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#1 2013-08-17 13:46:40

zacariaz
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Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
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Unified Package Manager/Format

I know that this topic is not a new one, but I thought it might be interesting to bring it up once again.

The reason that I'm suddenly interested in a unified package manager/format, is that I just saw Bryan Lunduke rant about it, and I thought to my self: "Hey, that makes sense!"
Bryan Lunduke is not someone I usually hold in high regard, but I was intrigued and started googling. To my surprise I found that there wasn't much interest in the subject.

Now, to you that may make perfect sence, but to me it's absolutely mindboggling. After all, the only reason I'm still sticking with Arch Linux, is the ABS. Not that I don't care for Arch, I really do, but I spend far to much time configuring it, rather than using it.

So what are the arguments for and against?

The arguments against is easy if you ask me:

PRIDE

Yes I said it: "We're happy with out system and it works damn you!"


So, it works... Well, so does a bike, but quite often you'd probably like to take your car instead. Maybe it's raining, maybe the distance is great. Who cares, the point is that the fact that it works, doesn't mean that it could not potentially work quite a lot better.

Back on topic.

Arguments for, is a bit harder, not least because I'm not as much of an expert on the subject as I'd like to be, but I think they're plentiful.

I would assume that developers would appreciate this.
If a set of tools, like the ABS, was included by default, that would indeed make me happy.
Maintenance of packages for multiple platforms would become quite a lot easier, if not trouble free.

And so on and so forth.


I suspect you will be more than able to help filling out the list.

In the end though, my biggest problem is that people ask for a reason to begin work on such a thing. My counter argument of course it: "Why the hell not?!" Arch Linux already provide the perfect foundation, i.e. pacman and ABS. Of course for cross platform compatibility, some work has to be done, but the greatest problem, I believe, is convincing the community that this is a worth while effort.

Oh well, enough ranting I suppose. I really just wanted to revive this debate, as I personally find it rather important. I don't have all the answers, but I dare you to come up with a problem that I cannot provide a theoretical solution to. To me it all seem so simple, and it's a mystery that this feat has not been achieved many years ago.


Best regards.


NB:
I'm not so arrogant that I do not appreciate that I may be entirely on the wrong track, but please, if that is indeed the case, do try to enlighten me rather than something uncomfortable.

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#2 2013-08-17 13:58:26

karol
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Registered: 2009-05-06
Posts: 25,426

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

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#3 2013-08-17 14:04:24

mcmillan
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Registered: 2006-04-06
Posts: 688

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

The first problem is addressed by this xkcd
http://xkcd.com/927/

A second issue is a universal package format doesn't mean a universal package. Just like doing partial updates on Arch can leave you with a broken system, trying to run a package that was built using a different version of dependencies is not going to work. That means distros will be needing to build their own packages anyway, so why wouldn't distro devs just use the format they like the best.

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#4 2013-08-17 14:47:28

zacariaz
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Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

Yes, I'm aware of this project, though I think it's misguided. In any case, that wasn't what I had in mind.

mcmillan wrote:

The first problem is addressed by this xkcd
http://xkcd.com/927/

Yes, that perfectly sums up the problem. wink Package management is just one of many issues, but one has to start somewhere.

mcmillan wrote:

A second issue is a universal package format doesn't mean a universal package. Just like doing partial updates on Arch can leave you with a broken system, trying to run a package that was built using a different version of dependencies is not going to work. That means distros will be needing to build their own packages anyway, so why wouldn't distro devs just use the format they like the best.

I'm not suggesting universal packages. I'm perfectly aware that there are key differences between various distributions that make this, if not impossible, quite impractical.

But imagine for example that the various distributions would use the same framework, then in most cases it would be a small effort to change the PKGBUILD (yes, I think the arch way is the obvious choice), and one might even implement some sort of compatibility flag, i.e., package a_1 can be used with distribution a, d, f, a_2 with b, c, z, etc.

I can only begin to imagine the possibilities, but the important point here is that I'm not proposing that a specific package must be compatible with all platform. In some cases that may very well be the case, but it would be silly to try and make that the case in general.


As for your last comment: " why wouldn't distro devs just use the format they like the best?"

Well, that's exactly what they're doing ain't it? And it works, just like X11 has done for a billion years, but as you'll hopefully agree, that doesn't mean it cannot be improved upon. I certainly look forward to Wayland.

You might ask why we need a generic set of tools (GNU), every single distribution might as well develop their own right? On that I sincerely hope you'll disagree.


Best regards.

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#5 2013-08-17 14:57:02

Trilby
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From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,695
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

You beat me to that XKCD comic.  It's good for a chuckle, but hopefully that doesn't make anyone think that's all it's good for.  That comic captures the primary (and perhaps only) reason I'd never have any hope in such a cause.

Just look at attempts an universal language.  You'd be hard pressed to find a handful of people in your day to day interactions who ever really learned esperanto, for example (I think I know one, but I haven't seen him in years).  Now we can set standards, though.  The arch linux forums have selected English as our default language - and in a sense we force speakers of other languages to use English ... in a sense, but not in another sense.  There are various arch linux online communities in other languages, where some other language is the default.  So one community can set a standard and try to enforce it, but that can't stop another community from springing up and using something different.

