.deb, debra, debian? The package manager!

Using Ubuntu Linux a beginner must know ‘yet another’ interesting piece of information. This information I am going to share with you is not only fun to know. It will also add some points to your ‘I understand more about Ubuntu and Linux in common.’Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X users know that most applications they download have file extensions such as .exe, .dmg and more. These two are the best known and mostly used in our digital world. When you decide to add Linux onto your hard drive you can forget about these extensions. Make room for the new!– Synaptic Package ManagerGNU/Linux distributions work with package managers. A package manager is also an application which lets you do the following things:- Install applications from repositories.- Update installed applications.- Reinstall installed applications.- Uninstall applications.- Search easily for applications within repositories.What are repositories? What applications? Why not just downloading? Why Why Why?GNU/Linux distributions work with package managers because they make it easy for users to find, install and update software. For the developers it’s much easier to upload there applications to repositories. Imagine when a developer has finished writing a new version of his application. He cleaned up the code, he received some bug-reports from the community and took care of them and he even added some new features. He uploads his work to the centralized system and voila. For the people who have a previous version installed it will be just a matter of running the ‘update-manager’. For users who are searching for a particular application ‘Synaptic Package manager’ will display the application based on the user’s search criteria. For an user who has found an application which suits him more, the previously used application can be simply deleted by clicking with your right-mouse and select uninstall. All changes will be applied as soon as you hit the ‘Apply’ button.– RepositoriesThese are the servers where developers upload there applications, themes, scripts and what not. From a users point of view these are the servers where you can search for applications, themes, additional features for you applications, hardware drivers and what not. You name it! By default Ubuntu Linux has quite some repositories available. You can find them at:System -> administration -> Software properties- or -Synaptic Package Manager -> Settings -> RepositoriesThere you can not only ‘turn on’ / ‘select’ more Ubuntu Linux’s default repositories, you can also add other repositories which haven’t been made or aren’t being maintained by the Ubuntu community. Only please note! Repositories which are not descendant of the Ubuntu community can be filled with all kinds of applications, scripts, codecs and what not. So there is a theoretical chance that 3rd party, bleeding edge releases can break your system. Also there can be found propriety / commercial software there. This last isn’t always legal in every country.By default, most users and especially the absolute beginner does not need to add more repositories. In the default ones you will thousands of applications, add-on’s, drivers and what not for your system and hardware.– Why not just download?There are three important reasons for GNU/Linux distributions to have a package manager. Why would you spend much more time being online, querying Google, browse to dozens of about pages, release notes and installation how-to’s. That the beautify of package managers. Start, search, select, apply! Even primary schoolchildren can do that. So it makes Linux a lot more functional, already ‘Out Of The Box.’ The other reason is directly linked to the first.Installing applications under GNU/Linux distributions is not so easy as under Windows or Mac. Often you are required to know some terminal commands and be able to browse your way through the countless unlogical named seeming folders.But what if an application isn’t listed in any of the repositories you know and have selected? Well, than you’re way more than an absolute beginner. But you will probably have to read the installation notes written by the developer and trust on own knowledge. If needed, there’s always the community which can help! Also remember this. When you start installing applications manually they won’t be automatically updated by your package managers updater. This way, if software features a serious security issues you will be vulnerable. And that’s the third reason.If everybody starts installing software and of course never updates GNU/Linux distributions will not be able to be so secure, stable and innovating as they are now. Don’t forget not only do updates fix ‘dull’ bugs and security issues, new version can also bring new features with them. So it’s always worth it!– Who’s Debra?Don’t be surprised to hear this. But Ubuntu Linux has been build on top of the foundation of an exciting distribution. Debian Linux! Ubuntu Linux is not the only one. Novell uses SuSE and Fedora Core has been generated from Red Hat Linux. That’s the beauty of Open Source. When something fabulous has been created by a community it isn’t being kept a secret. You are as a matter of fact will be encouraged to use it, implement it and create your own version.Debian’s package manager used the .deb file format. All the files you will download from the repositories are .deb whether you use Debian or Ubuntu. The .deb files are archives. Within these archives there are two other archives (gzip or bzip). One of the two holds all information files while the other holds the files which are going to be installed.While the name ‘Ubuntu’ roughly means ‘Humanity towards others’ the meaning of Debian is a little bit harder to catch. It isn’t a real word. When thinking of a name for his newly made GNU/Linux distribution Ian Murdock thought about his wife, called Debra. So he decided to use the first three letters and his own name. Debian was born. But it didn’t stopped there. Also the new file format had to get a name. Again he used his wife’s name. So the .deb file format was born.– Dependency Hell!For an absolute beginner I praise smart people who have made the .deb file format possible. I explain why! In my years as Mr. Fix It and Mr. Build It (working in a computer store) I learned how to maintain Windows installations properly. So I thought it wouldn’t be a hassle using GNU/Linux. I chose for SuSE Linux since back then it was one of the best known distributions. They also had a professional candy-layer over themselves which caught my attention. Installing, setting up wasn’t really the hardest part. A lot of my old hardware (old these days that is) was recognized correctly. Back then my Cyrix 333MHz CPU, 256MB Sdram PC133 and 10GB Hard drive were the most standard of standard. Also installing software wasn’t that hard. But soon I discovered something I wasn’t so pleased with!SuSE uses the .rpm file format. Now imagine. Most software consists out of pieces. Developers won’t have to code that again and the package manager will automatically select the missing libraries or applications which hold those pieces. WHAT! Yes, you are hearing that right. So when you add a application from the package manager the chance is high you are missing quite some components. So the package manager goes searching and comes back with a list of libraries and applications you have to install. By installing the extras you are sure that the first application (the one you actually want) you ensure it will work correctly. A very big problem is you are forced to add more and even other applications you don’t want. To make things more depressive those extra applications you need to fix your dependencies could also need extra packages. So it’s an very very frustrating way of working. Not only does your software list grow, it also consumes hard drive space.But just extra packages isn’t the only problem. The worst problem is a possibility of a dependency hell. Software or components are linked to (specific) version. But what if that dependency upgrades to a new major version number (for exmaple: 9.2 to 10.0)? Bingo! This way it’s just a matter of time before the system will start braking itself and fixing dependencies becomes an annoying hobby.Debian based GNU/Linux distributions don’t have this problem. Debian based distributions search in predefined software repositories in order to solve the dependency. Something RPM package managers can’t do by default. But with so many software, versions and dependencies going around also Debian based system could face a dependency hell. But this is very rare! So the chance you’ll be facing one is almost as good as zero. And even if you encounter one Synaptic / Apt give you enough other options to solve the problem.

4 thoughts on “.deb, debra, debian? The package manager!

  1. Deainstalling some software programs coming from a Windows – managed pc could be real ache. Actually any computer software elimination is a form of a difficulties however, many complaints are merely much more serious than these. These kinds of need extra care about procedure for uninstall and wish using some certain software program.

  2. Effective as well as very innovative computer software like Windows Vista OS is often subject to multiple risks plus dangers. Complex code which is a product of various section co-operation in indeed a work of art yet it might not function as the most best way of solving particular issues devastating the computer efficiency. The good thing to complete in these situations is usually to use a special application which could boost Vista features particularly areas of performance.

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