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I can see a place for a batteries included distro of Lua for Linux,
but don't most people use Lua as an embedded extension in some app
they're working on?

Anyway, I don't think the Linux packaging systems (I'm speaking form
experience on Ubuntu here) are very good for things that change
rapidly.  I could see LuaRocks being the best general solution
although I've never used it.  What we do now is keep everything in the
SVN repo and have a Lua script that builds everything from source and
installs it in the appropriate place for our app.  I don't keep
modules in a folder within /usr but instead relative to the app
itself, so apt-get wouldn't works so well in this case anyway.

Out of curiosity, what is the current state of LuaRocks on Linux?