I recently stumbled across a very useful utility that was sorely missing from my system administration toolset. Alien package converter, which I discovered thanks to a Jeremy Garcia article in Linux Magazine, is a powerful little application that converts between rpm (Red Hat), dpkg (Debian), stampede slp, and slackware tgz file formats.
I can think of several dozen times I have needed something like this in a production environment and am sure I will put it to good use. Nothing more frustrating than endless searches only to find an application you need in the wrong package format!
I would very much so heed the warnings on the site not to use Alien for core system files and libraries.
However, for those who may have different distributions for different purposes, this can be a productivity utility for getting software updated across your servers.
There is an argument here for building from source exlcusively. While that certainly is how many applications were originally intended to be compiled, outside of full time system administrators, I do not know of many professionals who have the time to review every read me and install file and build apps from source with custom configurations.
It is not a lack of passion rather it is demands on their time. After all, time is money.
In an era of “double click to install” – working with package installers and tools such as Alien can save valuable time of which some can be dedicated to then customizing the underlying configuration file(s). This can also make for easier transitions of those coming from non-Linux operating system environments.