Linux Symposium, July 13th - 17th, 2009, Montreal, Canada
Centre Mont-Royal
Montreal, Canada
July 13-17, 2009

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Non Privileged User Package Management: Use Cases, Issues, Proposed Solutions

Francois-Denis Gonthier (

The package manager and the associated repositories play a central role in the usability and stability of user environments in GNU/Linux distributions. However, the current package management paradigm puts the control of the system exclusively in the hands of the system administrator, a root-like user. The non privileged user must rely on the administrator to install the packages he needs, while having to deal with delays or even refusal. We think that non privileged package management is the solution to the users' woes. We show that not only non privileged package management has realistic use cases, but also that it is quite feasible. We examine several possible existing solutions and show how they cannot be satisfactory for the deployment of unprivileged user package management. Finally, we analyse the dpkg package manager and show how it can be extended to include safe, consistent, non privileged user package management. Amongst results, we present the conflict resolution rules to include multiple databases, to ensure system consistence and proper dependency management. We also present how to modify user environment initialization to include alternate install locations. We show, finally, the feasibility and usefulness of unprivileged user package management and how small the changes to be made to a package manager such as dpkg are.

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