Thursday, November 1, 2007

Getting Software

Okay, you've got Linux, now you want to know how to get all that amazing, cutting edge software on your system. Well, Linux distributions come with the latest and greatest, most popular software titles pre-installed.

For instance, Linux comes with OpenOffice (MSoffice altenative) Gimp (Photoshop altenative), Amarok (a wonderful MP3 music player), Firefox Browser, Pidgin Instant Messenger, email, etc. already installed! (You don't have to download any of these titles from these sites. I just linked them for reference)

But, you've heard about a new program or a program that does something specific and you'd like to try it out. Linux installs software in a different way than you may be used to doing in the Windows world. And the process of installing software on Linux is quite easy.

Just for the purpose of comparison, in the Windows world, you usually pop in a disk and the software installs. Or, more and more, you search around the web and find the program you need. You download an executable (.exe) file to your hard drive. A double-click results in the program's installer to launch and it then installs the program. The problem is, sometimes, that .exe file may have a trojan or pop-up routine that gets installed on your system without you knowing. Not pretty.

Linux gets its software from a repository. A repository is a warehouse that is maintained by the Linux distributor/creator. Your system is already "pointed" at this repository. You obtain the software by launching a Package Manager program that then retrieves and installs the software all in one or two steps.

If you run a Debian based distribution, you'll be utiizing the apt-get Package Manager. A Red Hat based system uses the RPM Package Manager. Mandriva uses URPM, Suse uses YAST and Slackware Linux has TGZ.

A user simply opens a terminal (think Windows DOS but only a billion times more powerful) and then types in a command to retrieve the software. So, using apt-get, for example, the user would type in, "apt-get install TheNameOfTheSotware." Apt-get then goes up to the repository, finds the software, checks your system for conflicts, etc., downloads and installs the software, and creates a menu entry.

But this method involves a lot of memorizing commands and knowing what to type. Which is why a GUI (Graphic user Interface) was developed. One such GUI for apt-get is called Synaptic. All the user need do is launch Synaptic, do a search for the program they would like to install (it searches the repository). A number of results are listed. The user then marks the software package they want to install and bingo! Apt-get works its magic. All without having to type in a single command.

There is also an even EASIER way of getting software!

If you are using Linspire or Freespire, then the fastest way to get software is to go to Simply sign up, create a user account and then all the software is a one click download and install. That's it. Go to, find the software you want, click on the "install" button, and the software downloads, installs and even creates a launch button on your menu! In the coming months, will also work with Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux distros.

Other Linux Distributions are developing one click web based installers. Klikit Linux is one such distribution.

The great thing about installing Linux using these methods is you know who is handing you the software. It's fast, easy, secure and free! And since most of the software is community based, it's free of spy ware, pop-ups, Trojans, etc. There are so many community members using the software, developing it, and constantly testing it, that embedding any nasty code would be impossible. Someone, among the hundreds of thousands developers/users, would find it. That's the huge advantage of Open Source software. It's wide open to everyone. Nothing can be hidden from anyone.

And that's the real beauty and benefit of Linux. You can say goodbye to all those virus and security problems that plagued your Windows software.

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