Clear Linux 28210 Review Supplement: Package Management

June 4, 2019, 6 p.m.

Package management is one of the unique features of Clear Linux. Unlike many distributions software is not managed as discrete packages, but as "bundles" of software that are installed and updated together to provide a certain functionality. In this article, I describe some of the package management concepts of Clear Linux.

Introduction

Clear Linux provides the swupd CLI program for managing software and updating software from the distribution's repositories or user defined custom repositories. It is a somewhat simple program at least in user interaction, but is capable of installing and removing programs, updating the system to the latest Clear Linux OS version or to any available specified version. Note that because all available software is built together the OS version also specifies the version of all software on the system with one number.

Because the OS's statelessness is realized by minimizing the content of the /etc directory in order to separate the core system from user configuration, some software such as desktop environments or other software that rely on configuration found in /etc, don't behave as expected as in traditional distributions. Clear Linux offers another method of installing software that doesn't manifest issues as a result of not having configuration in /etc, namely installing software as Flatpaks, either through GNOME Software or through the CLI.

The two modes of installing software in Clear Linux are illustrated below -- Flatpaks and distribution distributed software as "bundles". In the terminal window a search for "vlc" with swupdshows that it can be installed from the distribution's repository as the bundle vlc or the bundle desktop-apps-extras, which includes many other bundles. A GNOME Software search shows VLC as the native bundle (the generic icon) already installed and as a Flatpak (the program's specific icon) as uninstalled and available.

Clear Linux Supports Flatpaks
VLC is available as a Flatpak or as built by the distribution from its repo.

swupd

Searching for Software Using swupd

Updating Using swupd

Installing Software Using swupd

Installing Using swupd

Uninstalling Software Using swupd

Installing Using swupd

Updating Software Using swupd

Updating Using swupd

Other swupd Functions

Using swupd to Verify

GNOME Software and Flatpaks in GNOME Software

Browsing Software in GNOME Software
  • The Spotify Detail Page on GNOME Software
    Spotify is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • GNOME Software Enabled Repositories
    Flathub is an enabled repository in GNOME Software on Clear Linux
  • The Spotify Detail Page on GNOME Software
    Spotify is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • Flatpaks Are Well Integrated into the Desktop Environment and System.
    The GNOME Settings application settings page for VLC Media Payer installed as a Flatpak. GNOME System Monitor shows VLC running as a subprocess of what appears to be a Flatpak binary wrapper.
  • The Atom Text Editor Detail Page on GNOME Software
    Atom is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • The Atom Text Editor Detail Page on GNOME Software
    Atom is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • The VLC Media Player Detail Page on GNOME Software Before It Is Installed
    VLC Media Player is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • The VLC Media Player Detail Page on GNOME Software After It Is Installed
    VLC Media Player is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • The VLC Media Player Detail Page on GNOME Software
    VLC Media Player is one of the programs available as a Flatpack.
  • Flatpaks Are Well Integrated into the Desktop Environment and System.
    The "Open With" right click menu option displays Flatpak applications correctly.
  • Flatpaks Are Better Integrated into the Desktop Environment and System.
    There are no codec issues in VLC Media Player installed as a Flatpak, unlike as in VLC installed as a bundle from the Clear Linux repository.
GNOME Software and Flatpak
Flatpaks can be easily installed using GNOME Software. Programs installed as Flatpaks -- at least in the case of VLC Media Player -- actually work better than the applications installed as bundles from the Clear Linux repositories.

CLI and Flatpaks

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