Easy third-party package installer for debian-based distributions

Sami Dalouche skoobi at free.fr
Sun Sep 18 15:47:24 CDT 2005


I'm crossposting between debian-devel and ubuntu-devel, but maybe some other
debian-based distributions may be interested as well. Feel free to forward..

This email is about sharing some thoughts about installing third party packages
inside on a debian box..

Let's take, for example, Skype's example. It is not available in
non-free/universe , but some people may still be interested in downloading it,
be they linux experts or not. So what happens on a Debian/Ubuntu/MEPIS/whatever
box ? Average joe downloads the "Debian package" available on skype's website,
and clicks on it (I believe it is possible to install a deb by double-clicking
on it, right ?). Then, libqt is not installed, so it complains. End of the
game, "linux sucks, I can't even install skype on it".

OK, joe should be taught to use apt-get, etc, but we are in the real world, so
it is not possible. What about the following scenario :

- Joe downloads a .mdeb (meta-deb) package on skype's website.
- Joe double clicks on it, some progress bar appears
- Few seconds after, skype is installed, great !

Behind the scenes :
- a .mdeb is just a script/ deb with post-install script, or whatever that
allows to add apt-get's skype's sources.
- Once the sources are installed, and apt-get update done, skype gets installed,
and apt-get takes care of the dependencies
- apt-get will take care of upgrading when necessary.

It could also be envisionned that a .mdeb could be an archive, containing a
apt-get repository, that is extracted to /var/apt/whatever. This repository
could contain all the required dependencies (for example, a copy from debian's
archive) that may or may not be available on some machines, and be used as an
offline installation. So no more hell to install a software with many depends,
and no helly static-linking. And if a better version of any depends is already
avaialble, then it will be used by apt.

OK, so several questions :
- What do you think about this system, which would actually be a 1 or 2 hour
hack, and be potentially very useful at helping people at installing packages ?
- What would be the hidden / additional requirements that I did not think of ?
- If such hack was programmed, would Debian/Ubuntu/Others officially endorse
this way of distributing packages ?

Sami Dalouche

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