A future for the Windows packaging situation.

Hécate hecate at glitchbra.in
Wed May 13 10:55:52 UTC 2020

Dear GHC devs, dear maintainers,

Following a discussion that took place on #ghc, I wish to spread it to 
the whole mailing-list, in order to receive some feedback,
and plan for the future now that it has become clear that the present is 
rather bleak.

As some of you may have seen from the long threads in haskell-cafe@, 
countless steps of various difficulty for Windows users
(excluding power-users) need to be taken in order to have a proper 
working GHC / Haskell installation on their machine.
Moreover, some defiance against Chocolatey has come to our ears, due to 
the mailing-list registration form that appears
when one desires to download this package manager. I shall speak for 
myself by saying that I do not wish the that the Windows
Haskell developers need to become a special combo of Chocolatey 
maintainers and Windows power users.
Some GNU/Linux distributions such as Exherbo have made this their creed, 
the major difference being that they actually give
the tools to make such a thing possible.

The point of my email to you all is the following: I suggest that 
Haskell.org, the 501(c)(3) established in NY which, If I am not mistaken,
holds the funds from various individual donations, the Amazon Smile 
programme and Software in the Public Interest grants,
hires a company to establish a strong technological basis regarding 
Windows packaging. I am not talking of delegating the maintaining task
to an external entity, but to provide the foundations upon which 
volunteers will be able to keep things running.
Training in such matters would also be beneficial, so that newcomers can 
learn on the spot how to best interact with this.

Their contract would involve the initial setup of CI tasks able to 
produce MSIX packages, while the people in charge of the haskell.org
landing page would ease the user experience by providing clearer ways to 
install GHC on various platforms.
Ideally we could have a GUI to install libraries easily, like many 
GNU/Linux package managers offer.

That being said, I was also suggested the idea of a grant and/or 
sponsorship. What we need is less a capitalist framework around that task
and more of an incentive to invest a serious amount of work and quality 
so that it becomes, at last, the non-issue it should have always been.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the GNU/Linux and macOS 
users *cannot* hold the Windows users to the same standards in
terms of CLI usability. I cannot weigh in my opinion on the most recent 
iterations of PowerShell, but Windows XP's cmd.exe was
excruciating, to say the least.

Now, I know some of you will prefer to have this task handled by 
competent volunteers, but I am under the moral obligation to say
that expecting salvation and better tomorrows from people who have yet 
to make their presence known in the thirty years of existence
of our dear language, is at best mild delusion, at worse folly that will 
only widen the gap between what is needed to get Haskell up and
running smoothly on the Windows platform and the average skill of 
Windows users.

I am not suggesting that my email is The True Way to follow so that 
everything is fixed forever,
and if we can, as a community, arrive to some satisfying workflow that 
would benefit rather than alienate
our Windows user base, this would would be wonderful.

Thank you for reading until the end.


PS: I am in no way trying to berate anyone for their implied 
incompetence, or imply that Windows users are stupid and/or 
technologically impaired.
This would be misinterpreting my words and lead nowhere but to another 
OS war on another mailing-list.
PPS: I am serious. Please stay on-topic.
PPPS: I hold no share, no money or any other form of capital in any 
Windows packaging company we might or might not end up hiring for the task.
I am speaking of experience, for my company used an external contractor 
to work on our landing (non-product) page, while all hands were on deck
to support the product development effort. This allowed us to have a 
strong foundation to iterate on, and bought us countless hours of 
development time.

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