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"alternatives" versus PATH

Fedora has shipped "alternatives" for a while now, but I still don't get it.

Why is "alternatives" better than setting your PATH appropriately? Why should "alternatives" override your path?

The notion of having an "editor" symlink which points to vim/emacs seems okay at first, but in practice, who's not going to just type 'emacs'?

If "alternatives" exists for the convenient use of users, I think that the UI needs work. Every time I need to configure a new alternative, it takes me quite a while to figure out what all the appropriate flags are (in particular, the "link" field seems to require knowledge of where "alternatives" is storing its directory of symlinks-- shouldn't this be automagic via a alternatives configuration file? The result should be that you would only need to provide name and path.)

I ask these questions sincerely hoping for answers-- I'm not trying to be difficult. At the moment, it seems like it'd be saner to NOT have alternatives, since I don't see what advantages the extra hoop-jumping yields.


PS: My latest experience went like this:

1. installed sun jdk to /opt/jdk
2. export PATH=/opt/jdk/bin:$PATH
3. cd into one of my java code bases
4. ant
5. gcj is invoked by ant, apparently due to alternatives.
6. gcj can't compile my code and I'm sad.

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