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Old 03-01-2009, 06:42 PM   #1
DGeeez
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Trying to understand software installation with Ubuntu tools


Hello, I'm a recovering Windows user who's trying to learn how to add software to Ubuntu 8.l. I have read on this page https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Repositories/Ubuntu a description of how programs are managed in a Linux system. Like with most official help on this site, it leaves my questions unanswered, and I am unable to make use of the Ubuntu company forum, which is ridiculously busy and hasn't sent me my registration email for two days! Therefore, I'm desperately hoping that some here can help me, that the basic software tools aren't much different between Linux "flavors".

While I do appreciate the principle that Linux provides official sources of compatibility-tested and security-tested software, the source programs reside in "repositories" which must be located and connected to, and this alone may require more than one tool. Then the programs must be not only downloaded, but somehow compiled as well before they can be installed, and I'm still not clear on which tool can or can't do either. I'm having a hard time grasping the division of functionality between Ubuntu's THREE (at least) graphical tools - Software Sources for server repository server connections, Synaptic Package Manager can view repositories on any server (but can it compile and install programs too?), and Add/Remove for managing (can it also compile, install, or both?) programs. I'm a total newbie at Linux - took the red pill yesterday, and now my head is spinning all over this rabbit hole, so please cut me some slack if it's a stupid question, but shouldn't all of the above functions be combined into one tool (sort of the way web browsers work)? Before deciding on this trip, I saw so many comments to the effect that Linux is a simplifying operating system, and I would like nothing more than to agree with all who say that. It would help me greatly, and I would be most grateful, if someone could explain how so many tools does NOT really make the installation of one program the next sequel to Mission Impossible! I need to know why the installation of one program may involve the launching of three (or more) tools, which cannot be open simultaneously while another is updating. What should I expect, and not expect from each tool, how do they work together (if they do), and do they have any overlapping functionality (such as compiling or installation)?

Thanks.

Last edited by DGeeez; 03-01-2009 at 07:14 PM.
 
Old 03-01-2009, 07:10 PM   #2
lunanoko
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You only need Synaptic (System > Administration > Synaptic Packet Manager) to install packages from the servers (repositories) provided by your base installation. If you want to add more repositories, use the Sources manager (System > Administration > Software Sources).
These tools will only help you install Ubuntu packages, they can not compile anything from source as far as I know. You will have to do that by hand (but it's fairly simple, it only involves three commands most of the time).
However, I see no reason for a starting Linux user to start compiling software by hand. Just stick to Synaptic for a while. If you want to go a bit deeper into Linux, try installing software packages from the command line (using APT or Aptitude), or try adding more repositories.

edit: Add/Remove programs does basically the same as Synaptic, so forget that one Synaptic is the way for installing programs, and the Sources manager is there to let you define additional sources for software, but you'll probably don't need it very fast, as the default sources offer lots of software!

Last edited by lunanoko; 03-01-2009 at 07:12 PM.
 
Old 03-01-2009, 07:49 PM   #3
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DGeeez View Post

While I do appreciate the principle that Linux provides official sources of compatibility-tested and security-tested software, the source programs reside in "repositories"
Yes, that's the source program and not the source code...

Quote:
which must be located and connected to, and this alone may require more than one tool. Then the programs must be not only downloaded, but somehow compiled as well before they can be installed, and I'm still not clear on which tool can or can't do either.
The tools that you are talking about are GUI tools which interface to underlying command line interface tools (apt-get, etc and all the synAPTic naming stuff has something to do with the underlying apt-utils and aptitude). You could even write one yourself without too much difficulty...I hope that you don't think this is a good idea at this stage, I'm just pointing out that given the underlying infrastructure, it wouldn't be massively difficult.

Quote:
I'm having a hard time grasping the division of functionality between Ubuntu's THREE (at least) graphical tools - Software Sources for server repository server connections, Synaptic Package Manager can view repositories on any server (but can it compile and install programs too?), and Add/Remove for managing (can it also compile, install, or both?) programs.
None of them actually compile; they all download, install and deal with dependencies (dependencies = the need for support libraries, and this is actually the hard part of the whole affair in some cases, when multiple programs depend on interlocking sets of libraries).

