There are cases when getting a specific software from one’s Linux distribution is not the optimal solution — and I’m saying this as a package maintainer myself. The main ones are:
- the distribution package might be out of date
- legal reasons prohibiting the software from being packaged (e.g. Skype, Flash, Adobe Reader)
Note that the first point is not exactly a criticism — after all, distributors tend to be wary of introducing breaking changes in a stable release. For software in the second category, upstream often provides binary packages, but again, using a tarball requires users to deal with dependency resolution themselves, and even when Debian or RPM packages are provided, the packaging is often sub-par (upstream developers can’t be expected to be well-versed in the subtleties of each distribution’s packaging).
Enter 0install. Now installing, e.g. Thunderbird 5.0, is a simple process:
yum install zeroinstall-injector
0alias thunderbird5 http://mojo.informatik.uni-erlangen.de/interfaces/2011/thunderbird.xml
or use “Add New Program” from the application menu and provide it with the URL for the Thunderbird feed. This currently lets you easily select between Thunderbird 5.0 beta 2 and 5.0 final (for both 32-bit and 64-bit builds) as well as the distribution’s packaging (on RPM-based and Debian-based distributions as well as Gentoo), and will pull in needed dependencies (please report any problem here).
You can browse http://mojo.informatik.uni-erlangen.de/interfaces/2010/ and http://mojo.informatik.uni-erlangen.de/interfaces/2011/ to see other available feeds that I maintain (and 0install’s site for even more). Of note: Eclipse JEE, Maven 2.2.1/3.0.3, Skype and Tomcat.