The fast and sensible Smart package manager


Article from Issue 73/2006

The package manager is one of the central components on any Linux system. If you have a system with unreliable package management – such as Suse Linux 10.1 – you may want to consider the Smart alternative.

The true test of a package manager is how the tool resolves dependencies. Smart is one of the best package managers around for navigating through dependency issues. The Smart package manager does not depend on any specific distribution, and it can handle more than ten repository formats. Smart comes with the smart command line tool, the Smart shell (smart -shell), and a graphical user interface (Figure 1), which you can launch by entering smart --gui. How Smart? The goal of the Smart project is to create “smart and portable algorithms for solving adequately the problem of managing software upgrade and installation.” There is a reason why this description from the the Smart developers emphasizes the algorithms. Algorithms are an important focus of the Smart project --and an important reason why the Smart developers believe their tool is different. When it comes to dependencies, Smart does not just use the easiest and most obvious solution but actually weighs every possible option using a policy-based priority system. In some cases, the “best” solution may depend upon the goal. For instance, if you are performing an upgrade, Smart may not choose the most recent version of a package if an intermediate version provides a better result for the complete system. Smart algorithms also consider efficiency factors, choosing the combination of packages that leads to the fastest and most reliable installation.

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