Linux vs Windows: Updating

Dennis Faas's picture

We all know that Windows has a convenient tool called Windows / Microsoft Update that allows you to maintain your operating system and MS Office Suite with the latest code available.

But what about downloading updates for all your non-Microsoft software -- such as: Adobe applications, your ZIP compressor, Spyware and adware cleaner, CD or DVD burning program, non-Microsoft web browsers and email clients, etc?

In Windows, you need to update your non-Microsoft programs separately, and that takes a lot of time! Linux, on the other hand, has a better idea. Why not update everything that needs it all at the same time? With Linux, it's possible to have one "master update program" that allows you to pick and chose exactly what you want to update.

This "master update program" is actually referred to as the central Package Manager in Linux and it 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 other versions of Linux. Yum doesn't have a GUI (graphic user interface) but there is a wrapper called yumex, or "Yum Extended," that does provides graphics. 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 something called Repositories for the Linux distribution you are using, which are supplied by the publisher of that distribution. Repositories basically store updates on the web. 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 installation CDS, you will be glad to know that getting updates for that software can be 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.

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