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Ubuntu to get new packaging format and app installer

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#1 f0rk_b0mb

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 16:50

According to a recent message posted on the Ubuntu Devel mailing list by Colin Watson, Installer Team leader, Ubuntu might get a new, simplified packaging format and app installer which should make it easier for developers to get their software into Ubuntu. This will target, at least initially, the Ubuntu phone/tablet but it should be usable elsewhere too, even on non-Ubuntu or non-Linux systems.


The already existing packages won't change and Ubuntu will continue to use dpkg and apt, syncing with Debian and so on.

"Click packages" (the new packaging format) is aimed at making it easier to build packages for Ubuntu: no dependencies between applications, no maintainer scripts and each app will be installed in its own directory.


The new package format needs a new installer and there's already a proof of concept low-level app package installer that's entirely new code - highlights of what it can do so far:

  • no dependencies between apps; single implicit dependency on the base system by way of a Click-Base-System field;
  • installs each app to an entirely separate directory;
  • entirely declarative: maintainer scripts are forbidden;
  • base package manager overhead, i.e. the time required to install a trivial package containing a single small file, is about 0.15 seconds on a newish x86 laptop and about 0.6 seconds on a Nexus 7 (and that's with the current prototype implementation in Python; a later implementation could be in C and would then be faster still);
  • not limited to installing as root, although there may be similar constraints elsewhere to ensure that apps can't edit their own code at run-time
  • packages built by feeding the intended output directory tree to a simple Python tool, plus a manifest.json file;
  • building packages requires only the Python standard library, with the intent that it should be possible to build these packages quite easily on non-Ubuntu or even non-Linux systems;
  • binary packaging format sufficiently similar to existing one that we could add support to higher-level tools with minimal effort;
  • strawman design for hooks into system packages, which will be entirely declarative from the app's point of view;
  • unit-tested from the start.
The Ubuntu developers have also looked into similar existing tools such as Listaller or 0install but there are some things which they prefer to do differently; e.g.: Listaller is dependency-based and they prefer this to be as independent as possible and 0install would also need some system integration problems to be solved, so instead, they've decided to create a new installer.

The proof of concept installer is currently under 300 lines of code (Python) and obviously, still needs work. The prototype will be ready in time for UDS next week and there's also going to be an UDS session to discuss this.

Source: http://www.webupd8.o...simplified.html


Even tho the article says it will continue to be compatible with Debian, mark my words, this is their first step in breaking ties with Debian in the far future. I've been saying that now for half a year.

So if I understand correctly, they are basically trying to do what PC-BSD is doing with AppCafe?


#2 Mindovermaster

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 17:12

Yeah, they are trying to get away from Debian. They want to be their own distro.

#3 +Karl L.

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 17:29

Even tho the article says it will continue to be compatible with Debian, mark my words, this is their first step in breaking ties with Debian in the far future. I've been saying that now for half a year.


I definitely agree with your assertion. The general consensus among Debian Developers seems to be that Canonical has a severe case of "not developed here" syndrome. They have been carrying more and more of their own patches that never get submitted back upstream. Some prominent packages, such as MySQL, are permanently out-of-sync between Debian and Ubuntu because of Canonical's decision to stick with Upstart - which introduces slight changes to the Debian packaging format that cannot be imported directly upstream without nasty patches to dpkg. The main reason that Unity does not appear in most other distros, including Debian, is that it requires patches to a large number of other packages that potentially break other functionality or introduce other bugs. Ubuntu carries these patches permanently and does not attempt to submit them back upstream, causing problems for everyone involved - including Canonical.

The primary reason that Canonical used Debian as the base for Ubuntu was because they didn't have the resources to maintain all the packages in the Debian repository themselves - now they are starting to believe that they can. Debian is very focused on doing things "the right way" to create the best technical solution for the universal operating system. Canonical is focused on differentiating themselves at all costs.

#4 n_K

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 17:35

Haha - oh christ.
Well that'd be a laugh if people got annoyed of this and decide to jump ship to other distros that run faster and have less junk in them like fedora or suse or whatnot.

#5 +Karl L.

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 18:34

Haha - oh christ.
Well that'd be a laugh if people got annoyed of this and decide to jump ship to other distros that run faster and have less junk in them like fedora or suse or whatnot.


Part of what made Ubuntu so popular to begin with was that it built on Debian's technical excellence by making it attractive and easy for the average person to use - and partially stabilized snapshots of Debian Unstable once every six months. Now that they are moving away from that base, maybe another Debian derivative will take up the mantle.

#6 chrisj1968

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 18:52

I definitely agree with your assertion. The general consensus among Debian Developers seems to be that Canonical has a severe case of "not developed here" syndrome. They have been carrying more and more of their own patches that never get submitted back upstream. Some prominent packages, such as MySQL, are permanently out-of-sync between Debian and Ubuntu because of Canonical's decision to stick with Upstart - which introduces slight changes to the Debian packaging format that cannot be imported directly upstream without nasty patches to dpkg. The main reason that Unity does not appear in most other distros, including Debian, is that it requires patches to a large number of other packages that potentially break other functionality or introduce other bugs. Ubuntu carries these patches permanently and does not attempt to submit them back upstream, causing problems for everyone involved - including Canonical.

The primary reason that Canonical used Debian as the base for Ubuntu was because they didn't have the resources to maintain all the packages in the Debian repository themselves - now they are starting to believe that they can. Debian is very focused on doing things "the right way" to create the best technical solution for the universal operating system. Canonical is focused on differentiating themselves at all costs.


