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Re: A message from CMake upstream: announcing dh-cmake

On Tue, 2018-07-10 at 12:52 -0300, Lisandro Damián Nicanor Pérez Meyer
> Well, there are cases when upstream is doing things the right way
> with respect to Debian but... what about derivatives (distributions
> which base themselves in Debian)? Sometimes they need something
> different, and even if the package fits perfectly well in Debian it
> might not be true for them. So they need to either patch CMake files
> or re do the whole packaging using traditional tools.

I understand what you're saying. As a concrete example, we all know
that Debian requires *.so library symlinks to live in the -dev package.
But let's say there's a hypothetical Debian derivative that requires
them to live in the library binary package instead.

If upstream has both the headers and the symlink in the "Development"
component, then this would certainly be a problem. Perhaps the solution
is for upstream to make this more flexible, through one of several

1. Further divide the "Development" component into "Headers" and
"Symlinks", allowing downstream to put the symlink in whichever package
is required to meet the distribution's policy. Remember: dh-cmake
allows you to specify *more than one* component per package. In this
case, erring on the side of smaller components would give downstream
the maximum flexibility for grouping them as needed.

2. Make the component names configurable and intelligent through a new,
standardized CMake module, similar to GNUInstallDirs. For example,
there could be new cache variables such as
CMAKE_INSTALL_HEADER_COMPONENT, etc. They could be set to defaults that
make sense for the detected distribution, but also configurable to
allow downstream to override them as needed.

I would also add that while this component system might not be as
valuable for smaller, single-library packages, it makes a lot of sense
for VTK. VTK has a module system, with its own internal dependency
graph, that builds and installs dozens of modules, each with their own
headers and CMake files that have to be installed with their respective
shared libraries.

Without the component-based approach taken by dh-cmake, trying to break
up this installation into multiple packages is very difficult. The VTK7
package divides it up into Qt and non-Qt modules (along with docs,
executables, bindings, etc.) To separate Qt and non-Qt modules, it has
to install everything into the non-Qt package, and then manually remove
the Qt modules from it.

But if VTK's module system was updated to install each module into its
own set of components (vtkCommonCore-Libaries, vtkCommonCore-Headers,
etc.), then the debian/*.cpack-components files used by dh-cmake could
simply list these module components, making it very easy to group the
modules together as needed. (Perhaps we could even add a globbing
mechanism so you can just say "vtkCommon*-Libraries" as a shorthand.)
Then, we could further break the VTK package into smaller packages so
you can install some modules without having to install everything.

Now let's say a problem is encountered with the package later on, and
one of the modules needs to be moved into a different package. No
problem - just move the problem module into the correct *.cpack-
components file, and you're done.

If there's another approach we could take to solve this particular
packaging issue, I would love to hear about it, but this is the best
we've come up with so far.

> To sum it up: I *do* think there is a *huge* potential for this
> helper, just not for Debian proper. Of course I would *love* to see
> it packaged in Debian because it will help projects trying to create
> their own Debian packages, but I would expect a very clear
> explanation that this is not a suitable way to maintain packages in
> Debian proper.

In fact, CPack already provides its own method for maintaining 3rd
party Debian packages - it has its own .deb generator. But dh-cmake is
our attempt to make something that fits better into the Debian
workflow, so that it *can* be used to maintain packages in Debian

We want CMake packaging to be as easy as Python packaging, where you
just activate dh-python. The end goal of dh-cmake is to make CMake
packaging as easy as writing a few configuration files, and then
declaring "dh $@ --buildsystem=cmake --with cmake --with ctest --with

In our case, our goal is to maintain an official VTK package in both
Debian proper and Ubuntu proper. VTK is a huge project which has proven
to be difficult to package, and dh-cmake is being created to solve this
problem. We've also made changes to both VTK and CMake itself to
support the VTK packaging effort, and we can and will make more.

> Except we can find smart work arounds for this cases, of course.

I think making the component names configurable and/or standardized, as
I described above, would help tremendously with this.