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Table of contents

Where To Get It

Binary Packages

Binary packages are software packages that are already compiled, and only need to be installed to run. Users coming to Linux from Windows will be familiar with this idea: You download the software that you want, install it and run it by doing the following:

  • Become root:

su -

  • Execute the binary:


  • If this gives you an error about permissions problems, do the following:

sh binary_package_filename

  • Do Ctrl-D to prevent any nasty accidents.

Package Repositories are web or ftp sites with large numbers of packages that you can search and download.

Source Packages

Source packages contain the program source code and need to be compiled before they can run. The benifit is that the software will be built to match the platform that it is compiled on, although extra libraries of code may be required to complete the compilation procedure. Compiling a package creates a binary, which can be run (executed).

Most software for linux will have a project homepage, where the source code and documentation can be downloaded, and where bug reports and feature or support requests can be submitted.

Required Libraries

Binary packages can require certain libraries of code which support them or provide functions to be installed, before they can sucesfully be installed onto a system. This is called a package dependancy.

Source packages may require certain libraries to be available during compilation or at run-time.

What To Do With It

Now you've got hold of that package/code, how do you use it?

How To Install Packages

Package based systems take care of the installation procedure automatically. Most have a GUI so that you can point and click. Alternativley there will be a command that can be run in a terminal with a number of options. You will need super-user priviliges to install most packages.

How To Compile Software

Most source packages have automatic build scripts in the directory that they unpack into. ./configure in that directory, followed by make and then make install which will need to be executed as the super-user (root user). These will attempt to automatically configure the compilation process for the way that your distro is set up (where source code / libraries are stored, etc.). If the automatic configuration script fails, you may need to use some command line options to tailor it to your system.

How To Configure Options

How To Use It

Where Has It Gone?

How To Use Command Line Options

The behaviour of most linux software can be controlled by giving options at the command line, which will generally be a hyphen (-) followed by a letter, or a double hyphen (--) followed by an option name and value. Most programs will offer an overview of the command line options by running with programname --help. Alternativley try man programname to see if a manual page has been entered for that program.

How To Understand Error Messages