Saturday, December 22, 2007

Working with Linux RPM's

This post is a continuation, of sorts, of my last post. This is more of a general-audience post. Most experienced admins know most of this stuff already. Like I mentioned previously, I try to write this blog with an appreciation for what it was like when I first started out in the business. I owe my success to a great many patient and helpful people.

In this post, I wanted to hit on the basics of working with RPM's in Linux (RPM stands for the Redhat Package Management system - basically, they're the software packages that make up your system). In later posts we'll go into some neat tricks... But for now, we'll stick with the basics. Knowing the basics in any field of interest is invaluable in growing and mastering that skillset, just like knowing your ABC's can really help if you ever intend to read or write :)

Check the bottom for a recap of all the RPM options we're going to use and their literal meanings:

1. To display the basic information for any RPM, just type:

host # rpm -qi RPM_NAME - like:

host # rpm -qi bash
Name : bash Relocations: /usr
Version : 2.05 Vendor: Red Hat, Inc.
Release : 8.2 Build Date: Mon 28 Jun 2004 10:33:55 AM CDT
Install date: Thu 12 Jan 2006 01:25:27 PM CST Build Host:
Group : System Environment/Shells Source RPM: bash-2.05-8.2.src.rpm

2. If you're not sure where to start with the above command, just have RPM spit out all the packages it knows about and pipe that to more, like so:

host # rpm -qa|more

3. Now that you've figured out what package you want to inspect (Note that you don't have to include the full name to get the information from RPM. The redhat-logos-1.1.3-1 program can be referred to simply as redhat-logos) and have gotten some basic information about it, you can list out all the files associated with the package like this:

host # rpm -ql bash

4. Here's one that doesn't require a lot of output, since it's somewhat of a re-explanation. You can add the -p flag to the examples in points 1 and 3 if you're querying an RPM package, and not the RPM database!

host # rpm -qip bash-2.05-8.2.i386.rpm <--- Listing out information for the RPM package itself.
host # rpm -qlp bash-2.05-8.2.i386.rpm <--- Listing out files associated with the RPM package itself.

5. Of course, you may find a file and want to know what RPM package it belongs to. You can get that by typing:

host # rpm -qif /etc
Name : filesystem Relocations: (not relocateable)
Version : 2.1.6 Vendor: Red Hat, Inc.
Release : 2 Build Date: Mon 20 Aug 2001 03:34:02 PM CDT
Install date: Thu 12 Jan 2006 01:24:41 PM CST Build Host:
Group : System Environment/Base Source RPM: filesystem-2.1.6-2.src.rpm Vendor: Red Hat, Inc.
... (Just as long as the description in point 1)

6. If you want to install a new RPM, you'll need the package file, and would run RPM like this:

host # rpm -i bash-2.05-8.2.i386.rpm

This isn't very interesting (which may be what you want -- I don't care to look at verbose output "all" the time). You can spice it up by adding the -v and/or -h flag, like so:

host # rpm -ivh bash-2.05-8.2.i386.rpm

7. If you want to uninstall an RPM, you'll just need to know the abbreviated name, like I mentioned in point 4). You can also make this as verbose and visually entertaining as the system will allow with -v and/or -h:

host # rpm -e bash

Note that this command would return an error if you had multiple instances of the bash RPM installed. In that case, you could still abbreviate, but would have to include the version number. So you'd type

host # rpm -e bash-

instead of just bash.

So, to recap, and possibly explain anything I may have glossed over, these basic commands should get you started working with the RPM package management facility on Linux. The translations of the flags we've covered are as follows:

Major flags (usually the ones preceded with a dash, but you can arrange the flags in whatever order you choose - just be careful - see note in the minor flags):

q = query
i = install
e = remove/uninstall

Minor flags

i = information (not the same as the major flag i. Of course, you'll probably never use -ii or -ei, as the combinations would be redundant and opposite, respectively.
a = all
l = list
p = RPM package file (e.g. whatever.rpm)
f = file
v = verbose
h = hash (prints lots of # symbols while it completes your request :)

Enjoy getting started working with RPM packages. They're one of the foundations of the Linux operating system. In fact, a combination of certain packages actually "is" the operating system. Knowing how to manipulate them and have them work for you can make it easier to explore many other things (like new software you've always wanted to install and try out :)

Best wishes,

, Mike