Looking at Package Management for Karmic or Karmic+1

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at canonical.com
Wed Apr 1 14:25:33 UTC 2009

Hash: SHA1

Hi Evan

Evan wrote on 31/03/09 23:19:
> While apt, synaptic, update-manager, and gnome-app-install all do
> decent jobs of providing front-ends for package management, there are
> a few issues and common feature requests which bear taking a look at.
> This is a strawman, so feel free to rip it apart as necessary.

In Canonical's Design and User Experience team we've just (this morning)
started tackling the issue of package management in general, so your
message is excellently timed.

> Modal Dialogues
> All three of the GUIs currently use modal dialogues for the actual
> download/install process, and this is considered a usability issue
> AFAIK (I'm not a usability expert by any stretch of the imagination,
> please correct me if I'm wrong).

You are quite correct: wherever a program has a modal progress window,
it should be showing progress in the parent window instead. (See
Thunderbird's "Sending Messages" and "Saving Messages" progress windows
for more examples of how not to do it.)

>                                  I believe most people would like to
> be able to continue browsing available applications, or reading
> changelogs of updates while the packages are downloading and
> installing.

Well, "most people" is debatable, but that's not a reason to make it
impossible. It will just be a little tricky to implement.

> PolicyKit
> Synaptic runs fully as root. Unless there is a specific reason not to,
> should it not be migrated to PolicyKit?
> Queuing
> The ability to start an install process, and then decide to queue
> another app to install / update after the first is finished.
> Parallelism
> Starting the install process in parallel with the download process as
> soon as the first packages are finished downloading. (I got this idea
> from brainstorm, but I can no longer find the relevant idea.)

All good ideas. I've added them to

> I'm not sure what we ought to be changing or replacing, but I would
> think we want to write a replacement for apt as the backend, and a
> replacement for whatever provides the progress-bar in the GUI?

We'd need to get into a lot more design detail before deciding anything
as fundamental as whether apt needs replacing.

> The front end would display two progress bars, one for download and one
> for installation.

Hopefully that isn't necessary. I shouldn't see two progress bars for
something that, from my point of view, is a single task.

>                   It would also display a queue of what's to come
> (perhaps with little Xs to cancel something if you change your mind).
> It would be a seperate window in it's own right,

It wouldn't be necessary to put the queue in a separate window. It could
be a viewable item in the main window, as it is in Miro for example.

>                                                  perhaps with the
> ability to minize to tray.

Unlikely. :-)

Thanks for your ideas. We'll be discussing this more in the coming
weeks, so feel free to post more either here or on the wiki page.

- --
Matthew Paul Thomas
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