For those who are new to Linux, managing software installations and updates can seem daunting, even chaotic, without a Windows-style double-click installer in sight.
The culprit here is the tendency of Linux to keep ones options open, and more choices usually means more complexity. While the opportunity to enjoy fuller control of your computing is one of the reasons people choose Linux, tedious software installs arent anyones idea of fun.
The RPM package management system that ships with my current desktop Linux distribution of choice, Red Hat Linux 9, is pretty good at keeping things organized under the covers. Its interfacing with RPM that can prove tricky, since neither option that Red Hat offers for managing software packages with RPM fully suits me.
Red Hat Linux releases used to include KDEs fairly good kpackage RPM utility, along with the rest of the KDE environment, but its been absent in the last two Red Hat versions, and stands as an instance in which complaints about Red Hat "crippling" KDE actually have some merit.
The graphical software package configuration tool that began shipping with Red Hat 8.0 and now ships with 9 is very basic. Its good for installing software from your Red Hat disks, but not for much else. This has left me fiddling with RPM from the command line, which works fine, but requires frequent references to documentation.
Until that far-off day when I earn my 12th degree RPM black belt, I need something that falls in between too simple and too tough, and I think I may have found it in the latest version of Ximians software installer and updater, Red Carpet 2.0.
As with previous versions of Red Carpet, Version 2.0 enables users to subscribe to software channels, most importantly a channel for updates and available software for your specific distribution. Drawing from the packages available through these channels, Red Carpet works to sort out package dependencies, and if it cant find the packages it needs, Red Carpet provides information thats helpful for locating the missing data on your own.
Red Carpet lets you mount package-containing folders on your system as channels, too, so if youve downloaded RPMs from somewhere like freshrpms.net (a great resource for Red Hat 8.0 and 9 packages), you can copy them to a local folder for installation. Ive found, though, that in order for Red Carpet to recognize packages that youve added to a folder since mounting it as a channel, you have to unmount and mount the folder again, which is a pain.
I could also install single packages, whether on my local system or at an Internet location, as well as search through my installed software, the software available for installation, and my history of installs, removals and updates.
Red Carpet 2.0 is available for free download at www.ximian.com, and supports Linux distributions from Red Hat, SuSE and Mandrake. Downloading software and updates through Red Carpet is also free, although Ximian offers higher-speed access to this service for $99 per year.
SuSE and Mandrake Linux each boast beefier software install and update tools than Red Hat does, so individual users of these distributions may opt to stick with what their vendors have supplied them. However, IT admins in charge of multiple systems running any of the supported distributions will be interested in Red Carpets ability, through its daemon/client structure, to manage software tasks on remote as well as local systems.
In any case, Red Carpet 2.0 is worth a look. If youre running one of the systems that Red Carpet supports, I suggest you give it a try.
Linux software installs and updates: How do you manage it? Lets talk RPM, APT, and roll-your-own at email@example.com.