Installing packages from the web in Ubuntu

Without further ado I shall dive straight in with the warning that whenever you install a piece of software you should trust where you are getting it from. If you’ve chosen to use Ubuntu then presumably you’ve decided you trust the Ubuntu development process, but when you click on a link to download some software from a web site you need to be sure you’re on the correct site and that you trust those that run the site.

OK, with that out the way, I thought that I’d do a quick blog about the ease of installing .deb packages within Ubuntu (clearly I’m in a bit of a blogging mood today – something of a rarity!). I first stumbled across this a while ago when I decided to install the Opera browser alongside my usual Firefox install. I headed off to the Opera website to download the .deb file that I knew, from previous Debian installs, would be there. What I was expecting to do was download it, do a test install run with aptitude -s to check for any missing dependencies and then, after installing any missing items, install Opera – all via the trusty, familiar command line.

Things didn’t go as expected though. When I clicked on the .deb file that was provided I was given the option to ‘Open with’ the GDebi Package Installer. Even though I’ve been using Debian for some years now I’ve not come across this piece of software before. This is just another reminder, as if
one were needed, that there is always something new to learn however familiar you are with something, and however long you’ve been using it. Anyway, I decided to let GDebi do its stuff, and after downloading the .deb file it added a couple of dependency packages to the install list and proceeded (after a couple of confirmation prompts) to install Opera and the required extra packages – all nice and easy, and one more demonstration that, certainly to my mind, Windows has a long way to go to catch up with Linux in terms of ease of use 😉

Today I was reminded of this easy install path for non standard software once again. Not to say that I had forgotten about it, but it isn’t often used. I was reminded, however, in a rather unexpected place. Once again I was off to download a piece of software to install, and yes, another proprietary piece, but some of us have to live and work in the real world where, unpalatable though it may be to some, we have to use proprietary software – and to be honest, I have to concede that there is likely to have to be a place for it in some cases, but that is getting off topic. I was off to the Adobe website to download the latest copy of the Adobe Reader (or Acrobat as it was once called). What I was expecting was to download the tar.gz file, extract it and then use the installer. I’ve done this before, and have tested pre-release versions in the past. One of my feedback comments was that it would be nice to have a .deb package version as well as the .rpm one. Well I can’t say how much impact that feedback had, but I can report that there is now a .deb package for the Adobe Reader. I suspect that the rise and rise of Ubuntu probably has at least something to do with this. Whatever the reason, I was presented with a .deb file, which then installed with ease using the GDebi Package Installer. Once again had a pain free installation on Linux – no battling with dependencies (as per the ‘olden days’ of Red Hat), no bits of my system being over written with different versions of files that break existing applications (as can happen with Windows, mfc42.dll anyone?), just a few clicks and a pain free install.

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