Andromeda Computer - Blog


Gaming in Linux has evolved a lot in the past few years. Now, you have dozens of distros pre-optimized for gaming and gamers. We tested all of them and hand-picked the best. There are a few other articles and lists of this type out there, but they don’t really go into detail and they are pretty outdated. This is an up-to-date list with any info you’d need.

How to choose the best Linux distro for gaming

Before we start listing out the best distros, you’d still need to choose one of them. Here are a few guidelines you can use to help you choose the right one for you:

  • Any Linux distro can be used for gaming. You can install Linux games on any distro or you can use tools like PlayOnLinuxWineSteam and a bunch of other emulators. At the end of the day, it all boils down to which one you personally prefer. Try them out. Use a live CD (flash drive) image and test it out without even installing it. Watch some videos, check some screenshots, read some reviews…
  • The main feature that matters when choosing a distro for gaming is support for drivers. Most distros support the latest (and even oldest) hardware out of the box. Even if they don’t, you can still manually find and install the driver yourself on any distro. If you’re really unsure, you can just google some info for your hardware and see if the distro supports it out of the box.
  • Second most important feature is update frequency. Is it a rolling release distro like Manjaro (very frequent updates without a schedule, always the latest software)? Or is it a point release distro like Ubuntu (scheduled updates, not always the latest software). If you prefer to always use the latest versions of any software and apps, go with a rolling release distro. That way, you’ll always get the latest driver updates and you’ll most likely already have the latest drivers for your new GPU/CPU. If you’d like to stick with what you know and use a more stable OS, go with a point release distro.
  • Previous Linux experience should also be a deciding factor. Have you used a Linux VPS before? Which distro did you use for your server? If it was Ubuntu, then you should choose the desktop version of Ubuntu since you’ll be more familiar with it. If you’ve used CentOS for your server, go with a Fedora-based distro for gaming. Did you use an LXDE distro? Go with a gaming distro that uses LXDE.

Now, let’s move on to the main part.

Best Linux Distro for Gaming

Here’s a 8 examples to help you choose the best Linux distro for you:

1. SteamOS

There’s a reason why SteamOS is always the first on every Linux gaming distro list. It’s designed with gaming in mind. It comes pre-installed with Steam and it’s based on Debian. SteamOS is built, designed and maintained by Valve. By default, SteamOS only has Steam installed, but you can activate the “desktop mode” and you’ll get a fully-featured desktop OS where you can run other applications besides Steam and games. It has everything set up out of the box, so you don’t need to install or configure anything to play on Steam, which is why this is the most recommended distro for beginners and Linux gamers.

SteamOS hardware requirements

However, if you have an older machine, SteamOS is not recommended, as it has quite a lot of hardware requirements:

  • Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
  • 4GB or more RAM
  • 250GB or larger disk
  • NVIDIA, Intel, or AMD graphics card

SteamOS facts and features

Linux and Steam for gamers.

  • Steam is preinstalled out of the box
  • Ready to play games without needing to install any additional software
  • Free and open source (apart from Steam itself, which is proprietary)
  • Support for many graphic cards, controllers and other gaming-related hardware

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:
Download SteamOS

Let’s move on to the next distro on our list:

2. Ubuntu GamePack

t’s not the default Ubuntu, but it’s a distro based on Ubuntu. You can still use the default Ubuntu and install Play on Linux, Wine and Steam or any other game you’d want to, but it would not be as optimized for gaming as Ubuntu GamePack is.

Ubuntu GamePack hardware requirements

Quite similar to the default Ubuntu, this distro requires:

  • 2 GHz or more processor (64-bit recommended)
  • 1GB RAM or more
  • 9GB disk (the more the better)
  • VGA capable of 1024×768 screen resolution. Intel HD graphics/AMD Radeon 8500 for Steam games and any other GPU for other games.

Ubuntu GamePack facts and features

Ubuntu for gamers.

  • Pre-installed with Lutris, PlayOnLinux, Wine, and Steam
  • Great hardware drivers support
  • Low(er) hardware requirements
  • Free and open source OS
  • Supports Flash and Java (great for online, browser-based games)

If you’re already familiar with Ubuntu, go with this distro.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:
Download Ubuntu GamePack


The second most popular Linux distro used for desktop computers is Fedora. Luckily, Fedora also has a gaming flavor (spin):

3. Fedora – Games Spin

Fedora – Games Spin has thousands of games already pre-installed and ready to play. It doesn’t support as much hardware as some other distros, and it doesn’t come with Wine/Steam pre-installed, which is why this is not recommended for anyone. However, if you’re already familiar with Fedora or if you like the XFCE desktop environment, this distro would be perfect for you.

Fedora Games Spin hardware requirements

Similar to the Fedora desktop distro:

  • 2 GHz or more processor (64-bit recommended)
  • 1GB RAM or more
  • 10GB disk (the more the better)
  • Intel HD graphics/AMD Radeon 8500 for Steam games and any other GPU for other games.

Fedora Games Spin facts and features

For Fedora users.

  • Has thousands of games already pre-installed
  • Stable, but not with the latest software and doesn’t have pre-installed drivers for all hardware
  • Steam and Wine are not pre-installed
  • Free and open source
  • Uses the XFCE Desktop Environment

If you’ve used Fedora (or CentOS) before, either for a server or for your desktop computer, try this Fedora spin.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:
Download Fedora – Games Spin


Moving on to the next one:

4. SparkyLinux – GameOver Edition

SparkyLinux is a Linux distribution created on the “testing” branch of Debian. It uses the LXDEdesktop environment and it has everything you’d need already pre-installed.

SparkyLinux – GameOver Edition hardware requirements

A very lightweight distro.

  • CPU i586 / amd64
  • 256 MB of RAM memory (some games need more than that – 500-1000MB recommended)
  • 20 GB of space for installation on a hard drive (30GB recommended)

So just about any old PC/laptop can run it without any issues.

SparkyLinux – GameOver Edition facts and features

Ready out of the box.

  • Has everything you’d need pre-installed out of the box. Wine, Play On Linux, Steam etc.
  • Many open source Linux games pre-installed
  • Emulators and tools for easily installing emulators
  • Free and open source

If you’ve used an LXDE Linux distro before and you want everything pre-installed, go with SparkyLinux – GameOver Edition.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:

Download SparkyLinux – GameOver Edition


Gaming doesn’t have to be all 2019 and bleeding-edge. You may be into retro games, which is where this distro comes to play:


5. Lakka

Although it’s based on Linux (kernel), it doesn’t have any desktop environment and you can’t really use it for anything other than turning a computer into a retro gaming console.

Lakka hardware requirements

You can turn any computer into a console since Lakka doesn’t have a lot of requirements. You can even use a Raspberry Pi to run Lakka. It’s a very lightweight OS that can run on just about anything.

Lakka facts and features

For retro gamers.

