As you are no doubt aware, with Open Source software you are able to download the source code and compile the application yourself. In many cases this may not be practical and what you would really like is the application available to you already built and packaged up ready to install on your computer. This is where the various Linux Distributions play an important part as a lot of that work is already done for you. Sometimes though your distribution of choice may not have packaged the application at the level you need or even may not have packaged it at all.
All is not lost however. Chances are that someone, somewhere in the world will have struck the same problem and may have compiled and packaged the application themselves and made the package available on the internet.
There are two main packaging systems used in Linux systems. One is called APT which stands for Advanced Package Tool and is used with Debian or Debian based distributions such as Ubuntu. The other is called RPM which stands for RedHat Package Manager however it is not restricted to RedHat systems as many other distributions such as Fedora Core, SuSE and Mandriva use it as well.
Once you have determined the package type you need for your system you can go hunting on the internet. Some major package repositories are:
- rpm.pbone.net has a customisable search interface to allow quick searches for packages most appropriate for your system. It also makes extensive use of mirror sites around the world.
- rmpfind.net is another generic source of rpm based packages with a less customisable interface than pbone (which means is sometimes loads a bit faster...).
- freshrpms.net focuses more on packages for the Fedora Core systems.
- packman does the same but focusing on SuSE