Linux News Today: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) to Offer Users Newer Software Versions via Snaps
Canonical, through Olli Ries, has had the enormous pleasure of announcing that the upcoming Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system will offer users the possibility of installing snaps alongside the standard Debian packages.
It’s not the first time we here Canonical planning this major change for Ubuntu Linux, but now it’s official. Starting with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), due for release on April 21, 2016, users will finally be able to install various applications and packages via snaps.
For those not in the loop, snap is a Canonical innovation, a type of package design specifically for the Snappy Ubuntu Core operating system, which can be used for all sorts of embedded and IoT (Internet of Things) devices. The snap packages can be generated and managed with the Snapcraft Snappy creator tool.
What’s the big fuss about snaps?!
Well, the big fuss about the implementation of snaps in Ubuntu Linux, which will coexist with the standard Debian packages, is that you’ll be able to (finally) install newer software versions, as soon as they are out from upstream, but only if there are developers willing to create these snaps for Ubuntu, of course.
In layman’s terms, when GNOME release a newer version of their desktop environment, let’s say GNOME 3.20.1, you will be able to install it (entirely or part of it) on your Ubuntu 16.04 LTS operating system. Same goes for any other popular software, including, but not limited to, KDE, GIMP, Transmission, Mozilla Thunderbird, etc.
If anyone can create snaps, are they secure?
That’s the best part of the snap package, that it can be installed as some sort of container on top of your Ubuntu operating system, and won’t have any impact on the rest of the installed applications and libraries. In the same way, you can also bring a certain package to Ubuntu that is required by a newer software version.
“The security mechanisms in snap packages allow us to open up the platform for much faster iteration across all of our flavours as snap applications are isolated from the rest of the system,” said Olli Ries, VP Engineering Ubuntu Client Platform, Canonical. “Users can install a snap without having to worry whether it will have an impact on their other apps or their system.”
Lastly, this major change in Ubuntu Linux will finally solve any issue app developers had with previous versions of the operating system when they either tried to include their project in the main software repositories or just update an existing one but couldn’t because of missing dependencies. Also, a snap package can be used on desktop, server, mobile, embedded, or IoT systems.
What about existing apps that no longer work in newer Ubuntu versions?
That’s handled too by Canonical through snaps, and by Autumn 2016, most of those applications that only work on older Ubuntu versions will be automatically migrated from the .deb format to snaps. Canonical promises to work closely with the Ubuntu community to support them in migrating their existing apps to the new format, which might become the default sometime in the long distant future.
“While this is a major new capability for the Ubuntu community, it’s not a break with our heritage. All of the tens of thousands of applications and packages in .deb format will continue to be supported in 16.04 and beyond, and deb archives in particular will continue to be available for all to use and distribute software,” said Olli Ries in the announcement.