I ♥ Fedora Extras

October 9, 2006

The more I use Fedora Core 5, the more I've fallen in love with Fedora Extras. (I skipped straight from FC2 to FC5 and FCE came in with FC3, so this is the first time I've gotten to use it.)

This love is kind of silly, because Fedora Extras is not much more than Fedora catching up to Debian et al in having available a vast amount of prebuilt software. But boy is it convenient to have all that stuff around, ready to dip into to if I want to try out some bit of software; if it's reasonably popular, it's probably been packaged for Extras.

In a way the sheer size of Fedora Extras is daunting; there's so many packages that it's hard to just wander around and explore it. I wind up feeling more like I'm throwing darts at a phonebook (and usually I don't; I have some idea of what I want, and I use 'yum list foo' to pick out likely packages).

While I'm rambling, this sort of broad package availability is a great illustration of the benefits of reducing friction in computer stuff. While I'm perfectly capable of compiling stuff myself and even building RPMs, not having to do so has made me much more willing to just throw stuff in and poke at it, which has meant that I've played around with more things.

The other use of Extras is to supply the necessary packages that don't ship as part of Fedora Core any more; the package I use for dns queries in Python is part of Extras, as is mach. Somewhat to my surprise, so is the current version of xlock; I suppose I'm somewhat of a throwback in expecting that to be a core part of X. Someday I suspect that even xterm and xclock won't be parts of the core.

Sidebar: how to find out what RPMs you've installed from Extras

There isn't anything obvious in yum to do this, but all Fedora Extras RPMs have a vendor of 'Fedora Project', so:

rpm -q --qf '%{NAME} %{VENDOR}\n' | fgrep 'Fedora Project' | field 1 | sort

This says that I currently have 50 RPMs (out of 1551) from Fedora Extras. (It would be more if I was actively playing around with more things, but as it is I have relatively simple tastes.)

Sidebar: why not xscreensaver?

It's not like Fedora Core 5 doesn't have a screen lock program; it ships with xscreensaver. So why don't I use that instead?

First, history. xlock is just what my window manager configuration uses, because I started doing it before xscreensaver existed. I'm stubborn enough to stick with it, even when it means I have to install an extra package.

Second, I don't want fancy graphics screensavers; I just want a black screensaver that uses zero CPU, a habit I started back when I was taking part in the RSA-129 factoring challenge. I'm sure xscreensaver has a module that does this; I just haven't felt like going through the effort of finding it.

Written on 09 October 2006.
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Last modified: Mon Oct 9 23:40:38 2006
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