Originally Published: Thursday, 14 September 2000 Author: Emmett Plant
Published to: daily_feature/Linux.com Feature Story Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

The Dependency From Mars

Why do I feel like Indiana Jones every time I want to install a piece of new software? It's like I've got to get in the cave, over the tiles, past the wall of spikes, and then hope I don't have anything weird coming at me from the ceiling. Is there any end to my quest for easy program installation?

Do I have to compile a program every time I want to install it on my Linux machine? Is this really necessary? RPM and dpkg are great for those platforms, but it's starting to get a little crazy. This is the year 2000. I shouldn't have to compile anything. I want to hit a button and watch it go, but no. I've got to ./configure. I've got to make all. I've got to make install. Is there any end?

Who thought this was a good idea? Way back in the 90's, I had a Macintosh LC. I felt a little out of place on it because I was used to the rough-and-tumble world of the x86 universe. You know what was nice? If I downloaded a program, the OS would put a little icon on my desktop. If I double-clicked that icon, the package would explode, and I'd get another little icon. I would click this one, the program would install itself, find where it needed to be, and boom, I was good. I was ready to use that program.

Oh, no. We can't do that, not in the new and exciting era of Linux. We've got to worry about compiling programs in Linux! We've got to download this file, gunzip it, tar -xvf it into directory, go in there, type a bunch of archaic commands, and roll the dice. If I'm lucky, the thing'll just run and I can move on with my life. If I'm not, I get some godawful error message about some weird dependency that this program has. What do I have to do, send it to Betty Ford? Do I need to send my application to rehab because of its dependency problem? No, I've got to go online, find the package that the bit that my program needs is in, and get this - Start all over again. I've got to go get something to make something work, and there's a chance that the something I need to work to make something work won't work. Follow me?

Don't get me wrong. I was a sysadmin before I was a writer. I know what I'm doing when it comes to this stuff, but I find it really distressing. Sure, I've only started using X in the past year, because console was good enough for me for years. I really didn't need anything else, and I enjoyed the days of the command line interface. Now I'm running Enlightenment, which is incredibly, incredibly clever and makes you wonder why you ever used a console ever. Maybe I'm spoiled now. I don't know what it is, but getting cool new software is hampered by the inability of Linux to do this thing easily.

Maybe I'm complaining too much. Maybe I'm not complaining enough. Okay, let's be fair. Linux isn't really meant for the home user like my Mac LC was. Linux consistently shines on the server platform, and hey, maybe I'm expecting too much. The good thing about most of the networky server jazz that Linux kicks out is that it is part of every single installation, unlike The Dependency From Mars, which I might need in order to run some goofy toy I downloaded. You know, it's kind of sick - I'll complain about this stuff while I'll complain about needless bloat, too. I demand my cake, and I want to eat it, too.

Things are getting better. Nautilus (from Eazel) and Helix (from Helix Code) make things a lot easier, and that's great. Things are getting better. Installation of new software will be much easier depending on the ease-of-use factor of the distribution you're using. I'd like to see something a little more broad in scope that we could use on every distribution, but hey, I guess they've got to make their money somehow. Here's hoping that they find the right answer as quickly as possible; I've got a lot of useless software to load!

Emmett Plant is Linux.com's Editor-in-Chief. He hasn't slept much recently.