Amid the bad news of the openSUSE forums getting hit by an invader, came some potentially great news for future openSUSE users. Being the eternal optimist, I want to focus on the good stuff. Perhaps that begins by mentioning that the openSUSE forums are back up and running.
Earlier last week, longtime openSUSE developer Roger Luedecke proposed a new, more user-friendly “app store” for getting new software on openSUSE systems. Noting that the distribution already has a “halfway solution” to the problem of discovering and installing software on openSUSE at download.opensuse.org, Luedecke goes on to say (emphasis mine):
However, there are a number of areas where this interface falls short. The most glaring can be that often the applications lack a description or have one so short as to be nearly useless. Another significant point is the lack of user reviews. Reviews help flesh out things that may be missed in a description, as well as provide tips at a glance on what the new user should expect. I believe reviews would be reasonably easy to implement in the current domain, and getting more robust descriptions should not be terribly difficult.
Yet Another Shopping Cart?
Another problem with the current Download setup is that you have to find and run install packages one at a time. Luedecke believes (and I hope he’s right) that openSUSE could allow users to create a ‘cart’ to select a bunch of packages and then check out. The software would then package everything in the cart, downloading and installing it all with one set of confirmations. This would make installing new stuff from the web as easy as installing packages with the Zypper command line interface, or the YaST software management module.
Good descriptions also simplifies the search for high-quality replacements. If it were up to me, I’d add an “Alternative to” field to the description, so people looking for a Photoshop replacement could easily find The GIMP (perhaps a lame, obvious example, but you know what I mean). The AlternativeTo site could offer a database to pluck from.
Reading through the comments on this post, you’ll find some responses from those resistant to change, but I really hope this happens in a reasonable time frame. Will keep an eye on this in the meantime.
If you’re a Linux user (of any distro): How do you discover and try out new free/open source software? Does your distribution make it easy to get new stuff that meets your changing needs?
If you don’t use Linux now: Do you worry that you won’t be able to find the type of software you need? Have you been frustrated when trying to find a replacement for your favorite application? Anything else holding you back?