  • Pre-installed and optimized with various emulators
  • Very lightweight with minimum hardware requirements
  • Beautiful, easy-to-use UI
  • Free and open source with various retro games to choose from

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:
Download Lakka

Game Drift Linux is no longer being maintained. Though you can still use it, we wouldn’t recommend using it. We’ll leave their spot here for archive purposes, but there are other actively maintained alternatives if you’re looking for a gaming distro.

Want to play Windows games on a Linux distro without too many configurations?

6. Game Drift Linux

Based on Ubuntu, this distro would be perfect for beginners that previously used Ubuntu. Easy to install and everything works out of the box.

Game Drift Linux hardware requirements

Although not the most lightweight Linux distro for gaming, it doesn’t require much. At least not as much as SteamOS.

  • 1-2 GHz processor (32 or 64 bit)
  • 1-2 GB RAM
  • 4 GB hard disk drive for Game Drift Linux (excluding games)
  • ATI, NVidia or Intel graphics adapter suitable for games

If you can run Ubuntu desktop, you can run Game Drift Linux.

Game Drift Linux facts and features

You can play A LOT of Windows games on Game Drift Linux. It has all the tools you need pre-installed.

  • Has a game store with free and premium games – all run perfectly on Game Drift Linux. High-quality games only
  • You can play more than 1200 Windows games (due to CrossOver Games technology)
  • The distro itself is free, but you need to purchase an activation key for CrossOver Games in order to play more than 1200 Windows games
  • Based on Ubuntu

The game store is great – a wide choice of quality games that you can install with a single click.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:

Download Game Drift Linux

Need a full-featured Linux distro for gaming, media, browsing and general use?

7. Solus

Recently this year, Solus became a rolling release distro, which means that you’ll get the latest software with all the latest updates. Solus looks great, especially with the Budgie desktop environment. It has all the features you need for an OS for gaming/media playback/browsing/general use. There’s an official Steam integration for Solus which will greatly help you with installing and configuring steam on your Linux system. It’s based on the Linux kernel, but it’s independent of any other distro like Ubuntu or Fedora.

Solus hardware requirements

Although not the most lightweight Linux distro for gaming, it doesn’t require much. At least not as much as SteamOS.

  • Intel/AMD CPU (64 bit recommended). ARM-based processors won’t work
  • 2GB RAM Minimum, 4GB+ recommended
  • 10GB+ storage
  • ATI, NVidia or Intel GPU suitable for games

Requires a more powerful machine.

Solus facts and features

Everything built into one modern system.

  • Has different desktop environments to choose from: Budgie, Mate, and GNOME
  • Modern – has notification features
  • Free and open source
  • Can be used for everything – including gaming, browsing, general home use etc. Everything’s set up out of the box
  • Rolling release – you’ll get the latest updates and latest software all the time.

Solus looks great. One of the best looking Linux distros out there today, especially with its flagship desktop environment Budgie.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:

Download Solus

Want to use the Manjaro (rolling release) distro?

8. Manjaro Gaming Edition (mGAMe)

mGAMe, which is based on Manjaro, which is based on Arch Linux, is a rolling-release gaming distro with everything you need pre-installed. Steam, PlayOnLinux, Lutris, Minecraft, Editing Tools, and a bunch of other emulators are already installed. You can easily enable the “living room mode” in which case you won’t need a mouse – you can do everything with your controller or keyboard.

mGAMe hardware requirements

Although not the most lightweight Linux distro for gaming, it doesn’t require much. At least not as much as SteamOS.

  • At least 1GHz processor
  • At least 1GB RAM
  • At Least 30GB storage
  • ATI, NVidia or Intel GPU suitable for games and HD

If you don’t have enough hardware requirements to run Solus, but still need a rolling-release distro, go with mGAMe.

mGAMe facts and features

Everything’s pre-installed and ready to play.

  • Pre-installed Software and Emulators list: Audacity, KdenLIVE, Lutris, Minecraft, Minetest, Mumble, OBS Studio, OpenShot, PlayOnLinux, Wine, DeSmuME, Dolphin Emulator (64-Bit only), DOSBox, Fceux, Kega Fusion, PCSXR, PCSX2, PPSSPP, RetroArch, Stella, VBA-M, Yabause, ZSNES…
  • Steam is not pre-installed, you’ll have to install it manually.
  • XFCE desktop environment
  • Rolling release – you’ll get the latest updates and latest software all the time.

A great, more lightweight rolling-release distro for gaming.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and FAQ:

Download mGAMe

Wanna turn any computer into a Linux gaming machine?

9. SuperGamer

The new v4 of SuperGamer was recently released and no longer includes some open source games pre-installed, but you can easily install them, or install an app like Steam. The distro is optimized for gaming and ready to use via a live DVD/USB. It’s a great distro for testing out a machine.

SuperGamer hardware requirements

The distro is based on Ubuntu 16.04 and Linux Lite and only works with 64bit.

  • Intel/AMD CPU (64 bit recommended). ARM-based processors won’t work
  • 1.5GB RAM Minimum
  • 2GB+ DVD/Flash Drive
  • ATI, NVidia or Intel GPU suitable for games

Ready to use, no installation needed.

SuperGamer facts and features

A live Linux gaming distro.

  • Based on Ubuntu 18.04 and Linux Lite.
  • Free and open source.
  • Optimized for gaming.

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and support via their forums:

Download SuperGamer

Feeling nostalgic for the good old games? Play them without installing a distro.

10. batocera.linux

batocera.linux is another live Linux gaming distro similar to that you can use for retro gaming. Easy to install, easy to set up, and comes pre-installed with everything you need. A great way to go back in time and play the good old retro games.

batocera.linux hardware requirements

A live Linux distro ready for retro gaming with an active community.

  • Any supported CPU, at least 2.4GHz for some games.
  • 512MB RAM
  • 2GB+ DVD/Flash Drive
  • ATI, NVidia or Intel GPU supported by Linux

Ready to play retro games, no installation needed.

batocera.linux facts and features

A live Linux gaming distro.

  • Can run on a Raspberry Pi or any other nano PC
  • Free
  • Optimized for retro gaming (more than 50 consoles, including Dreamcast. Wii, PS2)
  • Fully controllable from a pad
  • You don’t need to stop it and shut it down properly, it behaves like a real console
  • You can use an USB flash drive or SD card
  • Pre-installed with Kodi
  • Has exclusive builds for Odroid devices

Visit their official website for download/installation instructions and support via their forums:

Download batocera.linux

Honorable mentions

Here’s something extra you can explore when it comes to Linux gaming:

  • – a live Linux gaming distro – hasn’t been updated since 2011
  • LinuxConsole – lightweight gaming distro with a few games pre-installed
  • RetroArch – a frontend for emulators, game engines, and media players. Great for retro games and nano PCs.
  • RetroPie – turns your nano PC into a retro gaming machine

Which distro do you use? What kind of a Linux gaming setup do you have? Did we miss something? Leave a comment below!


Published in GNU/Linux Rules!


Linux-based operating systems (often called Linux Distributions, or just Distros) are quite popular among programmers and developers since their announcement in the 90s. The Linux kernel itself is designed to be flexible and open for modifications and contributions, thus it can run on any hardware. The same principle is applied to almost the whole software stack above the kernel that constitutes the Linux Distribution as a complete product. In general, it is designed from programmers for programmers and freely available to everyone.



