We can all finally install

We can all finally install

I’ve seen a lot of new users—and even kids—using Linux comfortably. And everything goes fine—until they decide to install new applications.

You see, in Mac people can install an application by simply downloading it, copying it wherever they like, and double-clicking on it. In Windows, it’s a matter of running an ugly installer, answering a few questions, and letting it copy a zillion files all over the place.

In Linux... it depends.

Even though distributions such as Ubuntu do a terrific job in giving users an amazingly complete “base” system, and a reasonably intuitive way of installing new software (thanks to the Synaptic Package Manager), users always get lost when they try installing an “unplanned” piece of software (that is, one that was not pre-packaged and pre-compiled by the distribution’s maintainers).

Unfortunately, no matter how well distributions try to add every single package to the list of “supported” applications, such a list can never be 100% complete. The problem is even more relevant if somebody wants to install a piece of non-free software, which will obviously never be supported by a distribution! Users also need to be “root” to install software, and that’s not always ideal...

I feel it’s only fair that I show my cards, and admit right away that I am a fan of “The Apple way of doing things”: each application has its own directory, which contains everything needed by the program, and is seen by the user as a fancy icon (chosen by the application’s developer). Uninstalling a program is as simple as dragging it into the rubbish bin!

It sounds simple, and it is—for the user. Apple has been doing this for many years, and it definitely works.

However, things that makes life easier for the user often add much more complexity to the system. In the case of Appdirs, there are several issues, and not all of them are purely technical. Appdirs need to be a joint effort: distributions and desktop environments (see: Gnome and KDE primarily) need to agree what an “Appdir” is, how it works, and so on; Appdirs go against the Unix philosophy of putting each file in the right place—this is possibly why there is resistance to Appdirs in the Linux world; with Appdirs, the “automatic upgrade” process becomes tricky to say the least (however, it’s definitely not impossible); the desktop environment must be able to “register” each Appdir (probably at its first execution), and must be able to associate a file type with a particular Appdir; finally, existing applications (and there are a lot of them!) all need to be repackaged.

Some of these problems might never be solved completely; this is possibly why Linux has taken some steps toward Appdirs. However, no distribution or “desktop environment” has endorsed them fully. These problems have never had an easy solution.

Until now.

Thanks to Klik, developed by Simon Peter, this situation has finally changed. Klik deals with most of the issues I mentioned above (if you are curious, check the FAQs); very importantly, it works well under Ubuntu, which happens to be the fastest growing distribution at the moment. Thanks to Klik, you can download your favourite applications, burn them onto a CD, and give them to your favourite and least experienced Linux user—even your grandmother!

Klik is another huge step towards Linux’s desktop domination. Right now, thanks to Klik, there’s one less excuse for not using Linux. Are there any left now?



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From: mayhemt
Date: 2006-01-16
Subject: your car prob

your car must be bad on axle..try this...when u turn the wheel to extreme left or right, did u hear a 'clunk'? that must be the left/right axle...it must have missed the mechanic becos..he might not have needed to turn it all the way to left /right... just my gues..peace..nice article..

From: adam
Date: 2006-01-16
Subject: Gobolinux

This is a nice article and touches on what must be the biggest obstacle to the adoption of Linux on the desktop - The legacy tree. It's just a relic from the old tape drive days, and has no place in a desktop computer (a server, maybe). Can I suggest that in a future issue you highlight Gobolinux, perhaps reprinting this article by one of the developers:


From: edi weissmann
Date: 2006-01-17
Subject: another reason would be...

... the fact that some hardware vendors don't even bother to write drivers for linux. maybe if linux was more popular, and missing linux drivers would interfere with their sales, they would start having second thoughts.

From: Philippe ROUBAL
Url: http://3d-synthesis.com
Date: 2006-02-16
Subject: I had to forget Linux because of the lack of drivers too


Working in electronics, and using a lot of various unusual peripherals like Micro controllers and Memory programmers, as well as more classical (printer, scanner, graphic tablet,...), I tried quite every distribution of Linux (red Hat, Mandrake Discovery, Suse 9.0, Fedora Core2, and much more), and each time I had to give up and go back to Windows because I couldn't find some drivers for several of my daily working tools...

From: njvlkew
Date: 2006-02-17
Subject: Re:I had to forget Linux because of the lack of drivers too

How about you consider using more modern versions of distros?

Your point becomes VERY weak when SUSE is now ver 10.0 and heading to 10.1 (Beta versions already out), while you're still using 9.0...There must be heaps of things you're missing. Same with Fedora. You're using Core 2, when the current one is Core 4. (and test versions of Core 5 are available).

This is like saying you don't think Windows is working for you because you're basing your experience with Windows 98, when the current version is Windows XP!

I've installed quite a few distros on my ThinkPad. I have no problems with video card drivers (Ati Mobility Radeon 7500), Canon Digital Camera, my web cam, my HP Multifunction AND HP Color LaserJet, and my USB external HDD.

In fact, I'm starting to learn Python with it.

I don't think Klik is the answer for me. In fact, it doesn't work for me at all, especially with FlightGear (open-source, OpenGL flight sim). It works when I install components in myself (boy, that was painful! But a good learning experience). It may work for you, but I just blew away 100MB of my web usage on something that didn't work "the easy way".


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Tony Mobily's picture


Tony is the founder and the Editor In Chief of Free Software Magazine