On repositories

2008-12-11 11:57 UTC by Ryan Abel

First, a history lesson

Back when Maemo was first getting started, it lacked a strong central repository. When a developer wanted to distribute software, yes, they could jump through all the hoops to get their package into Extras, but to what benefit? It wasn't as if Extras had all that large of a user base at the time, it was difficult to get upload access, it was difficult to upload packages, and there were no helpful tools available to do automated sanity-checking for you. So most developers took what most people would call the sensible route and instead of wasting valuable time getting their packages into a repository for little or no benefit, they simple opened their own repository and began distributing their software right away, hassle-free.

It continued this way for a while. Users weren't overly bothered—it was difficult to add repositories no matter what, it wasn't as if Extras were any easier. You wanted a piece of software, you added a repository, that was just the way it went. They were 770 owners, not the sort of people who expected things to Just Work™.

Jump ahead to 2007. A new tablet is on the horizon which promises much a broader user appeal beyond the hackerish types that the 770 and early N800 attracted, the N800 has gotten much cheaper, and users are pouring in by the thousands—new users, the type of users who expect things to Just Work™. They expect to be able to take their tablets out of the box, turn them on and start installing all sorts of cool software, but can they? Sadly, no. First they've got to hunt down a dozen different repositories (all of varying quality) so they can start installing the software they want—the software that should've been available right out of the box. Suddenly one of these repositories pushes a broken upgrade, or the user installs some dodgy package and—BAM! it's reboot-loop city. A mess all around.

A new beginning

Then a few people really took notice of that mess and started setting the wheels in motion to fix it. A real push to strengthen Extras into the strong central repository that Maemo needed began.

Various improvements were made: faster servers were added, a new web interface was created, an autobuilder put in place. Suddenly Extras did have a strong advantage over simply rolling your own repository, it was really becoming convenient, and its user base was growing rapidly.

More and more developers were moving their packages to Extras and closing down their repositories. Users were getting easy access to more and more high-quality software.

The here and now

So here we are today, Extras is the de-facto repository for Maemo. It's full of great software, it's easy for users, it's easy for developers and everybody is reaping the benefits. But although great progress has been made, we're not there yet. There are still a lot of holdouts who, for whatever reason, haven't yet hopped on the bandwagon and moved their packages into Extras. I'm here to ask those people to take another look and see what they can do to to get their stuff into Extras and close down their repositories. If it's help you need, there are plenty of very knowledgeable people about who would be quite happy to assist you. If you've got concerns about the repository or the move, let us know so we can address them. It's good for your users and it's good for the platform, so why not start today?


Jeremiah Foster
Karma: 594

This is a great idea, and perhaps part of the motivation for the debmaster position. ;)

I think this is really important from a Quality Assurance perspective. Please, get your stuff into the maemo.org repos and get your software into the hands of users.

2009-02-12 19:20 UTC


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