I am excited to announce these releases: borg v2.0, epkg v3.0, closql v0.4 and emir v2.0.
A short summary of what these packages do might be in order:
borg is a bare-bones package manager that installs packages using
Git submodules. It is most useful to package authors and users who
also contribute to the packages that they use.
epkg provides access to a database containing information about
~6600 Emacs packages. It provides tools for querying the SQL
database and an user interface to list packages and to view detailed
information about individual packages.
closql stores objects in SQLite databases. It relies on
by Christopher Wellons and was written to be used by
emir is used to maintain the Emacsmirror, including the package
Earlier announcements and discussions about the Emacsmirror and these packages:
Until a few months ago
borg did not have more than a handful of
users, but recently it gained some popularity. Given its limited
feature set and the up-front warnings about rough edges found in the
earlier announcements, this slow start is not really surprising, and
I did actually hope and expect that it would fly under the radar for
Still I put a lot of work into the Emacsmirror and these packages,
going back long before the initial
epkg releases about
one and a half years ago, so I do hope that they will grow in
popularity eventually and am happy that this has began now. Someone
even created an extension to
I am quite proud of these packages. The guiding principle is “achieve
more by doing less”. Which — somewhat to my own surprise — does not
mean that I haven’t added any new features, just that I usually put up
a big fight first ;-) So far I haven’t outright rejected any suggested
features, and some of the features that I have ruled out in the
initial announcement are actually back on the table. Never-the-less,
moving slow and keeping the code base and feature set small are still
very important to me — but that’s not a problem because one of
borg’s biggest strengths is that it makes dealing with stubborn
Originally I planned to give the user manuals a makeover before creating new releases, but have now decided that that can wait until later.
The manuals are up-to-date, but they would benefit from some
reorganization and there isn’t any documentation on how to convert an
existing configuration to use
borg (but some unpolished
notes are available).
If you are not already using
borg, then I recommend that you wait a
few more weeks until I have improved the documentation, as I probably
won’t have the time to help new users individually.
On the other hand there’s no reason to delay taking
epkg for a spin.
Normally updates are seamless, but this time around you might end up
in an inconsistent state because the database schemata changed, making
it necessary to update
epkg and the database at the same time.
If you read this before attempting to update, then proceed like so:
git— as usual.
If you update
epkg without updating the database at the same time,
or vice-versa, then
epkg will complain about that when you first
attempt to access the database and advice you on how to recover.
These are just the highlights, if you already use
borg, then you
should also read the latest entries in the borg,
epkg and closql changelog files.
The new command
borg-clone makes it easier to review a package
before assimilating (installing) it. Assimilating a package gives
that package a change to run arbitrary code, so the review should
happen first. I strongly recommend that you use this command and only
borg-assimilate once you have inspected the cloned package.
Some other commands that previously only operated on assimilated packages can now also deal with packages that have only been cloned but which are not being tracked as submodules (yet).
The database has always contained information about packages from GNU
Elpa and Melpa. Now the upstream recipes can be accessed as objects,
and queried using reasonable SQL queries just like the core
“Emacsmirror metadata” as seen by
This required major changes to
closql and some boilerplate in
emir. It also meant that some table schemata had to be updated.
For now this mostly benefits me as the maintainer of the Emacsmirror and as a Melpa contributor, but I do hope that eventually other people will use the database more actively than just to browse the available packages. But again, that probably needs some additional documentation.
borg was initially intended as an alternative to
I understand that most users prefer the simplicity of the latter.
Still I think that package maintainers should run their own packages
from the Git repository instead of using that only for development and
installing the package using
package.el. And some of the upcoming
Magit features will probably live on feature branches for a while and
I would like to make it easier to use those so that I get more
feedback before merging into
package.el about packages installed by
borg, i.e. assume
that they are installed.
Support installing packages without also assimilating them,
i.e. support automatically activating packages that are not being
tracked as submodules. That would remove the sharpest of the sharp
edges and might make
borg more attractive to casual users.
borg to Melpa.
Package archive maintainers cannot possibly review all packages for security issues and malicious code, so users have to share some of the burden. We should however make it easier to identify packages that might deserve more scrutiny than others and prevent mistakes.
It should be possible to hide insecure packages from package lists (as is already possible for packages that are no longer maintained).
When such a package is displayed anyway for some reason, then it should be marked as insecure.
When the user proceeds to install an unsafe package, then s/he should have to confirm explicitly before any potentially malicious code gets executed.
Verify GPG signatures and allow users to insist on packages being signed. While this is a good idea in principle, I fear that it won’t do much good as most maintainers don’t sign their tags or even every commit. Still basic support at least should be available.
Posted on 20th September 2017
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