Because manually updating your OS can become pretty complicated, Linux distros come with applications that do the downloading and installation for you. All it takes is a simple command line argument and some time, as the application downloads, verifies and installs your patches. You’ll especially need the time if this is a newly installed machine, or one that hasn’t been updated in a very long time, or if you have a slow connection.
One way to shorten your update time is to build your own repository, and synch it with other mirror sites. That way, if your own repository is on your network, your updates will not have to cross numerous other ones to get to your Linux machine, significantly speeding up the patching process. In this case, SuSE Enterprise Linux Server 9 gave you the option of configuring a YaST Online Update (YOU) server using its YaST management tool. With a little fiddling around, you can schedule a file synch between your YOU server and the available Novell repositories, to update your machines by pointing them to your own internal update server.
As things are always changing, newer versions of RedHat and OpenSuSE use an open source utility called yum (for YellowDog Updater, Modified) which works with RPM based installations and updates. Yum has been slowly replacing up2date in the RedHat/Fedora realm, while also being reworked in SuSE’s Linux versions. Even though you can run yum from a command line, various graphical tools have been created to facilitate the update operation making it easier to keep your machines up to date.
You can install single or multiple packages using YUM (YellowDog Updater, Modified).
In versions 7, 8 and 9 of SuSE’s Enterprise Linux Server, SuSE’s main administrative utility YaST (short for Yet another Setup Tool) has a subcomponent called YaST Online Update or YOU. As opposed to the YOU server mentioned above, this utility is the client end of SuSE’s patch management tool. The YOU client gives you an ncurses interface or GUI that downloads and installs RPMs from Novell’s SuSE portal site using a registered login. You could also point to other SLES repositories, without having to edit any configuration files.
It’s a pretty straight forward process to run ; the only problem I’ve encountered with YOU is remembering to have the update point to the correct repository. If the update fails and can’t find any new packages, it may be because you’re using an outdated version of YaST that lacks the updated server listing. This is usually resolved by updating YOU to its latest version, which has the updated pointers to newer download sites.
SuSE’s YOU (YaST Online Update) is a great GUI-based tool that simplifies package management and updating.
Another option for updating your newer SuSE Linux Enterprise servers is the command line interface called rug. It works with the ZenWorks Management Daemon (zmd) and gives you various command line options. Rug stands out because of a nice feature that sorts similar software into channels. This helps focus your update installation on the software you need, without requiring you to install updates that you don’t. The use of ZenWorks with Linux is obviously something that came about after Novell’s purchase of SuSE in 2003. A systems administrator can still use YOU to update his server, but you have to remember to first register your machine through YaST’s built-in module in order to access the official Novell repositories.
Ubuntu, a Debian based Linux distro, uses a different utility called apt (for Advanced Package Tool). This Gnu/Linux package management tool predates RedHat’s RPM system and also relies on the need to connect to an external repository. In order to get the latest packages installed on your Ubuntu box, you run the apt-get program; you can then either specify which package you want to update, or update all updatable applications on your machine.
Package management in the Ubuntu distro can be done using apt-get. This particular command updates your list of packages.
Ubuntu uses the Synaptic Package Manager for its graphical based updates.