Automatic Update » Linux Magazine

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You can automate Flatpak updates without a package manager using systemd’s services and timers.

Alternative package systems such as Flatpak, Snap, and AppImage are becoming increasingly popular. They offer a number of advantages, for both developers and users. For example, experimental software versions can be tested without interfering with the distribution’s package management system. You can also run several versions of a software tool for comparison purposes without them interfering with each other. Distribution-agnostic Flatpaks can simplify a developer’s job because software only needs to be built in a single format.

Flatpaks also present some disadvantages. In view of the low price of storage media, it is up to you whether Flatpak’s greatly increased space requirement poses a disadvantage. However, the update behavior of Flatpaks and AppImages does pose a clear disadvantage. Gnome Software, Plasma Discover, and Mint Update will let you automatically update Flatpaks, but this kind of package management is not to everyone’s taste. If you rely on the command line to keep your software up to date, Flatpak’s update behavior leaves you completely out in the cold. In fact, you will not even be notified of Flatpaks that need to be updated.

Because the Flatpak developers have not planned any further steps for automated updates, the responsibility for updates lies with the desktop environments. For this reason, I put forth a method that lets systemd users automatically update the Flatpaks installed on their systems based on a schedule with the help of the system and session manager. This method not only relieves you of the need to update manually, but it also demonstrates how easy it is to create systemd services and matching timers.

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