Dumping Linux Installer

The Linux installer for Firefox is terrible:

  1. It is not packaged as a self-extracting executable, but a tarball that the user must manually unpackage before running;
  2. It doesn’t provide any extra value compared to simply unpacking a Firefox tarball:
    • No OS integration;
    • No shortcut generation.

For these reasons, and because nobody has stepped up to create l10n repackaging of the Linux installer, I believe that we should not ship the Linux installer for Firefox 1.5, and I have filed a bug to that effect (bug number to remain hidden to avoid spammage). If you disagree with my decision, please email me directly and let me know why (and how much work you’re willing to do to make the Linux installer actually useful).

Atom Feed for Comments 9 Responses to “Dumping Linux Installer”

  1. Daniel Cater Says:

    Fine by me; it does suck. You have to untar the installer, then run it? Hmmm… why not just untar the tar package?

    A proper installer in the long run would be good though (for XULRunner of course ;)

  2. Chris Cunningham Says:

    Despite protestations to the contrary I can see this happening on Windows eventually as well. For all the effort involved in maintaining a cross-platform installer, it might as well be handled natively and benefit from tight integration with existing platform install / admin tools. OpenOffice.org 2.0 ditched its XP installer for exactly this reason. Lots of people want a “real” Windows MSI and the Mac already uses its own method. There’s no advantage to keeping it.

    – Chris

  3. Benjamin Smedberg Says:

    Chris, I don’t understand your comment at all: we don’t have and have never had a cross-platform installer.

  4. Tal Danzig Says:

    I imagine that most people just download a binary package for whatever Linux distro they run, and those that don’t can probably manage without the installer. Still, it would be nice to have a “proper” graphical Linux installer like some commercial software for Linux has.

  5. Lorenzo Colitti Says:

    Hear, hear!!!

    I’ve hated the Linux installer forever. It doesn’t provide any more value than the .tar.gz, and it’s harder to use too! Like the .tar.gz, you must untar it, but unlike the .tar.gz, which you can use immediately, you have to run it too, and you can’t even install into a system location if you’re not root.

    The installer (a) should be be an executable file which you can run off the bat, and (b) if you’re using gnome or kde should use gtksu or kdesu to prompt you for the root password in order to install into a sensible location (e.g. /usr/local/firefox). Bonus points for desktop shortcuts using the freedesktop.org .desktop files spec.

    Until that happens, you will be doing a service to everybody by removing it. Go for it! :)

  6. Chris Cunningham Says:

    Benjamin: isn’t the current installer (as in the thing living in mozilla/browser/installer/) cross-platform?

    – Chris

  7. Andrew Schultz Says:

    The installer could be made executable by appending the tarball to a shell script that looks like
    tail –bytes +100 $0 | gzip -dc | tar -x
    cd firefox-installer
    cd ..
    rm -rf firefox-installer
    with perhaps a few sanity checks.

    not that that’s any more appealing. People would still have to “sh firefox-package.sh” or chmod u+x it first.

    And you didn’t mention the worst thing about the installer. It’s a GUI app that most people will run as root and has the audacity to launch firefox itself (as root). That’s beyond suck. It’s evil.

    The only significant extra value the installer has ever had has been the ability to not install (or download) all components. It also picks a reasonable default location, but this is less important. Optional components are not so much of an issue with firefox since the optional components are quite small. However, some people are paranoid and don’t even want something installed like talkback or reporter that sends information.

    RPMs (or debs, etc) are an alternative. Even if you only built RPMs, you could deliver a more useful package to more people than you get with the installer. I’ve already started building RPMs for SeaMonkey. I would do work to get RPM packaging to work (on tinderboxen or within the build process, whatever), but I’ve lacked anything resembling confidence that .mozilla.org would buy into it anyway.

    Tal: some commercial software for Linux has GUI installers, but they’re from evil window-centric companies (like Netscape!)
    Chris: the installer itself lives in mozilla/toolkit/mozapps/installer/

  8. db48x Says:

    Seems like it’d be easier to extend the current installer to do what needs to be done than it would be to write a new one, but that’s probably only the case if there are still people around who helped write it in the first place.

    It’d be easy enough to stuff it into a self-extracting format, of which there are several, but less easy to rewrite everything.

  9. Mike Hearn Says:

    Why not simply take over and make official the Firefox autopackage, currently maintained by Taj Morton.

    Autopackages are basically hybrid Linux installers/packages that work on most distros. They combine strengths from both. There is a Flash demo on the website so you can see what installing them looks like. They also take care of desktop integration.

    We’d be happy to help you guys set this up – it’s trivial to build them, as they’re done like an RPM. Right now we simply repackage the official binaries.

Leave a Reply