Open Ballot: do we need a standard package format?


We all know that "choice is good", but does that extend right the way down to the very fundamentals of our Linux lives? In our next podcast the Open Ballot question is this: should we standardise on a single package format, eg RPM or .deb?

If you haven't participated before, the rules of our Open Ballot are simple: we want you to answer the question with a simple yes or no, backed up with the deep insights and reasoning that led you to your answer. Do users really care about package formats? Would it make much of a difference even if we did have a standard? Please also provide a name other than "Anonymous Penguin", because it sounds silly when read out lots of times. Let us know what you think!

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Your comments


I would leave it the way it is.


Seems to me there are already de-facto standards. If 1 proves superior, it will take over.

Until then, developers should use a tool that generates all the different package formats from their project. If such a tool doesn't exist, it seems like a worthwhile thing to create. I don't know, I'm just a user.


I like how diverse the linux community is. But to be a true contender forcommercial operating systems it needs direction, at the moment efforts are split too many ways doing the same thing rather than fixing problmes like drivers and such that hold it back.


If we did, I'd personally prefer pacman, Archlinux's package manager. It's simple and fast, and the makepkg system is very valuable and so is AUR.

Open your source. Close your package.

There was a time when if you want to install Linux, you should compile it from source. Then you should compile applications. And so you should do each time, each!
This took a lot of time, so there was a word of wisdom saying: why dont't compile this software, split it to packages and then install precompiled packages because it would be faster?
But packages didn't make compilation from sources a part of history. So ordinary advanced user use them only when install distro. Because compilation from sources is a one of basic thing in open-source. Packages are temporary, sources are permanent.

Go mandrake

Yay for mandrake


I've used .rpm and .deb distros before and I tell you I really love .deb. I'm currently using Ubuntu 9.04 and I can get software Windows style, by just going to or (and many others) and choosing the .deb file downloading it double clicking it and there it is, it's installing.

I don't know if you can do that with RPM or other .deb distros but Ubuntu allows that and I love it. That can make Windows converts feel more at home with Linux.

Yes, but it ain't going to happen

One package system would be great for ease of use, BUT, that will never happen. If it does, some people will find system x inferior for feature y, and concequently fork or start afresh, and then you are back to the beggining.

No It just won't happen

Opendesktop's PackageKit has back-ends for .deb .rpm and smart and several distros are now using it so the end user sees the same GUI whatever the underlying package system i think they are trying the one ring to bind them strategy ;)Fedora is also bring in delta packages now where you only download what has changed in a particular package great for those still on dial-up or limited bandwidth.

No and YES

Short answer: We ALREADY have standard package format and it is RPM!.

RPM was choosed because better features for the LSB standard. Debian people just can not stand that their package format wasn't choosed and they try to bash RPM again spreading FUD etc.

But we do not need one package manager, one package naming/package format and styles. We need multiple.

Examples. We can have distributions what offers packages what follows upstream source package naming and structure. But we have distributions what slice those packages or joins them together, like Gentoo. All for different purposes and we just can not have one multi-format package. If you do not like that fact, then go back to Windows or Mac OS X.

We have coming one GUI for package managers. We can use smart side by side with other package manager to get one UI. There is one UI for all distributions and all desktop environments and windowmanagers.


There is no need to have one package format if the various distros' package installers recognize the format and handle it correctly.

apt-get install <somepackage>.rpm -- "This is not a .deb package would you like to convert it first?" Yes (enter) or N0

And of course the equivalent process with yum,rpm or whatever.


I realize that according to the LSB, RPM was supposed to be the standard, but as several people have already stated, Fedora, Mandriva and SUSE rpm's will not install in each others distros. This is the reason I dropped those distros to use deb files. I find that, at present, apt-get seems to take care of dependencies better. However, that may change in the future. I may have moved back to Windows due to frustration 3 or 4 years ago if I hadn't had another package management system to try out. If people are sure that there should only be one package system, one desktop, etc. there is a system out there for them. It's called Microsoft Windows,

Yes - An Online Package Manager for all distros

I believe if a universal package service existed that people could easily upload their own apps to and the apps then tested would make a BIG difference! This would progress Linux forward greatly. I have come across applications that work well in one distro and fail or are unavailable in others. How will this build the strength of the open source application?
A service like opensuse build service with 1 click install. If this type of service could be used for all distros then the focus could be concentrated and the linux community as a whole would benefit.

Why isn't there enough collaboration between distros to advance linux applications which can encourage more developers to work with linux?


Resounding YES

OK, My belief is absolutely YES and that is based upon achieving a greater acceptance of Linux across the board and specifically in desktop users.

