Understanding installation

Q I bought your mag for the first time, intrigued at the prospect of a free OS. Unfortunately, despite trying everything I can think of, I am unable to install VMware. I have a Linux version on trial ware which runs out in the next few days. On OpenSUSE 10 it appeared to install, but there were no options, such as which folder or the option to have a Desktop icon. Then I couldn't find the program anywhere, let alone the icons on the desktop or indeed anywhere else. I now have OpenSUSE 11, and am experiencing similar problems. I also find that even a simple program that doesn't normally require an installation, such as TrueCrypt, will not run. The program asks me which program to use to open it! How unintelligent.

I have tried various things, but surely any modern OS should be able to recognise a program that is specifically set up for it? I have in desperation tried two other versions of Linux. All seem at least three generations behind Windows. Maybe I am assuming too much. It is free, after all. I also have a MacBook. I am not especially fond of it, but at least it recognises programs and appears to install them automatically. What am I missing here? Is there some generic process I have to go through to install and operate a program? I am very disappointed because I hate Vista. Everything seems bloated and it appears a waste of money. I am sincerely hoping that Linux can fill this gap. Please try and help. I will be very grateful indeed. BTW, if you suggest I have to use the CLI, please forget it. I left that system in 1993.

A It's odd that you are interested in free software, but your first stumbling block is with a commercial program. The best way to install software on any distro is through that distro's software repositories. While it is perfectly possible to download and install VMware Workstation from vmware.com, this is the Windows way of doing things. Linux distros have repositories of software packages that are tailored to fit in with that distro, including adding menu entries to launch the programs. They also have methods of letting you know when something has been updated, so you don't need to check back with the web site to look for updates.

However, the two packages you mention are atypical and do not appear in the OpenSUSE repositories. Download the RPM (not the tar.gz archive) from www.vmware.com. If you use the Konqueror web browser, click on the browser icon in the task bar, it will give you the choice of installing the file directly. Or you can download the file and then "run" it to install. If you use the tar.gz file, you will need to use the command line to install it. While TrueCrypt may run as a single file on Windows, on Linux it requires installation. Unfortunately, they choose to supply it in a weird format. This is an installer script inside a compressed archive, even though the archive is no smaller than the unpacked script, so you will have to use the command line for this. Open a terminal and type

tar xf truecrypt-6.0a-opensuse-x86.tar.gz
sh truecrypt-6.0a-setup-opensuse-x86

These three commands give you root permissions, unpack the archive and run the installer script. Replace truecrypt-6.0aopensuse-x86.tar.gz with the name of the file you downloaded, if different. This installer in turn contains an RPM file (RPM is the package format used by OpenSUSE) that could, if supplied separately, have been installed with no more than a mouse click, but the installer they use requires you to accept the licence before installation. While most distros have substantially reduced the need for the command line, many Linux users still prefer it because it is faster than clicking through a GUI. There are very few occasions when you absolutely have to use it, provided you stick with the distro's way of doing things, but some software still requires the terminal, as is also the case with Windows. The terminal is a different way of doing things, but it is a tool to be used when appropriate, not avoided at all costs.

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