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Introduction

A distribution is a collection of package files, usually with some defining characteristic which makes it useful to treat them as a set. Typically the distribution will be accessed through a single package index file.

The Packaging Project currently publishes two distributions, called ‘Unstable’ and ‘Experimental’. When there is a sufficient number of packages to justify it there will be a third, called ‘Stable’.

The reason for providing multiple distributions is to allow subscribers to balance risk against timely access to software according to their own particular circumstances. There is an unavoidable risk associated with being one of the first to use a new version of a package, but the extent to which this risk is justified depends on the likely consequences of a bug versus the benefit of new features. The Packaging Project is not well placed to make this judgement so it aims instead to provide the means to make an informed choice.

Subscribing to a Distribution

RiscPkg is capable of subscribing to any required number of distributions simultaneously, limited only by the resources which are consumed as a result. This is done by listing them in the Sources file in the RiscPkg choices directory. Each distribution is represented by a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), and the command used to declare it is pkg:

pkg <distribution-URL>

For example, to access the Unstable distribution (which is located at http://www.riscpkg.org/Unstable) the necessary declaration would be:

pkg http://www.riscpkg.org/pkg/Unstable

Allowed URL schemes include http, ftp, gopher and file. The latter can be used if you want or need to use RiscPkg offline, for example from a CDROM:

pkg file:/cdfs::0/$/RiscPkg/pkg/Unstable

If several distributions are specified then they are merged. If two versions of the same package are available then the more recent one is chosen. If two copies of the same version are available from different sources then the first listed source will be used.

Comments can be placed in the Sources file by beginning the line with a hash character. One use for a comment is to temporarily disable a source without permanently deleting it from the file.

The Unstable Distribution

http://www.riscpkg.org/pkg/Unstable

Packages in the Unstable distribution should have received some testing by the package maintainer but will not necessarily have been checked by anyone else. Subscribers to this distribution should therefore be willing to accept that that packages will sometimes break as the result of an upgrade, and that in a sense they are effectively volunteering to act as beta testers.

The Experimental Distribution

http://www.riscpkg.org/pkg/Experimental

Sometimes there is a need to make a package available for download through RiscPkg when it is not in a fit state for general release. The Experimental distribution is provided for this purpose, and there are only two conditions a package must satisfy for inclusion: it must be non-malicious and lawful.

It would generally be most unwise to download a package from this distribution without first checking why it was placed there and what the consequences of installing it are likely to be. In particular, the Experimental distribution should certainly not be used to perform general upgrades.