So if we say Arch linux's package format is the one package format to rule them all, fine.  But then we have to convince others.  Even if we convinced a lot of debian and red hat people, for example, we'd probably have to compromise a bit and we'd end up with an arch-pm-deb package.  I'm sure some debian and redhat developers would fork their project or start new distros that continued to use .deb/.rpm, and some archers would conclude that this compromise was just a failure and they'd go on using pkg.tar.gz.  And then we have the exact situation of the XKCD comic.

Sure, the world would be much simpler if one person could make an arbitrary decision based on their own preference and have everyone else in the world follow it.  But that's not our world - and I'm glad it's not.


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#6 2013-08-17 15:01:26

Trilby
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From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,695
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

zacariaz wrote:

yes, I think the arch way is the obvious choice

Sure you do.  You can't take your own statement there seriously do you?  EDIT: I removed my other comments here as they'd probably be more inflammatory than productive.  But they were an honest reaction to the statement you made which I find almost offensive in it's presumption that anyone who does not share your tastes must be missing something "obvious".

zacariaz wrote:

You might ask why we need a generic set of tools (GNU), every single distribution might as well develop their own right

It depends what you mean by distribution.  Distributions of gnu linux use the gnu tools ... by definition.  If they didn't use the gnu tools or the linux kernel, they'd be called something else.  Something like netbsd, openbsd, haiku, risc OS, arch hurd, darwin, ...

No, I don't agree that all those other OSs should cease to exist.

Last edited by Trilby (2013-08-17 15:08:12)


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#7 2013-08-17 15:08:18

zacariaz
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Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

Trilby wrote:

You beat me to that XKCD comic.  It's good for a chuckle, but hopefully that doesn't make anyone think that's all it's good for.  That comic captures the primary (and perhaps only) reason I'd never have any hope in such a cause.

Just look at attempts an universal language.  You'd be hard pressed to find a handful of people in your day to day interactions who ever really learned esperanto, for example (I think I know one, but I haven't seen him in years).  Now we can set standards, though.  The arch linux forums have selected English as our default language - and in a sense we force speakers of other languages to use English ... in a sense, but not in another sense.  There are various arch linux online communities in other languages, where some other language is the default.  So one community can set a standard and try to enforce it, but that can't stop another community from springing up and using something different.

So if we say Arch linux's package format is the one package format to rule them all, fine.  But then we have to convince others.  Even if we convinced a lot of debian and red hat people, for example, we'd probably have to compromise a bit and we'd end up with an arch-pm-deb package.  I'm sure some debian and redhat developers would fork their project or start new distros that continued to use .deb/.rpm, and some archers would conclude that this compromise was just a failure and they'd go on using pkg.tar.gz.  And then we have the exact situation of the XKCD comic.

Sure, the world would be much simpler if one person could make an arbitrary decision based on their own preference and have everyone else in the world follow it.  But that's not our world - and I'm glad it's not.

I'm usually not much for compromises (more on that on another occasion), but in this case I'm all for it, as long as it's sensible compromises. I have no illusions that the Arch way is the perfect way, and in any case, certain changes would need to be make to make it work.

I would suggest that some may misunderstand my intentions. I see no reason my the average Debian, OpenSuse, Mint, *buntu, Fedora, Gentoo (etc.) user should experience any change. A Debian user would still use apt-get install package, or whatever graphical front end he or she desires, as with most other distributions, possibly excluding Gentoo and such.

My interests are limited to the back end system end the tools that are provided by default, like something similar to ABS.

Last edited by zacariaz (2013-08-17 15:09:31)

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#8 2013-08-17 15:11:28

Trilby
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From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,695
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

I'm not sure how this would work.  ABS builds arch packages to work with pacman - not packages to work with apt-get.  As for the ABS, I'm quite fond of it, but I'm essentially an ignorant user who knows how to type in the commands for it.  It may not be so popular among developers.  I don't recall the exact words*, but Allan recently expressed quite a dislike for the ABS and something along the lines of looking forward to when it would be gone.

EDIT: *=I found the exact words: steaming pile of crap.

Last edited by Trilby (2013-08-17 15:15:52)


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#9 2013-08-17 15:13:56

zacariaz
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Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

Trilby wrote:
zacariaz wrote:

yes, I think the arch way is the obvious choice

Sure you do.  You can't take your own statement there seriously do you?  EDIT: I removed my other comments here as they'd probably be more inflammatory than productive.  But they were an honest reaction to the statement you made which I find almost offensive in it's presumption that anyone who does not share your tastes must be missing something "obvious".

Since when is an opinion a bad thing? I should think that I've made it perfectly clear that I do not presume to have all the answers. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've experienced quite a lot, and have never come upon something more cleverly designed that the Arch System, and I do believe that quite a lot of people would agree. Again, maybe I'm wrong, but that's hardly the pooint.

