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X11 on "servers" (was: (AMI) usability)

At Sun, 08 Apr 2012 15:31:22 -0700, Jeff Rizzo <> wrote:
Subject: Re: (AMI) usability
> This is almost definitely a side-effect of libexpat being part of X11
> for NetBSD < 6, and nobody in their right mind installing X on a
> server.

That bit about X on server systems makes no sense whatosever.

Perhaps some folks have forgotten that X11 is a network based
client/server protocol intended to connect to a "remote" display
"server".  You put the X11 "clients" on your "server" so they can
connect to your display "server".

I.e. folks using X11 in their normal user environment actually want, and
sometimes even need, the X11 client programs to be installed on most, if
not all, of the host systems that they use.  These days for many of us
on higher-speed networks that may even include remote systems tucked
away (possibly virtually) in some remote data-centre/closet.

(Maybe the xserver.tgz bundle is not needed in its entirety, depending
on the host system hardware and how it is managed, though Xnest can be
handy, but certainly users do need/want xbase.tgz and xetc.tgz, and of
course xcomp.tgz if comp.tgz is also installed.)

Putting libexpat in xbase.tgz (and xcomp.tgz) was of course a silly
thing to do in the first place (even if at the time only X11-related
stuff depended upon it, it's clearly not really X11-specific itself and
never was, and the expat web page doesn't mention X11, and as far as I
know it never did), and using this system-supplied copy in binary
packages was even more silly in conjunction with the first issue.

Luckily NetBSD is far from alone in having this problem -- apparently
it's not even a *BSD-specific issue.

The decision to move it into base.tgz was clearly a compromise, though
ultimately I think it was correct and even ideal:

I think the missing thing is still that xbase.tgz (and xcomp.tgz) should
contain symlinks for the related files pointing to their new location in
base.tgz, and continue to do so for at least a year _and_ a full major
OS release have transpired.  Indeed postinstall(8) could even be used to
put them in place regardless of whether xbase.tgz is installed or not.

Ultimately of course to avoid such issues in the future pkgsrc needs to
be taught how to specify requirements in the base system.

Also, the lesson of the problems of squirrelling away general purpose
things in tight formation with special purpose things needs ongoing
teaching (this has long been a very serious problem in software
configuration management!)

Of course what I've said about libexpat doesn't really bolster my
argument that X11 client stuff should be installed on servers, but
that's still true.  :-)

                                                Greg A. Woods
                                                Planix, Inc.

<>       +1 250 762-7675

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