Getting applications installed on Linux is known to be quite a pain. Ian Murdock, CTO of the Free Standards Group (FSG) and chair of the FSG’s Linux Standards Base (LSB), feels quite the same way. "Unless an application is included with your Linux distribution of choice, installing that application on Linux is a nightmare compared to Windows."
A typical Windows system, would require the user to simply double click on the more than famous "setup.exe" file, and you’re ready to go. However, in contrast to this, on Linux, this can be quite a pain, considering the user, at some point may manually need to go through a series of traumatic (and sometimes erroneous) processes.
Missing runtime environments and packages make the sum of problems one experiences while trying to install external applications on Linux. "Fortunately, we have solutions to parts of the problem already. The LSB abstracts away the differences between the runtime environments of the various distributions."
Thanks to this, an application installer can simply say "you must install the LSB environment" rather than trying to deal with the hundreds of little variations in both the environments and the package namespaces that provide them.
However, there is a problem. Far too few applications take advantage of the LSB today (though that’s changing), and Project Portland isn’t in any of the distributions yet.
Even though the LSB provides ISVs with a consistent way to create an LSB compliant executable, there’s no consistent way to deliver an LSB compliant application that’s easy to install and that integrates well with the distribution’s package system.
Although the LSB includes RPM today, but for a variety of reasons, ISVs don’t want to use RPM, and not all distributions support RPM natively.
The LSB tackled a variety of the above mentioned issues at the "LSB face to face and Packaging Summit" in Berlin, Germany, and seem to have a way forward that’s acceptable to all involved. The discussion at the packaging summit, pretty quickly converged on constructing a single API that could be implemented across the various package systems, because APIs make for nice evolutionary steps and can, if done right, mask underlying implementation differences.
Murdock mentioned that the goal is to create a vibrant third party software ecosystem around Linux, somewhat like the one Microsoft has built around Windows. "A platform is only as good as the applications that run on it."However, being practical is never as easy as being theoretical. In trying to enable its goal, the LSB will need to get through many hurdles.
"Everyone is certainly motivated, the distributions get more applications, which makes the shared platform more attractive; and ISVs get lower cost, which tilts the cost vs. benefit equation in their favour, making Linux versions more economically attractive and potentially opening new markets," said Murdock.
Because this is just a start, the FSG is launching a Packaging workgroup to continue the discussion they started at the Packaging Summit.
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Updated Date: Dec 23, 2014 18:49:54 IST