Trilby wrote:
zacariaz wrote:

You might ask why we need a generic set of tools (GNU), every single distribution might as well develop their own right

It depends what you mean by distribution.  Distributions of gnu linux use the gnu tools ... by definition.  If they didn't use the gnu tools or the linux kernel, they'd be called something else.  Something like netbsd, openbsd, haiku, risc OS, arch hurd, darwin, ...

No, I don't agree that all those other OSs should cease to exist.

I don't really have a comment on this. I was trying to make a point. Obviously I didn't do a very good job of it.

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#10 2013-08-17 15:20:45

zacariaz
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Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
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Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

Trilby wrote:

I'm not sure how this would work.  ABS builds arch packages to work with pacman - not packages to work with apt-get.  As for the ABS, I'm quite fond of it, but I'm essentially an ignorant user who knows how to type in the commands for it.  It may not be so popular among developers.  I don't recall the exact words, but Allan recently expressed quite a dislike for the ABS and something along the lines of looking forward to when it would be gone.

I would think that it would quite simple to write a wrapper for pacman to imitate the functionality of apt, dpkg, or whatever tool you prefer. Of course in reality one would employ libalpm.

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#11 2013-08-17 17:28:48

sitquietly
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From: Moscow, Tennessee
Registered: 2010-07-12
Posts: 216

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

zacariaz wrote:

..... interested in a unified package manager/format.....
Maintenance of packages for multiple platforms would become quite a lot easier....."Why the hell not?!" Arch Linux already provide the perfect foundation, i.e. pacman and ABS.....

I would appreciate a common format for expressing the requirements for building each package from its source code, a common format from which I could generate a PKGBUILD or ebuild or specfile or Debian control file.  I would have no interest in a common binary format or in losing the tools we've built up for managing each distro, such as Arch's wonderful namcap, but it seems to me that hundreds of developers and package maintainers are grinding away at keeping each distro building and working, hundreds of advanced tech people working hard on each distro, and almost all of their work is redundant!  The real value produced by the Arch devs, and the Gentoo devs and Debian, Fedora, Opensuse devs ..., is the hard-won knowledge of how to put together a functioning system from a pile of ever-changing parts.  We have no way of expressing that knowlege, certainly not formally. 

When I have trouble with building my system from ABS or a package misbehaves at runtime I often end up looking at Gentoo ebuilds or Fedora specfiles and I've gotten accustomed to grabbing "patches" from them -- but that process seems very primitive to me.  None of us has learned to express that complex know-how in a shareable knowledge base.

The best knowlege base I know of, at least for a core system, is the Linux From Scratch [Systemd] and Beyond Linux From Scratch books.  At least they try to encapsulate knowledge.  I think that that is what a good unified package description format should do. 

I too have never found anyone working on this or the related task of translating between pkgbuilds, ebuilds, specfiles and control files -- does anyone know of anything?

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#12 2013-08-17 22:22:52

Allan
Developer
From: Brisbane, AU
Registered: 2007-06-09
Posts: 10,395
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#13 2013-08-17 22:40:52

zacariaz
Member
Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
Website

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

Apart from the quote "The delay is entirely due entirely to time availability expectations not being met" from the site, thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. Never heard of this before, but sounds very much like something I'd appreciate.

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#14 2013-08-18 15:57:58

sitquietly
Member
From: Moscow, Tennessee
Registered: 2010-07-12
Posts: 216

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

It is amazing how Allan always comes up with interesting links!  How do you do that?

It looks to me like Bedrock uses binary app dirs (like apps on MacOS) on steroids -- entire distros living in their own little sub-worlds.  Definitely NOT something that I would be interested in doing, but it is an interesting demonstration.

Something I would like to see:  an Archlinux that builds pacman packages from Fedora specfiles as well as pkgbuilds.  It could build from Fedora Rawhide and be at almost the identical package versions as Arch, but with Fedora package maintainers doing all the hard lifting of tracking upstream, running build tests on their build server, patching problems, and spending endless hours on the trivial but essential details.  I guess that then most of the Arch devs could become maintainers of Fedora packages big_smile  (i.e. we pool our knowledge)

The remaining small Archlinux team could do the same staging and testing as they do now and Archlinux users would not even notice a difference!

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#15 2013-08-19 07:12:57

donniezazen
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From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2011-06-24
Posts: 671
Website

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

Debian has no interest in accommodating Redhat or vice versa. It's politics.

What do folks here think about packaging all libs into self-contained package? Bandwidth might be an issue but we already get quite a bit of update regularly.

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#16 2013-08-19 09:03:29

zacariaz
Member
Registered: 2012-01-18
Posts: 475
Website

Re: Unified Package Manager/Format

donniezazen wrote:

Debian has no interest in accommodating Redhat or vice versa. It's politics.

Indeed.

donniezazen wrote:

What do folks here think about packaging all libs into self-contained package? Bandwidth might be an issue but we already get quite a bit of update regularly.

I'm not quite sure what the implications would be, nor am I sure what good it would do. bandwidth however, is not something I am concerned with anymore.

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