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Re: Friendly discussion about (package-initialize)

From: Radon Rosborough
Subject: Re: Friendly discussion about (package-initialize)
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:06:34 -0700

> This sounds like a contradiction. [...] Now I'm utterly confused.

Sorry, it looks like I failed to provide enough context in the name of
being concise. Let me try again.

The issue is complicated because there are actually a number of
different issues at play, which all interact in different ways.

Firstly, let me describe my ideal world. This would be a world in
which `package-initialize' was not called automatically anywhere, or
inserted into the init-file, or anything. However, new users could
still benefit from package.el because Emacs would generate a template
init-file which would contain a call to `package-initialize', if no
init-file already existed.

Now there is also the question of where it is appropriate to call
`package-initialize'. IMO, the only appropriate place to call it is in
the user's init-file. Doing it anywhere else smells like unnecessary
magic, and limits customizability. For example, calling it in
startup.el after loading the init-file means that package
customizations cannot be put in the init-file (unless you use
`after-init-hook', an advanced and rather nonstandard approach), but
the package management system still works after init. Can you possibly
think of any setup that would be *more* confusing to new users?

Then there is the issue of Emacs automatically modifying the init-file
to stick a call to `package-initialize' in it. I think this behavior
is disgusting because of how fragile and nonstandard it is.

Now let me address your specific concerns.

> If we call package-initialize from startup.el, why does it have to
> also be called from the init files?

IMO, it should not be called anywhere. I think having it only called
in startup.el would be a reasonable compromise. Having Emacs insist on
putting the call into the init-file, but then *also* calling it in
startup.el, makes no sense.

> since you are opposed to Emacs putting tyhis call to init files, why
> do you disagree that calling package-initialize in startup.el is
> wrong?

I do think that the correct place to call `package-initialize' is in
the init-file, but I object to Emacs taking care of this
automatically. It might seem like the best solution at first glance,
but doing it this way has a laundry list of horrible side effects (see
my original email).

> that's where Emacs performs all the initialization for the upcoming
> session, and that should include initializing the packages which
> need initialization.

Like I said, having the call be only in startup.el would be a
perfectly reasonable compromise IMO. My main issue is with Emacs
modifying the init-file automatically.

Does this make more sense? I can elaborate, but briefly:

1. I want `package--ensure-init-file' to go away ASAP.
2. I think Emacs should generate a template init-file; in addition to
   making `package--ensure-init-file' mostly superfluous, this would
   have other advantages in terms of improving default user
3. If possible, I'd like startup.el to not call `package-initialize'
   either, but this is an order of magnitude less important than (1)
   and (2).


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