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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's In The Repositories! - Installing Programs In Linux

It's In The Repositories!
Remember how to install something in Windows? Sure, you just find that convenient executable file and execute it. So, for a program like MS Office, you would either download the entire program or insert the disc in the drive, find the "install.exe" or "setup.exe" file and double-click it. The installer launches and steps you through the setup and installation of your program. This is pretty straight forward and kudos to Microsoft for making it so easy.

It is not just MS Office that installs in this manner but all Windows programs are installed this way. In my opinion, the only downside to this method is that it does not provide a method of automatic updates for programs installed using the "setup.exe" method. Why do you care? Well, let's say you just installed Java on your Windows machine so you can watch the latest YouTube videos and the next day Adobe (who owns Java) release a critical security update to the software because some hacker discovered a flaw that allows him to take over your machine. Adobe released the patch on their website for all to install but who is going to know about it? Are you going back to Adobe's website on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to check for security updates? No! Does the Java program you installed automatically update itself or at least notify you that there is an update? No! Then how will you know? You will not. And that is where Linux and Linux Repositories are different.

Remember, Linux is Open Source which means most if not all of the software you want to use is free. Ubuntu maintains its own repositories which is nothing more than a place where all the free software is kept, in an orderly fashion, for you to download. Think of it as a shopping mall full of free software. To install it, you use a program manager like Ubuntu's Synaptic to search the repository, select the program, then install it. The greatest advantage this method has over "setup.exe" is that all the programs you get from the repositories check back with the repository every day to see if there is an update. If so, you get notified.

Back to our Java scenario. So, you have used Synaptic program manager to install Java from a repository. The next day, Adobe rolls out that critical security update which finds its way to the Java program stored in the repository. The masters at Ubuntu update the repository with the Java update. Now, when you boot your Ubuntu machine up (or other Linux variation) the program manager on your machine looks back at the repository and detects the update and, in turn, either downloads it automatically for you or notifies you that an update is available.

This is the great and powerful advantage that using the repositories has. Not only does your operating system receive it's updates from the repositories but EACH INDIVIDUAL PROGRAM you install on your machine does to. We all get Windows operating system updates automatically but those are only for the operating system. Not for your individual programs. Advantage - Linux!

Go Here to learn more about Ubuntu's repositories.

Long Live Linux.

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