Just another non-installer application distribution plan

A lot of people1 know of klik, the software distribution method that allows people to download pre-built software packages and use this without installation.

I have many griefs about klik, mostly as I think it killed the mind share for Zero Install before it has a chance to pick up. I think that Zero Install is a much better system due to many reasons, but klik also suffers from the same problem that Zero Install has – it requires installing a run-time component to support it, which kinds of beats the point of the whole process.

Because, if you want to run applications w/o installing anything, you don’t want to start by installing complex clients. The klik guys have sure tried to make their installation hassle free and as easy as possible, as does the Zero Install project but its still a fairly complicated process2.

So wouldn’t it be great to have a software package that can actually be downloaded and run easily with out the need to actually “prepare” your system for zero installation ? Alexander Larsson thinks so as well and has an interesting solution.

Called glick as a pun on the KDE-ness of klik, this technique offers the ability to package an entire application with all its dependencies and required files, not in another software installer package format that requires some run-time dependency to work – but inside a standard UNIX ELF executable, so all you have to do, really, is download and run. No client, no “preparing for klik” or “installing an injector” or anything.

Glick looks like a very interesting project and I really hope it takes off or as Alexander Larsson notes – maybe the next implementation of klik would use a similar technology, but I think it does also raise a lot of potential problems: will Linux now join MS-Windows in the common use case of users downloading software freely from the internet and running it directly on their computers without any checks or limits ? I’m thinking of all kinds of malware that could be distributed using this method and that currently has serious problems trying to attach to Linux desktops.

There are probably several things that can be done to alleviate some of security concerns, most have already been tried by Microsoft and have found to be faulty. I personally think that with a modern Linux desktop, software installation is so easy and can today be done completely using friendly graphical tools that the whole idea of downloaded applications may be out of date at this point.

  1. People that use Linux and are interested in software development, not a lot of people generally – of course []
  2. Zero Install is in a better situation IMO as they have packages of their clients that are easy to install with just the GUI, on most operating systems, while klik requires users to feel comfortable with a text console and manually run some frightening commands to download and run scripts from the intertent []

One Response to “Just another non-installer application distribution plan”

  1. Operating Systems:

    Where was this blog a year ago? Great article (Just another non-installer application distribution plan)! Can you believe I was searching for Operating Systems when I fond this post Friday.

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