Are Linux repos like proprietary app stores?

Bryan Lunduke had a column in Network World last week comparing Linux software repositories to proprietary app stores. His point is a valid one: just because software was once available, that doesn’t mean it will be in perpetuity.

It’s tempting to argue that his example isn’t a fair comparison because the repos in question were hosted by Nokia, who was making money off device sales, instead of being a community project. That’s a weak argument, though, because community is no guarantee of longevity. Community provides some extra momentum, but if Red Hat decided it was going to pull its support for Fedora tomorrow, would the community be able to keep the infrastructure running? Would Ubuntu continue without Canonical? Perhaps, at least in the short term. At least in those cases, community mirrors would allow the current state to be maintained for a while.

This isn’t really a problem with repositories, though. If you had to go to the project’s website to get the code, you’re still in the same boat. Or in many small boats that are the same. At any rate, software you get from the Internet is always going to be at risk of going poof. This is true for both commercial and open source software.

Somewhere in my parents’ house, there are still probably 3.5″ floppies of DOS games I bought at Target for $5. If I had a 3.5″ drive, I’d see if the disks are still readable. But the software I actually use? It all comes from Internet distribution. I guess good backup hygiene includes keeping the appropriate install media stashed away somewhere.

3 thoughts on “Are Linux repos like proprietary app stores?

  1. I guess I strongly disagree with the thesis that repos are app stores.

    Nokia is a bad example because they hosted it on their infrastructure. If they had used sourceforge (since github wasn’t a thing back then) then it would probably still be available. Plus or minus some malware.

    Github will some day closes its doors and some projects will fade away but more than likely if the site is used enough there will likely be a “closing it down, clone the stuff you care about while you can.”

    Hell when geocities was shutting down there was a tremendous effort to clone that.

    So, I call clickbait on that posting.

    Shame on them.

  2. The case is definitely overstated, but I think there’s reasonable points raised. Five years from now if you want to reinstall some defunct project, will you be able to find what you need? Maybe community mirrors will still be around if you can find them, but maybe they won’t. The point of the article, I think, isn’t so much “everything is terrible”, but “consider the implications”.

  3. Pingback: Feeling snappy? Self-contained apps won’t replace distro packages | Blog Fiasco

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