Debconf is a simple protocol that dpkg uses to ask the user configuration data at install time. I think it’s generally a bad idea, as installing should generally be silent and automatic and configuration should be a separate step. That said, PackageKit needs to also work on Debian, as some people seem to really like debconf and are not happy shipping a PackageKit that won’t talk the debconf protocol.
So, last weekend I sat down and wrote the required PackageKit-glib2 patches to make the PackageKit-enabled frontends setup a pipe for use in apt, and to spawn debconf when required. Of course, this is a no-op for things like searching and when a package needs no configuration, but for other packages it blocks (urgh) the transaction and the user gets asked questions. Of course, if the transaction is running non-interactively, then the backend won’t ask any questions at all.
Of course, I’m kinda disappointed someone from Debian didn’t write the patch themselves; with all the blogs, wiki articles and emails about the “lack of debconf support in PackageKit” it would have been less typing to actually write the patch. Hey ho, it’s done now. If you install the recently released 0.6.10, then it “just works” with no re-compiles of any front-end clients required.
Of course, I should also like to thank Daniel Nicoletti and Sebastian Heinlein for development help, and Matthias Klumpp for testing. Thanks.