I was looking for a twitter application that could be integrated to my desktop environment. Not something web based, or browser based like TwitterFox. twitter.com has a list of desktop applications. Most of these are Adobe Air based. I have set my eye on installing Twhirl. I needed AIR for that.
Adobe Air (Adobe Integrated Runtime) is a cross-platform runtime environment for rich internet applications that can be deployed on the desktop. It is based on Webkit and Flash technologies.
Ubuntu does not come with Adobe Air pre-installed so I looked it up in Synaptic to see if it is available on one of the repositories. Unfortunately it was not. I don’t like it when something does not have ready deb packages because most of the time that means that you will have to either compile the application from source code yourself or install the binaries by simply copying them to some folder. Unless you do that for development or testing purposes it just not worth it.
This big difference with the “Windows philosophy” of installing software is often a major point of criticism of Linux. It is true that proprietary software is not that easy to install on Linux as in Windows. But, it is not Linux that should be put to blame. It is those who release ports of their applications to Linux without offering debian or rpm packages, or a proper installation wizard.
Adobe AIR for Linux is an exception that proves that if the vendor is willing, it can provide an easy way to install and integrate to your system.
I downloaded the installer, named AdobeAIRInstaller.bin. I expected an awful command line installer that would resolve to unnecessary dialogs and file copying. None of that! I got the same process and same look and feel as the windows installer. A truly cross platform procedure. To my surprise, the installer integrated Adobe AIR to the packaging system with a proper debian package. It also integrated excellently into Gnome creating proper menu entries. The only minus point is that I still had to execute the installer from the command line
When I downloaded Twhirl, I did not expect that it would install itself just by double clicking the twhirl-0.8.6.air file. But it did! I didn’t expect it to update itself so easily neither. It looked and felt exactly the same as when I tried it later on a windows box.
Also, the runtime integrated a debian package to dpkg. Output from apt-cache:
anirothan@monarch:~$ apt-cache --installed --names-only search adobeair adobeair1.0 - Adobe AIR anirothan@monarch:~$ apt-cache --installed --names-only search twhirl de.makesoft.twhirl.0ea062bc275e7ed1e6ec3762effd73c7158adf33.1 - twhirl - a social networking client
I’m not trying to promote Adobe or anything. Other Adobe products like Adobe Reader do not offer this kind of experience. It just proves my point. Installation of proprietary software can be as easy as in Windows. With all that wizards and stuff. The only thing that is required is the vendor’s commitment in cross-platform development.
Personally, I think that package repositories, either deb or rpm, are far superior to the installation paradigm promoted in Windows. What can beat a simple apt-get install <software name here>, or a full blown graphical package manager?