Since I first heard about Michael Leibowiz’s talk about possible solutions for the current no-universal-binary-format problem with Linux I was very eager to get some information about it, because it looks like Michael is mainly working at this topic from a very practical point of view – and because he is not bound to any distribution (works for Intel).
Unfortunately it isn’t so easy to contact him so I checked the net once in a while about some information regarding this topic.
And today I run across this invitation which appeared on various lists which deal with this topic (klik, autopackage, LSB, etc.): he invites all people to the FSG Face2Face Summit (hosted by SAP!) which will eal with various topics around the FSG, the LSB and the LSB 4.0 in particular. And it will have a special day dedicated to the problem of packaging to get rid of it (I personally think that the lack of a common binary system is one of the main reasons why Linux is still not as far spread as it could be).
To get an idea what all the fuss is about, you should read the detailed analysis by Michael given here (Actually, a much more detailed analysis is given in the FSG wiki, “Packaging”, but the list post covers the basics). He first identifies four needs not only independent software vendor but also the distributions and the users have:
1) A unified and simple UI for installing/removing/updating packages
that is the same regardless of distro or desktop environment
2) Ability to detect, alert, and install updates when they are available
3) Proper interaction with the distro, including doing the RightThing
when the distro and package have a mutual interest in a file or service
4) A database of installed packages, files, and assorted
meta-information that can be queried
I think this list is crucial because it coveres all important stuff and is still short enough.
Then he has a look at the (two) solutions: transforming like for example
alien does it, or providing something like an API which interacts with the distribution’s native package management.
I prefer the second one, and so does Michael: it gives the system the possibility to interact with the package in an intelligent way. The transforming might be easier (for simple packages at least) but would be also simple in a way of possibilities – dull someone might say.
Also, it is not distribution specific but keeps the power of shared libraries Linux has (yes, Windows has them as well, but used different). If done right every distribution can provide this API by itself, leaving it to the distributions if they are conform or not.
I really hope that there will be protocols or other information about the results available – I haven’t seen a name which I really know or ever had contact with in the list so I’m not sure whom to ask to get more information about the results once the conference is over. But there will be a press release maybe. Cross the fingers!
And yes, I still dream of a world where there is finally one working version for unified packages available – I would start packaging immediately!