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Portage vs. App Store - ideas
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Joined: 24 Jan 2006
Posts: 429
Location: Graben-Neudorf, Germany

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:47 am    Post subject: Portage vs. App Store - ideas Reply with quote


I recently thought about how Portage already beats Apples App Store when it comes to features. So I thought “Why doesn’t it win over clearly?” and followed up with “how can we make it (almost) as attractive without investing a huge amount of time and work?”.

What I found to the first question (shortcomings compared with the App Store):

  • We don’t have screenshots or icons
  • Our descriptions are extremely short - we have no detailed descriptions (I stumble over that from time to time).
  • We don’t have a simple option to see only end-user applications.

And all of these are quite easy to improve. My ideas to improve them are:

  • Add another optional value to ebuilds with an icon URL and a value with the URL to the screnshots site(icon_url and screenshot_site). That way people who write graphical frontends can show these icons and the site with the screenshots (a single screenshot would have to be managed in the tree which would be too much maintenance work, but the screenshots site itself seldomly changes). Screenshots are always the first thing people look at on a program website.
  • Display the existing ebuild website as additional information. This only affects interactive frontends, except where the current website link doesn’t point to a description of the program.
  • Add an optional value which determines the role(s) of the ebuild. “Is this a program for end-users?” (firstoff only a simple value to avoid over engineering). The alternative of adding a list of user-programs into the frontend would be quite unmaintainable, I think…

I think these changes could make Gentoo far more accessible to casual users, because they would provide an easy way to search for and check packages without knowing their full names and without leaving the frontend.

For example they would allow answering the question: “How do I get the chat program with the funny bird as icon?”

The hyped Apple App Store isn’t much more than a very weak package manager with some fancy bling (and a money processing facility), and I think with very little effort portage can offer frontend developers the tools to make programs which beat the App Store by far. After all, portage already has third-party overlay support, powerful dependency resolution and many other great features.

Just for reference, here’s a screenshot of the app store (found via Google):
Being unpolitical means being political without realizing it. - Arne Babenhauserheide ( )

pkgcore: So fast that it feels unreal - by doing only what is needed.
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Joined: 14 Mar 2003
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Location: beyond the rim

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As for the "Is this program for end-users?" idea, that won't work IMO as you'll never come up with a good definition for "end-user" that everyone can agree on, esp. in the context of Gentoo. The other ideas are doable through metadata.xml, but as always you'll need people to do the work (e.g. there already is a <longdescription> tag in metadata.xml, it's just rarely used).
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Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 2805
Location: Richmond, BC, Canada

PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

porthole does already display the long description if one is defined and available in the metadata.xml file.

As for the screenshot links. That could easily be done in porthole if there were the links in the ebuilds. As it is now you have to click the link and navigate to the screenshots. The problem is getting the ebuilds updated to include those links. If you wanted to have a dedicated screenshot website, I think that would be something more suitable to the online package browsers like, But there again it requires all the ebuilds to be updated to include the specific screenshot links.

Remember one thing, in Apples APP store, people get paid to ensure that they meet Apples requirements. Gentoo is all volunteer.
With around 15,000 packages in the tree, that's a lot of work tracking down and adding screenshot links. Even if only half of them have screenshot links, that's still a lot of work.

Perhaps some of that could be semi automated using the online tree browsers, similar to a wiki, where the pages could be edited, add a find screenshots button that the users could use and later record the screenshots link to be used by the next users. Then periodically those screenshot links could be downloaded and added/updated to the pkg metadata via a script. That would take most of the load off the maintainers and make use of the users wanting to see the screenshots. It would also reduce the workload to only the pkgs people are interested in seeing screenshots for.

[edit] Of course then there is the problem of spammers corrupting the links. But that could probably be mostly curtailed by requiring logging in and or having the links verified by several users before the auto script updates the metadata.
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