Other distros may adopt Ubuntu Software Center


openSUSE’s Vincent Untz organized a meeting in Germany around a cross-platform application installer. The meeting was attended by the representatives of major distros. One of the distros everyone is looking at is Mageia, a fork of Mandriva. Long-time Mandriva fans are awaiting the arrival of Mageia, as clouds of uncertainty float over Mandriva. Mageia’s presence at this meeting says the distro will be playing a significant role in the proposed application installer.We interviewed Samuel Verschelde (aka Stormi), Mageia contributor, mageia-app-db project lead, to get his point of view on the meeting for our story. Here is the complete interview…

Swapnil: From Mageia’s POV what is the goal of this initiatives and how it helps users and developers?
Samuel: I don’t know if I can answer for the Mageia community as a whole, but I think the answers will be more or less the same for the other distributions. The main goal is improve the user experience when searching for applications and installing them. For that, a software center needs to use the concept of applications rather than that of packages. Moreover, nowadays many graphical package managers lack translated descriptions, screenshots, and social interaction such as ratings and comments. As many distributions want the same thing, we tried to find a way to avoid unnecessary duplication of work.

We already agreed that we would like the current Ubuntu Software Center to be improved and used in various distributions.

Swapnil: Fedora/Debian/openSuse enjoys one of the biggest software repositories, all based in different package management system and as Vincent said there will be technical and political issues. What are the possibilities of a central App Store which caters to all users irrespective of the distro they use. Do you think that is a possibility or is it anywhere in your agenda?
Samuel: We already agreed that we would like the current Ubuntu Software Center to be improved and used in various distributions. If this happens, then we will have the same software center in many distributions, but this doesn’t meanĀ  that the available applications have to be exactly the same in every distribution. There are no plans to merge software repositories for now, nor package managers.

For each application, we have :

– Simple applications metadata (name, one-line summary and its translations, category…): read from the upstream .desktop files, so shared among all distributions.

– Screenshots, ratings, comments, long descriptions (and their translations), etc. : distributions will be able to choose if they want to share them with others or have their own database. There can also be a middle way : have the software center query your distro’s server first, then fallback to another server (of another distribution, or a cross-distribution one).

– Underlying packages : specific to each distribution

Swapnil: What I say may not make sense, but the way we have common desktop environments which runs on different distros, is it not possible to have similar model for app store?
Samuel: If the project goes well, then yes, this will be possible (see my answer above). However, nothing forces a distribution to use a specific piece of software. It is perfectly possible that there would be several different software centers using the same back-end technology.

Swapnil: What conclusion Mageia team drew from this meeting and how is the project planning to collaborate with other projects over this?
Samuel: I can’t answer in the name of the Mageia project, but to me we absolutely need to collaborate on this AppStream project. I for sure will advocate this.

As a side thing, I lead the mageia-app-db project, which is a web-based applications (and packages) database, focusing on end-user and interaction between end-users and packagers (users can ask for newer versions of some software, and packagers can ask for testing. There will also be mail notifications, so that you can get warned when a new version of your preferredĀ  software is available, for example).

You can see its goals described there :

For this project, it is obvious that I will participate in the AppStream project. It wouldn’t be clever from me to implement things from scratch when they can be mutualized with other distributions. The first examples that come to mind are the application screenshots from and Enrico Zini’s debtags.