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New approaches to Linux package management

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Traditional Linux package management systems such as RPM, Debian's dpkg, and Slackware's pkgtool present several problems for users. Users who want optimized packages often have problems finding them, different package repositories have conflicting naming conventions, and binary packages are often not available for packages in a timely fashion. However, for users willing to stray from the beaten path, there are alternatives. Two projects have taken up the challenge of making a package management system that overcomes these shortcomings.

Availability of binary packages is also a problem for certain projects. I am an avid fan of KDE and a Slackware user. Every time a new version of KDE is released it takes a week or two until the Slackware packages are available, and the alternative, compiling KDE from source, with all its dependencies, can take an entire day.

Another problem with existing package management systems is that they contain scripts that automate the installation. However, if the scripts contain bugs, then users may need to employ complicated workarounds to rectify the problems. Even worse, if a package's installation script fails, it might be impossible to remove the package without extensive manual effort.

A new breed of distributed package management systems have emerged which make use of Internet-based repositories to give users the packages they require, customized for each user's architecture.

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