Please review for Man-DB changes

Alexander E. Patrakov patrakov at
Thu Oct 23 08:46:09 PDT 2008

DJ Lucas wrote:

> OK.  But I am still under the impression that is the expected future.  
> That doesn't change the fact that it is totally incorrect as written and 
> needs to corrected to show the proper state.

Well, Debian certainly won't switch to UTF-8 manual pages until they 
release Lenny. And, judging by their graph of release-critical bugs, 
this will happen in 9-10 months or so. What they are doing right now is 
preparing the infrastructure: a viewer that understands UTF-8 encoded 
manual pages, a perl patch so that pod2man can produce them, in the 
future they plan to write dpkg helper scripts that actually convert 
manual pages at package creation time. Only after that, the switch 
becomes possible.

However, if I were Debian, I would delay the switch even further. Right 
now, ISO-8859-1 manual pages can be converted to PostScript directly 
with Groff. By converting manual pages to UTF-8, you lose the ability to 
print them. Isn't printing a really important feature? ;)

>>> Upstream packagers will very likely drop legacy encodings in favor of
>>> UTF-8, though adoption has been slow due to the hacks required to
>>> make the current Man and Groff packages work correctly together.
>> I don't know how to comment on this. Modern desktop packages come with 
>> DocBook documentation, not manual pages.
> :-)  The point of both of the above points is to make known that we will 
> be seeing more UTF-8 encoded manual pages...especially with both Debian 
> and RedHat going that route.  It still needs rewording, or removal.

I vote for removal, especially because MPlayer (a package under rapid 
development) still ships with non-UTF-8 manual pages. And while UTF-8 
manual pages may be the future, the timeframe is not defined.

> OK.  I thought about doing that too, but French man pages include shell 
> scripts to do the conversion before installation so it's not a good 
> place to show off convert-mans.

Why not? Mention that the equivalent scripts exist in the package, but 
that for the sake of demonstration, out "convert-mans" script is used.

Alexander E. Patrakov

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