> > There is a similar but probably larger set of Debian packages
> > available via Debian-Med and Bio-Linux too. The catch here is can you
> > install arbitrary versions of a tool in parallel? And I think the
> > answer sadly is no.
> 
> This is the crucial concern for us. The standard OS packaging approaches
> (RPM and DEB) do not support this except very poorly. This is something we
> absolutely need. There are other package managers that do a better job
> (I'm quite fond of Homebrew on OS X, NIX also looks
> nice) but would add more dependencies.

There are possibilities here, similar to things I've already been doing in my 
RPM packaging.

If you want to install multiple versions side by side, when you (or more 
likely, me) are making the packages, you just make the version number part of 
the package name, and install it out of the way somewhere (e.g. 
/usr/libexec/tophat-2.0.9, rather than /usr/bin).  Then, the package can 
provide a versioned environment module as per http://modules.sourceforge.net/.  
There could be a non-versioned environment module which just gives you the 
latest and greatest version.  So:

$ module load tophat/2.0.9
# now that version is on the path

# start again ...
$ module load tophat
# the latest and greatest tophat becomes available

We've been using this to provide multiple versions of small tools, but also 
bigger things like a version of Python more recent than the system one.  
(Software Collections may be better for the latter though - 
https://access.redhat.com/site/documentation/en-US/Red_Hat_Developer_Toolset/1/html/Software_Collections_Guide/)

I'm willing to explore the feasibility of overhauling the AgResearch RPM repo 
to support multiple versions of packages in this or a similar way if there's 
interest.  There's clearly value in being able to select what version of a tool 
you run, if it can be done in a way that doesn't encumber those who just want 
to run a recent good version.  

Is there interest in this approach?  (Note: I'm not committing to doing it just 
yet.)

cheers,
Simon


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