Making Linux Binaries Simple: Automate 'Em - InformationWeek

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9/28/2009
09:49 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Making Linux Binaries Simple: Automate 'Em

If Linux doesn't change its attitude about prepackaged binary (read: closed source) software anytime soon, here's a suggestion: a generic software deployment system for Linux binaries.

If Linux doesn't change its attitude about prepackaged binary (read: closed source) software anytime soon, here's a suggestion: a generic software deployment system for Linux binaries.

The idea came about when talking with a couple of commercial software vendors, all of whom had Linux products and who all tacitly admitted that one of the biggest problems with making Linux editions of anything is supporting each individual distribution. You either have to pick a distro and stick with it, build binaries for every major distro and ever major revision of each distro, or just give up and make your app open source.

My idea: Create a generic Linux software-building system. It uses virtual machines and automated build scripts to take a single source package, build it across all the major Linuxes at once (Red Hat, Debian, SUSE, plus whatever else you want to add), and generate reports for each. It could also test-run the software directly on the build itself and generate statistics or notes about its performance. It might even be able to fetch build / code optimization hints from a central database, so that notes about what works best where could be crowdsourced.

From what I can tell, there's a real need for stuff like this. The more I talk to third-party software vendors and developers and Just Plain Users, the more obvious it becomes that Linux has been built in such a way that it's not just indifferent to commercial software but actively hostile to it. This is only likely to get worse as it goes on, not better.

I mention this to those not in the business of creating commercial softwre and I typically get a response along these lines: "Well, Linux isn't a commercial software ecosystem; it's its own animal." Which is fine, but that still doesn't afford much comfort to the people who try to deploy or run a closed-binary app on Linux, and have to jump through no end of hoops to do so. The whole thing is still slanted strongly towards apps distributed as source and built to binaries by each respective distribution.

What I'd really like to see best, though, is Linux get to a point where jumping through such hoops would no longer be needed. But for now, this is my suggestion.

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