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Ximian GNOME 1.4: The Monkey Has Landed: The Ximian Desktop Experience - page 4

What You Get With Ximian GNOME

  • May 3, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

The other big Ximian addition to this release is Red Carpet, a package management/software installation/software removal tool. Red Carpet provides a graphical front end to package management and dependency resolution that comes close (in terms of basic end user operations) to bringing the rest of the Linux world to parity with Debian's apt-get.

Red Carpet is organized by channels, allowing users to "subscribe" to broad software themes. At the moment, Red Hat 7.1 users can subscribe to a Red Hat 7.1 channel (which provides a mirror for the distribution and any updates), an Evolution channel (which allows users to follow the nightly builds of the Outlook-like mailer/PIM), and a Ximian GNOME channel.

Upon launch, users are presented with a summary of the channels they're subscribed to including any information on available updates. At the summary window, users can choose to simply click on an "Update Now!" button to download and install the latest updates, or they can check in on each channel and select packages individually.

In addition to managing updates, Red Carpet also allows users to add and remove software easily, and includes a simple search utility to locate a given package by name.

Whether updating, removing, or installing, Red Carpet also tracks dependency information on each involved package and sees to it that users are either kept from taking out applications with packages that are dependent on them or are apprised of applications that need to be pulled in as part of a dependency relationship for installation.

Red Carpet also offers encrypted verification of a package's source, the ability to install local packages the user may have downloaded outside Red Carpet, and the ability to pull packages across channels, meaning that it's aware if the Ximian channel happens to have a newer version than the package a user might have requested from the Red Hat channel.

Finally, in the features column, Red Carpet offers "prettified" package names to clarify the purpose of a given package, and a useful informational summary that can be opened as needed on each package.

Unfortunately, we also encountered some bugs in Red Carpet that, while they didn't adversely affect our system, were a little disturbing. For instance, using the program's package database verification tool, we learned that we had 6 installations of the GNOME-games package, probably because we'd tried (and failed) to install it several (six) times using Red Carpet, only to meet with it turning back up as an available update the next time we checked. There were also problems with some failures in the download/install/verify sequence that went unexplained: Red Carpet would simply return an error informing us that the file wasn't available. At one point, Red Carpet also reported that there was just something wrong with our package database and shut down without any indication as to what to do next.

Finally, there were issues with a problem we reported in the first part of this review during the download phase, wherein the installer would return an "500 Internal Error" message repeatedly on a package we were trying to install.

None of these problems seemed to affect our system adversely, but we'll throw a couple of caveats in: we were using a brand new install on which we expect to do no production work, and doubt will remain in operation in its current state, so we have no way to judge whether the small glitches could become more problematic over time. Of the entire Ximian distribution, this is probably the one element we'd encourage people to approach with some caution. Experienced users might enjoy it, but newer users may want to make sure they have a guru on hand in case something goes wrong with the underlying package database and steps need to be taken to recover.

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