sean finney on 24 Jan 2006 14:20:13 -0000

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Re: [PLUG] /usr/local vs. /opt

hey art,

On Tue, Jan 24, 2006 at 08:42:55AM -0500, Art Alexion wrote:
> I have been led to believe that the /usr/local branch is where packages
> that aren't part of a distro should be installed.  I put custom scripts
> in /usr/local/bin for that reason.
> What is the difference between these two and when should one use which?

the short version of the story is that there isn't much difference
between the two.  afaik they come from different histories to serve
generally the same purpose.  nowadays however, i think it's simply
a matter of preference of the software developers of the individual
projects and the sysadmins installing the software.

from my experience, stuff that defaults to going into /opt is typically
less oriented towards the FHS unix-style file/directory layouts.  such
packages usually go in /opt/package, where evertying underneath is
directly controlled by the package and is more or less self contained.
for example: openoffice, mozilla suite, java, proprietary apps jump
to mind.  this is mere conjecture on my part though.  /usr/local
installations on the other hand typically imply the ability to co-exist
with other software applicatoins in the same directory tree.  this is
by no means an absolute rule[1], but just about anything use install with
the ./configure; make; make install process would be a good example
of this co-existance paradigm.

my personal preference is towards the latter, as either directly or
indirectly through osmething like stow/depot you can install/remove
software without having to constantly muck with your system profiles
for maintaining stuff like PATH.  from a linux distribution developer
standpoint, it also is more attractive because you don't have to
be familiar with a certain software package to know where a certain
kind of file should be placed.


[1] that is, many people use /opt with FHS-like layouts underneath and
    /usr/local with the /opt style directories.

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