Subject: Re: Kaffe 1.0.5 build failure - NetBSD 1.4.2 (mips,pmax)
To: Robert D. Mohr <>
From: David Maxwell <>
List: tech-pkg
Date: 04/16/2000 21:35:46
On Sun, Apr 16, 2000 at 07:41:04AM -0400, Robert D. Mohr wrote:
> "My own experience of compiling netbsd ports (xemacs, mozilla, kaffe, etc.)
> is that generally you need to figure out how the program works, at least
> the weird runtime stuff that tends to break, and do a bit of debugging in
> order to get it running!!"

Well, certainly two of the packages you mention are 'special' cases, at
least in my way of looking at the package system. I'm referring to
Mozilla and Kaffe. Mozilla is pretty early in development, and Kaffe has
appeal to a more limited set of users. (xemacs should be pretty normal, I
would have thought)

Where third-party software hasn't been written in a platform independant
way, it may require a lot of patching before it works (or works well) on
some of NetBSD's non-Intel architectures.

> the typical UNIX software installation.  For instance...  I was able to get
> mozilla running without having to know anything about "wierd runtime
> stuff"...  Granted, there must be some compile option left on someplace in
> the code that keeps sending annoying debug screens up while I'm running
> it... but it *does* work.

Have you mentioned those on tech-pkg? That would be the best list for
unexpected behaviour from installed packages.

> running.  But honestly, I think that much of the software in the package
> distribution is missing documentation that could greatly ease the learning
> curve required for the more novice users of the OS.  

Could you give an example of something it would have been helpful to know?
Most packages install whatever documentation comes with the software either
as manpages, or /usr/pkg/share/doc or /usr/pkg/share/examples, depending
on the format.

> (Side note:  perhaps a
> gang of newbies trying to install packages on various different ports could
> provide useful feedback for the port and package masters?  If so I would be
> willing to lend time to such an effort.  It might be the best way to
> identify what documentation is working, and what needs improvement.)

Volunteers are always welcome. Feedback is always welcome too. Feel free to
post on tech-pkg, or email me if you prefer.

> Speaking of which...  Why is it that every time a question is posed in a
> NetBSD forum... Someone comes back with the inevitable "have you read the
> man page on that?" question?.  I suppose there are those people out there
> who are too lazy to have checked the appropriate FAQ's and man pages before

Often the piece of information that is missing is 'where to find the answer'
rather than what the answer is. I'm sure people don't intend to be rude, but
there isn't a lot of benefit pasting man pages into mailing lists. Answering
questions that aren't covered, is another matter, of course.

> asking a question...  however, I suggest that you take a look at the FAQ and
> manpages in general and ask yourself...  "If I was just starting with NetBSD
> and UNIX in general today...  would I have a *clue* what was meant by most
> of the greek contained in those documents?".  Or even have a clue where to
> look to find what you need?   (Yes... I found the apropos command early and
> have made frequent use of it...)

It depends. Once past a certain skill level, people more greatly appreciate
being able to quickly find a brief answer without being buried in hand-holding.
What type of information do you think would have been useful early on?

> As a final closing note... perhaps it would be useful to add a mailing list
> called netbsd-newbies, a forum in which it would be okay to post a message,
> even if you didn't have the skills required to program a micro-kernel in
> your sleep....

netbsd-help and netbsd-users would be the best for that. It's expected that
more 'newbie' type questions will show up there.

If you want to discuss how to improve the documentation in detail, it would
probably find the best audience on netbsd-advocacy.

David Maxwell,| -->
All this stuff in twice the space would only look half as bad!
					      - me