Installing, Removing, and Upgrading Software

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Linux Mint System Administrator’s Beginner's Guide

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A practical guide to learn basic concepts, techniques, and tools to become a Linux Mint system administrator with this book and ebook.

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by Arturo Fernandez Montoro | March 2013 | Linux Servers Open Source

In this article by Arturo Fernandez Montoro, author of Linux Mint System Administrator's Beginner's Guide you're going to learn one of the most important and basic tasks done by system administrators. These tasks are related to software, specifically how to install, remove, and keep your operating system up-to-date.

In this article we will cover:

  • Installing software

  • Removing installed software

  • Applying upgrades

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Installing software

Sooner or later, system administrators need to install software in one or more machines. In fact, this is one of the most common tasks for the users of this kind of operating system. Linux Mint includes thousands of software applications that can be installed easily. Remember that when you install the operating system, a lot of software is installed by default. Also, it's possible to install additional software provided by Linux Mint. In order to facilitate the process of installing software in Linux Mint, this operating system includes a tool named Software Manager.

Time for action – installing AbiWord word processor

We're going to install a text processor named AbiWord (http://www.abisource.com) using the Software Manager application. Let us see how this is done:

  1. Click on the Menu button and then click on the All Applications button located on the right-hand side of the Favorites pane:

     

     

  2. Look for the Administration menu option, and click on the Software Manager menu option; then a new window will be displayed:

     

     

  3. Enter abiword in the textbox located on the right-hand side of the Software Manager main window, then hit Enter when you're ready.

  4. Now, you can see a list with a lot of software that is related to your search. Actually, the first result of the list is the text processor that we want to install, which is shown in this screenshot:

     

     

  5. Double-clicking on an item will display information about the selected item:

     

     

  6. Right now, you're ready to click on the Install button. By doing that, the installation process for AbiWord will be launched. You can see a progress bar indicating how the installation is progressing.

  7. In order to check whether AbiWord is installed in your system, you can open a shell and type AbiWord, and then press Enter. AbiWord will be executed, and you can start to use it.

What just happened?

Usually, GNU/Linux distributions include a lot of software that is ready to be installed in a specific format called a package. Software is organized in different packages and some applications need more than one package; this fact is called package dependency. Linux Mint uses packages in the Debian (DEB) format, same as the Ubuntu Linux and Debian operating systems.

Packages are usually retrieved and installed from a storage location in a computer. This location is called a repository, and it contains many software packages ready to be downloaded and installed in your machine.

Software Manager is an application developed by Linux Mint developers specifically for Linux Mint. This tool allows you to list, install, and remove software. Technically, Software Manager is a frontend for some commands, such as apt-get and apt-cache. Using a GUI, Software Manager provides an easy and intuitive way to list, install, and remove software, avoiding the use of the command-line interface.

For learning how to install software, we've installed AbiWord, a simple but useful word processor. As you must have discovered, it's pretty easy to install software through packages provided by Linux Mint. You only need to look for a software and click on the Install button. Obviously, you can install a lot of different software on your machine following the same process.

It's important to know that not only software distributed in packages can be installed in Linux Mint, but you can install software distributed in other formats, such as tarball and ZIP files as well. However, Mint includes a lot of software distributed in DEB packages, so this method of installation is advisable. Actually, it's good practice to use Software Manager to install software on your Linux Mint operating system.

Have a go hero – discovering software provided by Linux Mint

When you launch Software Manager, a window showing you different icons will be displayed. Each icon represents a different category of software included in Linux Mint. For example, you can see the Internet, Sound and Video, Graphics, and Office categories, among others. By clicking on each one, you'll have access to packages belonging to the selected category. You can try and click on a category, take a look at the list of packages for that category, and try to install one of the packages. This process allows you to discover interesting software that can be installed on your machine.

Removing software

Previously, we learned how to install software on your Linux Mint machine. Also, it's interesting and useful to know how to do the opposite step. You can remove installed software on your machine by following a simple process using the Software Manager tool. Remember, you can remove software installed by default during the installation process of the operating system or remove software that you have installed through the Software Manager application.

Time for action – removing the AbiWord program

Let's remove AbiWord from our system by following these steps:

  1. Click on the Menu button. On the left-hand side of the pane following the System label, you will find an option called Software Manager; click on it.

  2. Now, Software Manager will be launched. Type abiword in the search box, and press Enter.

  3. You will see a list displaying coincidences of your searching; click on the first one, and Software Manager will show you some information about AbiWord.

  4. In order to remove AbiWord from your system, you only need to click on the Remove button and the removing process will start automatically.

What just happened?

As we have commented before, Software Manager allows us to remove software from our system. We only need to look for the right package, select it, and then click on the Remove button. It's an easy and clean process, which helps the system administrators to a great extent. Also, it's very intuitive for newbie users who don't want to use the command-line interface.

Before clicking on the Remove button, you can see a label informing you that the AbiWord software was installed on your system. When the software is not installed, this label is different and a Not Installed message is displayed instead. This is a simple and effective way to know if a specific software is installed or not on your Linux Mint machine.

By now, you must have realized that we launched Software Manager through a different menu option than what was explained previously in the Installing software section. Both of them are valid methods for launching this useful tool.