All of the Linux-based distributions share common code – the Linux Kernel itself, but many different methods of software distribution to the end users appeared. Some of them tend to provide a stable environment while others tend to provide the very latest software available all the time.

Stable vs Rolling Distros for Development

Linux-based distributions that are focused on stability achieve it by freezing the software as much as possible. An updated version of some software will be distributed to end users only in critical situations. Most of the time those are security updates and bug fixes but for sure no new features are being added until the end of life for that release is reached. In short, if it is not broken don’t fix it.

There are Linux distributions that tend to offer the latest of everything. “Latest must be greatest” is in their genes. Usually, the term rolling distribution is used as a description for these distros. It is very common to receive an update every hour or two. Although this looks like an awesome concept, in practice it is shown to bring some sort of instability with it and in some cases, even breaking the system.

There are pros and cons in both. Stable distributions prefer safety rather than features. This is important if you are working on a product that must be running 24/7 and must be error-free. They are often used for servers, data centers, and home users. Developers choose this type of distribution when they need to provide long-term support for the product or if the developing of the product requires an extended amount of time, like 5 or more years.

For programmers, each of their programs relies on features offered by some other program. Those are called dependencies. A stable environment can guarantee that no bugs will appear overnight due to changes in some of the dependencies. In other words, if there is a bug, don’t waste time trying to find it somewhere else rather than in your own code. This saves a lot of time and frustration.

The cons of the stable environment is that most of the time they are lacking all the cool new features. Sometimes this forces developers to utilize a harder route to achieve the desired point and nothing else. But sometimes this means that end product will run slower in production due to missing optimizations in some of the dependencies, or it will be less secure due to unpatched exploits etc.

Rolling Distributions prefer and lean towards new features and bleeding-edge software as compared to stable ones. Those are preferred among programmers and developers working on continuous integration. For example, if a program is tightly coupled with many dependencies.

Being informed of every change in your dependencies forces developers to resolve minor conflicts on a daily basis. This opens an opportunity to immediately inform third parties that they are breaking your code. Sometimes it is much easier to release a fix on their side instead in your own. Asking them to undo all the patches released in the last few years because just now you are aware of having a problem with them is a no-go. Simply, they won’t accept the undo request, so everything must be fixed on your side.

Also, you have a chance to develop your product with the latest and greatest tools available at the time. This can improve the performance, reduce the cost, can introduce a new and easier way of doing things (new API) etc.

It’s worth noting that constantly throwing updates can break things. Most of the time it is about not simultaneously updating to a new release when needed. Some apps are intended to work with the exact version of another app so breaking this creates undesired behavior. In this case, both apps must be updated at the same time which is not the case in a rolling release model.

Best Linux Distros for Programming Compared

Now, to the main part, choosing the best Linux distro for you. This is an overview and comparison of the best Linux distros for programming.


1. Ubuntuubuntu.jpg


Ubuntu is the most popular Linux Distribution among all of them. It is used by programmers and most of the home users too.

There is one major release every two years. This is called an LTS (Long Term Support) release. Those are stable thus receiving only bug fixes and security updates in next 5 years. As the release model prefers stability its underlying layers are mostly stable (unchanged) during this 5 years period. The latest LTS release as of writing is Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

There is one non-LTS release every 6 months supported for a period of 9 months. Those releases are not considered as stable. Big and significant changes can occur in every release. Sometimes those releases are caring packages that break dependencies with a previous release. It is like a playground for merging software and continuously searching for incompatibilities in a desire to provide the best fit solution for the next LTS release. Developing software in this kind of unpredictable environment is not clever. But in real life, it is not so frightening.  Even non-LTS releases offer a crash-prone environment. Many home users are using them as a daily driver with no issues at all. They see a benefit from having more recent software than what is available in the latest LTS release for example.

As you can see it is a mix of everything. You can have 5 years or stability, or stability for 9 months depending on what fits the best. Even mixing packages is possible but not recommended. A user of an LTS release can obtain a newer version of the same software from a more recent non-LTS release. This is handy as a one-time workaround but it is like a tempered bomb waiting to break the system. Pooling recent packages will continue until some incompatibility occurs. It is better to switch to a non-LTS version instead.

It is worth mentioning that Ubuntu is the place where developers and home users meat each other. Therefore, Ubuntu is the starting point for a company offering a product or a service on a Linux-based operating system. Here they find an environment that is stable and familiar to the developers but also many target users. In addition, it is best to develop the software in the native environment as the product or service that’s going to be deployed and used in production. Sounds like a perfect balance.

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distro for servers, and most people use it as their main distro with their Cloud hosting.

Some of the companies that love Ubuntu and that are offering their products or services on Ubuntu as a first choice are: Nvidia, Google, Dell, STMicroelectronics etc. Most companies that sell Linux laptops offer Ubuntu as the first choice for a pre-installed distro.

  • Nvidia is offering the CUDA toolkit natively on Ubuntu as a first choice. Only the LTS releases are officially tested and supported, thus Ubuntu is the best fit if you rely on CUDA for your project. But it is not exclusive. The CUDA toolkit is available on non-LTS releases and many other Linux-based distributions, but without support or guarantees that things will behave as expected.
  • Google is the company behind Android. They offer developing Android applications on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux-based distributions. Ubuntu is their first choice. Android Studio (IDE) and all other tools are tested on LTS releases of Ubuntu before distribution to end users.
  • STMicroelectronics is a company producing ARM-based CPUs for embedded devices. Developing software for their CPUs is possible on Windows, Mac OS and Linux-based distributions. They support Open STM 32 for developing a free and cross-platform IDE, System WorkBench. Again, LTS releases of Ubuntu is their first choice for a Linux Distribution.
  • Dell is known for their laptops, ultra-books, PCs and monitors. Their products are mostly offered with Windows preinstalled and Ubuntu for some of them. The Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition is a small, light, fast, and beautiful, and runs an Ubuntu LTS release by default.

There are more companies that offer and use Ubuntu, but this should give you an idea of how software and development companies incorporate Ubuntu.



2. Arch Linux



Arch Linux is just the opposite of Ubuntu. It is a rolling release Linux Distribution. There are constantly new updates. Every hour or two something new arrives in your system. It is a perfect working environment for some. As we mentioned earlier this type of software distribution is best suitable for developers working on software that is highly coupled with some or many dependencies. They will receive an updated version of their dependencies with almost no delay. But this comes at a price for sure. The instability of the system offers no guarantees for the origins of the new bugs.

Also, Arch Linux is hard to install. An advanced user can do it in no more than 15 minutes, but it is almost impossible for a newcomer to succeed. It requires a lot of knowledge because there is nothing preconfigured, there is no default, everything is custom instead. A pure mechanism for distributing software and nothing more, it is up to the user to install and configure things according to their personal requirements. This is why many people use Arch Linux as a lightweight Linux distro, by installing a lightweight window manager/desktop environment, and only the essential software. As you can already see Arch Linux provides a perfectly configured environment for every developer that knows how to utilize it.

