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The value of unmodified conffiles left on disk of removed, but not purged, packages




Recently, in Ubuntu we have discovered the following upgrade fallout.

On xenial -> bionic upgrades, upstart binary package was removed but
not purged. As it's no longer needed for the installation, and upstart
binary package is no longer shipped in bionic.

However, the conffiles are left on disk, despite said conffiles being
un-modified by the user. Purging, and reinstalling the package would
bring back the identical conffiles.

A couple of conffiles were /etc/X11/Xsession.d/00upstart and
/etc/X11/Xsession.d/99upstart which assumed that upstart would be
alwasy be available, and in bionic after the above described update
started to error out, and prevent gdm3 from completing a login.

I believe it has been discussed before what to do with conffiles, of
packages that are gone from the archive, have been removed on the
system and are in rc state, and still ship left over conffiles, that
have become harmful.

For the above case, I'm adding .maintsript stanzas into an unrelated
package (xorg) to forcefully clean up upstart's conffiles, even if
upstart in rc state.

But this makes the question the value of keeping conffiles, on disk,
of the removed packages, especially for the case where these conffiles
are not modified / are identical to what was shipped in the deb.
Surely, there is no value in keeping them on disk, and unmodified
conffiles should be removed, upon package removal.

Thoughts?

Maybe, this idea can be pushed further, and maybe modified conffiles
should be renamed, upon package removal, or like stashed somewhere in
/var/lib/dpkg/info/removed-packages-conffiles-stashed-tree/

Alternatively, should a package be able to declare a ConflictPurged:
stanza, such that one conflicts with listed packages even if they are
in 'rc' state, and thus request for a list of packages to be purged.
For the above case, I would state that in Ubuntu systemd package
should ConflictPurged: upstart, to insure that upstart is purged upon
upgrades.

-- 
Regards,

Dimitri.