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08 May 2013, 17:21

Ubuntu SDK apps to get own package format

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Canonical's Foundations Team are creating a new application packaging system to sit alongside the existing "apt and dpkg" system that Ubuntu currently uses. The plan was disclosed by Colin Watson, technical lead of the Foundations Team which is responsible for the core of the Ubuntu system, in a mailing list post.

The focus for the new package format is to provide a simpler way of installing packages on the future Ubuntu phone and tablet platforms. The new, as yet un-named, package format would be used only for applications working exclusively with the Ubuntu SDK runtime environment initially; handling of inter-app dependencies is currently outside of the scope of the new packaging system, though Watson says he'd like to be able to leave room in the format to allow for it to be implemented later.

Each packaged app would be installed in its own directory with no scripts for installing, removing or other maintenance. It would be, at least notionally, possible to install apps without being root though the plan is to ensure that apps cannot modify themselves. The installer for the new packages is designed to be fast with a low overhead; a current Python-based proof of concept takes around 0.6 seconds to install a trivial package and that is expected to improve when rewritten in C. That proof of concept actually uses .deb as the container format, but without using many of its features; Watson suggests continuing to use that as it "leaves us room to selectively use more of its features in future if we want to."

Development is still in its early days; despite the working proof of concept there are a number of things on the todo list and the project would still need package discovery, acquisition, indexing, uploading and a user front end in the form of an app store to be adapted to it. When the packaging format would be available to developers to deploy applications is unclear.


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