On any given day, you can choose whichever you feel like; having used one previously, does not rule out changing over to another, if
  • the mood takes you
  • it works in a slightly preferable way
  • you find the colours more soothing (or something)
You should not, however, try to use more than one at any time. There is an underlying database of installed programs, and it has a 'one at once' access scheme.

Just to generalise slightly, this is something you'll have to get used to in the Linux/Open Source world. Choice. Given that the platform is open, anyone can take advantage to produce a utility that works in exactly the way that they want, either because they think someone else will want exactly that or even because they just want it themselves to 'scratch that itch'. This does tend to lead to a profusion of utilities and selection of the absolutely best could become an obsession, but you only really need to find one that is 'good enough'

Quote:
It would help me greatly, and I would be most grateful, if someone could explain how so many tools does NOT really make the installation of one program the next sequel to Mission Impossible!
Choose a tool that will do the job; it may be any one of several; use it; job done.

Quote:
What should I expect, and not expect from each tool, how do they work together (if they do), and do they have any overlapping functionality (such as compiling or installation)?
Practically all of the functionality overlaps, but:
  • the system updater is primarily for dealing with updates and bug fixes for programs that you have already installed
  • synaptic is a good tool for adding and removing programs, and you probably should use it for most other things (at least it would be my preference, but, as most this is about choice, just because it would be my favourite, it doesn't mean that you will like it best)
 
Old 03-01-2009, 08:27 PM   #4
DGeeez
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Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lunanoko View Post
You only need Synaptic (System > Administration > Synaptic Packet Manager) to install packages from the servers (repositories) provided by your base installation. If you want to add more repositories, use the Sources manager (System > Administration > Software Sources).
These tools will only help you install Ubuntu packages, they can not compile anything from source as far as I know. You will have to do that by hand (but it's fairly simple, it only involves three commands most of the time).
Wow, none of them compile? What I had read gave me the impression that most Linux software is in repositories, and that they don't store compiled software - is that wrong? If it's true, then anything downloaded through Synaptic would always have to be followed up by compiling, which none of the tools do by hand? Why does something seem wrong about this? I'm not trying to mess with you, I'm trying to make sense of how this works.

Quote:
However, I see no reason for a starting Linux user to start compiling software by hand.
The first thing on my mind was security programs like apparmor. I've seen lots of posters scoff at this concern just because they're true believers in Linux security, and while I'm not qualified to argue that, my machine has been polluted real good with everything that my multiple of 10 firewalls, antispyware, and antivirus programs caught and didn't snag while using Windows. I will be happy not to worry like that anymore, but then I'm not about to dive in naked anywhere. Anyway, the Ubuntu site, in it's typically confusing style, seems to indicate that apparmor is included with the system, and then says that you have to pull it from a repository and compile it first (maybe that repository is on the CD instead of cyberspace). If this program, and other security tools are installed with Ibex, I can't find it in the program menus, where I could adjust the settings. I checked for it through Synaptic in Local/main (which I think is my own machine), where gnash was at the top of the alphabet sort (it isn't there) and then on us.archive.ubuntu.com/main (a remote server for sure), where I found apparmor listed with a green icon. So, it has the green-icon listing on a remote server, but isn't listed at all on my machine, than how can that mean that it's installed on mine? Anyway, I right-clicked that green-listed program, and selected "Mark for Upgrade", watched what happened when I hit the "Apply" button, but I still don't know if I've got that security sytem on my computer, or how to control it! Do you know how to call up Apparmor?

Quote:
Just stick to Synaptic for a while. If you want to go a bit deeper into Linux, try installing software packages from the command line (using APT or Aptitude), or try adding more repositories.

edit: Add/Remove programs does basically the same as Synaptic, so forget that one Synaptic is the way for installing programs, and the Sources manager is there to let you define additional sources for software, but you'll probably don't need it very fast, as the default sources offer lots of software!
 
Old 03-01-2009, 08:58 PM   #5
DGeeez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salasi View Post
Yes, that's the source program and not the source code...
...and here is where I am still hung up! Long ago, I took a couple of programming classes, and the only code which was referred to was the text commands which needed a compiler to convert them into into their intended executable programs. It's been forever, but I think it was referred to as "source code". So, if "source program" is the actual compiled program, then what does the word "source" refer to?

