The beauty of AUR

In my not-so-important opinion, one of the shining stars of Linux is Arch Linux, and one of the crowning points of Arch Linux is the AUR, which is so delightfully simple and and the same time terrifyingly powerful, that I am at times amazed that it isn’t a fixture in every distro, across the board.

After you use it you can’t help but marvel at the obvious common-sense of it — a collection of scripts and instructions for building up-to-date software that the Arch developers don’t maintain, with the more popular packages “ascending” to a precompiled state, as part of a community repository.

But probably the coolest part is the easy interaction between the users who maintain AUR titles, and the people who make use of their efforts. As an example, today I noticed that the home page for Xpad, which I consider a must-have application, announced version 3.1 a few days ago.

It’s not exactly the most sought-after program, so I could understand when the AUR page for Xpad still showed 3.0 as the most recent version. Rather than manually editing the posted PKGBUILD for it (which I could always do), I logged in, clicked once to flag the package as out-of-date, and eight hours later Xpad was among the software updates for my system.

Cool, huh?

Of course, it’s not always so clean and easy, but that’s a good example of how the people who use Arch work together to keep each other apprised of updates and improvements — and problems, of course.

I occasionally go a little overboard in my appreciation for simple things like this — I mean, after all, it’s just a web interface for a database of text files, with a few convenient buttons here and there to make the task of nudging the maintainer a little easier. There are plenty of script-driven, source-centric distros out there. So if I’m overdoing it, let me know.

But I haven’t run into a distro yet that makes it this easy to build something from scratch (more-or-less reliably), and take on software from the community, and facilitate user management of that software, and offer the chance for titles to become part of the precompiled repositories. If someone has made this even simpler or easier, I haven’t heard about it. But I’d be happy to try it, and see if it stands up to Arch.

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7 thoughts on “The beauty of AUR

  1. anarkokatten

    It sounds beautiful ^__^ After reading your blog for quite some time, I have decided to migrate from Ubuntu to Arch in the near future – I really like having control of my computer (going from WinXP to Ubuntu was lovely, I hope Ubuntu to Arch will be as fulfilling) and tweak with things, even tho I am not that of an advanced user (I have never managed to compile anything from source, for example).

    I cannot migrate right now tho, as I need my computer fully functional alot nowadays, it is needed for schoolwork. I have aquired an old computer that I will test building an Arch-setup on, experience will probably make me more secure with wiping my main computer :)

    AUR and some other things sound rather abstract tho, but I am confident that I will learn by doing. The ArchWiki and especially the Beginners Guide is awesome, it will be all I need.

    Keep up the good work with your blog!

    Reply
  2. cdwillis

    I love Arch. I think the degree of difficulty people expect to have instaling and setting it up is much overstated, just RTFM. I’ve experimented with other distros but just keep coming back to Arch. I love the AUR but I have to admit I just use yaourt to install packages from there most of the time. For some reason aurvote won’t work with my password and username so I have to fire up firefox to vote on the packages I install.

    Reply
  3. Stefan

    Hi,

    you may want to have a looks at the ports framework used by the BSDs. The underlying architecture makes it possible, to even automatically compile Openoffice with all the required tools and dependencies. While not all the BSDs maintain 3rd party software updates for the stable release (at least OpenBSD does not), it is a very powerful construction.
    Especially OpenBSDs ports tree makes it very simple to distribute software, that comes with the right permissions as binary packages, and at the same time enables the user to fetch and compile software, that needs special license agreements, such as binary firmware and windows codecs.
    Compiling a port will lead to a package, which you may install as many times, as you want, allowing you to distribute software in your own organization, if needed.

    As to having software updates on a click: I personally prefer a stable tree of applications over having to deal with endless dependency updates, which sometimes can leave you with a half broken system, because the latest version of software XY forces you to update many other applications and in the end you discover, that there is no QT/GTK/wxwidget 2028.4 version of your most needed application.

    I really enjoy reading your page and you already inspired me to try a few things, I found exciting in the end. Please never stop being curious about how things work.

    Reply
  4. Mikko777

    The thing is arch has the BSD ports system too. It’s called ABS and it’s used to recompile / modify the arch maintained binary packages.

    Reply
  5. Marzhall

    I’m currently posting from Arch myself; it’s an excellent distro, after having tried Ubuntu and Red Hat, and I enjoy AUR; my packages are very rarely out of date, even with relative unkowns, such as the Awesome WM, which I love. Like every other distro, it has its problems, but the community aspect they focus on is what I enjoy about linux and Open Source; I think any linux user should give it a go.

    Reply
  6. Xew

    it’s reasons like this that I keep trying to switch to arch, but it’s been so intimidating. I have to set up my own xorg.conf and daemons? But i’ll keep trying…

    Reply

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