If you’re having trouble keeping your Linux systems current, help is available. Ximian (formerly known as Helix Code) offers Linux GNOME users an easy-to-use update tool called Red Carpet. Here’s the scoop on this useful free software.

First things first
Red Carpet is included with the Ximian GNOME 1.4 distribution, a desktop environment for Linux/UNIX computers. The software is available for free and can be downloaded from the Ximian Web site. Currently, Ximian’s GNOME desktop environment works on the following operating systems:

  • Red Hat Linux 6.0, 6.1, 6.2, 7.0, and 7.1
  • SuSE 6.3, 6.4, and 7.0 on x86
  • Mandrake 7.0, 7.1, and 7.2
  • Debian GNU/Linux (Potato) on x86
  • LinuxPPC 2000
  • TurboLinux 6.0
  • Yellow Dog Linux Champion Server 1.2

According to Ximian, the software will be available soon for Solaris 7 and 8 on UltraSPARC systems and Mandrake and SuSE 7.1 on Intel-based systems.

What is Red Carpet?
The rapid development of an open source environment often makes it difficult to keep Linux machines up to date. With its Red Carpet software, Ximian makes frequently updating your Linux systems a snap.

Red Carpet is a software management application that searches for updates, downloads those updates directly to your Linux machines, and installs the updates with full dependencies and no version conflicts.

Figure A
During startup, Red Carpet will scan your computer for out-of-date software.

Starting Red Carpet
When first started, Red Carpet scans your existing Ximian GNOME installation for out-of-date software (see Figure A). After the initial scan finishes, a list of available updates is presented in the Summary screen.

Figure B
To update a specific piece of software, simply check the box next to the update and click the Update Packages button.

Before you begin
Before you install and/or update any application, navigate through Red Carpet and see what resources are available to help you choose the updates you need (see Figure B). The Navigation menu, located on the left of the application window, allows you to browse Red Carpet’s various features, which include the following:

  • Summary:A list of current software upgrades to be selected and installed
  • News:Important news releases from Ximian
  • Subscribed Channels:If you subscribe to any Red Carpet channels, they’ll appear here (see Figure C). As of publication, there are currently four channels available: A specific Linux distribution channel, Ximian GNOME desktop, Evolution Snapshot, and Ximian Preview.
  • Unsubscribed Channels: If Ximian adds any new channels to Red Carpet, they’ll be located here. To subscribe to a channel, simply visit that channel and click the Subscribe button, located in the lower right corner of the Red Carpet application.

Figure C
When subscribed to a channel, you will be notified of updates available in that channel.

Downloading and installing software
Once you’ve selected the software to be installed and/or updated, click the Update Packages button to start Red Carpet’s installer, then click Next to continue (see Figure D).

Figure D
The Package Dependencies window shows which software will be installed, the size of the installation, and which software requires dependency installations.

Red Carpet now begins to download the new and/or updated packages you’ve chosen. A display at the bottom of the application window shows the progress of the download process. Once the download finishes, Red Carpet verifies each downloaded file for integrity (see Figure E). This prevents corrupt packages from being installed. Each package is then configured and installed/updated.

Figure E
Red Carpet begins the download, verification, configuration, and installation of the packages selected in the software summary.

Removing installed software
Removing software installed by Red Carpet is also quick and painless thanks to the Removal feature. This tool displays a list of all software updated/installed since the installation of Ximian GNOME (see Figure F). Single or multiple software packages can be removed by clicking the check box next to each application and clicking the Remove Packages button.

Figure F
To remove a software package, check the box next to any application and click the Remove Packages button.

Great for workstation/server images
While Red Carpet makes it easy to install and remove software on individual machines, it can also help with the distribution of Linux systems across your network. Combining Red Carpet with network imaging software, such as Symantec Ghost, will allow you to keep your Linux images up to date with the latest tools and applications.

Linux in the enterprise

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