Project Indiana Wishlist

Sat May 19 2007
tech open_solaris debian arch linux rpm pacman deb unix

OK, so many, many people will be saying many things about project Indiana before we ever see anything concrete, and then many more people will inevitably form two camps - the “Indianaphiles” and the “Indianaphobes”.

All of that is inevitable and I guess we should just enjoy the ride. However, given the scope for Indiana thus far expressed is “Make a Sun branded Solaris distribution that’s a lot more like Linux”, and that the top man is Ian Murdoch, I have exactly one wish for this project.

Please, for the love of God, don’t make it like, or derive it from, Debian or anything like Debian.

Why? Well, I have a list:

Once upon a time .deb was a great new packaging system. People loved it (it was better than RPM!) and started improving it. Trouble is, everybody had their own ideas and added lots of distinct script to help you do everything you could every want to do. The result is a complex mess of tools with no common design and a steep learning curve for packagers. I’ve made Debian packages, it’s even been part of my paid work. I’ve also made RPMs, ebuilds, Arch pacman packages and rPath conary packages. Of all of those systems I’d take pacman and the Arch Build System as a preference. This is infact the major reason that I always return to Arch Linux despite enjoying playing with various other distros. It’s no more, or less powerful than the Debian system, but it’s benefited from being designed from the ground up to do all the things you can do with a myriad of scripts for .deb with a small, clearly defined, well documented set of programs. It’s very simple to use (you can learn enough to do 99% of packaging from a single, short man page), and that’s led to a strong community building packages to share with each other as well as the primary Arch repositories (see http://aur.archlinux.org for the Arch User Repository).

We already have a perfectly good Ubuntu derived Solaris distribution. I’ve used Nexenta GNU/Linux. It’s good and as OpenSolaris develops I’m sure it’ll be familiar enough to pull over a few Ubuntu and Debian users. The temptation to pick up ready made Debian packages is too great. Probably the worst things in Ubuntu are where something that’s been badly packaged for Debian appears, verbatim in Ubuntu. There are, of course, many things that are packaged excellently by the Debian community, but there are a few shining examples of utter ineptitude. These packages tend not to be the mainstream applications, but some more esoteric things - mzscheme springs to mind. The general populous probably never notices (which is probably a factor in why they remain this way), but if they are applications that you care about then this situation is intensely annoying. If I pick up Solaris with Sun’s name on it I want some assurance that it has been put together with the thought and attention of a team of professionals, even if it includes lots of community contribution (I certainly hope it will!).

OK, rant over :-)

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