On Wednesday we had the pleasure of Richard Hughes joining us at Hursley to talk about PackageKit. I’ve heard of it but never quite bothered finding out any more than the name but having gone to the presentation I’m pretty glad. PackageKit is (yet another) attempt at making software updating/installation easier on Linux. There are many existing tools for this already but PackageKit seems to be particularly interesting because it’s not actually trying to replace anything; it works with and makes use of the existing tools whilst providing some real value on top. Below is a very quick summary of Richard’s presentation.
- Good packaging formats
- Depency solvers, downloaders and UIs bolted on
- Can’t have automatic updates (needs password authentication)
- Can’t use fast-user switching (lock out install applications/databases)
- Errors/warnings in English only and really confusing to average user
- Installation is done by package names not application names (many to many relationships)
- Can power down during update – bit dangerous!
- The ‘glue’
- Integrates with existing tools (including dependency mangement etc)
- Improves authentication (uses PolicyKit – fine grained control)
- System activited daemon (only running when you need it)
- Only need to write simple integration between tools and PackageKit (doesn’t even need to be complete and done for most tools already) plus thin UI
- Uses DBUS (two layers – one for full control, one “just do it”)
- Applications can integrate directly (e.g. install clipart from openoffice)
- Installation/update by application not package (users know what it is they’re installing!)
- Doesn’t allow shutdown during installs
- Easy to contribute (git with anonymous access – merged to release daily)
- Rapid development (roughly one minor release per month)
- Shipped with Fedora 9 (and others)
- Strong interest from OpenMOKO, Ubuntu (and others)
I’ve installed an old-ish release on my Ubuntu machine (straight from the repositories) and it looks pretty good. Definitely gonna pay attention to this project, it looks like a big step in the right direction.