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Package management meets version control in rPath

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rPath is a young company that is rapidly becoming a leader in package management innovation. At a time when traditional package management systems such as APT and dpkg or Yum and RPM are adding elements such as signed packages and plugins, and projects such as Autopackage and Zero Install are focusing on easy-to-use interfaces and giving ordinary users the ability to install desktop applications, rPath takes a top-down approach and focuses on simplifying release management.

rPath's goal, according to a white paper on the company Web site, is "a source control system married to a package system." To achieve this goal, rPath has developed three closely related projects: Conary, a package management system; rPath Linux; and rBuilder, a tool for working with Conary repositories. With these projects, rPath claims to be able to drastically reduce the time required to build a Linux release.

According to Erik Troan, rPath's founder and CTO, the company's development efforts began with the observation that the business of putting together a distribution was an anomaly in the world of free and open source software (FOSS). "Everywhere else you work in the open source community, and it's very collaborative," he says. "But then all of that, across hundreds of projects, gets stripped down to 15 people when it comes time to do a distribution."

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