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Wanna Buy Software for Linux? Try YAST First.

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Posted: 8 Nov 2004

How do I buy programs for SUSE Linux?

One of the things I think most people dread about making the move from Windows to Linux is software incompatibility. Imcompati.....what? Well... Let me explain.

Let's say I am a person who needs some software to keep my finances straight. I'm not a computer wizard, so I bought a computer with Windows installed on it. I look around in Windows, but I can't find anything that helps me with my money. So, what do I do? I go to CompUSA or Circuit City and ask someone for help. They show me down an aisle that has boxes with "Quicken" or "Money" on the front of it, and tell me these are what I'm looking for. So, I buy one, take it home, and install it. This is usually how it goes in the world of Windows.

One misconception is that Linux doesn't have as much software as Windows does. I'm here to tell you, Linux has a LOAD of software. It's just handled a little differently. Let's take the same example, but suppose I use a Linux machine instead.

I need some software to take care of my finances, so instead of going to the store, I open up a program called YAST, click on "Install and Remove Software". A little box comes up with a search field, and I enter "finance" in it. I click on the "description" checkbox and hit enter. It grumbles a little bit, and before long, two entries pop up: "kmymoney" and "gnucash". Both of these say they are personal finance managers.

I click the checkbox of the one that tickles my fancy, hit the Accept button, and in a few moments, I've got a brand-new personal finance manager at my fingertips.

In essence, I have just gone to the "Linux store" and bought my software, except I didn't have to leave my house, and I didn't have to pay anyone, and it's perfectly legal! There ya have it!

Finding, downloading, and installing Linux software is a bit different conceptually, and might require a bit more know-how to get around. Once you put a little elbow grease into it, a lot of money is saved, and you're a lot happier because you have a lot more choices.

Now, let's get down into the nuts and bolts of what this so-called "YAST" program really is, and how it works.

YAST is basically the engine behind what is installed, both hardware and software, on your computer. It is the "traffic controller" of your computer. It controls the following aspects of your computer:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • System Management
  • Network Management
  • Security
  • Users

In this article, I'm just going to focus on the software installation controls of YAST.

Here's how you get it running

Click on the System drop-down menu, and click on Administrator Settings. After you do that, a window will pop up asking you for your password.

Click on the N (start) menu, go up to system, then click on YaST and it'll give you a pretty window asking you for your root password.


Go ahead and put in your root password here, and click OK.

You should see a window pop up that looks like this:

From here, you click on Install and Remove Software. You should see a window that looks like this:

This is where the magic happens. What you see is basically a tool for installing, removing, and updating your entire system.

installing programs

A few tips:

  1. When you don't know the name of a specific package (program), when you do a search, make sure the Description button is checked. It'll do a more thorough search for you this way.
  2. If you don't find what you're looking for at first, try searching for a different word... For example: If you're searching for financial planning programs, and you do a search for "money" and nothing comes up – make sure to do more searches using different terms like "financial" or "finance" or "cash".
  3. When something comes up under a search, make sure you read the description to ensure you are getting the correct program for the job before you install it.

Now, let's suppose I'm looking for a program that would allow me to use AOL Instant Messenger. How would I go about looking for a program like that? I'll tell you what I did.

First, I put a search term into the search field, and made sure the "Description" checkbox was checked. I got lucky with the first word I tried: "chat".

My search came up with quite a few different items. The one that looked the best to me was a package named "gaim". The description says "Gaim is compatible with the AOL Instant Messenger." That's exactly what I was looking for. So, I put a checkmark in the box by clicking it, and clicking Accept in the bottom right-hand corner.

It went through a bunch of screens installing the program and in the end, I saw a screen that asked me if I wanted to continue installing programs.

I told it I was finished and I went on my merry way.

The only down-side to YAST (and every other package installer I've tried), is that it doesn't tell you how to run the program after it's installed. Luckily, the program executable is pretty intuitive to the name of the package. The package name is "gaim" and so I tried running "gaim" in a console and it worked.

uninstalling programs

Un-installing programs is pretty simple. Just put in the name of the program you want to un-install into the search field. When it comes up, it will have a check mark. To un-install it, click the check mark twice.

The first click will result in an icon that looks like this:
That is the update icon. If you want to update a program, that icon will do it.

The second click looks like this:
That's the UN-INSTALL one.

When you see that icon in the check box, click Accept, and your program will be un-installed.

That's pretty much the basic ins 'n' outs of using YAST as an install / un-install tool.

Have fun!

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