I have not read every post above, so forgive me if I repeat some things.

a. Developing packages for multiple package systems is an extremely time consuming thing. In many cases, the person doing the package maintenance is a VERY GOOD PROGRAMMER. Now, if that person was able to spend his time in OSS development instead of package management, perhaps Linux wouldn't still be behind in some key applications such as Audio Development, Video Development, and "PhotoShop" Equivalents... blah blah blah.

b. We need some commercial applications IOT make the platform truly accepted. A standard package format would increase the commercial support for linux and simplify the deployment of their software.

c. Standard packages would reduce the "confounding" view that many NEW USERS are faced with when having to find packages outside of their package manager -- thus increase the user satisfaction.

d. We would be just that much closer to "it just works" across the board.

Well, those are enough reasons. Package management is a very effective aspect of Linux. I personally hate RPM due to the time it takes and I seam to have much more dependency hell with RPM than other package formats.

Regardless of the fact that RPM is the "Official Linux" format for packages, the industry is quickly standardizing on DEB for the sole reason of popularity of Ubuntu. Even if we don't "Standardize", the community will move toward a "majority" standard, which in my opinion, we already have. As a result, we will see increasingly applications released in .deb only due to the amount of time it requires to make packages. Other distros will either have to resort to conversion or build their own.

It seams that one of the key differences between distributions is the package manager. Lets get by the "turf wars" and move on to bigger and better things on ONE STANDARD (or at least majority standard) so that our resources can be applied in more productive ways to increase / expand the great software that is available as OSS.

As for my vote, it is Debian format. Why? because it is fast and my time is important to me. Sure, it may be a mess in some ways, but if we settle on one standard and improve the existing "majority" system, we would all be better off.


For average Joe this would be a nice, and Linux will gain lots of new user. In my opinion distros shouldn't matter too much for the end-user. If one runs Gnome DE on Ubuntu one should be able to run Gnome on Fedora without any learning curve. I think that the way applications are delivered to the end-user should be part of the desktop environment experience. Gnome, KDE, Xfce (add other DEs) should have a standard of their own. This comes from a Windows user that is satisfied with how things are done on his OS and appreciates the way apps are delivered on macs even more.



It isn't the format which confuses people, it's the software that works with the format. There already are several starts on software which work with different formats; this process should work toward convergance so that the actual package format is invisible to everybody but developers. That also allows each package format to retain its unique strengths.

Re(@Dave): Software is a tool

People like to have control over objects (a piece of software is a tool so it is perceived as an object when comparing it with the material world). Installing apps with scripts is not perceived as control by many users (I'm not talking about users with above average knowledge of computers and linux specifically) because they can't understand how things work behind the scene. That's why I like Mac OS X approach (the app store for iPhone is nice but I'm not sure such a implementation would satisfy some desktop users). I repeat I'm a Windows user (I have tried Gnome, KDE and Xfce but I gave up after few days on any of those) and this is my opinion only, I'm not trying to say make things like Windows does but think about the hole spectrum of users because linux is slowly going mainstream.


It will definitely bump-up the ease-of-use meter for end-users. Imagine... freely available Linux software that is distro-agnostic!

We will have a problem..

Has anyone considered that each distro applies its own set of patches to everything? Check out the Ubuntu kernel... How do you plan on managing all those same packages from different distros? You'll end up with a package manager that will have to be used like: install package-gentoo or install package-ubuntu... unless distros start using vanilla packages, I don't see this going anywhere.


I dont think we should force anyone to give up rpm or deb.
However, we could make the programmers easier by providing
a script that takes their completed code, and produces the
required packages automatically. This might be the purpose
of alien.


Because, in a lot of cases, I don't think it would solve the problem.
Quite often packages in whatever format are built for a particular distro to ensure they're built against the correct versions of the libraries included in that distro, so even if they were all debs or rpms, you'd still need your distros package. This doesn't really have an advantage over needing an RPM for redhat and a Deb for Debian.
Perhaps what we actually need is a universtal management system, that can handle RPM repos, Deb repos, portage etc. depending on the distro. Anyone remember KPackage?


i can't find it cons

No. because it'll get

No. because it'll get changed anyway. The problem with standards is that everyone else's is better than the original so when you spec a standard everyone adds to it, changes it, whatever and you end up with hundreds of the damn things. Look at linux already; how many repository formats, how many installers?

Will an universal

Will an universal packagement system be under the GPL? If so, it will be just a matter of time before some clever dick starts tampering with it. If not, then an open source zealot distro will stay behind.
In both cases, it will be not universal.