Quote:
The tools that you are talking about are GUI tools which interface to underlying command line interface tools (apt-get, etc and all the synAPTic naming stuff has something to do with the underlying apt-utils and aptitude). You could even write one yourself without too much difficulty...I hope that you don't think this is a good idea at this stage, I'm just pointing out that given the underlying infrastructure, it wouldn't be massively difficult.


None of them actually compile; they all download, install and deal with dependencies (dependencies = the need for support libraries, and this is actually the hard part of the whole affair in some cases, when multiple programs depend on interlocking sets of libraries).
I read a little about "dependencies", comparing it to the little I know about DLL files. I had the impression that "dependencies" are the actual shared libraries - if not, then how do you refer to the actual libraries?

[/QUOTE]
 
Old 03-02-2009, 06:23 AM   #6
lunanoko
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I don know exactly what a Source Program would be, but I can tell you this:

A program is written in a language, which makes up the source code.
You can download this source code, and compile it yourself, which has some advantages, but has its disadvantages too.
Therefore, your distribution offers you software packages, which actually are compiled source code, with instructions for your packet manager on where to place the program files on your system and how to configure the software. So it actually are pre-compiled programs.

From a Windows point of view, you could see the packages as MSI files that come preconfigured with (I believe) MST files.

I hope this makes sense...

Also, on the topic of dependencies: a dependency is just what the word suggests. If a program has a dependency, it needs another library or program to function correctly. You refer to the actual libraries as libraries or shared libraries.

Then again, I'm still pretty new to these topics on Linux, but this is the way I understand things at this moment Maybe someone with more knowledge can provide additional information on the topic.
 
Old 03-02-2009, 07:07 AM   #7
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DGeeez View Post
Wow, none of them compile? What I had read gave me the impression that most Linux software is in repositories, and that they don't store compiled software - is that wrong?
(For present purposes) Repositories are collections of pre-compiled software. So, what you get from the repo has already been compiled and you don't then have to do any more compilation.

At this point, I have to suggest that you actually try it. Select something in, say, synaptic, that you migh want and watch the process in action.


Now, that's it. The process that you have just watched was it in process. It may or may not have pulled in libraries and other utilities to satisfy dependencies but if it happened (because it needed to), it happened and if it didn't (because it didn't) it didn't.

Quote:
If it's true, then anything downloaded through Synaptic would always have to be followed up by compiling, which none of the tools do by hand? Why does something seem wrong about this? I'm not trying to mess with you, I'm trying to make sense of how this works.
This comment should me rendered moot by watching what happens, although you should now know that you are getting excessively hung up about the 'compiling by hand' bit. And, BTW, if the tool did it (which they don't) it wouldn't then be by hand because the tool would be doing it. But, as I say, it doesn't...

Quote:
The first thing on my mind was security programs like apparmor.... while I'm not qualified to argue that, my machine has been polluted real good with everything that my multiple of 10 firewalls, antispyware, and antivirus programs caught and didn't snag while using Windows.
Look this is heading off into a new subject area. Probably the right thing to do is to start a new thread for this if you are interested, but I'll just make a few superficial comments;
  • No one wants to hear this, but their biggest enemy is user stupidity. This can be a less-than-cheering thought if you are the user.
  • Viruses aren't a big problem on Linux, but there is still malware in existence.
  • Can't say about apparmour on Ubuntu; its a relatively new addition
  • If you stick to the Ubuntu repos, you really don't have the problem of downloading unknown malign bits of code masquerading as useful utilities. You use an installer, you get a good compiled program (or Ubuntu has screwed up to the extent that some other distro might be preferred to replace Ubuntu...and they know this)
  • if you (or anyone else, for that matter) insists on opening every attachment on scam e-mails, opening .doc files found in random places on the internet, opening pictures because someone unknown has attached the name 'miley' to them, not thinking about whether something might be a phishing attack, etc, etc, you will eventually get in some kind of trouble; having a more secure OS and and having various hardening tools may put that time off for quite a while, but it will eventually happen. If 'well, its a lot more eventually than it would have been with (say) windows' is good enough for you, that's fine. But to really be safe, you need more, and some of that is to forgo some easy conveniences, that are risky.
 
