[Beowulf] A press release

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Fri Jul 4 05:13:06 PDT 2008

On Wed, 2 Jul 2008, Gregory Warnes wrote:

>> interesting - I wonder why.  the main difference would be that the rpm
>> format encodes dependencies...
> The basic problem is that when folks build the .tar.gz files, they usually
> do a good job of explaining the dependencies and how to resolve them, while
> the equivalent RPM installer simply lists the dependencies with no hints
> about what packages are needed and where to get them.

Unless your RPM installer is yum, in which case it all simply works (or
is no more trouble than it ever is to build a package so that it will
simply work).

> On fundimental difference in philospohy explains both the fundimental
> differences between RPM and debian packages, and the reason for the lack of
> emphasis of in-place upgrades of desktop distros: vendor income.  It is not
> in Red Hat¹s financial interest to make it easy to upgrade a system in-place
> by an automated tool.  They make money by selling new O/S versions.
> Consequently, Red Hat explicitly designed the RPM format to discourage
> in-place upgrades.


Having been around when the founders (who live down the street, so to
speak:-) gave talks at some of the old linux expos and on campus and so
on, and recalling the early RH books and free distribution system, I
think that this last statement is just nonsense.  They didn't design it
to discourage in place upgrades or encourage it -- they designed it to
facilitate in place updates and the creation of a consistent and tested
collection of packages, one that could be automatically installed.
Kickstart rocked, and continues to rock.

Dependency resolution for a la carte package installation sucked, and I
do mean sucked, with RPMs until first yellow dog invented yup, and then
Seth took over yup, hit a wall of sorts, and transmogrified it into yum.
Yum, OTOH, rocks.  You want a package, you say yum install package.  How
hard is that?


> The debian community, on the other hand, was and is run fundimentally by
> system administrators, whose best interest centers around minimizing the
> amount of time necessary to keep systems up to date.  Consequently, debian¹s
> package system was designed explicitly to make installation and updating of
> packages as painless as possible for the admin.
> Of course, other pressures have forced deviations from these fundimental
> viewpoints, but the patterns are still clearly visible.
> -Greg

Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
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Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
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