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How Do I Manage Software on a Linux System?

Installing, uninstalling, and upgrading the software packages on your computer is an important part of keeping up with the latest technology, improving your productivity, and efficiently managing your hard disk space. These skills are especially important when you run Linux, since it is constantly evolving and improving. From time to time, you may want to upgrade certain components of your Linux system or install useful new packages as you learn about them.

Linux has an excellent utility called RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) that makes it painless to install, uninstall, and upgrade software packages. Software distributed in an RPM package comes as a compressed archive, with a special header file that gives information about the package, such as its name, description, version number, size, and author.

Although RPM was created by Red Hat Software, it is available for anyone to use and works on other Linux and Unix systems. The RPM package format has become widely used in recent years and is now the de-facto standard for software distribution in the Linux arena.

RPM Features

Here are some of the features that make RPM so useful and popular.

Intelligent Upgrades

RPM makes it possible to upgrade individual components of your system without completely reinstalling everything. For example, when a new version of the Red Hat Linux operating system is released, you don't have to reinstall the entire system as you do with most other operating systems. Since RPM maintains a database of all the software installed on your system, it can perform intelligent upgrades of your system, replacing old packages with updated versions and removing obsolete ones. Your configuration files are preserved in the process, so you won't lose your customizations.

Package Querying

RPM has many powerful querying options, so you can easily search to find out what software is installed on your system or what package a file belongs to or to get a list of files that belong to a certain package.

System Verification

If you think you may have accidentally deleted a file belonging to a certain package, you can use RPM to verify the package. If RPM finds anything amiss, you can reinstall the package without disturbing any configuration files that you have modified.

Why Use RPM?

Before RPM was developed, most Unix software packages were distributed as compressed tar files, and this arrangement is still fairly common. But if you install software that comes packaged this way, you run certain risks and lose some potential benefits:

What if the new package overlays certain files that other packages depend upon, and the new version is not compatible with the old one? You could end up rendering one or more packages useless.

What happens if you want to remove the package from your system? It can be a real nuisance to find all the files associated with a package and manually remove them, without affecting other software that shares common files.

What if the new version of PandaCalc replaces all your customization files with default versions? You'll have to do all that work again.

RPM solves all these problems--by warning you when new packages may affect existing ones, by providing an intelligent uninstall feature, and by preserving your customization files during upgrades. If you're thinking of downloading and installing some new software, always check to see if an RPM version is available first, and you'll save yourself some trouble later on.

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Comments - most recent first
(Please feel free to answer questions posted by others!)

martin turyashemererwa     (08 Nov 2012, 12:49)
i would like to know how to install new programs like macromedia dream weaver in linux like ubuntu
Matt Gilbert     (14 Feb 2012, 11:02)
Hi Bob, I certainly commend you for your efforts on sharing your linux knowledge with the rest of the world.

However, I feel that your approach of only mentioning RPM in a section entitled 'How do I manage software on a linux system' is way too limited in scope, and fails to mention that is only ONE way to 'manage software' in linux, and might leave the uninitiated to believe that is the ONLY way, when really linux is all about choice.

It seems this topic would be better approached split into subcategories, to begin with, software can be installed from source code - and a whole section could be written on how to install with with configure, make, make install.

Also, rpm is fairly specific to red hat, after all, rpm - redhat package manager, and while it may be your favorite, it fails to mention debians excellent apt-get, slackware's pkgtools with alternatives such as slapt-get, swaret, etc.

Obviously, focusing on every single distros package manager(s) might be beyond the scope and resources of what you are offering here, I think it is doing a disservice to those learning to at least not make them aware of their existence, and there should be a continued reminder that with linux, and unix based systems, there are always multiple ways to skin the proverbial kit - after all, linux IS about open source, freedom, and CHOICE.

Keep up the good work!
rahul     (22 Jan 2012, 07:23)
sd     (06 Jan 2012, 02:03)
how to install apache linux server in terminal
btharini     (27 Oct 2011, 22:04)
i downloaded ubuntu a few days ago.
now i want to remove it.i tried to remove it using 'uninstall' icon that was created when i downloaded it.but it is not working.i dont have windows cd either,what can i do to remove ubuntu.Can you please help?
Prasenjit     (28 Mar 2011, 14:54)
Dear Bob, Excellent tutorial for beginners and intermediate users. But you should include installation of Linux also including a bit coverage on LBA etc
Pradeep Kumar Mathur     (13 Feb 2011, 06:20)
Dear Sir,
I have been looking for RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) which I could not find on the net, but unfortunately could not find the source.Please help me out.
Yours Sincerely,
Pradeep Kumar Mathur
saud     (08 Feb 2011, 07:13)
Dear Doctor Bob :)

I am a bignner of linux software so how i can learn easy and fast ?

saud     (08 Feb 2011, 07:08)
Dear Doctor

I have a problem with compizconfig it's not working. what suppose I have to do?

sandeep     (29 Jan 2011, 22:54)
learning linux is so easy when I am here.Thanks Dr Bob.
soma     (14 Jan 2011, 00:39)
User access lost in RHEL dring installation of application software. Need help to restore back the original security file.
Pradeep Kumar Mathur     (03 Dec 2010, 07:00)
Dear Dr. Bob,
I have recently installed Ubuntu 10.10, I am not able to install drivers for Canon CanoScan LiDE25 and Canon MAXIMA iP1200 through CDs apart from it other softwares which were running on Windows Xp through their installation CDs. Please help me. Thanks a lot. - Pradeep Kumar Mathur
sama     (07 Oct 2010, 17:37)
hi bob,
i am new to linux and i am impressed by the lucid nature of your notes. i just installed ubuntu and wish to connect to the internet using a wire/lan or broadband modem, can u direct me how to do that. i wish to also install softwares. can u show me how to do this step wise. thanks in advance
vishun patidar     (18 Sep 2010, 02:16)
what is Repos.b commend i ma did not understand this commend please ex plan to in commend?????
Upendra Chaudhari     (31 Jul 2010, 09:33)
Dear Doctor Bob,

I want to install video player on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL 5). Please let me about the free software along with download links so that i can install it on my computer.
piyushgarg     (06 Apr 2010, 07:48)
Sir, i want to use data card in red hat 5.1 please give me instructions for using this
dj01     (17 Mar 2010, 03:15)
Dear Doctor Bob.

I have a little problem.
Please help me to solve it.

I have installed ubuntu8.04. I upgraded it up to 9.04 and all was well, but after upgrade to 9.10, after restart I have more error like this:

mountall:/proc: unable to mount: device or resource Busy
mountall:/proc/self/mountinfo: no such file or directory
mountall: root filesystem isn't mounted

Can you please help me to solve this?

(My computer AMD X2 4400, 2Gb RAM, Nvidia cipset )

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