Originally Published: Tuesday, 17 July 2001 Author: Deven Phillips, CISSP
Published to: enhance_articles_sysadmin/Sysadmin Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Comparing Package Management - APT vs. URPMI

Deven Philips takes a look at two new package management utilities for Linux and blesses the day the concept was invented.

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Recently I have been focusing a great deal on software management under Linux. It seems to be one of the things that Linux developers spend a lot of time considering in comparison to other operating systems, but it also seems to still be lacking. Now, modern Linux distributions come with automated package management systems like apt and urpmi. Both have their merits and both have limitations. In this article I would like to discuss each as they apply to the currently most popular distribution: Linux-Mandrake.

Linux-Mandrake has been including urpmi for a while now, and it seems quite ready to handle most tasks. A user can execute urpmi --auto-select and get all of the available updates from the sources they have configured. The sources seem to be where the problems lie. Configuring a new urpmi source seems to be far more complex than it should be. While I -- as a veteran Linux user -- can configure urpmi sources without intense difficulty, a new user to Linux would be hard pressed to a) Find a valid source for upgrades, and b) configure that source correctly.

I do have good things to say about urpmi. With the correct sources the package handling is quite simple. One quick command, and the user not only will be installing the chosen package, but also be prompted to install any necessary dependencies. This makes software installation much simpler for the new Linux users. Also, MandrakeSoft has included a nicely designed GUI for using urpmi in the form of MandrakeUpdate.

APT has long been known to Debian GNU/Linux users as the only way to maintain packages. APT has many advanced features that Debian users would rather die than part with. Many developers liked the APT system, but did not like the deb package system. Enter APT for RPM. APT for RPM has been under development for some time now, and is included in the Contib packages for Linux-Mandrake 8.0. For those of us who are familiar with APT, this is a serious culture shock. The APT included with Mandrake is far removed from the APT we all know and love. The interface is still weak, and requires some fine-tuning. Also, if there are missing dependencies, APT for RPM does not handle this well. Finally, MandrakeSoft seems to be more inclined to keep the UPRMI package lists up to date, as when I tried to use APT it informed me that most of the packages had invalid checksums.

On the positive side it is much easier for the user to configure sources for APT. The /etc config file is quite straightforward, and takes little time to understand. The installation process for valid packages is much less daunting than the output of urpmi, but the defaults can be changed to make either fit the user's needs.

In conclusion, it appears that APT for RPM is still young and needs more work before it is ready for mass usage, but both URPMI and APT are much better than the previous solutions computer professionals have had to deal with. There are many who should take the cue of Linux developers and make the installation and management of software a much more agreeable experience. It is always nice to know what software is installed, what files belong with which applications, and what versions can be upgraded. A far cry the olden days when copying an executable from one place to another was the entirety of software installation.

Deven Phillips is a Certified Linux Professional(Sair LCP) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). He has been working with Linux for four years, and managing a 95% Linux network for the last year and a half. Deven Works for Viata Online, Inc. (www.viata.com) as the Network Architect and Information Security Officer. Viata has fifty plus Linux workstations, twenty Linux servers, and only eight non-Linux computers.

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