Upgrading software

Between the release cycles, Linux Mint developers upgrade some software that is included in the operating system. This means that the system administrators should check what software has been upgraded and they should decide which of this software should be installed on the machine. Occasionally, upgraded software only applies minor changes, such as simple improvements or unimportant bug fixes. However, at times upgraded software also includes important security bug fixes. If we don't apply them, our machine can be at a serious risk. That's the reason we frequently check which software has been upgraded for our Linux Mint version.

Time for action – upgrading software through the Update Manager tool

We're going to discover which software is ready to be upgraded and we'll then proceed to install it. Here is how that is done:

  1. Click on the Menu button on the bottom panel, and then click on the All Applications button located at the right-hand side of the Favorites pane. Now you can see a menu option called Administration; click on it to display a new menu, where you can see the Update Manager menu option, as shown in the following screenshot:

     

     

  2. After clicking on the Update Manager menu option, an application with the same name will be launched, as can been seen here:

     

     

  3. Update Manager displays a list with only a single package that can be upgraded. Click on the Install Updates button.

  4. The upgrading process for the mintupdate package will be launched; when this process is finished, you will see a complete list of available software that can be upgraded.

  5. Right now, you're ready to select the packages that you want to upgrade. It's good practice to select all of them; you should install the packages listed as level 1 at least. Click on the Install Updates button when you're ready.

  6. When the upgrading process is finished, you'll see an empty list in Update Manager.

What just happened?

Update Manager is an effective application provided by Linux Mint to install new versions of installed software and to install security upgrades on your machine. When you launch that application the first time, you will see only a single item in a list for applying upgrades. This item indicates that you need to install an upgrade for mintupdate, which is the codename of Update Manager. Obviously, before applying other upgrades, we need to upgrade the tool itself. Once this process is finished, Update Manager will be launched again to check which software can be upgraded.

The list of software ready to be upgraded displays different items providing information about the package name, installed version, and new version available. Also, a number for each item is displayed. This number ranges from 1 to 5, and it indicates a level based on the importance of the upgrade. Level 1 indicates that Linux Mint developers certify that a package and packages marked with this level should be upgraded as soon as possible. Usually, security updates use this level. The next level is for those packages whose upgrade is recommended by Linux Mint developers. Level 3 indicates that it is safe to apply an upgrade, but Linux Mint developers didn't test it. Packages marked with level 4 are unsafe, and if you upgrade it, the stability of the system can be affected. Finally, level 5 is for dangerous packages (in the unstable stage of development or with broken dependencies), and Linux Mint developers know that they can damage the operating system.

In general terms, it's a good idea to launch Software Manager frequently and upgrade only those packages marked as level 1 and level 2. For levels 3, 4, and 5, system administrators and advanced users should decide about applying upgrades or not themselves. Also, you can mark all the packages listed or only a few of them. Usually, this is a task of the system administrator; it is he or she who takes these kinds of decisions. By default, only packages from level 1 to 3 are displayed in the list for upgrading. You can change this preference by going to Edit | Preferences.

Have a go hero – finding out how to change preferences in Update Manager

Some preferences of Update Manager can be changed. For example, you can change which level of upgrade is displayed by default. Also, you can select the frequency for refreshing information after clicking on the Refresh button. On the other hand, you can decide which packages will be ignored by Update Manager.

Another important option offered by Update Manager is the option of choosing which kind of packages can be installed and from what server. By default, main, upstream, and imported packages are selected. Also, it's possible to add additional repositories instead of the official ones provided by Mint. For the server, the main server of Linux Mint is selected, but you can choose one of the many available mirrors.

Summary

After reading this article, we have discovered how to perform some important operations, such as installing, removing, and upgrading software. Linux Mint offers us two great applications to carry out the mentioned actions related to software, namely Update Manager and Software Manager.

Specifically, we covered:

  • How Linux Mint distributes software using packages

  • Using Software Manager to add and remove software on Linux Mint

  • How to upgrade software through the Update Manager tool

Although Software Manager is the main tool for installing and removing software in Linux Mint, another tool called Synaptic Package Manager is included in this operating system. This tool offers a low-level control of packages, so you can use it when you're looking for a specific package instead of a specific application. Remember that a single application can be distributed in more than one package.

Resources for Article :


Further resources on this subject:


Linux Mint System Administrator’s Beginner's Guide A practical guide to learn basic concepts, techniques, and tools to become a Linux Mint system administrator with this book and ebook.
Published: December 2012
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About the Author :


Arturo Fernandez Montoro

Arturo Fernandez Montoro is a software architect specializing in design, development, testing, and deployment of high-traffic web applications.

Since 2002, he often writes for different Linux and Open Source printed and online magazines, such as Todo Linux, Linux+, Linux Magazine, and Free Software Magazine. Also, he has written the iPhone JavaScript Cookbook for Packt Publishing.

His professional experience includes technologies such as Django, Ruby on Rails, J2EE, PHP, web application servers, relational and NoSQL databases, JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS. He spent the last three years working as a software architect and a Python/Django lead developer.

Currently, Arturo lives in Madrid working as a software architect for QDQ Media, the biggest online marketing agency in Spain. He can be reached at arturo@bsnux.com.

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