On Linux, no matter the packaging system, you’re bound to find someone who has created packages for every distro except the one that you’re running. Luckily there’s Alien. Alien is a terminal based program that can convert almost any package file type for installation on any distro. The program can even keep the scripts intact and spit out a log so you know what’s going on.
WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO
Alien is a command line based application that can convert native package files from one distribution to be run on another (e.g .DEB to .RPM).
WARNING: DO NOT USE ALIEN TO CONVERT CRITICAL SYSTEM PACKAGES
- Can convert any package file from .RPM, .DEB, .SLP, TGZ, and Solaris .PKG to .RPM, .DEB, .SLP, .TGZ, and Solaris .PKG
- Can include the scripts that were provided in the package after conversion
- Allows you to generate a build tree before building a package
- –veryverbose option allows you to be verbose but also output a run of commands
- An option allows you to keep the version number of the generated package
- Can munge/fix permissions
- Able to test generated packages before installation
- Does not convert .aur packages (Arch Linux)
- Solaris support isn’t the greatest
- Packages are sometimes broken or fail to generate correctly
If your distro is not based on Debian Alien can be the best tool you’ve ever used on Linux. For years when I was using a RedHat based distro I found myself scrounging for .rpm files. Then I discovered Alien. This magical tool allowed me to take Debian/Ubuntu .deb packages to convert them into .rpm packages. I abused Alien. It’s probably the most useful tool I’ve ever used on Linux.
Alien makes everything so much more easy when you’re not using a mainstream distro. If you’re big on Slackware you can use ‘alien .deb -t -c -v’ to generate yourself a nice .tgz package. There’s something to be said about such a simple tool that can go a long way. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve used Alien for distributions. It’s an amazing tool, it really is.
Of course, no program is perfect. I was a little disappointed that after all this time there still isn’t an option to convert to .aur (Arch Linux). Arch Linux is a growing distribution and remains one of the most popular right now. It would be great to have the ability to convert to Arch packages. Luckily Arch users can use pkgconvert, but it’s a bit disappointing that the swiss army knife of terminal applications doesn’t support one of the most popular distros.
The Solaris package support isn’t the greatest either, though, it isn’t terrible. It shouldn’t really matter seeing as I know of almost no one that still uses Solaris now that Oracle has taken over. It should also be said that Alein is not perfect. Sometimes the packages that I convert just don’t work. It’s the way that some people package things. The developer has stated that it’s always going to be experimental, so it’s not going to be perfect with everything all of the time.
Overall, Alien is one of my all time favorite programs. It has a ton of options, lots of community support, and is well put together. You almost can’t run a distro that isn’t based on Debian anymore without Alien. Though more and more developers are creating .rpm and .tgz files, it is nice to know that you’ll always be able to convert those pesky .deb files into something you can run native.
CONCLUSION AND DOWNLOAD LINK
If you’re not running a distribution with a Debian base and you don’t have Alien installed, do it right away. Alien makes running RedHat and slackware distros so much more easier. You’ll get more software selections, and you’ll have an overall better experience. Alien is a must have for sure.
Version reviewed: 8.88
Supported OS: Any Linux via compiled version
Supported repositories: Ubuntu via Launchpad, Redhat/SUSE, and Slackware packages; can be found either in software sources or on pkgs.org
Download size: 62.9 KB
Is it portable? No