Wanted: Chained package management

One of the minor pain points (but a major surprise point) of using the Ubuntu Linux package management system occurs when upgrading an application that itself implements package management. A classic example of this is Firefox, which has an extension system with a central repository, version compatibility checking, and automatic updates.

On local installs of Firefox (or in Windows), Firefox handles its own upgrades, and has the ability to warn the user if any extensions will be disabled due to incompatibility with the new Firefox version. However, when Firefox is managed by an external agent such as APT, no such warning can take place. (There's another problem hereā€”upgrading Firefox when it is running results in gradual bitrot of the running process as it loads mismatched bits of itself from disk.)

This is totally a solvable problem. Deb packages can contain pre-install scripts that check for bad install or upgrade conditions, and I would bet they can also prompt the user for input in questionable circumstances, such as forced disabling of extensions. There's the minor issue of how to handle multiple user accounts, networked /home, etc., but these all seem solvable with a reasonable amount of effort.

I suspect this post will be too late to influence the Firefox 4 release, but I'm filing an enhancement request anyway. Hopefully the developers of other apps with package managers will take this advice as well.

Comments are closed.