June 26, 2014
The past 24 hours have been a revelation: there’s no need to be entrenched in one camp of free software. There’s a much wider world outside of any one camp. For example, if you think Ubuntu is Linux, think again. If you think Linux is the bastion of free software, think harder. Free software is all around us and it’s only us who choose not to see it.
I’ve been re-introduced (with a new perspective) to MacPorts. It’s a fascinating and remarkable way to install and use free software on your Mac OS X. I had tried it some years ago but it was just too slow on a spinning hard drive. On my MacBook Air it runs much better (some slowness still because of the nature of compiling source). But the world of possibility it opens is fantastic.
Today I re-remembered pkgsrc from NetBSD and looked into it a bit more. It, too, provides fantastic opportunity to blend (Net)BSD with your favorite Linux distro or even Mac OS X. Go ahead and read pkgsrc: my favorite non-root package manager on linux” and see how simple it can make someone’s life. This article seeded this notion of blending Linux with BSD to benefit any user.
Take this theoretical possibility. There’s a user who wants a Linux-based desktop/notebook OS with great hardware support, wide application availability, cheap-ish or free of cost, great community support, in-depth documentation, etc. Some distros that come to mind immediately include your favorite distro as well. Now let’s say this user chose Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. It is promised to be version-stable with support for 5 years. The user can stick with it for 5 years or can migrate to 16.06 in two years. But for the foreseeable future the user is stuck on the same version of some software unless the distro is upgraded as a whole or by using third-party packages. Although PPAs are available for a variety of software, including updated versions of programming languages like Python, they can be hit and miss in terms of packaging quality and support. An upstream developer cannot be expected to be well-versed in the nuances of Ubuntu packaging. So the overall experience may not be ideal.
A possible workaround is to use something like pkgsrc to obtain and use updated software on a distro meant to provide stability above all else. This distro could be CentOS or Debian or whatever. Turn the concept of a Linux distro on its head to be a more FreeBSD-like “core v apps” architecture. Continue to use your Linux distro and all its great features and packages. And when you need to move beyond its supplied packages to something newer or different use something like pksrc.
May your blending be fruitful.