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if you got redhat 9, then the most common software package that you'll
probably deal with is called an RPM (Redhat Package Manager) ...
when you download the file you can type :
rpm -ivh nameofpackage.rpm
or you should be able to simply double click the file (something like how
an *.exe file works)
if you download a file that is a *.tar.gz (just like a *.zip or *.rar file)
file then you will first and foremost
have to read either the INSTALL file or the README file contained
within the compressed file ... so first to
uncompress it you will type :
tar -zxvf nameofpackage.tar.gz
then go into the folder and like mentioned above, read the install or
readme file to see how you have to compile the program, but typically
the installation will go as follows :
su -c "make install
type root password
if its a *.tar.bz file then the above stands true, but the only difference is
in how you will uncompress the file and that would be changing the "z" to be a "j" like follows :
To start, I am a Linux users of about a year now, although I have looked at Linux it its various incarnations for several years prior to that. I own a small business and run Linux on my workstations and even my gaming stations. I have multiple distro's installed on various machines and I am a proponent of Linux. Linux is a fantastic OS once you get to know it and become competent in setting it up and maintaining it.
Upgrade to Fedora Core 1 or Fedora Core 2 or go with some other distro such as mandrake or Suse, and try to start with the most current of those distros. You can download most of those distros easily.
If you finally get FC1 or FC2 installed you should look into products such as apt-get and synaptic. Using programs such as these makes installation of programs much easier although they almost always demand you have a high speed internet connection.
Doing ./configure and ./make is a fools errand, although sometimes you can't get away from it. Here's the story.
Computers were designed to do repetitive tasks for the users. They were meant to do the tough work so long as the programmers were bright, and competent, enough to put together the right mixture of product and support to allow you to easily install and run their program with a minimum of effort--ala the "computers were designed to do the repetitive tasks" statement.
The problem in Linux is that there are so many distros and each distro (or distributor) seems to have taken their own little position on how their distro will be created and what they will provide to make installation and maintenance easy for the users. Some distro's have chosen the philosophy that you the user must do all the work so you have the flexibility you desire. This is a fallacy for most desktop users. Desktop users don't necessarily want that much flexibility, especially when it infringes on their true end-goal -- to use the computer.
These distro distrubutors also can, and regulary do, break the installers and various programs written by 3rd party authors. This is the main reason given as to why 3rd party software writers don't also develop installers for their programs and why we have yet to find a 3rd party univeral distro applications installer--not to mention the lack of concensus between distro distributors on how they'd like to see this area progress. The only thing you can count on is that if you pay for the support from the distro and you use the software they provide you can get help from them. Otherwise if you install a 3rd party program they have no guarantee that that product will work or won't be broken in the future by something they did configuring or updating the distro.
This is an extreme opposite of Windows where everyone expects and demands that their software install and that the distributor (Microsoft) maintain compatability even throughout the release of patches and upgrades. We have seen instances in Windows where this breaks down, particularly recently with SP2 of Windows XP, but the general concensus is that Windows (ala Microsoft) does provide what the users demand--compatability for installation and ease of use.
Because there is no centralized control over Linux, except for the Kernel, there is no central body taking responsibility and hence the rap if anything proves incompatable once a new version is released. Even so, a Linux kernel can be released that will break distros (and even end-user software), but it is rare, although it did happen quite recently.
What drives the Linux market is not the initial cost of the software. It is driven by the service fees that one might pay to get support for the product, even end-user created applications. Being this is the case there is little motivation for the developers to make it simple (or simplify the system/design). They won't make money if they make it too simple, as simple as Windows is. This is a scathing rebuke, BTW. It happens every day and those making money off Linux are playing on the programmed difficulty, IMHO.
Now, this does not preclude anyone from taking the time to become educated and learning the ins and outs so as to make money off support service in Linux, and this is really no different than the automotive companies making proprietary parts so that you had to go back to them and their service technicians to get your vehicle back up and running.
It does conflict with the "open source software" creed where they hate the proprietary nature of Windows (except they look at the proprietary nature of the design, api, IP, etc.).
In Windows you get standardized installers that work in virtually any version of Windows and many continue to work even if they were designed for Windows 3.x or Windows 95. The applications tend to work the vast majority of the time and the end-user can easily (if necessary) fumble their way through the install and have a successfully running product that is accessible with a few clicks of the mouse.
Money is made in Windows off the initial sale of the software and through updates that are sold and not necessarily off the support of that software (at least not initially, as long as the problems encountered are proven to not be caused by the end-user).
Money is made in Linux not off the initial sale of the software and through updates, but off the support of the install, maintenance, etc.
In Windows there's a motivation to reduce the cost of the support to the users by trying to keep/make it simple to install and use whereas in Linux that motivation is not the same. I postulate that it is just the opposite and that these individuals want to make money so there is no motivation to make it easy to install and use.
What does this have to do with your post? Well, first take my advice and get apt-get working and get synaptic installed. Otherwise go with the likes of Mandrake or Suse and use their software update programs to simplify your instllation needs. But also, don't expect, for some long time to come, to have software easy to install, configure, and use in linux. The difference is much greater than editing text files as some may point out. Start your installs with the latest of the distros from the distributor that you choose. Until you become semi-knowledgeable and proficient in Linux I would not suggest switching. I would also recommend you refrain from the likes of Debian and Gentoo as those are particulary difficult distro's to install for new Linux users.
And finally, in reference to the RPM based installs where you type rpm -ivh <name>.rpm -- it becomes most obvious that you then enter dependency hell. Dependency hell is where you click or execute the RPM file and it aborts with error messages that such and such dependency file is missing. In these cases, which are significantly more common than you might desire, you will have to locate and install the dependent files before you can install the RPM you began with. What makes this hell is when you get a request to install a dependent file and that file also has dependencies that are not met. You can go around in circles trying to find those files and satisfy all the dependencies. For this REASON, you should get apt-get and Synaptic, as those two programs combined (1. apt-get provides you with a way to resolve most dependencies, and 2. Synaptic provides you with a graphical front end to apt-get) greatly reduce the dependency nightmares you will encounter when doing RPM based installs.