I’ve long believed that the easiest way to install software on a modern operating system is through a well-designed package manager connected to one or more carefully-maintained package repositories. Thus my brain always shudders when someone says “OH it’s so EASY to install software on MACZ just drag and drop! woo!!” (Why should I have to fire up a web browser, navigate to a website, find the download link, figure out which version works with the dependencies I have installed including the OS version, pick a mirror, and then figure out where the file actually downloaded? I suppose it’s likewise easy to get a Ph. D. in theoretical physics — just walk on stage when they call your name.)
I do remember the bad old days when installing something reasonably fresh required me to trawl through rpmfind.net looking for, if I were exceedingly lucky, an RPM built for the particular version of the particular distribution I run, or barring that an SRPM that I could coax into doing the right thing. There were still benefits to using a packaging system (mostly dependency tracking), but that’s more work than I want to suggest to my parents.
I was late to Debian (my first installation was 1999), but
apt-get was a clear improvement for installing and updating the entire operating system, especially when combined with the quality and breadth of packages available for Debian.
These days I use
aptitude, which is even more so.
Again, I’m not sure that I would suggest that my mother make a habit of
running this on the command line by herself, but she’s perfectly capable of
copying and pasting a few commands from an e-mail to keep her system up to date
or install new software, and the process is much simpler than giving her a list
of directions to navigate a web site. I doubt I’ll ever catch her running
aptitude search, which is fine… but I use the command
The process of installing software in such a way that it does not conflict with other software, includes dependencies in a sane fashion, and receives security updates almost automatically for the whole OS (not just the kernel, GUI, bundled web browser, and DRM-laden media player) is now something I almost don’t even think about. That is the sign of a truly useful piece of software.
Thanks to the contributors to Aptitude,
dpkg, and the Debian and Ubuntu repositories.