Matthew French on Tue, 5 Oct 2010 22:10:12 +0200 (SAST)


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[GLUG-chat] Re: Some thoughts on packaging and why desktop Linux is a failure


On 05 Oct 2010, at 10:24 AM, Damjan Jovanovic wrote:
> The example I want to discuss this time is this: a few years back Ian
> Murdock blogged about how package management is "the single biggest
> advancement Linux has brought to the industry"
> (http://ianmurdock.com/solaris/how-package-management-changed-everything/).
> 
> I am of the exact opposite opinion...

Hmmm. My opinion is somewhere in between.

I think he is right that package management is something important that Linux has brought to the IT industry. What is offered by AIX and Solaris is pretty primitive by comparison. Being able to install an application and know that all the dependencies are available at the same time is pretty cool.

However, I believe it is an impediment on the desktop, where application vendors have grown used to the idea of providing a setup.exe that works the way they want. Putting Microsoft Excel or Adobe Photoshop in several different formats of RPM or DEB would go against their culture of putting all their crap on your system.

By contrast, Apple's install process is much simpler and allows entire applications to exist in a directory structure. To install an app you just copy the directory, although in classic Apple fashion it looks like an application. Downside is you duplicate a lot of code, but I am not sure this is really an issue as it gets around the dependency issue by letting each app run its own version of common libraries, and the space and performance penalty is not really an issue on modern hardware.

Of course Apple also have the benefit of a single consistent platform. Fragmentation is the reason Linux has package managers and single repositories in the first place. 

I think the best solution is a hybrid: Linux apps use the package repository, but large 3rd party applications can copy the Apple approach.

- Matthew

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