Yes, oh please god yes

I find it bizarre that when you list the details of a distro you normally end up having to say which package manager it uses! Surely this should be irrelevent to the end user, why should they have to learn how to use a new package management system if they swap distro. Plus if you go to a website which provides package downloads its madness that you have to scan through a list like


Of course it would be great if the distro's all used a standard base so that packagers didn't have to worry so much about the target distro, some sort of linux standard base? Crazy I know.


I agree with Joakim Ganse above, it's not the package manager we need to agree on it's where the files go once installed that needs to be agreed on because this would make alien far more accurate it could also lead to alien becoming obsolete since dpkg and rpm could be modified to handle the other package formats, if the files were going into the same place regardless of the distribution where's the issue?

Of course it could result in the purpose of having different package formats becoming redundant, but that's another discussion.

FHS is what we need guys! Also, did LSB not already decide RPM to be their chosen package format?

I wouldn't do it

Don't know if anyone made the argument yet, but why fix something that isn't broken. It's nowhere close to being broken. It works!

Sure, a unified package format will be a huge help to users and package maintainers, but I'm fine with all the different package formats, and I'm sure many share my opinion.

Is there a huge learning curve involved, when you switch distros and have to install DEBs instead of RPMs? Short answer, no.

As for making the software package distro-agnostic, I say *tarballs*.

What's the one big reason, the big motivator, the final nail in the coffin, the real mccoy, to call for a unified package format? What is the one true and final question, whose only answer is: unified package format.

Shashank Sharma

Hey, what gives, my email didn't show up the first time!

Yes have one package

Yes have one package management package.

All the distros can then share all the open source project instead of it only being available to some distros and not others.

More software can be made for Linux which will be a bad thing for Microsoft as the adoption for Linux will be higher as the learning curve will not be as steep and more software programs will be available for it.

I would also suggest that one uses a standard interface so that all software aplications can work on one interface and that will reduce the programming time and the adoption of Linux will be greater as there will be a standard.

I know that choice is good but too much choice can be a bad thing.


I'd also vote for .deb or it's nearest equivalent.
LinxMint web site is doing an interesting on it's web site with the software portal. It's A nice simple idea.

If all the major distros did something like it you wouldn't need to standardise anything.


aye aye!

YES, absolutely!!

There are many good reasons. The main ones are:

1.- The end user will be able to find and install packages a lot easier, even if they're not in the main repos (we could even have a universal, gigantic, common repo for all distros, something like sourceforge just for linux with all packages available and tested).

2.- That's because developers will find it a lot easier to build just one package that would work for all distros, rather than just giving up on building any package at all (leaving just the source), or building just one for ... say ubuntu or fedora (leaving everyone else out).

3.- Choice is good!! Yes, but for everything? I know this is somewaht different, but we only have one kernel and not only we don't complain about it, we are very proud of it. Being open source you can compile it or modify it to your liking, and a universal kind of package would be just as customizable (I guess!).

4.- You can be sure that if you try a different distro you'll still be able to use the same programs (which is not the case now unless you go config, make, make install...). Even better, you should be able to just save the list of installed packages and read from there as you do now within only one distro.

Of course, on that everyone should compromise, because if we start go .deb or .rpm it won't happen. I could happily say pacman.


Looks like most of those who say 'yes!' here think that the *only* thing that prevents us from installing .deb on Fedora is the package format... It ain't that simple, guys. It's the distros that are different, not just package formats. So don't spend your effort fixing things that aren't broken - there are many other problems in the Linux world that really need attention.

it's a pointless argument

it's a pointless argument anyway; it'll never happen.


... but it'll never happen.

Tools that allow you to create packages for multiple formats are the way to go.

Yes (with moderation)

What does a package system do? To simplify it a bit:

- it places files in directories;
- it makes sure files don't get overwritten when they shouldn't;
- it keeps track of dependencies.

What's the big deal, then, having a simple package structure and manager, that follows *some* standard? Just put a pretty face on it, and the job is done.

Want something different? Build it, use it, but make it compatible with the standard, so that the "translation" ('alien'-like) is quick and painless. Everybody gets their freedom, and everybody gets the safe ground of a standard.

Just my two cents...

No ... yes

Universal packagemanager that installs all packageformats for newbies and lazy users and "distro-original" for others.

Yes and satnardised distro directory

Of course this would be great, still would be able to use various package management software. Also, as it has been on the books for sometime, a standardised directory for all distros; as far as I am aware there is no benefit to the different directory structures from distro to distro.


