klik: True click-and-run software

Install software safely and easily... with just one klik!

Debian’s APT makes installing software a breeze: you just run apt-get update&&apt-get upgrade to download and install the latest versions of all your software, or apt-get install widget to install widget on your machine. Pretty easy and painless. But now there’s something available that’s even easier and more painless: klik.

APT is cool, but it still has a few limitations, as do all other software install methods on Linux. For instance, software installation often requires root access, which you may not have. And although Linux is certainly far better than Windows, where an install “vomits” files all over the system, you still often end up with files in /usr/bin, /usr/lib, /usr/share, /etc, /home, /bin, and who knows where else when you put a new program on your distro. Not to mention, in spite of the efforts of the Linux Standard Base project, developers still have to rework each package for each of the various Linux distros out there. There are other issues, but you get the idea.

klik attempts to resolve all of these issues. However, there are a few caveats (as always, right?). Right now, klik is officially supported on Kanotix (in fact, it comes pre-installed on Kanotix), the latest versions of Knoppix, MEPIS, and the newest version of Linspire,” Five-O.” It’s also possible to install klik on Debian and other Debian-based distros, like Libranet, but it doesn’t yet work on RPM-based distros like SuSE and Fedora Core. Hopefully, that will change in the future.

To install klik, go to the command-line and enter wget klik.atekon.de/client/install –O –|sh. Yes, you are installing software from a web site. Yes, it’s dangerous if a bad guy is pulling a man-in-the-middle attack, However, you’re installing klik using your account, not root’ s, so you’re not potentially compromising the entire system, and if you can ensure that you’re really accessing the real http://klik.akteon.de, then you can trust the web site.

Press OK whenever you’re prompted to during the install, and soon you’ll be ready to go. Konqueror will open to the klik home page, and you can start installing software the” klik and easy” way.

For instance, what if you want to try the latest beta of OpenOffice.org 2.0 (OOo), but you don’t want to mess with actually installing it on your system? Just find the link to the klik package at http://klik.atekon.de (it’s currently on the home page), click on it, and soon (depending on your connection speed), OOo beta will open and run on your system.

When you’re finished, just close OOo. You’ll see a new file on your desktop: ooo2.cmg. This is the actual klik package, which is actually a compressed image of the application, hence the .cmg extension. To run the OOo beta again, simply double-click on ooo2.cmg again. If things are working correctly, OOo 2.0 beta will launch.

Try it with other packages — but to be honest, some klik packages work better than others. Most work well, but a few don’t open or crash. Some place the .cmg file in your home directory instead of your desktop, and some never move the .cmg file from the /tmp/klik directory, so you’ll have to move them yourself. Others necessitate that you run the klik package via the command-line, using ~/.zAppRun /path/to/package.cmg.

Hopefully, klik will iron these problems out as the project matures. To help that process along, inform the klik packagers about any oddities, so they can remedy it. Remember, filing bug reports is part of using and supporting open source.

You have several support options available with klik, including documentation on the web site, an IRC channel, and a helpful forum. If you’re stuck with something, try one of those options out, and you’re sure to receive aid.

klik is an exciting new direction in Linux apps, and while it’s still in its early days, klik shows a lot of promise. The ability to test new applications without threatening a current system is just one reason you should investigate klik.

R. Scott Granneman teaches at Washington University, consults for Bryan Consulting, and writes for SecurityFocus and Linux Magazine. His latest book, Don’t Click on the Blue E!:Switching to Firefox, has just been published. You can reach Scott at class="emailaddress">scott@granneman.com.

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