entry level information

Ian Malone ibmalone at gmail.com
Sun Jun 3 19:58:50 UTC 2007

Bill Thompson wrote:
> I am interested in using Fedora 7. I am a computer USER. I do not have time
> to learn programming but I am willing to learn Fedora speak if I had access
> to an entry level guide to the terminology.
>  I tried to use Fedora 6 it installed easily but I quickly became frustrated
> with my inability to understand the language and concepts for finding and
> adding applications.


I'd agree with most of what Anne Wilson said, although
maybe you don't want to try to read /everything/ on
the mailing list.  I certainly don't.  If you haven't
already done so it may be worth setting up a filter
to put all list mails into a folder, possibly do this
on a webmail account like gmail which can then just
absorb all those emails.

Some specifics then.  One fundamental difference between
Linux distros and Windows is that distros are more than
just the OS.  A distro includes lots of applications
compiled (built) to run on that particular flavour of
Linux.  This is done through the following system (the
bits you want to deal with are probably towards the end):

Packages.  These are files which contain all the files
needed by an application and the instructions to install,
configure and uninstall them.  In the RedHat world these
are called RPMs.  Some packages are note applications,
but libraries.  These provide components which can be
shared by applications.  An example is libvorbis, which
is needed by most of the music applications to play
Vorbis music files, but isn't an application by itself.

Package management.  There are two levels here.  The
first is the software responsible for dealing with
individual packages (installing and removing).  This
first level does some basic checking, and unless
instructed otherwise won't install or remove packages
if they require packages you don't have or are required
by other installed packages respectively.  It is
responsible for keeping track of what packages you
have installed and where their components are. In RH
world this is mainly handled by a program called rpm.

Package management (update management).  To make life
simpler there is a second layer of package management,
which is a little harder to describe.  This revolves
around repositories: which are online collections of
packages.  If you want to install a new application
you tell the package manager (there are several, but
Fedora's natural manager is Yum) what you want to
install, it looks at the repositories and figures
out what other packages you need.  Then it downloads
all the needed packages for and installs them.
Similarly if you want to remove a package it works out
what this will affect.  It can also check whether there
are newer versions of packages and update them if you

In distros (Fedora, Debian/Ubuntu) the repository
system is a very central component, used for both
providing many more applications than are on the
install discs and for rolling out updates.

There are graphical tools to manage all this.  On
the desktop or file manager if you double click on
an RPM you will be asked if you want to install it
(and for the root/administrator password to do so).
You can update and install applications using the
repository system via the options in the Applications menu:
'Add/Remove Software' and 'System Tools|Software Updater'.

Since FC6 it has been possible to configure your
system to use extra repositories (such as Livna or
Freshrpms) simply by installing a package (which
you will have to download via your browser.  It is
wise to be careful if you want to use more than one
of these at the same time though, as they may contain
incompatible versions of the same thing.

There is a lot more that can be done if you are
willing to edit configuration files, and I haven't
addressed installing applications outside the
package framework, but the above is probably more
than enough to absorb in one sitting.  Hope this
introduction to package management has been more
useful than confusing.


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