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The Snap application container system to be offered on other distros

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June 15, 2016

We've learned today that the Snap application container system released in April with Ubuntu 16.04 is now going to be opened up to many other Linux distributions.

In a press conference to journalists, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth explained that shortly after the Snap release, several Linux developers approached Canonical with an idea to make Snap a more universal system.

To be sure, Snap is a way of packaging an application with all the dependencies it needs to run in isolation. This means that it's easier to run on any device, and the main operating system doesn't risk suffering a issues if an application gets a defective upgrade.

What the Linux OS developers found after two months of research was a relatively simple way of making Snap apps run on other Linux distros with no need for developers to change any code.

Debian, Fedora and Kubuntu can all now run Snap applications and CentOS, Elementary, Gentoo, Mint, and OpenSUSE are all currently being validated as well.

"As long as snap has been ported to their linux distro it will just work. You don't have to do things differently to make a Snap that works across multiple Linux OSs," Shuttleworth said.

Naturally, Red Hat is also listed as validating the system, but Shuttleworth said progress has been comparatively slow.

"Snap delivers new applications to OpenWrt while leaving the core OS unchanged," said Matteo Croce of OpenWrt.

"Snap is a faster way to deliver a wider range of software to supported OpenWrt access points and routers."

Porting Snap to Android is also an option. Shuttleworth said doing so "would be trivial," since the mechanisms to do so already exist in the operating system's kernel and there should be no problems porting apps with a little development time needed.

Getting Snap apps to run in the Bash shell for Windows is "absolutely plausible," Shuttleworth said. He added that it would take a bit of work modifying the syscalls needed to make Snap work on Bash, but when they do, the results will be amazing.

"If you want your mind blown, go and install Jenkins the old way and then type snap install jenkins," he said.

"People who've seen that just boggle at how easy it makes complicated things. I'm sure that Microsoft will want that for their Ubuntu compatibility layer."

Ubuntu will continue to support dev software packages, he said, but the ability of Snap to run across multiple versions of Linux means that developers are going to find it a lot easier to get their apps out there written in the distro of their choice.

Since the launch, Canonical has been stressing that Snap has significant advantages for both apps and the overall operating system.

Data flows are tightly controlled and the application is held in relative isolation. Updates can be issued on the fly at far lower risk. If the update fails midstream it's simply cancelled, and if it's buggy the app can automatically roll back to its previous incarnation.

"Snaps enable our users to get the freshest LibreOffice releases across different desktops and distributions quickly, easily and consistently," said Thorsten Behrens, founder and board member of The Document Foundation.

"As a bonus, it should help our release engineers to distribute a more up-to-date LibreOffice that is not based on a bespoke, home-grown and ancient Linux build solution, using a toolchain that is collectively maintained."

Source: Ubuntu.

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