Practical Package Administration under Debian

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Dmitry Kalinovsky,

Dmitry Kalinovsky,


Technologies like Flatpak and Snap make it look like the concepts behind earlier package management systems were a thing of the past. The current status of software administration in Linux shows that this impression is wrong.

Over the last several months, there has been an uproar about package formats for Linux (see the "Existing Container Package Formats" box). Canonical garnered attention by announcing with great fanfare its new cross-distribution development [1] and its Snap format [2] (see the "Snap vs. Flatpak" box). The subsequent press coverage seemed oblivious to the fact that Canonical needs to maneuver over some thin ice with these innovations. Everything has a proprietary license and is currently only on Ubuntu with no support from Ubuntu derivatives. These shortcomings escaped the attention of the press but came to light with more attentive testers [3].

Click packages [4] also received similar press coverage, perhaps as a filler for lack of news during the summer months. Looking back, this was a predecessor for Snap. Click continues to have limited meaning for Linux systems. The situation can be different for Snap. Perhaps the format will establish itself in a particular area of application. However, all of the Canonical formats celebrated by the company tie up a lot of resources and then quickly disappear.

Therefore, before accepting claims made about a package system, it is a good idea to figure out how well designed the system is and how it can actually be of benefit. Then, the user is better able to decide whether to relegate the RPM and DEB formats, which have been around for the last 20 years, to the "Old Timers" category and send them out to pasture or whether to keep on using them.


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