Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th May 2008 21:00 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes Ever since I started using computers, I've been baffled by the relative clumsiness of installing applications. Whether we are talking the really old days (launching the Rambo game off a tape), the '90s (running Keen or using installers in Windows 95), or the modern days (still those installers, but now also package management and self-contained applications); it's all relatively cumbersome, and they all have their downsides. I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and come up with my idealistic, utopian method of installing, running, updating, and uninstalling applications.
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some ideas for refining
by s-peter on Tue 6th May 2008 04:22 UTC
s-peter
Member since:
2006-01-29

I enjoyed reading the article very much and it seems like a good base for building a new packaging scheme. However, there are still some areas that need further work. Some assumptions of the proposed system were also not clear.

The first one is the operating system, is this meant for Windows, OS X (OS XI?), Linux, some other OS, or an entirely new system? For "legacy" systems, the biggest issue of all seems to be providing a migration path from existing software deployment methods to the new method.

The handling of shared libraries, and the necessity of separating user settings from user homes have been mentioned by others. Also, the write-up talks about a single host, but in practice, program and user directories are often shared among several hosts. It is not obvious that the system would work well in such scenarios. More detailed consideration may be needed about what is shared among which hosts and users. Depending on the OS environment, support for multiple architectures may need to be considered as well.

One of the biggest issues is the storing of settings. Supporting multiple versions of a program in parallel, sharing the same set of settings, is a pain in the ass for software vendors. I think that a lot of conflicts would arise from trying to run different versions of Word, Photoshop, or even GNOME2 with the same set of settings.
So if different versions have to share the same set of settings, many software will likely refuse to install without having prior versions removed first. In such case, if you have other software packages that depend on this kind of a package, you're again stuck with dependency hell.

Furthermore, as mentioned in the article, sometimes the user or administrator does not trust a new version of a program. So even when the software supports shared settings, the user may not want to allow it to modify the settings used for the "trusted" version.

One solution may be to store settings for different versions separately, but have the installer generate the new settings automatically based on those for previous version.

Finally, the proposed system also does not seem to support installing programs without system privileges, which is normally possible for most Linux / OSX software and an increasing share of Windows software.

Good luck for working on this new system, and looking forward to hearing about the progress.

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