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Linux distros in bid for common app installer

Developers from five GNU/Linux distributions have agreed to work on a common method for installing applications and hope to have a working implementation for users to test out by November.

Coders from Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu and Mageia (a fork of Mandriva) attended a meeting to discuss the proposal in Nuremberg, Germany, recently. The meeting was initiated by Vincent Untz of the GNOME Desktop project.

In an email summarising what had been achieved, Untz wrote: "We wanted to see how we can collaborate on the creation of a good user experience for installing applications, and we reached concrete results: we agreed on an architecture to achieve this, with specific technologies to be used."

He said this meant the approach being taken was application-centric and not package-centric. The project has been called AppStream.

The developers agreed to use the Ubuntu Software Centre as a reference for the user interface.

Application metadata will be accessed using the xapian library and open collaboration services and screenshots will be pulled in from a website.

Each distribution can decide on its own policy with regard to OCS; the idea is that while there is common infrastructure, each distribution will also retain its individuality.

Untz also said that instead of getting stuck on discussions of what was the best architecture for the project, those who attended the meeting had decided to go ahead and build. 

An implementation of this kind would make it easy for anyone who wants to try out a new distro to install software; there will be sufficient similarity so the user is not intimidated.

Untz has set out a timetable for AppStream which is as follows:

April: "Publish metadata / Port UI; Publish app metadata as part of the distros repos; Make this app metadata available via xapian in all distros; Port Ubuntu Software Center to non-Debian-based systems.

July: "Integrate non-static metadata"; Setup OCS servers for distros; Use OCS from the Application Center.

November: "Deliver to users" Ship a working Application Center in distros releasing around this time.

One of the two Debian developers who attended, Enrico Zini, has put together a prototype.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.