Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting to Grips with Yum for Centos 4.4

Getting to Grips with Yum for Centos 4.4

My initial installation of Centos 4.4 went smoothly, but I wanted it to play mp3s and videos, which it wouldn't.

I had discovered that if you can master the arcana of yum, Yellow Dog Updates Modified, then, by using various resources which are available online, you can update your system and get both mp3 playback and the ability to play DVD movies.

But although there is any amount of data on yum, including a slab of it at the main CentOS site, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get started.

Everything I looked at seemed to presume that you already knew a bunch of fundamental stuff which they didn't need to explain to you.

I was reminded of how, years ago, I saw some stuff online by a guy who thought he was giving basic step-by-step instructions for installing Red Hat Linux on a ThinkPad. His first instruction was "First go into your bios," and at that point he lost me completely. I couldn't even get started.

Looking at the yum stuff I had a repeat of that same experience.

In the end I decided I would buy Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but, when I checked, I found that RHEL does not come with mp3 software, nor does it come equipped to play videos.

So I thought, okay, I'll go to and buy a manual for CentOS 4.4. So I went. But didn't buy one because I couldn't: it didn't exist. All had was some installation disks for CentOS 4.3, and even these were marked as being currently unavailable.

So I took one last shot at searching for yum info on Google, and this search finally paid off:

"centos 4.4 installation guide."

This led me to the following Internet location:

This led me to a site which had six html pages, profusely illustrated with screenshots, showing a starting-from-scratch procedure for setting up CenOS 4.4 as a server. This was much more technical than I wanted to do, but I took a look at the last page, and, yes, there was code related to yum on that page.

This, I decided, was the site I needed.

I saved all six pages to disk and decided to read the whole thing through from scratch, until I came to the point where I had gotten stuck, which was this yum business.

Without yum, my CentOS installation was still workable. I basically need it for word processing, and my need were met by Gedit, which is all I need for the very basic text editing I do, writing poems and novels.

I like to play music while I work, so I found software that I could use on my Windows XP machine to convert mp3 files to the ogg format which CentOS will play, and, after some initial struggles with the music player, I got that to work for me.

But I still wanted the convenience of being able to play mp3s. And video files. And DVDs.

So, with that in mind, I bookmarked the site, and, when I was ready, returned to it and began to read the pages systematically.

This is now on my to-do list, and, once I've done it, I'll post online to say how it went.

Meantime, let me recommend this site for all your Linux computing needs:

This seems to be the mother lode of all possible computer advice which is Linux-related.

The site contains, amongst other things, "perfect setup" guides for a number of Linux distributions, and I wish I'd found it years ago.

Meantime, on a completely different note, I just found out that Homeland Security has, much to my surprise, free software available for download. There are pages and pages of HL software up for grabs at this site:

I downloaded a Homeland Security screensaver which runs on Windows.

The precise page on which you find the DOWNLOAD button for the screensaver is this:

It's a pretty cool scrensaver. You see the earth, land masses picked out in shiny silver. The planet rolls toward you, getting larger as it comes, displaying an ever-changing view of the land masses. Then, having swelled up to the screen, it retreats again.

So I now have software from Homeland Security on my computer. And, of course, immediately I feel safer.

When I have the time I'll check back and see if there's anything else worth grabbing, but right now, like pretty much everyone in the world, I have about a billion different things to do, and very little time in which to do them.


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