Section 11.2. My Favorite Service Is Not Included with My Distribution

11.2. My Favorite Service Is Not Included with My Distribution

As distributions evolve, developers make changes. Sometimes, the developers behind a distribution choose to drop services. Sometimes the service that you're most comfortable with was never built for your distribution. Sometimes people convert from distributions or allied systems, such as HP-UX or Sun Solaris, where different services are available. In any of these situations, you'll have to look beyond the distribution repositories to install the service you want.

For example, while the WU-FTP server is the default on Sun Solaris 10, it has been dropped from Red Hat and Fedora distributions. It isn't even available in the Fedora Extras repository. Nevertheless, if a company is converting from Solaris to Red Hat Linux, the administrators would naturally look to install WU-FTP on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. (In my opinion, that would be a mistake, but we'll explore that issue in more detail in this annoyance.)

11.2.1. Check the Home Page for the Service

The developers behind your favorite service may have built what you want for your distribution. If they have, that is your best option, as it ensures that:

  • Configuration files are installed in appropriate locations.

  • The package becomes part of your database.

  • The developers are motivated to help you if there are distribution-specific problems.

If the developers behind a service have built their software, and have customized a package for a specific distribution, they have an interest in making sure that it works on that distribution.

However, if the service is not built for your distribution, don't immediately try building or compiling the service from its source code. While that might be your best option (especially if you're customizing the service), I believe there are alternatives that should be explored first.

11.2.2. Explore Alternative Services

One of the joys associated with open source software is choice. Rarely is there only one option for a service. For example, there are a wide variety of FTP servers that you can install on Linux systems. They include ProFTP, vsFTP, Muddleftp, glFTP, Pure-FTP, and WU-FTP. I've left out a few, including those built on Java.

But if it's a major service, your distribution should have at least one natively configured option for that service. For example, Red Hat Enterprise Linux includes vsFTP as the only FTP server. That's quite an expression of faith from the leading Linux distribution, enough to make many geeks take a closer look at vsFTP.

You can also explore alternative software for your service. You may be able to find alternatives in the Linux application libraries, described in "So Many Options for Applications" in Chapter 4. You may be able to find other options in third party repositories described in the next section. You may also be able to find alternatives online, perhaps with a search through Wikipedia ( or Google.

In other words, if you find that your preferred server software is not available for your distribution, you should look for alternatives. That means:

  • Trying the software provided by your distribution for the service

  • Looking for alternatives from third parties who may have built similar software for the desired service

  • Examining other alternatives that can be installed on your system

11.2.3. Look for a Third Party Who Has Built the Package for Your Distribution

If you can't find the software you want included with your distribution, you can look to third parties to help. These developers generally take the source code from original developers and build appropriate RPM or DEB packages suitable for the distribution of your choice.

There are a number of third-party repositories available for Linux distributions. They generally include software not available from the main repositories. For example, in the "I Need a Movie Viewer" annoyance in Chapter 4, I described some third-party repositories that included the libdvdcss package needed to view commercial DVDs.

The drawback of a third-party repository is that its packages may not be fully tested, especially with respect to the libraries that you might install on your distribution. In fact, there are reports of geeks who have run into incompatible libraries when they use more than one third-party repository.

You can get direct access to a third-party repository through your update software. Specifically, you can point yum, apt, and YaST systems directly to the appropriate URLs for the third-party repositories of your choice.

Generally, third-party repositories include instructions on how to include them in your update software and/or configuration files. For our preferred distributions, you can find a list of third-party repositories in the following locations.

Red Hat/Fedora

Individuals within the Fedora project help integrate connections with a number of third-party repositories. While the focus is on Fedora Core, most of these repositories include separate URLs you can use for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (as well as rebuild distributions based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux source code). Instructions are usually available on the web page for each third-party repository. As of this writing, the status for the major Fedora repositories can be found online at

SUSE Linux Professional

SUSE has traditionally included a lot of extra software with its DVDs. And more is available from third parties. Several are listed for your information at You can include them as an installation source in YaST. However, SUSE warns that "YaST fully trusts installation sources and does not perform any kind of authenticity verification on the contained packages." In other words, SUSE's third-party repositories might not include a GPG key, as you see with Fedora's repositories.