Old 03-03-2009, 01:31 AM   #8
DGeeez
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Thanks for all your helpful replies.

As Salasi suggested, I finally went ahead and tried using Synaptic to install software, and it works great!

What made me so gun-shy and confused is that I'm used to using Web-based sources, and guided more or less by Web ratings systems (user reviews). When I found nothing out there on specific types of Linux programs, other than a few scattered postings by command-line gurus, it kind of got my head spinning. I then went to my distro page (Ubuntu, which sure isn't written worthy of the most popular one), which, right after playing up that packages are uncompiled source (this in the official tutorial, not a forum), then presented Synaptic as a place to "view" packages in repositories - never once used the word "install" on the little abstract for this tool - this, by the way, is from Ubuntu's official tutorial, not a forum page. I realize Linux is community-supported, and then I'd like to hope that the Ubuntu technical writers aren't paid!

Installation of the distro was itself an extended nightmare. Well, I've seen from forum posts that some had it worse - at least I have sound, and most other things working after I got a good installation disk burned, and made the right choice on the type of installation (stupid Vista Machine style "run within Vista" dumped my settings every time I shut down, so it was back to the drawing board from there). The biggest problem turned out to be the default speed of NTSI CD Maker, which, at 48K, burned me an Ubuntu 8.1 install CD which failed to boot. Would have been nice had someone thought to include a warning about that on the Ubuntu download site. This distro presents enough choices to really complicate the troubleshooting when something fails, and it took about a week before I stumbled accross a forum where somebody pointed out the burn speed (as opposed to installation type, or 64 vs 32-bit rate) as a possible issue - they were right!

Has anyone ever permanently lost their screen after choosing the wrong screen resolution? Score 1 for Microsoft in leaving you an out if you should do that, Ubuntu lets you jump off that cliff without a warning, and no way to recover! I have a standard 22-inch wide screen, which went dark, and lost all the menus when I selected 1280x24, anyone understand what gives with that? I couldn't find any simple command line fixes for this, therefore I had no choice but to reinstall. The default screen res is the second to the smallest in Ubuntu Ibex, so I know that a change of this would be the first thing I'd reach for if I had just installed it on a laptop! Am I the only one, or should a big, red-caps warning be inserted over the Ubuntu download page?
 
Old 03-04-2009, 12:46 PM   #9
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DGeeez View Post
...I finally went ahead and tried using Synaptic to install software, and it works great! ...What made me so gun-shy and confused is that I'm used to using Web-based sources, and guided more or less by Web ratings systems (user reviews).
One source of frustration is that people are often searching for something different from windows, but then can't/won't cope with thinking differently about it when they get it. Trying to think about Linux as a version of Windows which just has a lower purchase price and maybe a different colour scheme really is unhelpful, but you have to think of it as its own thing not a cut price version of something else.

I hadn't though about the business of user reviews; its true, you do get used to selecting utilities and smaller items of software on the basis of the comments of random others and using a package manager doesn't give you that.

Quote:
....then presented Synaptic as a place to "view" packages in repositories - never once used the word "install" on the little abstract for this tool
That is remarkable. While of course it is true that you could use a GUI tool like synaptic just to view what is in the repo, it doesn't get close to capturing the advantage that a user could get from it.


Quote:
Has anyone ever permanently lost their screen after choosing the wrong screen resolution? Score 1 for Microsoft in leaving you an out if you should do that, Ubuntu lets you jump off that cliff without a warning, and no way to recover!
Sorry, can fix in OpenSuSE, but not sure what to do from the command line in Ubuntu.
 
Old 03-04-2009, 01:25 PM   #10
r1d3r
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Actually its fairly easy to recover from wrong display configuration in ubuntu.
Boot with the recovery mode option I'm the boot menu and in the recovery
menu you can find the command to reconfigure the X
(I dont remember the command).
 
Old 03-04-2009, 01:32 PM   #11
thorkelljarl
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This project is a community; it's all make up as we go along.

Linux is difference, linux is choice, but the spirit of Tux guides it and he gives a helping hand.

http://www.linux.org/lessons/beginner/toc.html

Welcome to the linux party.
 
  


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