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Getting up to date

Linux sports a number of update tools that reduce a lot of the pain of upgrading software.

After going through a tedious virus definition-update process, and being forced to reboot my Windows box in the middle of my work, I’m extra glad that Linux doesn’t suffer from this painful update plague.

On an almost daily basis, I see Windows updates, virus updates, and security updates–as well as various PC vendor updates–all with a separate means for downloading and installing updates. And, all updates normally require you to reboot after installation.

Linux, on the other hand, sports a number of update tools that reduce a lot of the pain of upgrading software. Two of the best such tools are Yum and Apt. Yum comes originally from Yellow Dog Linux, a Linux distribution that runs on Macintosh systems. Yum, short for Yellow dog Updater, Modified, has gained in popularity since it was adopted by the Red Hat and Fedora Core Linux distributions. (You can also use the up2date program on Red Hat and Fedora systems.) Apt, short for Advanced Packaging Tool, has been around for years, especially with the Debian Linux distribution.

With these tools, a simple command such as one of the following can update an entire system, capturing security fixes and general software improvements.

The difference between Yum and software such as Windows Update is that Yum can update literally hundreds of packages from a number of vendors while Windows Update only updates the Windows OS. Windows Update does not support updating third-party applications. Instead, the Windows world is rife with separate vendor update schemes, each with a different interface and no consistency.

What’s worse is that far too many updates on Windows require you to reboot your system. Most Linux updates don’t have this requirement. Only if you update the kernel should you need to reboot.

Using Apt, a Debian Linux user can even start with a very small installation package, and let Apt download all additional applications over the Internet. In contrast, most Linux distributions provide four or more installation CDs.

In addition, tools such as Yum support multiple repositories for packages. This allows you to refer to repositories for your Linux distribution–crucial for security updates–as well as repositories for specific applications.

Since Linux distributions come with hundreds of applications, you can often keep an entire system up to date, with just a few simple commands, using tools such as Yum and Apt.

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