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Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2022 11:54:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Ariadne Conill <>
cc: ellie <>
Subject: Re: A journey of weird file sorting and desktop systems


On Fri, 28 Jan 2022, Rich Felker wrote:

> On Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 02:41:38PM +0100, ellie wrote:
>> After spending a bit wondering why files like "elder1" and "Elder2"
>> end up at completely different spots in the file list on my
>> postmarketOS (=Alpine-based) system, I filed a ticket with the Nemo
>> file manager. Turns out Nemo just uses locale-dependent sorting, so
>> I spent an hour trying to set LC_COLLATE to fix this, until I
>> stumbled across the remark on musl's website that LC_COLLATE sorting
>> is simply not supported. So I seem to be stuck with this, which I
>> did not expect.
>> This to me seems kind of disastrous on a desktop system. I just fail
>> to see any average default user (who doesn't know ASCII in their
>> head) expecting "elder1" and "Elder2" to be miles apart in a sorted
>> listing even as a default US person, let alone in some other
>> language that may be expected to use a different sorting for
>> whatever reason. (This affects umlauts too, I assume? So that'd be
>> most European languages having file lists entirely messed up, too.)
>> The sorting shouldn't be stuck as something that just makes sense to
>> programmers and balks at any special vowels, and it appears at least
>> as of now there is just no way to fix this.
>> Should desktop file managers like Nemo not be using this sorting
>> function? Or is musl not intended for desktop use, and postmarketOS
>> should switch? Otherwise, it seems like this omission in musl seems
>> like kind of a big deal. Or is it really just me who is constantly
>> confused as to where any file is at in any file lists...?
>> Or in other words, would be kind of cool if this could be changed
> LC_COLLATE functionality is just not designed or implemented yet, due
> to lack of interest/participation from folks who want it to happen. I
> very much do want it to happen, but I don't want to design something
> (data model for efficient collation tables & code to use them) only to
> have it turn out not to meet everyone's/anyone's needs because there
> was nobody to bounce questions/testing/what-if's off during the
> design.
> A big part of this is probably that, historically, *nix users tend to
> be happy with (or even prefer, which they can explicitly set via
> exporting LC_COLLATE=C) codepoint-order sorting of directory entries,
> like Makefile and README appearing at the top. So to get these folks
> to care you have to have another setting where collation order
> matters.

A case-study might be PostgreSQL, but I believe we solved collation there 
by using the ICU library instead.


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