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The future of packaging software in Linux

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Software

GNU/Linux is known for its diversity and freedom of choice. There are multiple window managers and desktop environments, many competing systems for handling sound, graphics and hardware autodetection. This diversity is the power and weakness of free software. Exactly the same problem concerns installing software in GNU/Linux. There are currently at least 5 popular ways of doing it:

  • Installing directly from source code,

  • Ports-based installation (where the source packages are held in a repository and can be automatically downloaded, compiled and installed), like BSDs ports of Gentoo’s portage,
  • Installing from distribution-specific packages like different versions of RPM, DEB, TGZ, and other packaging formats,
  • Installing from distribution-independent binaries (most proprietary software is delivered this way),
  • Using another distribution-independent system like autopackage, Conary or klik — none of them gained a significant market share so far.

This situation is not a problem for experienced users — they can make decisions about choosing the best way of installing software themselves. However, for a newcomer in the GNU/Linux world, this situation is pretty confusing. In this article I am going to sum up some of the recent efforts to fix this problem and examine the possible future of packaging software in GNU/Linux.

Full Story.

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