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14 – Package Management‌

If we spend any time in the Linux community, we hear many opinions as to which of the many Linux distributions is “best.” Often, these discussions get really silly, focusing on such things as the prettiness of the desktop background (some people won't use Ubuntu because of its default color scheme!) and other trivial matters.

The most important determinant of distribution quality is the packaging system and the vitality of the distribution's support community. As we spend more time with Linux, we see that its software landscape is extremely dynamic. Things are constantly changing. Most of the top-tier Linux distributions release new versions every six months and many individual program updates every day. To keep up with this blizzard of software, we need good tools for package management.

Package management is a method of installing and maintaining software on the system. Today, most people can satisfy all of their software needs by installing packages from their Linux distributor. This contrasts with the early days of Linux, when one had to download and compile source code in order to install software. Not that there is anything wrong with compiling source code; in fact, having access to source code is the great won- der of Linux. It gives us (and everybody else) the ability to examine and improve the sys- tem. It's just that having a precompiled package is faster and easier to deal with.

In this chapter, we will look at some of the command line tools used for package manage- ment. While all of the major distributions provide powerful and sophisticated graphical programs for maintaining the system, it is important to learn about the command line pro- grams, too. They can perform many tasks that are difficult (or impossible) to do with their graphical counterparts.


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