Dependencies! Where the tux stumbles down…

When a newbie tries his hand in a newly booted up distro, he quite enjoys using the GNU/Linux very much. He feels that it is not as bad as what he thought of the same, when he was a hardcore Microsoft’ie. He says, “hey dude, Linux is not bad man..”

I smile with complete satisfaction, another guy turned on to tux’s side.

I ask him to try the applications which has come out with the distro. He checks out a few things and returns the approval for satisfaction. I leave him to explore further on his own, with a promise to help him if he hits a road-block.

I meet him after a week, perhaps before his best pal, Mr.PC. And to my shock, he runs Windows again. I ask him the reason. He replies, “Dude, i tried to install some cool app man. I had the binary, butt when i tried out installing it, something called as ‘dependency error’ popped out! I tried my best dude, but i was pissed off..”

This is not something written out of imagination. This is reality. I have heard many people complain about ‘Dependecy Error’. Though people accept the reason behind such issues popping up and there is indeed some solution, yet people ask, “I haven’t seen one such thing with Windows, dude”. Righto! Me too! agreed!

This is one of the few issues that still deter Linux from occupying the ‘common-man’s PC use’. An ardent Linux aspirant doen’t mind dependency issues, as me did, and somehow manages to get through the initial but rather steep learning curve. But, whats’ the same with non-computer savvy end user, who wishes to enjoy the benefits of Linux and the Open Source but abhors such issues which turns him back to good old M$.

People give an immediate reply to this, “Use a packet manager like Synaptic, Yum or Apt which takes care of dependencies by itself”. This is a agreable solution as far as standard applications, which are present in a repos are concerned. But what with some 3rd party app, even some famous ones, which get into a lot of dependencies during installation time. A 20MB package might not get installed just because some 40KB dependency file wasn’t there. Doesn’t seem stupid and think of how much the user who downloaded 40MB file ( think in terms of Indian Network Connections, even our broadband provides 30KB transfer max* ). When he cannot install the app after so much patient download, he really gets pissed off.

So, where lies the solution ? Is it the headache of the application/software developer to make it work with commonly available libraries ? Or is it the headache of the distro developer to provide a load of libraries that dependencies are very rare to occur ? Or is the curse on the tux that it has to face for its never-going-to-end life ? Or is it a curse on open source people like us to face the odd and live with it ? People like me, who do a lot of FLOSS awareness creation work require an answer. Will tux be blessed to come out of this curse ??

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2 thoughts on “Dependencies! Where the tux stumbles down…

  1. Dude , I think a similar problem exists on M$ as well. When I was a newbie with Windoze I remember downloading files only to know that I did not have saomthing called a “Shockwave Player” installed on my machine… Then there are these times when I download movies from P2Ps only to know that the proper codec are not available. Mplayer would never compain about such stuff….
    The point you are making is valid, but I don’t think people change distros bacause ONE of their 3rd party apps had a dependancy error.

  2. Ya, I agree that not many people go in giving up using a distro because it doesn’t have a small lib dependecy, as well as things like flash-plugin, windows-mediaplayer-plugin reqd. etc in windows. But, when you install a software, the maximum it demands is things like JVM/JRE, directx(some version), OpenGL supported video card with some memory value fr high graphics, etc. Still, you know what you have and what you don’t have and decide before you download the main app installer itself. It doesn’t say a dependecy error when you install Yahoo messenger, winamp player, real player in your windows machine. (Wait, am not supporting windows for any cause, am a tuxian)

    But, when the newbie tries out his hands first on a Linux machine and what he wants his the things which he used in windows or something similar but no less, to work in linux on the fly. When he finds this is not hapenning, he has no reasons to stick with Linux. At that instant, he feels the way of install-crash-reinstall life is compritively easy – though it is a major misjudgement.

    I wrote things out of my personal expeirence and as well based on geographically induced differences that exists with users in US, UK, African and Asian countries.

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