There was a heckuva lot of debate on the Fedora Development list server when the extras repository was first mentioned for Fedora Core 4. People were taking exception to the fact that their package was in extras while some other package was in core. Some threatened to stop making FC packages and others just whined a lot. Well, the extras repository has debuted and I hope that people see that it’s really not a bad idea at all, In fact, I think it’s an excellent idea.
I was a little ambivalent about it before because I already had a Fedora Core 3 install and I would just be upgrading that. Then, after the upgrade, I would just summon the powers of yum and updated the packages which had been moved to extras. I was happy that I would have to download less CDs and everything would be ok in the end. Is this, or the plan for FC5 to be just one CD, the best policy for everyone? No, it certainly isn’t great for people with dialup, but I think they are planning to find a way for extras discs to be burned for those who want to burn a disc for their friends or LUG-mates who have slower connections. However, for a good portion of North America, Europe, and Asia it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Then I was looking on the website of one of my favorite open source programs, GRAMPS. GRAMPS is very nice, GUI-based, program for recording one’s ancestry. It can be used for construction of a simple family tree, but it is capable of so much more. Up until now I didn’t know the developers had gone through so many revisions. I keep my system up to date with yum and am really too busy to look on the website of every single extra program I have downloaded to see if they have a new version available. As the website proclaimed, GRAMPS had been added to the FC extras repository! This was excellent news for me because now I could always keep up to date on GRAMPS with yum! Suddenly I began to see the power of the extras repository.
While the initial move to using extras was hard for those getting kicked out of “core”, it will be a boon for users in the long run. A lot of people like to complain about RPM dependency hell. We don’t have to worry about that as long as there’s a repo that has our package – yum will take care of it. This is what all of those Debian users are always bragging about with their apt system. They are always touting their huge repository which contains a reputed 15 thousand packages! I think it would be great for Fedora users if that’s what extras could become. If we could get all developers who make RPM packages to submit them to extras then we would have a huge repository from which we could grab all necessary RPMs. I think you’re starting to see what I see – a Fedora world where all programs can be installed via yum.
There really are just two major things that need to be done in order for extras to work in the best way. First of all, the installer needs to make it clear to new users that they are installing only the basic packages needed to make the system run. If they are sure to install from extras they will see all of the other packages they are missing out on. In accordance with this, anaconda should not only allow users with an ethernet card to search the extras repo when installing or upgrading, it should also allow users to be able to establish a modem connection if they so wish. Second, pup needs to be deployed so that users have a clear idea of all of the packages available in extras for them to install as part of Fedora. Yumex can already do this, but as it’s in extras itself, there will need to be a much better package installer in FC5, which, I believe, is planned.