A little while ago, a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder--virtually speaking--and asked me why there isn't an easier way to install software on a Linux computer. He asked innocently enough why we can't have a Universal Package Manager (UPM) to handle the software regardless of distribution. Ha! How could he be so naive?

He continued his leftist rant with the following:

One more idea: What's libXXX or gstreamer-plugin-whatever? No more of that either. The packages should be named "MP3 Plugin" "Ogg Plugin" or even just "Support for Proprietary Audio Formats". What's Amarok? No new user would just know that. We need "Audio player" and that's it. And that would be the end of relentless searching.

Whoever heard of using such simplistic names for things? If we made it easy, then everyone would be using Lin--oh wait...

That would cause a disruption of the space-time continuum and perhaps end all existence as we know it. It would be easier to convert the Taliban to Judaism than to get the apt-get and rpm factions to agree to abandon their pet packaging systems for a <cough> universal one.

No wonder would be Linux converts are put off by Linux and all its idiosyncrasies. Having a lot of choices is great but can be quite confusing to newbies. Not only is it a foreign operating system to those who've already had the Windows brainwashing but to throw in terms like Synaptic, apt-get, rpm, tarballs, gzipped tarballs, repository, distro, and many more--it's a wonder anyone ever gets it much less someone who's mildly curious.

There's nothing wrong with having something universal, complete, easy and something with mass appeal. Nothing at all wrong with that except that it'll never happen. Nope, not in a million years.

Actually, there's one way it could happen. The Linux Foundation could start the ball rolling on it. After all, one of their prime directives is standardization. A UPM is one step toward that goal and a darn fine one at that.

You might as well be begging for a universal Linux distro.

I know. My point exactly.

A universal distro might as well be as monolithic as the proprietary alternatives. When you start trying to tame a lion, you get bit in the ass...

Did you tell your friend about PackageKit or Smart and the all the distros they both work on? I've used "Apt4RPM" on multiple distros, it works great. What about ZeroInstall and all its clones that let you build "install anywhere" linux packages by bundling libraries? Or gnome-app-install (Add/Remove Programs) or MintInstall or Appnr or even Click'n'Run that all provide user-friendly installation of software in less clicks than Windows?

Or that any package manager in any major distro allows searching of indexed metadata so you can look for "mp3 player" instead of "Amarok" or that every major distro already has packages for just about every stable, useful piece of software that will run on Linux and that the whole "we can't build universal packages" meme is an excuse from short-sighted programmers who don't want to provide distros with copies of their code to package.

Fine, whatever, their code, their choice, but don't lay it on the Linux community, if you give them a copy of useful, stable code they'll package it. Pore through the package repositories of any older distro -- Suse, Fedora, Debian, Mandriva, Slackware. You'll find programs packaged that probably 20 people in the whole world use. All at your fingertips just because the code was there and someone wanted to use it.

Your point about new terminology is just ridiculous. "Website?" "Blog?" "Download?" I guess I can't start using the internet because it has new terms for me to learn. The Internet is the largest, fastest-growing sector of computing and has been for years and it invents new words constantly. Who knew what a "Twitter" was a year ago? Now there's a Twitter scroll every day on CNN.

All linux distros are universal in so far that you can always build from source and create your own package if you want it