Installing a new application on Linux can be challenging, even for experts. Now, the LSB (Linux Standard Base) project and its parent organization, the FSG (Free Standards Group), have a plan for how to make it easier for both users and developers.
Last month, key people in the Linux software packaging world and ISVs got together in Berlin to discuss the future of Linux application packaging.
The group decided to create a bridge between the various software package installment programs that the Linux distributions support and what the ISVs need to support Linux.
According to Ian Murdock, chief technology officer of the FSG and chair of the LSB, what ISVs want is “to treat Linux as a single platform, which means they want to offer a single package for Linux, much as they do for Windows.”
To give the ISVs what they wanted, the Red Hat and Novell maintainers of RPM and the authors and maintainers of APT, Yum, Alien, and Klik quickly decided that the best real-world solution was to construct “a single API that could be implemented across the various package systems, because APIs make for nice evolutionary steps and can, done right, mask underlying implementation differences,” according to Murdock.
The Berlin group also decided that the API should have a limited scope, since “providing an API that spans all the functionality of, say, RPM and Dpkg is overwhelming to the point of being unworkable,” Murdock continued.
This can work, according to Murdock, because, “Fortunately, the ISVs dont really need much. At the most basic level, an installer just needs to be able to query the system to see if its LSB-compliant, and if it is, what version of the LSB its compliant with; and it needs to be able to register with the package system, so the package system knows about it, including what files it has installed.”