uk> writes:

> I really feel it's unfair to allow johnny-come-lately's who couldn't be
> bothered to choose a reasonable name for their program, and who couldn't
> be bothered even to look up whether the name was already taken, to just
> blunder their way into stealing names like this.

> We should be pushing this pain back onto their users, if anyone.

I think this is the sort of decision that allows us to feel like we're
holding the moral high ground, but which is not really helpful to the
people who are just trying to get work done.  We're "punishing" people who
choose to use Debian instead of some other distribution that just shrugs
and goes with the popular choice, in a way that seems rather unlikely to
accomplish much with upstream, and seems rather more likely to get
upstream to just tell everyone that Debian sucks and they shouldn't use

And even if the punishment succeeds, it's not clear that does anyone any
good unless it forces an upstream renaming.  Maybe they regret having not
looked up a different name, but if the water is far enough under the
bridge, they're unlikely to do anything about it.  Or possibly even be
able to do anything about it in a practical sense.

The approach Fedora (well, the independent RPM repository for Fedora; it's
not a part of Fedora proper) took:

    Unfortunately, /usr/bin/node and related directories are already taken
    by the node package in the Fedora repositories. So as not to conflict
    with that package, the node interpreter is shipped as /usr/bin/nodejs
    and other directories are renamed similarly. If you do not use the
    node package and want to access node in it's usual location, simply
    install the nodejs-compat-symlinks package.

seems like a cop-out to me, and is mostly equivalent to just leaving both
packages in place and setting up a conflict.  (Which I suppose we could
also do.)

> Remember that it is only them who can change their name upstream, and
> this is definitely something they can do.  They could support it as an
> alternative.

Well, there are some limits even to what upstream can do.  Whether Node.js
has reached that point is debatable, but (to take an obvious example) even
if upstream wanted to rename python to something else, it's never going to
happen now.  You can reach a critical mass of external, independent
documentation where renaming just creates massive confusion and is
unlikely to achieve much.

> Or to put it more succinctly, I think justice is more important than
> expedience.

I'll avoid digressing into a political argument about justice in the
abstract, but I think it's important to be sure we're achieving an end
result that is useful for someone.  Justice doesn't run code or solve

All that said, if the ham radio node program were something run directly,
so that users were aware of its name and would have to adjust to a new
name, I think this would be a hard decision, because I do think that the
first people to use the name have a substantial claim to it.  But that
doesn't appear to be the case, and the renaming is mostly a matter of
fiddling with the inetd configuration on the system once.

Russ Allbery (rra at debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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