Every Arch Linux is unique thus each of them encounters unique obstacles. This is what makes it special and loved among programmers. Just by using it on daily basis you grow. There is a giant and thorough wiki page. It’s one of the best wikis you can find with very detailed and strict explanations and guides for configuring stuff and encouraging the use of what is said to be good practice. Its necessity can be seen just when you try to install it (as we mentioned earlier, it is hard if not following the wiki the first time). Reading documentation may seem like wasting time but it is an essential skill for every programmer. Just by reading good documentation developers also learn how to write good documentation.

Tinkering here and there with the operating system itself will teach you how one works so you can build your own later. It’s an important skill to have, especially if you end up working with embedded devices in your career. Every day you can read about some unexpected issues on the forum and very clever workarounds for each of them. Just being aware of what might go wrong makes a developer produce code with better quality if paying attention.

The best thing about Arch Linux is its huge repository of available software. Personally, I can’t think of something that I need that is unavailable. Although the software is there, because of the very different configurations among users, the quality of provided software can be lower than expected. It is not unusual if users need to get their hands dirty doing some minor manual intervention. It’s brilliant for improving skills but some can struggle with the maintenance at the beginning.

It’s worth to be mentioned that there are no devices that come with Arch Linux preinstalled. It is painful to do so since until the device reaches the customer, the software is out of date and performing one giant update is very likely to break the system (while constant minor updates don’t). Even if some vendors do, advanced users will find it uncomfortable and will change it anyway.


3. Fedora


Fedora is another popular Linux Distribution among programmers. It is just in the middle between Ubuntu and Arch Linux. It is more stable than Arch Linux, but it is rolling faster than what Ubuntu does.

There is one major release every 6 months supported for 13 months. Basically, 13 months of a stable environment is just fine. Also, 6 months of delay between the next big update is fine too. No software is growing so fast so it is good even for those who want to experience and work with the latest stuff in a stable environment while still doing their integration job without issues. Excellent balance as Ubuntu does but with a smaller amount of home users.

In terms of software availability, there is no such broader range as in Ubuntu or Arch Linux. If you are looking for proprietary software the situation is even worse. There isn’t any official support for it. But if you are working with open source software instead Fedora is excellent.

The people behind Fedora embrace free and open software and do the best for it but it is a big no go for any proprietary stuff. You can’t find Java, DVD codecs, Flash Player etc. Of course, all those are available in some private repositories with weaker license policies but they are not officially supported so no guarantees for any incompatibilities or misbehavior. It is a big issue if you are working on a project that costs money or that is expected to have a big impact because you don’t want to rely on unreliable sources. You want support instead. On Ubuntu for example, companies do offer support for their proprietary software.

There are several Fedora “Spins”, which are similar to Ubuntu flavors. It’s basically Fedora with software pre-installed for a specific purpose, but the main difference is the desktop environment. We featured the Games Spin of Fedora in our Best Linux Gaming Distros list.

Do not forget that the Fedora project is founded by Red Hat Linux distribution which is targeting the enterprise sector and offer paid support for it. Fedora is like a playground but a good one. At some point, the Fedora release will become a Red Hat release. Everybody has some benefits. Big companies receive a rock solid and stable system with years-long support (from Red Hat) while casual users receive a big amount of free software and a stable environment that is more recent than Ubuntu (from Fedora).

Just like Arch Linux, there are no devices with Fedora preinstalled because of very short time between major releases. In 6 months there is no time for manufacturers to produce and sell the device.

There are hundreds of Linux distros out there, each more different than the other. Though the 3 distros we mentioned are great for developers, you may find a better fit in a different distro. For example, if you’re developing an application that’s supposed to run on a server, you may need to use a server distro like Ubuntu or CentOS. So do your research and you may find a better one for you.


Overview of The Best Tools for Programmers on Linux

Out of the box, no distro comes with IDEs and toolkits pre-installed, neither Windows nor Mac OS do, so developers have to install them manually. Only a simple text editor like gedit or nano (command line text editor) can be found preinstalled. Some popular IDEs are: Eclipse, QT Creator, NetBeans etc. but many developers dislike IDEs in general and use simpler text editors like Sublime, Atom or Vim instead.

Eclipse is the most commonly used IDE. It supports multiple programming languages like C, C++, Java etc. Its basic features can be extended by various plugins. This allows a company to develop a complete IDE for their product just by writing a small plugin and relying on Eclipse for everything else.

Until 2016, Eclipse was actively supported by Google as the recommended IDE for Android applications development. Later Google migrated to InteliJ IDE and abandoned Eclipse, but users continued developing plugins like gradile-android-eclipse and still providing easy to use Android IDE based on Eclipse.

Eclipse is the recommended IDE for CUDA development on Linux-based operating systems (Visual Studio for Windows). Nvidia is distributing a slightly customized version of Eclipse called Eclipse Nsight. For them, It is much easier to provide an IDE by reusing components, but also it is even easier for developers when they don’t have to endure the hassle of building custom toolchains even for simple “Hello World” examples.

System Workbench is an IDE for programming ARM-based CPUs.  This IDE is free and built by the community but also supported and recommended by STMicroelectronic, a company that produces ARM-based CPUs. The IDE can be downloaded standalone, or by adding a plugin on top of existing Eclipse installation.

The latest stable version of Eclipse is 4.7, named Oxygen. As Arch Linux tends to have the latest of everything, version 4.7 is available in the repositories. On Ubuntu 16.04, which is latest stable release at the moment. version 3.18 of Eclipse is available while Fedora offers version 4.7 just like Arch Linux.

QT Creator is another very popular IDE. It is developed by the QT Company as an IDE for the QT framework. Although targeting a single C++ framework, because the nature of the language it is commonly used for developing non-QT applications with plain C or C++. It cannot be extended like Eclipse but it is much faster because it is written in C++. Also, it provides better theming options than Eclipse that blends well with the native desktop environment.

On Arch Linux users can obtain the very latest version 4.6 but on Ubuntu, we are stuck with version 3.5 while on Fedora it’s version 4.5.

Netbeans is an IDE for developing in C, C++, Java, PHP, Node JS, Angular JS etc. It is most popular among PHP developers and Web developers. Also, some tend to use it for Android application development with the NBAndroid plugin. There are many other plugins that enable a better integration with various technologies like WordPress, Ruby, Ruby on rails etc. Much like Eclipse.

The latest stable version of Netbeans is 8.2 and the same is available in the Arch Linux repositories. Ubuntu users can obtain version 8.1 while Fedora users must do a manual installation by downloading Netbeans from the website and eventually manually resolving conflicts and dependency issues if any. Just a warning than officially supported software is always of a better quality.

Sublime is one of the most famous text editors available. Sublime is mature, supports extensions and has autocomplete and code highlight for almost any kind of programming. Even though it is just a text editor, its extensions can easily add every feature that is expected from a modern IDE. Those are the main selling points. Once you get familiar with it, you are going to use it for everything.

