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Friday·29·November·2013

PDiffs are still useful //at 03:26 //by abe

from the not-that-bad dept.

… probably just not as default.

I do agree with Richi and with Michael that disabling PDiffs by default gives the big majority of Debian Testing or Unstable users a speedier package list update.

I’m though not sure, if disabling PDiffs by default would

  • also have an performance impact on our mirrors — it surely would have a traffic impact on the mirrors;
  • really bring a benefit for Debian Stable users as Debian Stable changes seldomly and hence there are not that many PDiffs to download and apply — at least I can’t remember being annoyed by PDiffs anywhere else than on Debian Testing and Debian Unstable. Even the repositories with security updates don’t change that often.

Additionally I want to remind you that PDiffs per se are nothing bad and should be continued to be supported:

  • Because there are still areas, even in “civilized” countries, where only small bandwidth is available and where using PDiffs reduces the download time a lot. Yes, also in Germany. BTDT. Only until recently there was no Fibre, no DSL, very bad UTMS reception and otherwise just EDGE at my parents’ home. (LTE was available far too expensive until recently.) And I was very happy about not having to download 30 MB or such just for seeing if there are updates at all, because 25 kB/s was the fastest download rate I could get (peaks, not average).
  • Because it seems to be in fashion with big ISP near-to-monoplists, especially in Germany, to cut off your nice bandwidth if you transfer too many Megabytes. Keyword “Drosselkom”. If you happen to be a customer of such a shitty ISP, you may be happy to reduce your traffic amount by using PDiffs instead of downloading the full package list every time.

So yes, disabling PDiffs by default is probably ok, but the feature must be kept available for those who haven’t 100 MBit/s fibre connection into their homes or are sitting just one hop away from the next Debian mirror (like me at work :-).

Oh, and btw., for the very same reasons I’m also a big fan of debdelta which is approximately the same as PDiffs, just not for package lists but for binary packages. Using debdelta I was able to speed up my download rates over EDGE to up to virtual 100 kB/s, i.e. by factor four (depending on the packages). Just imagine a LibreOffice minor update at 15 kB/s average download rate. ;-)

And all these experiences were not made with a high-performance CPU but with the approximately 5 year old Intel Atom processor of my ASUS EeePC 900A. So I used PDiffs and debdelta even despite having a slight performance penalty on applying the diffs and deltas.

Comments

Re: PDiffs are still useful

Posted by: Jay Freeman (saurik)
Website: http://www.saurik.com/
Time: Fri, 17 Jan 2014 07:43

Common practice in repository generation tools like reprepro long ago shifted to maintaining a set of single-patch pdiffs that move the user from any previous version, in one step, to the current version. Having to download a single pdiff file instead of the full Packages file is an incredible win. Generally users running into problems with this feature are using servers that are not using the "merged" patch precedence: you should complain to the repository and get that fixed (and yes, I realize the irony if you are dealing with a Debian core repository that is somehow misusing the pdiff feature).

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