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FLOSS software distribution

2016-06-18 23:45:30
Packaging is the ideal way of bringing software to users. In the FLOSS (free, libre, open source software) world, people can just query a repository from a central tool they know well without visiting obscure websites and simply install things using a single command or click, just like an app store. This tool is called the package manager. It is a trustworthy, convenient, and easy.

However, someone has to do the work behind it, and that is usually another user who wants that certain piece of software themselves or who is asked to do it, someone working in a distro's packaging team, etc..
Now, to actually be able to create a package, the packager will have to know how to build and install the application. Besides that, there are different package formats, helper tools, and standards, depending in the distro.

If you would like to have a package for your system, I stongly encourage you to at least give it a shot, because you can do it easily in surprisingly many cases. Read the guides and tutorials provided in the respective wikis and documentation of your distro or get in touch through IRC or forums.
Many packagers have certain expertise in special fields like Python, Java, KDE, Qt, GNOME, desktop stacks, server applications and so on, and they are willing to share so the community grows and get help themselves.

If you ever read that you should pipe scripts fetched through wget or curl into a shell like bash: That is certainly not a reasonable way of installing software.
It might seem easy because you just run a single command, but you don't know what will actually happen, if it will harm your system (even if the author does not intend it), and it will be very hard to remove it later if you don't want it anymore because your package manager will not even know about it.
You cannot even keep track of things if you don't maintain a list yourself, and probably you won't even have a comfortable desktop shortcut.

These were experiences I made myself and the main reason for me to get started with packaging. Grab a piece of software you want on your system and package it, and I even promise you that it will give you a great understanding of FLOSS software in general, so you and others will benefit in multiple ways.