Command Line Software Management

One of the nice things about a Debian-based Linux distribution is that it is easy to pull a piece of software onto your system from a repository using either apt-get or aptitude. Some may prefer to have a GUI but I find that the command line offers certain extra transparency that stops the “what’s it doing?” type of question. that’s never to say that the GUI-based approach hasn’t a place and I only go using it when seeking out a piece of software without knowing its aptitude-ready name. Interestingly, there are signs that Canonical may be playing with the idea of making Ubuntu’s Software Centre a full application management tool with updates and upgrades getting added to the current searching, installation and removal facilities. That well may be but it’s going to take a lot of effort to get me away from the command line altogether.

Fedora and openSUSE have their software management commands too in the shape of yum and zypper, respectively. The recent flurry of new operating system releases has had me experimenting with both of those distros on a real test machine. As might be expected, the usual battery of installation, removal and update activities are well served and I have been playing with software searching using yum too. What has yet to mature is in-situ distribution upgrading à la Ubuntu. In principle, it is possible but I got a black screen when I tried moving from openSUSE 11.1 to 11.2 within VirtualBox using instructions on the openSUSE website. Not wanting to wait, I reached for a Live CD instead and that worked a treat on both virtual and real machines. Being in an experiment turn of mind, I attempted the same to get from Fedora 11 to the beta release of its version 12. A spot of repository trouble got me using a Live CD in its place. You can perform an in-situ upgrade from a full Fedora DVD but the only option is system replacement when you have a Live CD. Once installation is out of the way, YAST can be ignored in favour of zypper and yum is good enough that Fedora’s GUI-using alternative can be ignored. It’s nice to see good transparent ideas taking hold elsewhere and may make migration between distros much easier too.

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