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July 10 2017:AppImage, Slackbuilds and StarPlot Meet

Posted on August 05, 2017
( 6 minute read )

Brian introduced AppImage which provides a way of installing packages directly from the maintainer without going through a distro. Unfortunately,

There is a video on the AppImage page showing you how to install them.

The list of available images is on GitHub; most are from maintainers but a few are provided by third parties.

John H commented that they would only be available to a single user, much like ‘foreign’ programs on a Mac while Alice commented that the advantage for maintainers was that they could package once for all distributions.

Brian mentioned that he had found VidCutter, both KeePassX and KeePassXC, the fork of KeePassX, and LaserWeb which he presumed was for driving laser cutting machines.

David S was by then bursting to share his talk at the NetBSD pkgsrc conference in London on 1 July 2017 (download the slides). NetBSD had developed its own packaging system which has been ported to most Unices.

Among the points he made were:

Brian asked about npm with which he had had a lot of problems from inconsistent versions and Alice advised always installing from the package and not from the distro.

In reviewing the range of the package installers, David argued that the future is AppImage, Flatpak and Snappy but he concluded that packaging involves applying standards to software so that it is ‘useful, usable and in use,’ something which none of the new package installers achieve.

Q&A In Q&A, David commented that not all packages are built on clean systems. AppImage is not, as it claims, free of dependencies nor can it be trusted because packages are not signed and everything it achieves is no more than what could be achieved on Microsoft Windows.

On the other hand, LibreOffice has long been looking for a way to avoid going through the distros.

Flatpak does extend its tentacles into the OS but he recommends it, not least because it has no systemd dependencies!

Bernard then demonstrated StarPlot, a starchart and plotting program which he had written in C in 1993 and which he had found again on a Russian ‘Abandonware’ site. He had had to write everything including the cursors in C though he had also licensed some libraries from Jeffrey Sax.

He was able to demonstrate it by using FreeDOS running in QEMU.

He had had to copy most of the data from books which will all be out of date in 50 years time. Part of the challenge is that the stars are moving relative to the sun which the earth is circling while also being wobbled by the moon. The Hubble telescope uses the technique of focusing on the bright stars to ensure that it remains in the correct orientation.

The program allows you to zoom in and out, to study comets or planets, among other things, and to modify the icons if desired.

David S asked about Packer and Alice said it is frequently used to build images to run on Amazon Web Services.

Brian wondered how we could attract more people to the group, perhaps by starting a Meetup group, but John H said that, in the past, we had attracted most people when had some sort of event with a speaker. Among suggestions were an event about installing Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi or a Raspberry Jam but it was important to think of events that would benefit the attenders.

For the next meeting Brian hopes to be able to share his project to turn a clock radio into an Internet clock radio using Node-RED and incorporating text to speech so that it announces the station which it is broadcasting.