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Re: Add vendor configuration directory installation

From: Bruno Haible
Subject: Re: Add vendor configuration directory installation
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 2023 00:44:49 +0100

> On 2023-02-06 08:30, Valentin Lefebvre wrote:
> >      This patch add a new autoconf argument that allows installation
> > into the vendor configuration directory (/usr/etc/). Some linux
> > distribution now move system configuration files from /etc to /usr/etc.
> > See this ref: [0]....
> > [0]

I think that the proposed patch
  * is a wrong means to a right goal,
  * worse, invites packages to (perhaps inadvertently) restrict user freedom.

In detail:

From [0] and [1] I understand that the goal is:
  * to have configuration created by the OS vendor under /usr/etc,
    inside the read-only and possibly cryptographically secured /usr
  * to have configuration created by the administrator (user) under /etc,
  * to have, in the code, a mechanism by which the configuration in /etc
    overrides the configuration in /usr/etc. (At which level — the entire
    configuration, or by file, or by configuration element — is not clear,
    but is not relevant here.)

So, a package's "make install" goal should only ever install in *one*
of these two directories, namely
  - in /usr/etc when the build is done on behalf of a distro,
  - in $(prefix)/etc when the build is done on behalf of a user,
never in /etc.

The proposed patch "gives the opportunity for a project to install in both
location /etc and /usr/etc in same time".[1]

This is not good because
  - Installing in /usr/etc should be sufficient if the override mechanism
    has been implemented.
  - [PB2] Installing something in /etc would overwrite the administrator's
  - [PB3] It invites the package's authors to look up certain files in /etc
    (which is against one of the goals from [0] to be able to have a
    system with an empty /etc) and other files in /usr/etc (which takes
    away the freedom from the administrator to override the configuration,
    if he can't write in /usr).

The better solution is that:
  - Packages install their configuration in $(sysconfdir). This is easily
    done through Automake [2].
  - Distributors use --prefix=/usr and don't specify --sysconfdir, because
    its default value $(prefix)/etc is already appropriate.
  - Packages define a configure option for the /etc directory, e.g.
    through Autoconf [3].
  - Packages implement the said override mechanism, looking first in
    ETCDIR and then in SYSCONFDIR.

If we were to make it easy for packages to install in /etc, in addition to
$(prefix)/etc, the problems PB2 and PB3 mentioned above are likely to occur.



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