submit your own dependency-resolution issue, a-la popcon

[ repost from the original, with updates ]

During the question time of my FOSDEM 2010 talk about cross-distro dependency resolution several interested people, mostly sysadms, asked how they could contribute upgrade scenarios to the Mancoosi project. The underlying idea is simple: we are working on improving dependency resolution techniques, algorithms, and tools; to that end we need a corpus of upgrade scenarios where shortcomings of state of the art tools can be observed. We already have quite some of such scenarios (partly provided by members of the project, partly generated in vitro, etc.), but we could use more.

So, I'm hereby happy to announce the public availability of the mancoosi-contest package, for Debian-based distributions. mancoosi-contest essentially offers a wrapper, called dudf-save, that you can prepend to usual invocations of package managers such as apt-get and aptitude. What it does is to capture all package meta-data concerning your request, as well as the request itself and the package manager output. All these data are first compacted using snapshot.d.o hashes, then collected into a DUDF document, and finally (optionally) uploaded to a DUDF collector service. All in all it is very similar to the popularity-contest architecture, but instead of collecting installed packages it collects specific upgrade attempts.

The similarity of course extends to privacy concerns, which we do take very seriously (censoring IP addresses and offering all the software we write and run available under FOSS licenses for scrutiny). Obviously, participation is completely optional and the mancoosi-contest package is currently being provided only unofficially by the Mancoosi project (even though it is signed by my key, in case you want a trust path from the Debian keyring).

All that said, if, one day, you feel like having stumbled upon a challenging upgrade scenario, please consider contributing it using mancoosi-contest. We, for once, would be grateful :-) , and you will be helping in improving the state of the art in dependency solving. Some of the most interesting upgrade scenarios already received are currently being used as material for the ongoing MISC 2010 competition, which we plan to repeat in the future.

Technically, dudf-save is still quite hackish and while apt-get support is OK-ish, aptitude support is sub-optimal. In particular it will work properly only for "completely batch" aptitude sessions (or, better, it will not catch any intermediate solving attempt that aptitude goes through when interactively asking questions to the user).

You can get mancoosi-contest from, i.e. simply doing apt-get install mancoosi-contest after having added the following APT repository to your sources.list:

    deb unstable/

For the time being, bug reports can be sent to me.