Monday, July 14, 2014

The Next Thing - A Small Whinge

I've started work on what, in my head, is the next big thing.

Basically, what would it look like if the tools existed for Manaiakalani to do what I did for it?... I mean, what would it look like if they didn't have me? How should it look? How could they do.... well... everything?

While I'm working on this though, I'm wondering about the apt system. I mean, it's good. Or rather, it was great for what it was designed for, back in the day... But what improvements has it gone through recently?

I'm not comparing this to anything. I have no idea how yum or similar systems behave. But apt, which I've been looking at, kind of sucks.

Why?

When apt updates, it downloads a package file. And that package file is flat. It contains only one reference to a package. What does this mean? You can have a maximum of 3 versions (not strictly true - you could define a whole new "distribution" (I'm putting distribution in quotes here as I don't mean "distributions" as in lucid, karmic etc. but rather distribution channels (security, updates, main).

Anyway... it's a mess. We have the standards to be able to do much more descriptive package files so that a system has more options for versions of a particular piece of software... We have the technology. XML would do. Something along the lines of:

 <package>  
 <name>firefox</name>  
 <version>  
 <release-no>30.0+build1-0ubuntu0.12.04.3</release-no>  
 <depends>  
 <package>xul-runner</package>  
 <package>something-else</package>  
 </depends>  
 </version>
 </package>  

In which case, an arbitrary number of versions can be defined that your system can know about. Why? What if you like a particular version of a package? And if you want to install a more recent version of a package? Shouldn't that be your choice? And even better yet, if you want to be running more a rolling release? This would be a way of doing it except that you don't have to upgrade ALL of your packages. You could roll back to one that works better for you....

Of course, the main problem is that someone would need to rewrite apt to use an xml file... which is probably quite a big stack - but doable.

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