Experiments with Linux

Installing Programs On Linux

Submitted by Derwent Ready on Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Today we talk about the various ways I know of to install programs on several Linux distributions. There are a surprising number of ways to install programs on Linux and not all of them seem to be available on all the distributions.

I have a small amount of experience with: Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and Debian. I switched from Ubuntu to Linux Mint because several people on Twitter were raving about it and I found it less easy to break than Ubuntu so I stuck with it. I then switched to Debian because I'm setting up a dedicated web server and Linux Mint is designed to be a more user-friendly DESKTOP Linux distro. I could have used Ubuntu server edition and this DID tempt me but as many people have pointed out: Ubuntu is mainly a fork (recoding/redesign from a cerain point in time) of Debian. Yes it has some nice new featues but it does seem like Debian would start off more stable and lightweight for a server. Likewise Linux Mint is just an even MORE user-friendly fork of Ubuntu. I also tried Linspire 4.5 back in... 2004? The so-called Open-source Windows replacement. This seems to have completely died since.

Anyway, there are several ways to install applications on these 3 Linux distributions and even more if you include the more commercial distros like Red Hat and CentOS which I won't cover in this article because I've had almost NO experience with these other distros.

Programs can usually be installed straight from the Linux packages. These are lists maintained by the distributions of programs that can be DOWNLOADED and installed. IF there isn't a built-in package, there's often a tutorial for adding the package or at the very least, downloading the program directly.

Command-line Interfaces

If you would like to try your hand at the command-line for quick installation there are two options: apt-get <PACKAGE> where package is the name of the program (such as VLC, GIMP, Inkscape etc) that you want to install. If the package is available apt-get will inform you of all the dependencies that will be installed, any packages that will be upgraded or removed in a long list and at the bottom proceed to inform you how much space will be used and freed up, asking you to confirm that you would like to go ahead with the changes.

The second command-line interface is Aptitude. This is a: "menu-driven, text-based front-end to the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) system."*

Package Managers

If you feel less comfortable using the command-line and would like to use a full graphical interface there are several programs, the best known is Synaptic and it seems to mostly serve as a graphical front end for apt-get. I personally find it easier to find the programs I'm looking for but similarly I find it harder to see what dependencies (other packages) will be installed along with it.

Personal Package Archives

By default Debian does not support PPAs, however Ubuntu and Linux Mint do. These are packages published by Launchpad that allow people to provide the latest cutting-edge and usually unofficail releases of programs, hence the word Personal. These can often serve as your only source for the absolutely latest versions of apps with a development cycle that leaves them in stable-beta for most of their life as the official package repositories, by default don't seem to update until an official Release is made. To use a PPA, I shall use a Blender 2.5/6 PPA as an example one uses the command-line commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:cheleb/blender-svn && sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install blender

* Source: https://help.ubuntu.com/8.04/serverguide/C/aptitude.html

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