Ubuntu doesn’t ship Sublime in their repositories, but Sublime developers offer a packaged version in their private repository, just follow the instructions and obtain the very latest version available from their website. Arch Linux also doesn’t distribute it in the official repositories but it is available from the AUR (packaged from users, also unofficially). Fedora requires manual installation too, see their website for instructions.

Atom text editor is an alternative to Sublime. It is free as in freedom and it is based on Electron. Although it has the very same features set and capabilities it tends to be heavier than Sublime so some developers are simply rejecting it.

As with Sublime, Atom on Ubuntu and Fedora can be installed manually by following instructions on the website while on Arch Linux they distribute version 1.25.

Developers who are doing most of the work in a terminal use the Vim text editor, especially on servers. It is a free and extensible command line text editor. It is an improved version of the older Vi text editor. One can use Vim for developing in any programming language or toolkit. Vim is the most customizable of them all by adding additional plugins. It is the most keyboard-friendly text editor available too. Some developers find using the mouse hurting their shoulders and muscles thus being able to do anything with only a keyboard is like being blessed.

Vim behaves like a person. Stand-alone is nothing, but plugins make It evolve to anything. Many actions are just like having a conversation with the editor. For example, to delete next three words after the cursor you just type “d3w” (Delete 3 words) and done, or to move the cursor 4 rows down type “4j” and done. There are many many more similar shortcuts that allow developers to do things faster and easier compared to other text editors or IDEs.

Both Arch Linux and Fedora distribute version 8.0 of Vim, while Ubuntu version 7.6.


Introduction to the Linux Shell for Development

Beside IDEs and text editors, Linux-based operating systems are popular because of the Shell. Ba Shell, known as bash, is most commonly found preinstalled on every major Linux distribution but it’s not the only one available. There are zsh, tcsh, ksh etc. They all do the same job but with minor differences that are not part of this introduction. The thing about shells is that they are an environment for interaction with the system. Often shells are used for automating things.

Some tasks through the development lifecycle are repetitive and require time synchronization in terms of executing the next task when the previous is done. Very common in embedded development like build kernel, then waiting until it is done to start building the image, then again waiting to start the transferring the image to the device, and waiting one more time until transfer complete to boot finally boot the device.

The point is that no one wants to sit in front of the PC or sever waiting for a job to finish then manually executing the next one. It is nicer for developers if they can just write the code and let someone or something else to manage task execution in the right order. It’s about not hurting your eyes while paying attention to the execution status. A simple five-line shell script can automate all of this. In addition, the shell can even send a notification to your smartphone when all the jobs are done or if there is a crash.

Another use case when the shell is important is automating the crashes. Knowing that each build generates text output and that the output can be redirected to shell script we can automate the crash handling process. Thus, if compiling fails due to a missing header, a shell script can search the file system to find the location of the header and check if that location is included in our build. If not, then alter the content of a single file and add the path to the header. Now the shell script can simply inform the developer of the crash, what actions were taken if any and retry to compile. This is handy for long-lasting projects.


Windows vs Linux for Programmers

Nevertheless, developing on Windows requires installing more additional software. For example, for Android development, device drivers are required. Sometimes drivers might crash or cannot be installed or don’t work on recent versions of Windows (if it is an older device). But a good programmer must have many devices around and test the program on each one of them. This can complicate the setup of the working environment quite a bit.

On Linux distros, this is a very smooth process. All the drivers are already present in the Linux kernel (with just a few exceptions) so no additional installation is required beside the IDE. Just plug in a device and you are ready to go. As smooth as that.

Another use case is when developers have to obtain support for multiple products at the same time. This is fine until two products enforce the existence of software that cannot coexist. For example, version 3.1 of a given program and version 4.2 of the same program but for the other project.

On Windows, installing a newer version often requires deleting the older version. Even if the older version is not automatically deleted, environmental variables are being automatically modified so pooling wrong dependencies or pooling a dependency twice might occur.

On Linux distros, this can be resolved quite easily. Just extract one version in one folder, extract another version in another folder and you are halfway done. Second part is either change the global environment variable to point to only one path, or alter the content of the variable but with a tighter scope. Thus, the same variable will have a different property for different compilations. Isn’t this great? Not just resolving the coexistence problem, in addition, a developer can even run two compiles at the same time without issues.


Conclusion – Best Linux Distro for Programmers

In general, Linux-based operating systems offer a more than excellent environment for developers. It just takes some time to learn the cool stuff. No matter which distribution you choose you won’t regret doing it. Just pay attention to the method of software distribution. Choose what suits you best and the projects you are working on. If not sure, just choose Ubuntu, overall it is the best-balanced Linux distribution.



Published in GNU/Linux Rules!
Wednesday, 08 May 2019 23:04

Using rsync to back up your Linux system

Find out how to use rsync in a backup scenario.

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!

Basic rsync commands are usually enough to manage your Linux backups, but a few extra options add speed and power to large backup sets.


It seems clear that backups are always a hot topic in the Linux world. Back in 2017, David Both offered readers tips on "Using rsync to back up your Linux system," and earlier this year, he published a poll asking us, "What's your primary backup strategy for the /home directory in Linux?" In another poll this year, Don Watkins asked, "Which open source backup solution do you use?"

My response is rsync. I really like rsync! There are plenty of large and complex tools on the market that may be necessary for managing tape drives or storage library devices, but a simple open source command line tool may be all you need.

Basic rsync

I managed the binary repository system for a global organization that had roughly 35,000 developers with multiple terabytes of files. I regularly moved or archived hundreds of gigabytes of data at a time. Rsync was used. This experience gave me confidence in this simple tool. (So, yes, I use it at home to back up my Linux systems.)


The basic rsync command is simple.

rsync -av SRC DST

Indeed, the rsync commands taught in any tutorial will work fine for most general situations. However, suppose we need to back up a very large amount of data. Something like a directory with 2,000 sub-directories, each holding anywhere from 50GB to 700GB of data. Running rsync on this directory could take a tremendous amount of time, particularly if you're using the checksum option, which I prefer.

Performance is likely to suffer if we try to sync large amounts of data or sync across slow network connections. Let me show you some methods I use to ensure good performance and reliability.


Advanced rsync

One of the first lines that appears when rsync runs is: "sending incremental file list." If you do a search for this line, you'll see many questions asking things like: why is it taking forever? or why does it seem to hang up?

Here's an example based on this scenario. Let's say we have a directory called /storage that we want to back up to an external USB device mounted at /media/WDPassport.

If we want to back up /storage to a USB external drive, we could use this command:

rsync -cav /storage /media/WDPassport


The c option tells rsync to use file checksums instead of timestamps to determine changed files, and this usually takes longer. In order to break down the /storage directory, I sync by subdirectory, using the find command. Here's an example:

find /storage -type d -exec rsync -cav {} /media/WDPassport \;


This looks OK, but if there are any files in the /storage directory, they will not be copied. So, how can we sync the files in /storage? There is also a small nuance where certain options will cause rsync to sync the . directory, which is the root of the source directory; this means it will sync the subdirectories twice, and we don't want that.

