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Blastwave is dead, long live OpenCSW and … Blastwave! November 18, 2008

Posted by claudio in Uncategorized.
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damnLet’s face it. GNU/Linux is miles ahead of Solaris when talking about an integrated package management. The combo dpkg/apt-get on Debian and derivatives and even rpms are killer features for many sys-admins and users. The huge well-maintained software repositories are amazing.

Solaris pkg-system (SVR4 packages) and patch-system (individual patches and patchclusters) feel like ancient history. On a fun day I’ll end up writing a perl wrapper for pkgadd and co. (pkgrm, pkginfo, patchadd, patchrm…) to accept parameters in latin…

If you don’t feel like compiling from source dozens (hundreds?) applications and libraries you can always count on kind-of-sponsored-by-SUN sunfreeware. However, dependencies are handled by looking in a web page which dependencies the package has. And which dependencies the dependencies have on an other page, and… You get the picture.

Blastwave to the rescue? The last months have been sad for the Solaris community.

By no means an apt-get equivalent, the tool pkg-get supplied by Blastwave handles dependencies automatically at install time (however, not at the removal besides a warning) and downloads packages from a repository on the Internet. Without a community the size of Debian/Ubuntu or Fedora nor with the same corporate support, Blastwave maintains a few thousands packages and handles security upgrades (again, not on the same level has Debian or Fedora). Not a perfect solution – this is your job, SUN! – but certainly by far the best solution for released Solaris versions.

Sadly, the Blastwave project split. The two most important figures went their own way. Philip Brown forked Blastwave and created OpenCSW, while Dennis Clarke continues with the Blastwave project. Both projects claim to hold most packagers and insist in using the CSW package name prefix (normally unique for a vendor in Solaris) and install the packaged software in /opt/csw. A recipe for technical trouble after a messy divorce.

Anyway, live continues. Now I need to decide which packages to install on our sites. When talking about a few hundreds servers, not a light decision. I talked with Dennis on irc, and Blastwave seems pretty busy (lots of activity on their irc channel and hectic packaging going on). However a little bitter about what happened, Dennis seems determined to keep the effort he has been doing for the Solaris community for years. I haven’t talked with someone from the OpenCSW side yet, but there are new packages there as well. What makes OpenCSW interesting for me is their plan to keep supporting Solaris 8 (we have more than 150). Dennis has stated several times that he would like to concentrate on modern systems (Solaris 10 and up), being this one of the reasons for the split. Nevertheless, Blastwave packages are still Solaris 8 compatible.

Dear Lazy web, without getting into flames, which project software would you install on your machines? The needed Solaris 8 support (for quite some time) puts me in an akward situation…

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Comments»

1. Philip Brown - November 21, 2008

When it comes to technical decisions… dont judge by talk, judge by actions! There is less talk, but more action, on the opencsw side. Over 80 packages actually released, in the last month, and more almost every day.

Also, it is a bit misunderstood to talk about “The effort [Dennis] has been doing for the Solaris community for years”.

Dennis liked to TALK like he ran things in the CSW packaging effort, but the reality is, he did not. He provided hardware to build on,and a domain name. And lots of time fiddling with website re-re-re-layouts. However, most of the more useful, practical work, was done by others. Dennis spent most of his time tinkering with non-packaging things.

PS: if you wish to try talking to “someone from the OpenCSW side” as you put it, feel free to email me and let me know when you are available :)

2. Tim - May 12, 2009

Just a note but it’s not just Debian-based distros that have massive repositories and modern package managers.

For e.g. Mandriva (which uses the urpmi package manager on top of RPM) has around 20,000 different packages in the 3 most common repositories (main, contrib and plf). Opensuse (zypper on top of RPM) has around 10,000 or more with it’s official plus pacman. Even the RHEL/Centos/Fedora world has over 5,000 with the official plus the common 3rd party repos (dag etc.)

Still good to see something’s being done to fix Solaris’ huge shortcomings in this area.

claudio - May 12, 2009

Tim,

Yes, my post may indeed sounded rather apt-centric, but indeed *all* Linux distributions have better package management (including up-to-date and secure repositories) than Solaris. I love Solaris, but that outdated package management is a fact.

Funny you mention Mandriva. Before Gnome became finally usable (after 2.0), while running Debian on servers I used the KDE-centric Mandrake Linux on my laptop. It used to be the Ubuntu of the time :). I loved the distribution.


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