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Re: Introducing GNU Guix

From: Brandon Invergo
Subject: Re: Introducing GNU Guix
Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2012 11:17:44 +0100
User-agent: Notmuch/0.14 ( Emacs/24.2.1 (x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu)

> I am pleased to announce GNU Guix, an on-going project to build a
> functional package manager and associated free software distribution of
> the GNU system.

Congrats on the release! I'm looking forward to running a Guix-based
system soon :)

> The ROADMAP file sketches the current plan.  GNU hackers are encouraged
> to add their package to the distribution.  A distribution built by GNU
> hackers is a great opportunity to improve consistency and cohesion in GNU!
> The TODO file details some of the many ways you can help.

As previously promised, I do intend to write a script to convert GSRC
build scripts to Guix scripts. Unfortunately I got delayed because the
GSRC scripts I inherited and contributed to since taking over as
maintainer were an unholy mess and would have been a complete chore to
parse. Just last night I finally finished cleaning up and standardizing
all of the scripts. I'm still working my way through them to check the
build status of each one, since it turns out that some of the scripts I
inherited but had not yet looked at don't actually do anything, while
some old packages seem to have slipped into a bitrotten torpor.

Anyway, the point is that I'll soon be in a proper position to start
converting them. I'll let you know. Future development will be on
Savannah now instead of Gitorious, right?

I do have an important question/point to bring up. The GNU project now
has several similar packages that deal with software packaging and
installation. I think it would be important to clarify the distinct use
cases of all of these, and to consider how they can interoperate,
because I think there is some significant overlap between them. To my
knowledge, we now have: 

* Guix: a functional package manager, can form the basis of a distribution
* GSRC: a collection of BSD Ports-like build scripts for GNU software,
    not intended as a distribution but rather as a supplement to a
    distribution's own software collection. Has some light package
    management features (no db but keeps track of what is installed in
    per-package text files)
* Sourceinstall: simplifies the process of installing software from a
    source tarball if the package follows the standard GNU build/install
    procedure. Has some package management features (db of installed
    packages, but does not handle the fetching of the tarball from an
    online source). I think its dependence on the GNU standard makes it
    too inflexible to be the foundation of a distro as is,  but I don't
    know that for sure. Documentation is scarce.
* Swbis: I'm not totally clear on this one but it implements some POSIX
    software packaging and distributed installation standard. To be
    honest, its use is not very clear from the documentation unless you
    already know what it is supposed to do. Can anyone explain it better?

Obviously, I'm interested in maintaining a clear picture of the use of
GSRC when something more powerful like Guix is available. It's best, I
think, to consider it important for users of other distros who want to
install GNU software when: a) they don't have permission to install
system-wide, b) their distro does not provide the latest/desired
version, c) their distro does not provide the "plain/vanilla" version,
d) their package manager does not allow to easily rebuild a package from

It's presumable/understandable that a Guix-based distro user would not
need to use GSRC (and, in fact, as a user of Parabola, I don't even
really need to use it since I don't fit into any of those use cases).

What about Sourceinstall? I see a lot of overlap with the GSRC use cases
as it is now. What I would be interested in seeing is if
libsourceinstall can be adapted to use Guix and/or GSRC build scripts,
so that the user can have a Gtk-based GUI for installing packages. Can
the Sourceinstall maintainer, if he's reading this, clarify if that's

And finally, swbis...I have absolutely no idea where that fits
in. Anyone?


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