Long story short, the solution I settled on is a "double-incremental" script. This allows me to break down a directory, for example, breaking /home into the individual users' home directories or in cases when you have multiple large directories, such as music or family photos.

Here is an example of my script:


for HOME in $HOMES; do
     cd /home/$HOME
     rsync -cdlptgov --delete . /$DRIVE/$HOME
     find . -maxdepth 1 -type d -not -name "." -exec rsync -crlptgov --delete {} /$DRIVE/$HOME \;


The first rsync command copies the files and directories that it finds in the source directory. However, it leaves the directories empty so we can iterate through them using the find command. This is done by passing the d argument, which tells rsync not to recurse the directory.

-d, --dirs                  transfer directories without recursing


The find command then passes each directory to rsync individually. Rsync then copies the directories' contents. This is done by passing the r argument, which tells rsync to recurse the directory.

-r, --recursive             recurse into directories


This keeps the increment file that rsync uses to a manageable size.

Most rsync tutorials use the a (or archive) argument for convenience. This is actually a compound argument.

-a, --archive               archive mode; equals -rlptgoD (no -H,-A,-X)


The other arguments that I pass would have been included in the a; those are lptg, and o.

-l, --links                 copy symlinks as symlinks
-p, --perms                 preserve permissions
-t, --times                 preserve modification times
-g, --group                 preserve group
-o, --owner                 preserve owner (super-user only)


The --delete option tells rsync to remove any files on the destination that no longer exist on the source. This way, the result is an exact duplication. You can also add an exclude for the .Trash directories or perhaps the .DS_Store files created by MacOS.

-not -name ".Trash*" -not -name ".DS_Store"


Be careful

One final recommendation: rsync can be a destructive command. Luckily, its thoughtful creators provided the ability to do "dry runs." If we include the noption, rsync will display the expected output without writing any data.

rsync -cdlptgovn --delete . /$DRIVE/$HOME

This script is scalable to very large storage sizes and large latency or slow link situations. I'm sure there is still room for improvement, as there always is. If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments.





Marielle Price 
Published in GNU/Linux Rules!


We all know that we use cd command to move from one directory to another. To return back to the previous directory, we use “cd ..” or “cd <location_of_previous_directory>” commands. This is how I mostly navigate between directories until I found these trio commands, namely pushdpopd, and dirs. These three commands provides a way faster navigation between directories. Unlike cd command, pushd and popd commands are used to manage a stack of directories. Just enter into a directory and do something you want to do, and “pop” back to the previous directory quickly without having to type the long path name. dirs command is used to show the current directory stack, just like “ls” command. These trio commands are extremely useful when you’re working in a deep directory structure and scripts.

Still confused? No worries! I am going to explain these commands in layman terms with some practical examples.

Use Pushd, Popd And Dirs For Faster Navigation Between Directories

Pushd, popd ,and dirs commands are comes pre-installed, so let us just forget about the installation, and go ahead to see how to use them in real time.

Right now, I am in /tmp directory.


I am going to create ten directories, namely test1test2, …. test10 in /tmp directory.

As may already know, We can easily create multiple directories at once using mkdir command as shown below.

mkdir test1 test2 test3 test4 test5 test6 test7 test8 test9 test10


mkdir test{1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10}

Now, let us move to test3 directory. To do so, just type:

pushd test3


To know where you are now, just type:


Sample output:

/tmp/test3 /tmp /tmp


As you see in the above output, dirs command shows we have two directories in the stack now. Do something you wish to do in this directory. Once done, you can go back to your previous working directory using command:



No need to mention the full path of previous directory. If you use cd command, you should type “cd ..” or “cd <full_path_name>” to go back to the /tmp directory. But, using popd command we can instantly move back to the previous working directory. It’s simple as that.

Let us go again to test8 directory. To do so, run:

pushd test8

Sample output:

/tmp/test8 /tmp /tmp


Let us go deep in the stack.

pushd /tmp/test10

Sample output:

/tmp/test10 /tmp/test8 /tmp /tmp


We’re now in test10 directory, and we have totally 3 directories (test10, test8 and tmp) in our stack. Did you also notice the direction? Each new directory is getting added to the left. When we start poping directories off, they will come from the left as well.

Now, if you want to move to the previous working directory i.e test8 using cd command, the command would be like below.

cd /tmp/test8

But it is not necessary though. We can do it more quickly by running the popd command.


Sample output:

/tmp/test8 /tmp /tmp


As you see in the above output, we moved to the previous working directory without having to type full path (i.e /tmp/test8).

Now, let us pop again?


Sample output:

/tmp /tmp


Finally, We came back to the directory where we started.

In this example, I have used just ten directories. So, It may seem it is no big deal. Think about twenty or more directories? Would you type “cd <path_name>” or “cd ..” each time to move between directories? Nope. It would be time consuming. Just use pushd command to change to any directory in the stack and move back to your previous working directory using popd command. Also, you can use dirs command at any time to show the current directory stack at any time. You can add a series of paths onto your stack and then navigate to them in the reverse order. This will save you lot of time when you are navigating around stack of directories.

Also read:

You know now how to effectively navigate between directories without using cd command. These commands comes in handy when you’re working with large directory stack. You can quickly move back and forth through x amount of directories, and these commands are much useful working with scripts too.

That’s all for now. If you know any other methods, feel free to share them in the comment section below. I will be here with another interesting guide soon.

Marielle Price

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!

Today we are going to learn some command line productivity hacks. As you already know, we use “cd” command to move between a stack of directories in Unix-like operating systems. In this guide I am going to teach you how to navigate directories faster without having to use “cd” command often. There could be many ways, but I only know the following five methods right now! I will keep updating this guide when I came across any methods or utilities to achieve this task in the days to come.

Five Different Methods To Navigate Directories Faster In Linux

Method 1: Using “Pushd”, “Popd” And “Dirs” Commands

This is the most frequent method that I use everyday to navigate between a stack of directories. The “Pushd”, “Popd”, and “Dirs” commands comes pre-installed in most Linux distributions, so don’t bother with installation. These trio commands are quite useful when you’re working in a deep directory structure and scripts. For more details, check our guide in the link given below.

Method 2: Using “bd” utility

The “bd” utility also helps you to quickly go back to a specific parent directory without having to repeatedly typing “cd ../../.” on your Bash.

Bd is also available in the Debian extra and Ubuntu universe repositories. So, you can install it using “apt-get” package manager in Debian, Ubuntu and other DEB based systems as shown below:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install bd

For other distributions, you can install as shown below.

$ sudo wget --no-check-certificate -O /usr/local/bin/bd
$ sudo chmod +rx /usr/local/bin/bd
$ echo 'alias bd=". bd -si"' >> ~/.bashrc
$ source ~/.bashrc

To enable auto completion, run:

$ sudo wget -O /etc/bash_completion.d/bd
$ source /etc/bash_completion.d/bd

The Bd utility has now been installed. Let us see few examples to understand how to quickly move through stack of directories using this tool.

Create some directories.

