Linux: Using Mandrake (Mandriva’s) URPMI tool

As background for this, I’ve used Mandrake Linux (now Mandriva) for my main desktop since around 8.2 I can’t remember quite how long ago that’s been, but around 3 to 4 years I think. The why is something best saved for another writeup. Early on I was frustrated by installing software. I read everyone give instructions on installing from source. That went along the following lines….
from a command prompt type the following….
tar -xzvf yournewsoftware.gz
cd yournewsoftware
make install
and your done!

Well…. no it isn’t always that simple

Dependancies!!! ouch… usually made it look like this
library libsomething1.3 not found – continue pulling out hair.

So I tried RPM, Mandrake was an RPM based distribution right? Well, yes, but I wasn’t able to get just any RPM to install I still had to find ALL of the dependencies. Again, ouch, especially when there is one file that requires 5 and each of those required another 5. There must be an easier way. I tried Red Carpet which Ximian had put out. I really liked the installer, but I had a tendency to mix and match, some installed by rpm, some by Red Carpet and ultimately I would up with a really mixed up desktop.

Then I learned what makes Mandrake unique…. URPMI, I had played around with the graphical version to install things off the cds, but I couldn’t find everything I wanted on the cds which is what had me searching for software other places. What I hadn’t known is that there are more sources out there for Mandrake software than the install cds.

I discovered something called Contrib. Contrib is the name of the place that Mandrake puts all packaged software that can’t fit in the main distribution. Lot’s of software. Several Gigabytes of packages software. So where is it? I found an easy way to add a contrib source. EasyURPMI provides a great web interface for configuring a new source for URPMI. There are sources for updates, contrib, and the PLF. The PLF includes software that for several reasons may not officially be included in Mandrake. There is also a source for Main (the main distribution) which can be handy if you hate swapping discs and have a decent internet connection. As you go through the wizard at easyurpmi it will give you a command to enter at the root console.

So, open up a console window. (I usually use Konsole) and su to become root. (Literally type su and enter, then your root password and voila, you now have administrative access.) At this point you can copy and paste from the easyurpmi page and watch as URPMI downloads the source information and calculates dependencies. It’s worth noting that it’s useful to have Main and Contrib sources at a minimum. There is some software in main that quite simply does not make it onto download cds. The same for contrib, many times there will be one contrib cd in the download edition, but the full archive is much larger.

Once you have your sources setup installing software is VERY easy.

As root, type urpmi programname. It may ask questions (“in order to satifsy dependencies the following packages will be installed” – in may have you choose between two alternative packages, but it keeps things fairly simple, and pulls in ALL the dependencies for what you want. I’ve found that it can handle downloaded RPMs fairly well also, but I’ve made it my practice when I run across a neat piece of software to open up a shell and become root then try “urpmi neatsoftware” before I download a third party RPM.

There’s much more that could be said, but I think we’ve come as far as I should for a brief intro. I’ve heard of apt-get and used it quite a bit as well on Debian based systems. I know it was the first “wrapper” to software installing that dealt with dependencies. I really prefer urpmi. It may be that I never learned enough about apt-get to really value it’s worth, but for what I’ve seen URPMI is the more elegant of the two.

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