Yes we should have a standard package format. Why have more than one? Having more than one distro is a different scenario, in which the multitude of choices are a good thing. But it should be that whatever distro a person is using, they should be able to install any software program without having to worry about needing it in a .deb or .rpm format. Some software just downloads, then extract the files and run the executable. Which is a very easy way to run software.

But if a person needs an rpm file but can only find a deb (or vice versa) it gets confusing/difficult to get the software wanted.

So either make all package managers and distros allow all types of packages to be installed regardless, or settle on one package type, of which .deb is possibly the best option.

Yes - also standard hierarchy

Why the f..., after all, do distributions deviate from the standard file system hierarchy, to start with?

And then, what's the point of having different package systems? What does one offer that others does not?

Yeah, standards are good for you.

not really

A standard package format would be nice but what we need is universal packages as in not having to have a different package for each distro.

What's the point of having a standard package format if there's a separate package for each distro ?

Sure fhs came with some improvements but now it's getting old if not obsolete when compared to current usage. gobolinux's choice of fhs is arguably better.

PS: requiring to activate cookies to post comments is stupid.


Linux Will never have a thriving commercial software sector without one! There should be one standard package and then another one for people that want W/E it is they think is so special about thier favorite type of package but yes every distro should be required to be able to read some one kind of standard package and it should be efficient just like the Linux Kernel.


For me, .deb/dpkg/APT is good enough. Pacman/Portage are also good.

I can't bear with RPM/YUM. We don't need a unified package management. But we need something even better than .deb/dpkg/APT.

No because I like Chocolate

Years ago it was said an American can go to a Basking Robbins in the States that has 31 flavors of ice cream and know right away which flavor (or flavor combination) they want while in the UK the local establishment or caravan may only have vanilla, chocolate, and perhaps strawberry and a Brit will think about it for a while.

So there should be between 3 and 31 flavors of package formats.

YES!!!, but make them real packages!!!

I'm so tired of all the different packages everywhere. I just want 1 file to install a program, like an EXE file in windows. Also, if dependencies are required, INCLUDE THEM!!! Sharing is great, but what's wrong with not sharing too? No, a deb is not the same as an exe. If it's not easy, it's not worth it. I use linux daily and I sometimes spend an hour getting 1 app to install. It sucks. Also, we need a smart package manager that can really fix itself if an app crashes or a file is corrupted on download. I'm tired of hacking package managers when they crash!

Doesn't matter; source code compiler with easy GUI?

As others have pointed out: the package format doesn't make that much difference when you still need distro-specific debs or rpms. How about an easy to use, GUI-based source code compiler that would also seek out any dependencies in a distro's repositories? That would ease installing software that you find on the internet and isn't in your distro's repositories. Or, in addition to distro's own repositories, one universal source code repository that's easily accessible from multiple distros and can be accessed by the GUI-based source code compiler in the manner of Synaptic, etc.

Package formats should not be important

I agree with the previous post. You could just have a simple GUI front-end common to all distributions which allows users to easily search for apps with the functionality they need. Then click 'install' and it 'just works' (much like Apple's app store, only less restrictive!).

The only difference would be the back end. The front-end itself would be in a unique format and cater specifically to the distro's needs, but as the usage grows it would be bundled with them, so that would no longer be an issue. The back end could just be a means of calling any given distro's native package manager, so there would be no need to shift repositories around.

There is one gotcha with this solution though: Who would be in charge of developing the interface/back-ends and maintaining the list of available apps?


Should we aim for 'setup.exe' or a way of using an 'app-store' style approach to avoid these packages? I personally prefer the latter, as it would involve less squabbling! lol :D

I think No voters base their

I think No voters base their opinions on philosophical ideas while Yes voters have some solid reasons, therefore yes.

Having said that it would be impossible to achieve this in general because of different ways of thinking. I can't imagine Slackware using deb files or Ubuntu using tgz files.

I think this debate should rather be if distros should get rid of rpms or debs and use the other one. For this question my answer is a definite yes by all means.

Linux Admin/PHP Developer


It has a lot of benefits both from a developer and user point of view. I think the debian package management should be the default because it is faster and easier to use than the Redhat RPM.


Too much effort is wasted on packaging already!

We need to focus on this issue as many find it too much effort to create a different package for 10 different distros to distribute their software, since just one RPM and one DEB will not do.

I think we should standardize with DEB and maybe put a little bit of effort improving it, if needed. DEB is becoming so common that developers coming from a Windows background can develop a DEB package, so people can install their Linux software.

Think about all the people who spend hours developing Linux packages when they could be working on Linux software and pushing Linux further.

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