Michael Schröders hackweek project is based on using well-known mathematical models for describing and solving package dependencies: Satisfiability - SAT
Apparently, some research on this topic was done before. The oldest mentioning of SAT for packaging dependencies I found is a paper from Daniel Burrows dating ca. mid-2005. Daniel is the author of the aptitude package manager and certainly knows the topic of dependency hell inside out.
However, the most interesting link Google revealed, was the one to the EDOS project.
EDOS is short for Environment for the development and Distribution of Open Source software and is funded by the European Commission with 2.2 million euros. The project aims to study and solve problems associated with the production, management and distribution of open source software packages.
Its four main topics of research are:
- Dependencies With a formal approach to management of software dependencies, it should be possible to manage the complexity of large free and open source package-based software distributions. The project already produced a couple of publications and tools, but I couldn't find links to source code yet.
- Downloading The problem of huge and frequently changing software repositories might be solvable with P2P distribution of code and binaries.
- Quality assurance
All software projects face the dilemma between release often - release early and system quality. One can either
- reduce system quality
- or reduce the number of packages
- or accept long delays before final release of high quality system
- Metrics and Evaluation The decision between old, less features, more stable vs. new, more features, more bugs should be better reasoned by defining parameters to characterize distributions, distribution edition and distribution customization.