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as far as unix is concerned, i would say a huge part of the complexity of those systems comes from insisting that dependencies be installed, and shared, system-wide. This approach comes from a time when disk space was very expensive. Hence the need for those super-complex make/configure/install/apt stacks, LIBRARY_PATH, etc.

IMO you could simplify things a lot with a distro that only shared, say, the kernel/module/libc layer, plus a package management system. Beyond that, each packages would manage its dependencies, and install them under its own root directory - so you have only the package maintainer to blame if something is missing. This would give an application much more control in how to configure itself. It would also have the added benefit of super simple uninstall - just delete the app's directory, just like on osx.

Yes, OS X got this very right. It's really nice when some big library gets upgraded I don't have to worry that half the applications of my system have to be simultaneously upgraded.

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