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Package management.

Forgive me if this has been discussed in detail before; I'm new to
this list, so I've been going through previous lists but haven't
found anything yet that really addresses it (until I get flamed
and told...) Also excuse the length of this, it's partly because
I've read some related posts and am trying to address the issues
raised. Mainly it's because I talk too much.

Package management is obviously a fundamentally important issue.
I would like a clearer picture of package management in the "new
look" Red Hat (basically since 8.0). Distros are getting very
advanced and useable now; all the top ones (RH, Mandy, Deb and
SuSE, just as examples) seem pretty much to be decent alternatives
to "more established" desktop systems, or getting close.

Almost all of the distros mentioned above have pretty "advanced"
package management, except for Red Hat. The obvious comparison
is Deb's apt-get. Mandrake have something similar, and I've
just been messing around with SuSE 8.0 and am pretty impressed
by the no-brains-required YaST tool that seems to offer much
the same functionality as the others.

GnoRPM was a little weird and I could never get it to behave
the way I wanted. Kpackage was the nearest thing to useful;
I could put any package repositories I wanted into it, and
when used it would highlight dependencies and usually help
me deal with them. Not perfect, but mostly worked okay.

Then, finally, apt for Redhat came along and an awful lot of
people said, well... "Finally". Clearly, a lot of people are
increasingly using it.

But with RH 8.0, package management seemed to go backwards.
redhat-config-packages will pretty much only install off the
CDs (don't yell - I said pretty much); no configurable FTP/HTTP
repositories (that I'm aware of), no apparent acknowledgement
of apt so far, etc. Most people appear to agree that the tool
is too simple as it stands. There is a mismatch here: given
that everything else in the distro is getting so polished, this
lack seems conspicuous.

Yet there are no other (official RH) alternatives: things like
kpackage have disappeared. Surely, while one tool is developing,
a more functional one would remain available. Redhat's user config
tool was around at the same time as KDE's while the former was
developing; I'm sure there are plenty of other examples.

The appearance of the kde-redhat project would appear to be a
good example of what may be an increasingly important issue:
RH's choice to "customise" a very successful existing set
of packages. I was surprised by some of the developments in
RH recently, and am still with RH 7.3 because of it, so of
course I'm running that project's version of KDE 3.1, and it's
working very well. But this may be another essay...

Phoebe looks good (actually I'm pretty impressed overall),
but I still wonder about the conspicuous absence of advanced
package management. The other popular distros are conspicuous
by their inclusion, often, of several packages that do the same
thing. I'm not sure if the argument that "if we don't take out
one then the other won't develop" holds, especially when taking
out the incumbent one means a tangible loss of functionality.
GNU/Linux is characterised by its redundancies, and, usually,
"may the best package win" has worked.

- Marcus

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