$ mkdir -p dir1/dir2/dir3/dir4/dir5/dir6/dir7/dir8/dir9/dir10

The above command will create a hierarchy of directories. Let us check directory structure using command:

$ tree dir1/
└── dir2
 └── dir3
 └── dir4
 └── dir5
 └── dir6
 └── dir7
 └── dir8
 └── dir9
 └── dir10

9 directories, 0 files

Alright, we have now 10 directories. Let us say you’re currently in 7th directory i.e dir7.

$ pwd

You want to move to dir3. Normally you would type:

$ cd /home/sk/dir1/dir2/dir3

Right? yes! But it not necessary though! To go back to dir3, just type:

$ bd dir3

Now you will be in dir3.


Navigate Directories Faster In Linux Using “bd” Utility

Easy, isn’t it? It supports auto complete, so you can just type the partial name of a directory and hit the tab key to auto complete the full path.

To check the contents of a specific parent directory, you don’t need to inside that particular directory. Instead, just type:

$ ls `bd dir1`

The above command will display the contents of dir1 from your current working directory.

For more details, check out the following GitHub page.

Method 3: Using “Up” Shell script

The “Up” is a shell script allows you to move quickly to your parent directory. It works well on many popular shells such as Bash, Fish, and Zsh etc. Installation is absolutely easy too!

To install “Up” on Bash, run the following commands one bye:

$ curl --create-dirs -o ~/.config/up/
$ echo 'source ~/.config/up/' >> ~/.bashrc

The up script registers the “up” function and some completion functions via your “.bashrc” file.

Update the changes using command:

$ source ~/.bashrc

On zsh:

$ curl --create-dirs -o ~/.config/up/
$ echo 'source ~/.config/up/' >> ~/.zshrc

The up script registers the “up” function and some completion functions via your “.zshrc” file.

Update the changes using command:

$ source ~/.zshrc

On fish:

$ curl --create-dirs -o ~/.config/up/
$ source ~/.config/up/

The up script registers the “up” function and some completion functions via “funcsave”.

Now it is time to see some examples.

Let us create some directories.

$ mkdir -p dir1/dir2/dir3/dir4/dir5/dir6/dir7/dir8/dir9/dir10

Let us say you’re in 7th directory i.e dir7.

$ pwd

You want to move to dir3. Using “cd” command, we can do this by typing the following command:

$ cd /home/sk/dir1/dir2/dir3

But it is really easy to go back to dir3 using “up” script:

$ up dir3

That’s it. Now you will be in dir3. To go one directory up, just type:

$ up 1

To go back two directory type:

$ up 2

It’s that simple. Did I type the full path? Nope. Also it supports tab completion. So just type the partial directory name and hit the tab to complete the full path.

For more details, check out the GitHub page.

Please be mindful that “bd” and “up” tools can only help you to go backward i.e to the parent directory of the current working directory. You can’t move forward. If you want to switch to dir10 from dir5, you can’t! Instead, you need to use “cd” command to switch to dir10. These two utilities are meant for quickly moving you to the parent directory!

Method 4: Using “Shortcut” tool

This is yet another handy method to switch between different directories quickly and easily. This is somewhat similar to alias command. In this method, we create shortcuts to frequently used directories and use the shortcut name to go to that respective directory without having to type the path. If you’re working in deep directory structure and stack of directories, this method will greatly save some time. You can learn how it works in the guide given below.

Method 5: Using “CDPATH” Environment variable

This method doesn’t require any installation. CDPATH is an environment variable. It is somewhat similar to PATH variable which contains many different paths concatenated using ‘:’ (colon). The main difference between PATH and CDPATH variables is the PATH variable is usable with all commands whereas CDPATH works only for cd command.

I have the following directory structure.


Directory structure

As you see, there are four child directories under a parent directory named “ostechnix”.

Now add this parent directory to CDPATH using command:

$ export CDPATH=~/ostechnix

You now can instantly cd to the sub-directories of the parent directory (i.e ~/ostechnix in our case) from anywhere in the filesystem.

For instance, currently I am in /var/mail/ location.

3.pngTo cd into 
~/ostechnix/Linux/ directory, we don’t have to use the full path of the directory as shown below:

$ cd ~/ostechnix/Linux

Instead, just mention the name of the sub-directory you want to switch to:

$ cd Linux

It will automatically cd to ~/ostechnix/Linux directory instantly.


As you can see in the above output, I didn’t use “cd <full-path-of-subdir>”. Instead, I just used “cd <subdir-name>” command.

Please note that CDPATH will allow you to quickly navigate to only one child directory of the parent directory set in CDPATH variable. It doesn’t much help for navigating a stack of directories (directories inside sub-directories, of course).

To find the values of CDPATH variable, run:

$ echo $CDPATH

Sample output would be:


Set multiple values to CDPATH

Similar to PATH variable, we can also set multiple values (more than one directory) to CDPATH separated by colon (:).

$ export CDPATH=.:~/ostechnix:/etc:/var:/opt

Make the changes persistent

As you already know, the above command (export) will only keep the values of CDPATH until next reboot. To permanently set the values of CDPATH, just add them to your ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile files.

$ vi ~/.bash_profile

Add the values:

export CDPATH=.:~/ostechnix:/etc:/var:/opt

Hit ESC key and type :wq to save and exit.

Apply the changes using command:

$ source ~/.bash_profile


To clear the values of CDPATH, use export CDPATH=””. Or, simply delete the entire line from ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile files.

In this article, you have learned the different ways to navigate directory stack faster and easier in Linux. As you can see, it’s not that difficult to browse a pile of directories faster. Now stop typing “cd ../../..” endlessly by using these tools. If you know any other worth trying tool or method to navigate directories faster, feel free to let us know in the comment section below. I will review and add them in this guide.

And, that’s all for now. Hope this helps. More good stuffs to come. Stay tuned!

Marielle Price

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!

This article explains how to list all the packages available in an Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian repository (installed and available for install), be it an official repository or a third-party source like a PPA, and so on.

Below you'll find 2 ways of listing packages from a repository: using a GUI or from the command line.

List all packages in a Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint repository using a GUI

If you want to list all the packages in a repository on your desktop, you can use Synaptic Package Manager. 

Synaptic is a graphical package management application for APT (APT being the main command line package manager for Debian and its derivatives).

If you don't have Synaptic installed, you can install it on Debian, Ubuntu, and any Debian or Ubuntu based Linux distribution, including elementary OS, Linux Mint and so on, by using this command:

sudo apt install synaptic

To list all the packages in a particular software repository using Synaptic, launch the application and click on Origin in the bottom left-hand side of its window. Next, select the repository for which you want to list all available packages (both installed and available for installation) from the list that's displayed in the left-hand side of Synaptic Package Manager.

For example, here's Synaptic showing all the packages available in the Google repository, listing Google Chrome stable, beta and unstable, as well as Google Earth Pro and EC:

Synaptic list all packages in a repository on Ubuntu or Debian

As you can see, all the software sources are listed here, including the official repositories. 

