Ubuntu to make Linux application installation idiot proof

There's really nothing that hard about installing programs on Linux. Anyone who still uses shell commands like say, "apt-get install some-program-or-the-other," is doing so because they want to do it that way, not because they have to. Programs like Debian and Ubuntu's Synaptic, Fedora's yum or openSUSE's YaST makes installing programs little more than a matter of point and click. Still, some people have trouble, so Ubuntu is reviving a dusty, old project, AppCenter so that anyone can install Linux programs.

I was pointed to the newly refurbished site by some Ubuntu insiders in response to some questions I had about an earlier rumor about their being plans for an Ubuntu App Store afoot. I guess Apple's App Store's roaring success has everyone App Store happy these days. That site, apperi, which describes itself as a Linux app store, wasn't the one though that Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, was working on.

According to the Ubuntu site, "There will be a single graphical interface for package management in Ubuntu, currently codenamed AppCenter. (The final name, like much of the design, will be partly dependent on user testing.) This will combine the human-readable approach of Add/Remove Applications, the power of Synaptic, and the ease of use of Update Manager. Having a single interface will make handling software easier, socially improve security, hopefully free space on the CD, and provide a prominent showcase for Ubuntu and partner software. The implementation will likely be based on Add/Remove Applications (gnome-app-install), but may use PackageKit for some components."

This isn't the first, or the one-hundred and first time, that someone tried to do this. Perhaps the most well known of these efforts to provide an easy-to-use Linux software installer front-end was the late Linspire's CNR (Click 'n Run). CNR, easily Linspire's best feature, eventually also worked with Ubuntu and Mint, but Linspire never really got any traction with desktop Linux users. Linspire and CNR were eventually bought out by Xandros. Xandros hasn't done anything since then though with CNR or Linspire. Linspire's community distribution Freespire, which was to be rebuilt also appears to be dead-in-the-water.

Linspire, though, always had troubles both internally with executives leaving and with the Linux community with its proprietary software embrace. Ubuntu, however, is Linux's fair-haired baby. People love Ubuntu. So, I'm going to be watching with interest to see if Ubuntu can deliver a universal Linux software installer front-end. You're not going to see it any time soon though. They're taking this time with this project.

AppCenter won't show up until October 2009 with the next release of Ubuntu. In that version, the plan is to provide a "simple and fun interface for finding, installing, and removing software." This is to be backed up by "description, category, keywords, and/or screenshot for a software package ... so that end users can find the software more easily later."

I like that last part a lot. I may know that Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, and Songbird are all noteworthy Linux music players, but come on! Does anyone beside another Linux expert know that? Letting users choose a program by say clicking on "music player" and then picking one makes all the sense in the world. By April 2010, they hope to have it set up, under a different name, so that you'll also see reviews and ratings of your possible software choices.

This plan gets a big thumbs-up, way up, from me. Linspire's CNR never really got going, but if Canonical can make this work, it will be a great benefit not just to Ubuntu users, but all desktop Linux users.

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