Installer

Introduction

This RFC describes an installation concept that aims to be more natural to the end-user than current package-based installers. The idea behind this concept is to get rid of the whole installation process. The complete application, including its dependencies and data files, is a single self-contained executable (one app, one file). There is absolutely no installation process. Just run and you're done. Delete and it's uninstalled. Replace and you've upgraded.

The RFC is incomplete in that it doesn't describes all edge-cases. Also, it does not touch on how one obtains application packages or resolves dependencies. Repositories will handle this task, but their specification and usage should be part of a separate RFC.

The concept is based on bundles and packages which will be described from the end-user's point of view. Later we will get into a few implementation details.

Bundles

Installation

From the user's point of view, the bundle is the application. The application is executed when you double-click the bundle. Bundles must be self-contained. There are no installation scripts and no dependencies. Bundles must be location-independent, so the user can move them around wherever he wants. In other words, bundles are not installed; they run directly. On the first run, the user might have to agree to the application's license, though.

By default, the Deskbar queries all bundles on trusted volumes. The Deskbar provides a search interface for running applications and allows for maintaining a list of favorite applications which you can organize in a folder-like hierarchy. Additionally, a list of the most frequently used applications is shown (if possible, pure file viewers like ShowImage are not shown in that list). This is necessary because the number of found bundles might be much bigger than the number of applications the user actually works with.

Since all bundles are queried automatically (on trusted volumes) a first-time run isn't necessary to open a file with that application. Of course, the application marked as preferred in your Deskbar will take precedence.

Uninstallation

Bundles can be uninstalled by simply deleting the bundle file. When a bundle is deleted its data files and settings are automatically removed from the system when certain cleanup criteria apply (e.g., after 30 days or depending on available disk storage; also see the note below). This provides the possibility to undo the deletion without losing any settings and it is required for supporting upgrades. Removable media require special handling because otherwise unmounting would result in the system thinking the bundle got deleted (which might not be desired). The settings could, for example, be preserved for a much longer period or migrated to the volume the application resides on (this must be an explicit process, so no secret data gets exposed mistakenly).

Upgrades

Doing an upgrade (or downgrade) is as simple as replacing/overwriting the existing bundle file with a new version. Still, you can have multiple versions of the same application on your computer without any conflicts. In case of incompatibilities each application version gets a separate set of settings.

Multi-app bundles

Bundles may contain multiple applications like it might be the case for an office suite. There is either a default application that should be executed on double-click or the bundle behaves like a folder, showing all available applications when opened. The Deskbar menu will always expand a multi-app bundle as if it were a folder. The default application is highlighted in bold.

Packages

Packages are an advanced form of the BeOS .pkg files. They are primarily intended for system upgrades, application add-ons, and system components/extensions. The installation is a simple one-click process, similar to the Haiku R1 package installer. Unlike bundles, packages are allowed to have dependencies, even on bundles. Bundles and packages go hand in hand, but bundles are preferred and should be used whenever possible.

Only if advanced installation features are required and bundles cannot solve your problem in a clean way packages may be used.

Implementation details

Internally, bundles are compressed, read-only file system images. The compression method should be good enough, so people don't .zip the bundles (which destroys the no-install process).

Installs, uninstalls, and upgrades are atomic: they either succeed or fail. If the system crashes in the middle of an operation the system can revert changes and go back into a clean state. If dependencies are missing the system will search for them in the known repositories. When dependencies are not needed, anymore, they are cleaned up automatically.

Meta-Information in bundles and packages:

  • name
  • version
  • internal version (different between incompatible versions)
  • description
  • type: normal or system (appear in separate Deskbar sections)
  • target architecture
  • dependencies (only for packages)

Each application within a bundle gets its own entry:

  • name
  • description
  • keywords (e.g.: imaging, photo, image)
  • path (path of the binary application within the