The advantage of vendor packages

October 1, 2006

The advantage of using vendor packages is that someone else worries about taking care of program <X>, tracking upstream releases and bugfixes and security issues, making sure that it works, and (with a decent package management system) mostly handling upgrades from version Y to version Z.

This may seem petty, since after all it's easy enough to keep track of something like Apache. The problem is that without vendor packages, it's not just Apache; it's Apache and GNU Emacs and LaTeX and GCC and Perl and Python and so on without end. Tracking things by hand doesn't scale, especially in an environment with other demands on your time, and pretty soon your local software is quietly rotting.

(By 'vendor' I really mean 'anyone who handles package maintenance for me'; as things like and Fedora Extras demonstrate, it need not be the actual OS vendor themselves.)

This is why the Solaris ssh issues bug the heck out of me; Sun is falling down on its end of this, removing the benefit of them handling ssh for me and replacing it with a big hassle. This is one of the areas where doing a half-assed job is worse than not doing the job at all, because it lets people down partway through.

Comments on this page:

From at 2006-10-02 12:46:52:

A disadvantage is that the vendor might never upgrade to newer versions of the packages for your system. For example, Redhat Enterprise 4 systems will not get PHP5, only PHP4. If you need PHP5 for a RHEL4 system you would have to build your own or wait for RHEL5.


By cks at 2006-10-02 18:15:50:

I sort of think that if the vendor doesn't upgrade a package, I am not much worse off than if the vendor hadn't packaged it to start with. I can always build my own; the goal is to do that as little as possible.

(The complication is vendor dependencies; the solution is not to replace vendor packages with new major versions but to install stuff in parallel.)

Written on 01 October 2006.
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Last modified: Sun Oct 1 22:45:23 2006
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