I’ve already talked about why our patches rocks, but now I wish to talk a bit on a interesting practice all downstream maintainers (package maintainers) can use to improve their work.
Most of the packages used by a distribution are already present in other distributions; some of them are also already patched for some reason, for their own layout or for real bugs. Some of the things which I needed to do for Gentoo/FreeBSD was looking for specific patches in FreeBSD’s ports. To do that, I found very very useful FreshPorts where I subscribed for a couple of packages so to have notify when they are updated (mainly the ports for the packages I maintain and for a couple of bsd-related packages).
Another site which is a lot interesting is the Debian Package Tracking System where you can subscribe to packages notices for new version of debian packages.
Being able to see when other distributions changes a packages makes a lot simpler to manage the changes and merge them on our packages. Also if they don’t submit the patches upstream because they change them in a way which is strictly related with their combination of libraries or os, we can fix them and submit them upstream so next versions can have the bug fixed without needing a patch. This is the case for example of a couple of problems with libtorrent and rtorrent on FreeBSD systems that I had pushed upstream or of the xine-lib patch to allow esternal mad support.
We also have something like that as Gentoo-Portage.com which allows devs from other distributions to find out when we change something, and this is good.
I think that sharing patches across distributions and OSes is going to be a great improvement for the users, because they can always have updated packages looked after by many more people…
But now the question is… there are other Linux distributions which has bsdtar? 😛