That's nasty.. This could potentially mess up Ubuntu or Linux as a whole to some degree. Kind of sad that obviously Ubuntu is snubbing Debian and the general user base so they can be "different". Ubuntu got their start thanks to the coding of Debian to get it started..

#7 ichi

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 20:36

Then again this might help to set some kind of sane standard for lots of apps distributed as .run and .bundle auto-installers. There's a lot of software (specially proprietary) that could use some kind of package manager like this one instead of going on their own.

#8 fusi0n

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 20:37

damn.. leave it alone. I just started liking Ubuntu again

#9 threetonesun

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 20:54

Debian packages are by far the best of the Linux packaging / distribution formats, but I've still found too many dependencies and hang ups to say that the compare to what you find in Windows / OSX for the average user.

TBH, I miss the days when 90+% of installs on OSX were just dragging and dropping an icon. I always thought that was the most logical and user friendly install I've seen, as well as handling updates inside the application (instead of through an application control panel), but apparently no one designing OSes agrees.

#10 OP f0rk_b0mb

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 21:08

Haha - oh christ. Well that'd be a laugh if people got annoyed of this and decide to jump ship to other distros that run faster and have less junk in them like fedora or suse or whatnot.


I'm really keeping tabs on Cloverleaf Linux. It's a SuSe based distro that's going to focus on ease of use and features. I feel they can give Ubuntu a run for it's money.


Edit: Oh snap! Dead link in OP. :/

#11 n_K

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 21:10

Then again this might help to set some kind of sane standard for lots of apps distributed as .run and .bundle auto-installers. There's a lot of software (specially proprietary) that could use some kind of package manager like this one instead of going on their own.

I disagree, there is no need, NO NEED, for this at all.
RPM was the original package, it still works OK-ish but other things have came along with better features.
DPKG is pretty good, have to say I like it.
I'm a fan of arch's method of just tar.xz'ing the files and any scripts that need to run when it's installed which I think is pretty similiar for gentoo (gentoo doesn't usually have packages but you can force it to build packages if desired and install without compiling on other computers).

I see nothing gained by having another package container when the other formats are fine for the job, nothing is lacking? Plus this is by the company that started mir and claimed so much garbage without even reading about wayland or their team just being so incapable of knowing what wayland is/does.
I don't have much hope for this and I REALLY DO hope that other distros take ubuntus place, they are becoming too big for their boots and seem to think what they say goes in terms of GNU/linux.

#12 Joshie

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 21:38

Wait, why are so many people griping about this? Just use a different distribution if you can't fit any more sand in your crack. When did the FOSS community become so damn sensitive to the actions of distro developers? The article itself has more "reinventing the wheel" complaints than I can keep track of.

As a very--VERY--casual Linux user, I don't give a crap how many other solutions there might already be for this if they aren't being used. Major Linux distributions are still plagued by the community's obsessive addiction to the decades old affliction of "DLL hell". God forbid you want installing software to just be installing the software.

#13 ichi

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 22:09

I disagree, there is no need, NO NEED, for this at all.
RPM was the original package, it still works OK-ish but other things have came along with better features.
DPKG is pretty good, have to say I like it.
I'm a fan of arch's method of just tar.xz'ing the files and any scripts that need to run when it's installed which I think is pretty similiar for gentoo (gentoo doesn't usually have packages but you can force it to build packages if desired and install without compiling on other computers).

I see nothing gained by having another package container when the other formats are fine for the job, nothing is lacking? Plus this is by the company that started mir and claimed so much garbage without even reading about wayland or their team just being so incapable of knowing what wayland is/does.
I don't have much hope for this and I REALLY DO hope that other distros take ubuntus place, they are becoming too big for their boots and seem to think what they say goes in terms of GNU/linux.


There's no need, but the fact is it takes a big entity like Canonical to push a package system for software with no dependencies that proprietary software vendors might be willing to embrace. Gentoo's Portage might do the job just fine, but I don't see it being adopted anywhere othen than Gentoo.

#14 n_K

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 22:23

There's no need, but the fact is it takes a big entity like Canonical to push a package system for software with no dependencies that proprietary software vendors might be willing to embrace. Gentoo's Portage might do the job just fine, but I don't see it being adopted anywhere othen than Gentoo.

What's wrong with debian packages? Even jailbroken devices use debian packages!

"Wait, why are so many people griping about this? Just use a different distribution if you can't fit any more sand in your crack. When did the FOSS community become so damn sensitive to the actions of distro developers? The article itself has more "reinventing the wheel" complaints than I can keep track of."
Because it's ubuntu, they'll push this like it's the next best thing and unfortunately, ubuntu is by far the largest used linux distribution which means everyone listens to them above all other distros put together.

#15 .Neo

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 22:26

TBH, I miss the days when 90+% of installs on OSX were just dragging and dropping an icon. I always thought that was the most logical and user friendly install I've seen, as well as handling updates inside the application (instead of through an application control panel), but apparently no one designing OSes agrees.

To this very day it's still largely the same software that uses installers on OS X: Apple's app suites, Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, etc. Some apps actually went from installers to drag 'n' drop, VMware Fusion per example. Personally I haven't experienced a major shift from drag 'n' drop to installers. The one big thing that always annoyed me about OS X is the lack of a build-in uninstaller that automatically tracks and gets rid of support files.