Development Release: rPath Linux 0.51 (Alpha)  was announced  by DistroWatch yesterday, and I was a bit curious. After my first glance, I was a bit taken aback. rPath doesn't seem to be targetting desktop users. Although it ships with KDE and Gnome, they aren't the most up-to-date versions, nor are they dressed up or enhanced in any manner distinguishable. In my humble opinion, I think rPath is probably a developer's platform, ...a conary developer's platform.
Information about rPath, as well as its ancestor Specifix, is fairly sketchy. The rPath website is a page listing a job opening and a link to the conary wiki, however DistroWatch states "rPath is a distribution based around the new Conary package management, created by ex-Red Hat engineers, to both showcase the abilities Conary provides and to provide a starting point for customisation." The conary wiki is pretty thin itself, although I was able to gleen a little information from it.
It was no big surprise to see (a modified) Anacoda as the installer and (as usual) I found it fairly straight forward and easy to complete. It asks some basic configuration questions such as network setup, firewall choice, and bootloader conf. I must say I loved the package selection portion. One is give one choice: everything. Could it be any easier? It takes a little while to install and once it's complete, it reboots without setting up other hardware or user accounts. Upon reboot it starts X as root, but to complete some other basic configurations in a graphical environment using rPaths Setup Agent. Included configurations include the date and timezone, monitor and resolution, and of course user account(s). Upon Finish, it restarts X and presents gdm for login. KDE and gnome are about your only choices for a desktop environment/window manager. rPath includes KDE-3.4.1 and Gnome-2.10.2. The Xserver version is xorg-6.8.2, gcc is 3.3.3, and the kernel is 22.214.171.124. The kernel-source isn't installed from the iso, but one can install it with conary.
Conary is rPath's package management system. As it appears conary is the focus of rPath, I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure it out. I began my quest quite lost and confused and ended it a little less lost and confused. According to the site , "Conary is a distributed software management system for Linux distributions. It replaces traditional package management solutions (such as RPM and dpkg) with one designed to enable loose collaboration across the Internet." Simply put, it's the package manager. It appears to be able to obtain packages from different repositories, utilizing binaries if available or sources if necessary and storing all versionings in a database in order to track changes from source branch all the way back to local versions installed on a given system to meet dependencies without conflicts.
According to the wiki, after the installation of rPath 0.51 the first thing one should do is update conary to version 0.62.2. Termed Conversion, the instructions stated to issue the following commands:
# conary update conary
# conary q conary
# sed -i 's/lockTroves/pinTroves/g' /etc/conaryrc
They continue with instructions in case an AssertionError is encountered. I didn't experience such an error and proceded with reading the wiki, --help, and man pages.
Conary at the commandline appears very apt-like. In fact the conary-gui is identical in appearance to synaptic. The gui front-end didn't seem to function very well here, but the commandline version seems to work as intended. Also included is the utility "yuck" which is a wrapper script to call conary --upgradeall.
Fortunately running conary is much easier than trying to understand what it is or how it works. Some simple commands include:
conary q <packagename> reveals if the given packagename is installed, whereas
conary rq <packagename> lists the newest available upgrade.
conary update <packagename> installs or updates requested packagename, and
conary erase <packagename> uninstalls. There are many many interesting options to play with in using conary beyond those basics, but most seem to geared toward package builders. Some of these include emerge, which builds the "recipe"; commit, which stores the changes; and showcs, which shows the difference. It really looks sophisticated and yes, I admit, a little complicated at the more in-depth level.
So, to install the kernel-source, one simply types:
conary update kernel-source
The developers might be onto a superior package management system, but is it catching on? We know rPath obviously uses it and I understand Foresight Linux to utilize this package management system. As for rPath, it was a stable functional development environment. It seems it isn't trying to be the latest or greatest nor the prettiest. If you are interested in developing for conary or wish to use a system utilizing that package management system, then rPath might be the distro for you. The full package list as tested is HERE .