Installing Visual Studio Code under Linux.

Linux users have often been avid followers, but left thirsting for some ability to run the proprietary applications, that Windows and Mac users have had access to since the beginning of Computing for the Masses. In fact, the narrow supply of Open-Source Applications for various Linux distributions has been aggravated by the fact that many Linux distributions exist, and when one follows the subject to its smallest detail, one finds that every Linux computer evolves into a slightly different version of Linux, because they can all be configured slightly differently, which means that some users will configure their Linux boxes in their own, personalized way. Actually, this is not a very good thing to do, unless you really know what you’re doing. But the mere fact that many, professionally configured Linux distributions exist, has also meant that packages destined for one distribution would either not install on another, or that packages which were not meant to be installed on a given distribution, could actually break it, if the user supplied his ‘root’ privileges, to so-install the package anyhow.

At the same time, the total amount of programming time available to open-source development has always been scarce, which means for the sake of this blog posting, that programming hours ended up divided between different Linux distributions. (:2)

In recent Linux distributions, there have been two main mechanisms developed over the years, to reduce the severity of this problem. In fact, since Debian 9 / Stretch, both these solutions have been available:

• Flatpaks,
• Snaps.

For the moment, I’m going to ignore that Flatpaks exist, as a very viable way to install software, just because Flatpaks had as their main purpose, to install purely Linux software, but on a wider variety of Linux distributions. So, why do both ‘Flatpak’ and ‘Snap’ exist? I suppose that one reason they both exist is the fact that each was invented, and that in principle, both work. But another reason why these two vehicles exist is, the fact that ‘Snaps’ are really disk images, which get mounted as loopback devices, and that therefore, ‘Snaps’ can install software which is binary in nature and therefore, not open-source, yet, install such software on a Linux computer, where the emphasis has traditionally been on open-source software. (:3)

Both mechanisms for installing software have a limited interface, of which features on the host computer the guest application is meant to have access to, since, if both methods of installing software were completely unrestricted, Linux users would lose the security which they initially gained, through their choice of Linux. I think that the way it is, ‘Snaps’ tend to have more-severe security restrictions than ‘Flatpaks’ do, and this is also how it should be.

What all of this inspired in Linux users, was the hope that eventually, they would also start to be able to install certain proprietary applications. And, the main goal of this posting is to assess, to what extent that hope seems to have been materializing. And I’m just going to ignore the fact for the moment, that some ‘Snaps’ are really just Linux applications, which their programmers compiled to the additional target, that being a ‘Snap’, and that for this reason, some Snaps just don’t work, usually because their programmers did not take into consideration that on an eventual host computer, each Snap only has access to the Interfaces which the security model allows, even though, when residing on Linux computers natively, the same application ‘just works fine’. For the sake of argument, software developers might exist, who are professional enough in what they do, to compile Snaps as Snaps, which in turn do work as intended.

An idea which could make some Linux users uneasy would be, that the supply of proprietary software available as Snaps, may not have grown as much as hoped, and that Linux users could be looking at a bleak future. Well, in order to get a full idea of how many Snaps are presently available, user can just visit ‘the Snap store’, and browse to see what it has to offer. And this would be the URL:

https://snapcraft.io/

What most Computer Users would seem to notice is the fact, that there is not a huge abundance of software, at least, according to my tastes, and at the time I’m writing this. Also, users do not need to pay for anything at this so-called Snap store. However, I have at least one Snap installed, of which I know, that if I activated that, I’d need to make a one-time payment to its developers, before it would actually function as one user-license.

What I’d just like to explore for the moment is the possibility that a User might want to program and compile code he wrote himself, in his favourite language, such as, in C / C++, or in C#, and that additionally, said user might prefer “Visual Studio Code” as his Editor, as well as his IDE. In reality, Linux users do not depend very strongly on the ability to use ‘VSCode’, as it’s also called, because under Linux, we actually have numerous IDEs to choose between. But let’s say I wanted to write code in these 2(3) languages, and, to use ‘VSCode’ to do so…

(Updated 5/04/2020, 17h50… )

Major Update to Debian / Stretch Today

I have two computers running Debian / Stretch, which is the code-name for Debian 9. I name those computers ‘Phosphene’ and ‘Klexel’. Debian 9 has just received a major update, from Debian 9.9 to Debian 9.10. At the same time, this update installed a kernel update on both machines.

As far as I can tell, the upgrade went smoothly on both machines.

Dirk

Problems Getting Synaptic To Work, On My Google Pixel C Tablet

One of the facts which I’ve blogged about was, that I had used an Android app (that does not require root) in order to install a Linux Guest System, on my Google Pixel C Tablet. The version of Linux it’s subscribed to is Debian 10 / Buster. And, the CPU of that tablet is an ARM-64. One of the considerations which need to be made, when setting up this Guest System, is that both RAM and Storage are scarce, the latter because the entire Linux Guest System consists of Application Data, belonging to this one Android app.

One idea which I was pursuing until last night was, to get the Synaptic GUI to work, where the ‘apt-get’ command-line does already work. Either would provide the main way to install software. But the GUI is much nicer, in allowing searches for packages to take place, instead of just package-names being burped on the command-line (blindly), and also, displaying lengthy descriptions of the packages first.

The way I’d need to launch Synaptic is like so:


$xhost +$ sudo synaptic



The first bug which needs to be dealt with, is This Bug. But, even when that bug has been dealt with, there are more problems facing the use of Synaptic under Debian / Buster. And they all have to do with the fact that the new Synaptic can no longer be used effectively, to search for packages.

First off, in order for the Search Field to display in the toolbar of Synaptic, one needs to install the following:


$sudo apt-get install apt-xapian-index$ sudo update-apt-xapian-index



This is a process that takes about an hour to complete, and when it has completed, its only result is that the Search Field displays in the Tool-Bar of Synaptic. By itself, this Search Field is useless because it only acts as a filter, on the actual search results, that we get when clicking on the Search Button. And, this process is not optimal in a ‘proot’ed environment, on an Android tablet, because the fully built database takes up more than 200MB.

The actual Search Button has been rendered useless. When told to search both the names and descriptions of packages, the resulting search takes about 20 minutes to complete, and does not become faster the second time, even when we have ‘apt-xapian-index’ installed and set up. The only other possibility is, only to search the names of packages, which defeats the entire purpose of using Synaptic.

I once had a (Debian 8 / Jessie) Linux Guest System installed the same way, on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S, first generation, and the searches within Synaptic were quick and painless.

(Updated 9/07/2019, 15h15 … )