Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Windows vs Linux Reason 6

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We all know that Windows has a convenient tool called "Windows (or Microsoft) update", which allows you to update your system with the latest updates available. All you need to have is the ability to prove, or Microsoft to validate, your installation as being ‘Genuine’ . That’s fine for your Microsoft Windows and Office software.

But what about getting updates for all your non-Microsoft software that you have installed, such as Adobe applications, the ZIP compressor, Spyware and adware cleaner, CD or DVD burning program, non-Microsoft web browsers and email clients, etc.? You need to update all of them, one at a time, and that takes a lot of time, since not all of them have their own updating system. Most of them may require accessing a web page and downloading the new version. Then you have to run the installer for those programs. It takes a lot to keep your system up to date, doesn’t it?

Linux, on the other hand, has a ‘better’ idea. Why not update everything that needs it all at the same time? Is it possible to have one program to launch, which will allow you to pick and chose exactly what you want to update?

Yes, there is, and it works like a charm! Linux provides a central "Package manager", which not only maintains your system’s kernel software, but also every single piece of software your computer has installed. So if you want to keep everything up-to-date, the only thing you need to do is press the "Install Updates" button. There just happens to be several of these ‘Managers’ available for Linux. Yum (Yellow Dog Update Manager) is used with RPM packages that support RedHat, Fedora Core, SUSE, and others. It doesn’t have a GUI but there is yumex *Yum Extended) that does provide one. The GUI makes it easier to do updates and additional software installs. RedHat and Fedora Core also have Update which does just updates. Debian based Linux systems use APT, which also doesn’t have a GUI, but uses the Debian installation package file format.

In each Package manager, you have Repositories for the distribution you are using, which are supplied by the publisher of that distro. There are additional repositories (e.g. Fresh RPMs and DAC RPMs) that are not associated with the publishers, but maintain the work of the various developers that produce most of the fine software you have installed on your Linux environment. If you decide to install additional software that wasn’t on the install CDS, you will be glad to know that getting updates for that software is handled automatically for you without any action on your part.

The advantages of handling updates like this are obvious. You don’t need to visit the web pages of the software publishers to check for updates. The mechanism is easy to use and is highly efficient. And finally, you have complete freedom to choose what to update and when you wish to update.