Universal package managment

I read a disturbing thread about autopackage. It started from an osnews.com article which I then followed to this thread. It goes on about why should or should not be a standard package manager for all Linux distributions out there. I think it should, and in-fact, it’s something i’ve been long thinking about. Why? well, for one, all the men power with all the different distributions going to waste, non of them inventing the wheel, but only rearranging it! Each distro with its own package management system, in todays world, requires package maintainer(s), package tester(s), repository(ies) and so on. Why on earth??? Why can’t we all live together (in peace)? Why do I have to see for every application out there a “SUSE package”, an “UBUNTU package”, etc? and usually non will have a “pacman package” (which is the Arch Linux package format) which means the Arch package maintainer will have to sit down and hack RPM sources or Gentoo ebuilds to create a working (and not always successfully, for example ubuntus’ usplash, suses’ kickoff, just to name a few) package. If there was a standard, which all distributions could adopt, without prejudice, wouldn’t it be beneficial for all of us? 1st, for the package maintainers/testers who would have more time with deal with more important issues than redoing something which already been done 20 times over already, secondly with the actual users, who wouldn’t have to wait (sometimes months) for their package maintainers to package the latest YYY application.
I think it would be amazing if I could download a package, and install it on both my Arch Linux and on my Ubuntu system. No need to learn apt-get/pacman/etc commands, but use _one_ installer for all. Less bandwidth usage, which means better usage of the network. And ofcourse, finally, magazines, software distributors, etc, could send me a cd with applications – ready to be installed, regardless of which Linux distribution im using!! Think about this again – We all could have 1 repository (or a cd) for ALL distributions! But this is just a dream, an utopia.

I read some people on that thread saying things like “if you can’t compile & make, you’re not a man”. (EDIT: it was actually “Real men use plain .deb and .rpm and resolve their own dependencies themselves!”) what a BS. My dad shouldn’t not know howto compile&make, does this makes him less of a man? Or is he simply banned from using Linux because of that? I believe in making Linux usable for the masses, regardless of age, gender, occupation, etc. This is what I call FREE. FREE FOR ALL. And universal package management is one step further in that direction. Too bad there are too many boolies in the Linux world preventing that from actually happening…

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3 Comments

  1. Hey, good article.

    I agree with you. But probably we all get it wrong when “compile-make” folks curse these package managers. Nobody is against a tool which allows you to automate stuff. But if it does not allow you to manually add some applications/resolve some dependencies ,that can be a huge drawback.
    Earlier even the Linux kernel was compiled proving the config options manually, without having the option of menuconfig or xconfig. But we use them today. However, they don’t prevent us from editing the config files manually.

    So I would say, its a brilliant idea to push towards a universal packaging manager. But please let it have an option to install utilities manually.

  2. It’s about freedom, as you said. Universal package management would actually be a step away from that, wouldn’t it? I mean, if I cannot use deb’s and have to use rpm’s – I’m not ‘free’?!
    Anyway, that apart – autopackage isn’t the best possible idea. From what I remember, it packages all dependencies as well (does that sound like windows?) so you will have multiple copies of the same library if two people install the same autopackage. That would also make it a maintenance nightmare.

    Of course, the people who say “Real men use plain .deb and .rpm and resolve their own dependencies themselves!” is just a jerk. Ignore them.

  3. Well, there are two ways to implement a universal package management :

    1. a wrapper which will use the distro’s native packaging tool – this is not the best solution since it might allow us to enjoy the same packages being installed on different distributions, but it wont fix the package manager illness of RPM package managers on mandriva, suse, etc, and others. besides, it might make the whole system more complexed.

    2. a new tool, which will implement the benefits from current package managers (ie, apt-get, pacman, etc) and finally we will have the “perfect” package manager, enjoying best of all worlds. Then you won’t care for not having your old .deb or .rpm, cause your system will have deb++ or rpm++ 🙂 (im not a c++ fan, just trying to illustrate the point).

    I don’t think autopackage is the best solution, but it was 1 step forward in the “universal” direction. There is also zeroinstall, klik, and others, but until the distributions developers won’t climb down from the tall tree they’re on, we won’t enjoy this. Maybe Ubuntus’ and Linspire deal about CNR will be actually a good thing in that area (although im not a big CNR fan) – only time will tell.

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