Installing the Easy Way

One of the greatest strengths of Linux, its freedom, can also be a

great weakness. For example, there are hundreds of different Linux

distributions, each slightly different. That's a great win if you want

a particular Linux set up, but all the choices may be more confusing

than helpful if you're new to Linux.

Software package formats only adds to the confusion. While the Windows

world has all but standardized on setup.exe programs to install new

applications, each major Linux distribution has its own packaging

format for Linux applications. For example, Slackware Linux uses .tgz

(compressed tar archives), Debian uses apt package files, and Red Hat

promotes its Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) format -- one of the most

commonly-used packaging formats and used by Red Hat and SuSE

distributions.

Thousands of applications are available for Linux, but the divergence

in release packaging can make installing new applications hard. With

most packages in RPM format, you download a file ending in .rpm and

then you use the rpm command-line program to install the application,

with a command like the following:

rpm -ihv filename.rpm

In many cases, you need to be logged in as the root user to install the

new application. That's a double whammy for new Linux users, with a

command-line tool and a special user login.

To help with all this, especially for people really new to Linux, you

can use an installation program such as RPM Wizard. RPM Wizard

(http://www.nic.fi/~bjorklof), presents a wizard-like interface for

installing Linux packages. Named after the RPM format, RPM Wizard can

help make command-line-phobic newcomers feel more at home.

All RPM Wizard really does is run the equivalent of the rpm command

under the hood. RPM Wizard displays a wizard-like dialog that allows

you to select the RPM file to install and then leads you through a few

screens to install a new application. Ironically, you can download an

RPM file of the RPM Wizard package and install it with the rpm command.

In addition to RPM Wizard, another useful tool is GnoRPM, available at

http://www.daa.com.au/~james/gnome/.

Insider: How the basic tech behind the Internet works
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies