The major part of the Red Hat distribution consists of a set of RPM (Redhat Package Manager) files. An RPM package typically contains binary executables, along with relevant configuration files and documentation. The
rpm program is a powerful package manager, which can be used to install, query, verify, update, erase and build software packages in the RPM format.
Rpm convieniently maintains a database of all the software packages it has installed, so information on the installed software is available at any time.
The binary RPM files in the distribution have been built on a system running the distribution itself. This is important, because most of the programs in the packages rely on shared libraries. From RedHat version 5.0, the new version 2 of the GNU standard C library (which is 64-bit clean) has been used. This version of the library is commonly referred to as
glibc or in Linux:
libc 6. All executables in the distribution have been linked against this library. If you attempt to install binary files from a different distribution, chances are that they will not work, unless you install the libc5 package for backwards compability.
The names of the RPM packages contain the suffix .arch.
rpm, where arch is the architechture, having the value
i386 for Intel platform binaries. The packages you install must match the versions of the shared libraries available on the machine. The
rpm program is usually quite good at ensuring that this is indeed the case, however, there are ways around this check, and you should be sure that you know what you are doing if you force installation of packages this way. However, using the RedHat installation boot disk, it is ensured that the correct set of RPM packages are installed on the machine.
If you discover an RPM package that was not installed on your system during the installation process, don't despair. At any time, you may (as root) install RPM packages, for example:
rpm --install WindowMaker-0.18-1b.i386.rpm
You can even install directly from the Internet, if you know the URL of an RPM package:
rpm --install ftp://rufus.w3.org/redhat-contrib/noarch/mirror-2.9-2.noarch.rpm
Another version of the RPM packages contain the original sources used to build the binaries. These packages have the suffix
.src.rpm and are situated in the
SRPMS directory. These packages are not needed on the installation CD, and in fact, there is not even enough disk space on an 74 minute burnable CD to accomodate them. Of course, you can make a separate CD with the SRPMS.