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Re(2): The only issue

Posted by: mwelchuk on November 12, 2007 02:32 PM

"Additionally, your point is wrong. With Open Source software, nobody is forced to use installers. The source still exists, and the distro package will also continue to exist."

I'm afraid this doesn't prove his point wrong at all. The availability of a projects source code on the projects site and the ability for advanced users to compile and use this does not invalidate his argument that downloading and installing binary versions of applications from "random" sites is not ideal (as proven by the problems windows has with spy-ware). That Linux distributors have adopted an alternative approach (which aims to mitigate some of the problems with distributing applications in this manor) and that Linux users should be educated to use this approach rather than relying on "bad habits" picked up on competing platforms.

"But the existance of installers would be a nice feature to have for those who want it."

It might seem that way to you, but I disagree. Linux distributors will generally pick which versions of applications they use to provide a good balance between stability, security and features. They may patch the versions they provide to ensure that the software works as well as possible when utilised with the rest of their distribution. Providing an easy way to bypass this process will increase the risk of less clued up users breaking their systems, who will then blame the distributors.

"And these people are no idiots that install just about anything from dubious sites."

No, they are probably not idiots, though I rather doubt that the majority of windows users that installed spyware infected versions of Kazaa were fully aware of the impact it would have on the security of their system.

"They are not your average moms and dads. They are PC enthusiast who like to try new release without wasting their time with compiling stuff from source. They are people who even recommend good software to their friends if it's good and useful software."

You are right - "they are not your average moms and dads", since they will generally be happy to utilise what they already have. They are also unlikely to be "advanced" users, who will generally not be too phased by installing the odd package from source (taking into account the impact this may have on their package management and system as a whole).

The only group that seems to fit into your description are youngsters who haven't spent the time to understand the compilation process (beyond "./configure && make && make install") and have yet to learn patience.

"Just imaging the success of, say, Napster: It wouldn't have been possible with the centralized Linux distribution system."

What - A service which was used by-and-large for piracy, which was sued to the point where it was closed completely and ripped apart? Only to replaced by a legitimate service that few use and other similar systems, may of which have suffered or look to be suffering the same fate? That's not that successful.

"Also consider the success of Firefox: It would also not have been possible without an installer (for Windows)."

I agree. A windows installer which utilises the standard mechanism for installing packages in windows would be beneficial to the spread of a piece of software on the windows platform. Just as getting the package into distributions repositories helps the spread of software on those distributions platforms.

"Additionally, Linux distros are also well known to break things during dist-upgrades every now and then. And the non-existance makes you forced to upgrade your distribution to get new versions of software."

It does no such thing. I agree that dist-upgrades do sometimes fail, though I disagree that you are forced to take this approach. You can do a fresh install for example, maybe in parallel to you existing OS.

"Also, the Mac way of installing new software is very similar to the Windows way and they don't suffer from malware."

Really? I'm sure it's not as prevalent, but neither are Mac users. A quick web search seems to suggest that there is indeed spyware which runs under Mac OSX.

"So, it's quite possible to have software installers that simply work without compromising security."

I'd agree. Though not unnecessarily in the manor you may propose.

"Additionally, you're average mom'n'dad are still going to rely on the distribution packages. They won't use installers, anyway, because they don't install new sowftare in the first place."

Thus almost completely destroying the need for a further method for installing software.

"So, the more interesting question is: Why do you want people to lock-in the distribution system?"

You are not locked onto the "distribution system", by which I assume you mean "package management system". As you mentioned yourself, if you so choose you can install from source. Though there are some compelling reasons to use the package management system, such as ease of use, trust in the distributors choice (else I'd use a different distribution) and a level of safety from spyware and viruses.

My question is: Are you wanting to use this software to get something meaningful done or is the use of the software the end goal? Most people trying to get something done prise stability over cutting edge features. When the software does not do what they want they will look elsewhere or be prepared to spend a bit of time to gain the features in a manor which doesn't compromise their ability to do the other things that they need to do with their system.


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