Apt repository interoperability

Herman Robak herman at skolelinux.no
Sat Apr 26 12:27:12 BST 2008

On Sat, 26 Apr 2008 04:39:01 +0200, Onno Benschop <onno at itmaze.com.au>  

> As developers we have a responsibility to comment when yet another blog,
> email or im makes a statement that advocates unsafe practices, such as
> installing .deb files from any old source, or installing .tgz packages
> and being told to answer "yes" when the question is asked: "Do you want
> to overwrite xyz existing file?"
> The biggest challenge is that both in Ubuntu and Debian the package
> system is there to make it possible for a system to be maintainable,

  ... which is good.  The dilemma is: maintainable to whom?

APT and dpkg are rather sophisticated, as they deal with intricacies
imposed by the UNIX convention of stashing application files in common
directories, instead of separating them.  Libraries are supposed to be
shared among programs, resources are supposed to be shared among users,
and all this used to take place under the auspices of the experienced
System Administrator; the person(s) who could use the root account.

Linux is still a UNIX workalike.  But the majority of its users are
no longer experienced sysadmins.  Something's gotta give.

> but no such concept exists in the Windows world, thus users who come from
> that environment think that they are just installing another application
> using an installer. There is no concept of dependencies or file  
> ownership.

  Indeed not.  These constraints are perceived as only that: Constraints.
Barriers.  Hurdles.  Hassles.  The above paragraph was just a more polite
version of the "this is not Windows!" mantra.  Well, anybody reading this
already knows that.

  An important part of the social problem is twofold:

1) The user wants to do stuff that does not work out of the box on <distro>
2) The user community is full of crufty workarounds for said stuff

  If the distro simply makes it too hard to do <stuff>, since <stuff> is
deemed to risky for naive users, funky workarounds will pop up, especially
in communities like Ubuntu's.

  I think that this indicates that neither the user interface nor the
community do quite enough to explain and aid best practices in a way
that empowers, enlightens and satisfies new users.

  There is a technical problem behind this: The best practices are quite
hard to wrap a Windows-user's mind around.  If user education fails, it
may be time to adjust the curriculum.

Herman Robak

More information about the ubuntu-devel mailing list