Many third-party repositories for SUSE distributions do have GPG keys. One central location for many of these repositories can be found at

Debian Linux

The repositories associated with Debian Linux are extensive, which is natural for a community-based distribution. Be careful with the list at; many of the repositories are dedicated to specific versions of Debian such as Potato, which has been obsolete since 2002.

By their very nature, these lists of third-party repositories may not be complete. And as the developers behind these repositories may not coordinate their efforts, including more than one third-party repository on your Linux system may lead to unpredictable results.

11.2.4. Try Installing the Older Package

If a package used to be built for your distribution, it may still work for the newer version. For example, if you absolutely need the WU-FTP server on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 4, there are ways to get old versions.

For the purpose of this annoyance, I installed the latest available version of WU-FTP built for Red Hat. It's available from the Fedora Legacy project, at, from the updates repository associated with Red Hat Linux 7.3. When I tried to install it on RHEL 4, I got a message suggesting that I install the Open SSL toolkit, which addresses the security vulnerabilities associated with WU-FTP, at least as of its release in 2004.

Because of the security issues associated with it, I do not recommend WU-FTP. However, it may be helpful in a transition from a different operating system where WU-FTP is the default, such as Solaris. The security issues can be managed behind firewalls until your transition is complete.

Once the appropriate packages were installed, I was able to get WU-FTP running on RHEL 4. While using old versions is not recommended as a general solution, the installation of familiar software and services can ease transitions, even for organizations moving just from one version of Linux (or Unix) to another.

11.2.5. Install from Source Package, if Available in the Appropriate Format

In some cases, the appropriate service is available as a source code package, customized for the desired distribution. This option is most common for the "rebuild" distributions associated with RHEL.

For RHEL, Red Hat complies with the GNU General Public License by releasing its source code. As Red Hat has released the source code in Source RPM packages, you can try to install those packages on any RPM-based distribution. These packages are publicly available from Red Hat at, in the pub/redhat/linux/enterprise/4/en/os/i386/SRPMS/ subdirectory.

If you're running RHEL Workstation, you don't have the server packages included with the RHEL Server distributions. One example is the vsFTP server. It goes almost without saying that if you install a package available only on RHEL Server on a RHEL Workstation, you should not expect support for that package from Red Hat. I've downloaded the RHEL 4 Source RPM for the vsFTP server on my RHEL Workstation. Once downloaded, I can install it using the following steps:

  1. Run the following command to unpack the source code from the vsFTP server to the /usr/src/redhat directory:

     rpm -ivh vsftpd-2.0.1-5.src.rpm 

    The source code is unpacked to a .spec file in the /usr/src/redhat/SPECS directory, as well as various source and patch files in the /usr/src/redhat/SOURCES directory.

  2. Navigate to the directory containing the .spec file.

  3. Build the binary RPM (as well as source information) with the following command:

     rpmbuild -bb vsftpd.spec 

    In this particular case, the .spec file creates two binary RPMs and stores them in the /usr/src/redhat/RPMS/i386 directory.

  4. Install the binary RPMs just like any other Red Hat RPMs.

This process doesn't always work. As different tools are used by the rebuild distributions, you generally can't use the kernel source code released by Red Hat on a RHEL rebuild distribution, as they have been built by different teams of developers, using different tools.

11.2.6. Install from a Tarball

You can always install a Linux service (or any other Linux software) from the original source code. Generally, it's available only as a compressed tar archive. Once you download the archive, you'll want to decompress it. The command you use depends on the compression format, which is normally associated with the archive extension. For example, if the archive has a .tar.gz or .tgz extension, such as archive.tar.gz, you can decompress it with the following command:

 tar xzvf archive.tar.gz 

Alternatively, archives with a or .tar.bz2 extension can be decompressed with the tar xjvf command. Normally, archived files packaged for a service are decompressed to a separate subdirectory, with the name of the archive.

The methods for installing from source code vary widely. Detailed instructions are normally made available in a text file in the decompressed archive.

Linux Annoyances for Geeks
Linux Annoyances for Geeks: Getting the Most Flexible System in the World Just the Way You Want It
ISBN: 0596008015
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 144
Authors: Michael Jang © 2008-2017.
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