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What Windows Needs – Synaptic (or any other package manager)

31 July 2007 No Comment


The weekend saw me doing a Motherboard / CPU / HDD upgrade on one of our household’s PC’s – It’s a Windows 2003 server that had an IDE drive in it and the new Mobo was SATA. The day before, the system wouldn’t boot – some cool bad sector business had caused it. So, I didn’t have a working image to restore to the new hard drive and the system has been running for about 2 years anyway, so I figured it’s probably time for a fresh install.

But I forgot one thing – Windows doesn’t have a package manager. Here’s what I have installed so far.

In the GNU/GPL/LGPL etc front I have installed:

  1. 7zip (zip / rar / tgz etc)
  2. Filezilla (ftp client)
  3. Winmerge (diff tool)
  4. Pidgin (msn / yahoo / jabber client)
  5. OpenOffice (office suite)
  6. Mindquarry client (for Mindquarry Server)
  7. Firefox (browser)
  8. Putty (ssh client)
  9. Winscp (scp client)
  10. NXClient (nomachine X client)
  11. PDFCreator (pdf printer)
  12. Python2.5 (language)
  13. WXPython (widgets for python)
  14. BWgBurn (burning program)
  15. Notepad++ (notepad on steroids)
  16. Gvim (Graphical vi text editor)
  17. Launchy (free’s me from the Start menu)
  18. Keepass Password Safe (stores passwords – synch’s with mindquarry server and accessible from all my machines)
  19. tortoisesvn (Subversion client)
  20. Miro (ex-Democracy player ie: download free (non-pirated) movie content)

On the non-GPL but Free front:

  1. Skype
  2. Opera
  3. JRE 1.5
  4. Picasa
  5. Foxit Reader (win32 pdf reader without the bloat)
  6. Copernic Desktop Search (google desktop doesn’t play nice on Terminal Servers)
  7. .NET 2.0

Now that’s a lot of :

  1. Google
  2. Download -> wait -> Choose Version -> Save As
  3. Run -> click, click, click, click, finish

Those packages are just what I could think up off the top of my head – I am sure there’s a bunch more to come. What would be REALLY, really nice is if we had a package manager like synaptic so that I could just point it to a text file backup of my package selection and it goes away and downloads and installs it all for me. As you can see above, I think there’s enough quality open source packages that could justify such a cause.

The cygwin project is a prime example (although finding the packages you want could be nicer ie: searching) on how a package manager could work.

There are two projects in the works trying to achieve this but both are quite immature with a limited choice of programs to choose from:

The aptly named Windows Package Manager can install putty for you which is kind of harder than just ‘installing’ putty yourself but it’s a start and WinLibre, which I only discovered after installing all of the above programs already and it doesn’t have half of the programs I use anyway.

Maybe when I get through “Dive into Python” book I might take the project on – but then, the book’s author Mark Pilgrim has the same gripe about MacOSX in this post so I might just stick with my Ubuntu and plug any efforts I make in that area.

UPDATE: As chance would have it, Lifehacker wrote an article on a apt-get like tool for windows called win-get

I gave it a bit of a try but it kept failing at the point of running the installer ie:

C:\scripts\wx>win-get install vlc_playerChecking for mirrors…Searching For Best Mirror:Searching For Best Mirror…Pinging: ftp.snt.utwente.nl … No Reponse.–13:26:14–  http://ftp.snt.utwente.nl/pub/software/videolan/vlc/0.8.4a/win32/vlc-0.8.4a-win32.exe           => `vlc-0.8.4a-win32.exe’Resolving ftp.snt.utwente.nl… 130.89.175.1Connecting to ftp.snt.utwente.nl|130.89.175.1|:80… connected.HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 200 OKLength: 9,692,886 (9.2M) [application/octet-stream]100%[========================================================================================>] 9,692,886    187.52K/s    ETA 00:0013:27:12 (164.42 KB/s) – `vlc-0.8.4a-win32.exe’ saved [9692886/9692886]File Retrieved Successfully..Launching Installer…Unable to run installer.

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