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rpm groups and fedora: a modest proposal

One of the vestigial tags in the rpm format is "Group". Long ago, this was
used by the installer to sort out packages by function, to make it easier to
choose what you wanted installed. But recent installers don't really use
this -- it was found to be more maintainable to keep this metainformation in
the 'comps' file, external to the packages themselves. 

And, although this isn't intrinsic to the rpm-group vs. comps-group switch,
the rpm-groups tend to be organized so that you look at the group and pick
which members you want (chosing, for example, GNOME from "User
Interface/Desktops") while the comps-groups are the other way around: pick
"GNOME Desktop", and it installs all the GNOME bits you might want. This is
generally better and more useful.

The canonical list of valid RPM groups is /usr/share/doc/rpm-*/GROUPS.
Theoretically, all packages should have a group listed here. But often,
there's not a very good fit -- does all science and math go under
"Applications/Engineering"? And even Fedora itself doesn't hold to this:
there's a bunch of random "Applications/CPAN", "Networking/Other",
"Desktop/Accessibility", and probably more.

Now, one approach would be to reevaluate the canonical list -- reorganize it
a bit, make some broader groups, and so on, and then make sure all packages
properly fit that list.

But that's not my suggestion. I think Group has become too ugly to be
properly saved. Applications like synaptic should instead use the comps file
groups for organizational purposes. In fact, there's already a lua script
for at-get to make it do exactly that. (I dunno what up2date does -- I
haven't used it.)

Meanwhile, the Group tag itself should be reduced in function. I suggest
very very vastly reduced: it should simply be "Core" for Fedora Core,
"Extras" for Fedora Extras, "Legacy" for Fedora Legacy, and "Alternatives"
for Fedora Alternatives.

Or, if that's too much like the big disttags argument, it should simply be
"Fedora", and then phased out completely. (Packages with no group would
default to "Fedora", and then it could eventually stop being listed in the
spec file completely.)

Matthew Miller           mattdm mattdm org        <http://www.mattdm.org/>
Boston University Linux      ------>                <http://linux.bu.edu/>

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