Launchpad PPA repositories are supported as well. Their name begins with LP-PPA, followed by the actual PPA name. Synaptic lists 2 entries for each PPA - make sure you select the PPA entry ending with /ubuntu-codename, for example /bionic/cosmic, etc. The entry ending in /now doesn't list all the available packages in the PPA.

This is a screenshot showing all the packages available in the Ubuntu Graphics Drivers PPA (for Ubuntu 18.10 Cosmic Cuttlefish, since that's what I'm using), including showing which are installed on my system:

Synaptic list all packages in a repository

I'm not sure why, but some packages are listed multiple times for PPA sources (and only for PPA repositories). That only a display thing, and it doesn't break any functionality.

List all packages in a repository in Ubuntu, Debian or Linux Mint from the command line

Listing all packages in a repository from the command line in Ubuntu, Debian or Linux Mint is a bit tricky, but still quite easy to do.

There are multiple ways of doing this from the command, but I'll only list one. The command to list all packages available in repository-name is the one that follows:

grep ^Package /var/lib/apt/lists/repository-name*_Packages | awk '{print $2}' | sort -u

I'll explain later on how to find out the repository name from /var/list/apt/lists and how to use it. Before that I'll explain what this command does:

  • grep ^Package ... searches for lines beginning with ^Package in the /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Packagesfile
  • awk '{print $2}' prints the second column for each line (so it filters out everything but the package name)
  • sort -u sorts the lines and outputs only unique lines (removes duplicates)

The first thing you need to do is find the name of the repository *_Packages file from /var/lib/apt/lists/. You can list all the repository _Packages files available in /var/lib/apt/lists/ by using a simple ls:

ls /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Packages

Since the results may be very long, you can run the command output through more for easier reading:

ls /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Packages | more

If you know part of the repository name (I'm using KEYWORD in the command below as the name), you can filter the ls results using grep, like this:

ls /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Packages | grep KEYWORD

For example, let's say you want to list all the packages in the official Tor repository, and you know the repository name must contain tor. In this case, you'd use this command to find out the _Packages filename from /var/lib/apt/lists/

ls /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Packages | grep tor

For short queries, some unrelated repositories might be displayed, but it's still easier to see what you're looking for using grep than listing all the repositories _Packages files.

Now that you know the _Packages filename, you can list all the packages available in that repository by issuing this command:

grep ^Package /var/lib/apt/lists/some-repository-amd64_Packages | awk '{print $2}' | sort -u

Use the file containing the architecture for which you want to list all available packages in that repository. The example above is for 64bit (amd64), but you could use i386 for 32bit, etc.

You don't need the complete repository _Packages filename. Back to my Tor repository example, the _Packages filename for Tor is deb.torproject.org_torproject.org_dists_cosmic_main_binary-amd64_Packages. In this case, you could use deb.torproject followed by *_Packages to simplify things, like this:

grep ^Package /var/lib/apt/lists/deb.torproject*_Packages | awk '{print $2}' | sort -u

Which outputs the following:

Another example. Let's say you want to see all packages available in the Linux Uprising Oracle Java 11 PPA(ppa:linuxuprising/java). You can list them by using:

grep ^Package /var/lib/apt/lists/ppa.launchpad.net_linuxuprising_java*_Packages | awk '{print $2}' | sort -u

Which outputs this:


To use this with other PPA repositories, replace linuxuprising with the first part of the PPA name, and java with the second part of the PPA name, and the command will list all the packages from that PPA (both installed and not installed).

You can also list all the packages available in all the PPA repositories you have added on your system, by using:

grep ^Package /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Packages | awk '{print $2}' | sort -u

For easy access, you could bookmark this command using Marker commands bookmark manager (while used primarily for searching, HSTR can bookmark commands as well).

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!

There are multiple ways of searching for packages available in the Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint from the command line, and in this article I'll cover aptapt-cache and aptitude. Use this to search in both package names and package descriptions, useful if either you're looking for a specific package but you don't know the exact package name, or if you need a tool for a particular purpose / task but you don't know the available options.

The major differences between using aptapt-cache and aptitude to search for available packages is their output and the sort order, as you'll see in the examples below. Also, aptitude may not be installed by default on your Debian-based Linux distribution.

I personally prefer apt-cache because of the easier to read output (and I don't need extra info usually - to see installed/available versions I can use apt-cache policy package-name); it also tends to display the results I'm looking for near the top.

Another thing to note is that apt and apt-cache search the apt software package cache, so they return both packages available in the repositories as well as DEB packages installed manually (not available in the repos), while aptitude only returns packages that are available in the repositories.

I. Search available packages using aptitude

aptitude is a Ncurses-based front-end for apt. This tool is usually not installed by default but you can install it in Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and other Debian-based Linux distributions using this command:

sudo apt install aptitude

You can use aptitude to search for packages from the command line, like this:

aptitude search KEYWORD


$ aptitude search openssh

p   libconfig-model-openssh-perl                           - configuration editor for OpenSsh                                
p   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-dev                       - OpenSSH key codec  
p   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-dev:i386                  - OpenSSH key codec  
v   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-dev-0.2.7-6af0a           -                    
v   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-dev-0.2.7-6af0a:i386      -                    
p   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-doc                       - OpenSSH key codec; documentation                                
p   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-prof                      - OpenSSH key codec; profiling libraries                          
p   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-prof:i386                 - OpenSSH key codec; profiling libraries                          
v   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-prof-0.2.7-6af0a          -                    
v   libghc-crypto-pubkey-openssh-prof-0.2.7-6af0a:i386     -                    
p   libnet-openssh-compat-perl                             - collection of compatibility modules for Net::OpenSSH            
p   libnet-openssh-parallel-perl                           - run SSH jobs in parallel                                        
p   libnet-openssh-perl                                    - Perl SSH client package implemented on top of OpenSSH           
p   lxqt-openssh-askpass                                   - OpenSSH user/password GUI dialog for LXQt                       
p   lxqt-openssh-askpass:i386                              - OpenSSH user/password GUI dialog for LXQt                       
p   lxqt-openssh-askpass-l10n                              - Language package for lxqt-openssh-askpass                       
v   lxqt-openssh-askpass-l10n:i386                         -                    
i   openssh-client                                         - secure shell (SSH) client, for secure access to remote machines 
p   openssh-client:i386                                    - secure shell (SSH) client, for secure access to remote machines 
p   openssh-client-ssh1                                    - secure shell (SSH) client for legacy SSH1 protocol              
p   openssh-client-ssh1:i386                               - secure shell (SSH) client for legacy SSH1 protocol              
p   openssh-known-hosts                                    - download, filter and merge known_hosts for OpenSSH
p   openssh-server                                         - secure shell (SSH) server, for secure access from remote machines
p   openssh-server:i386                                    - secure shell (SSH) server, for secure access from remote machines 
p   openssh-sftp-server                                    - secure shell (SSH) sftp server module, for SFTP access from remote machines
p   openssh-sftp-server:i386                               - secure shell (SSH) sftp server module, for SFTP access from remote machines

You can also use the aptitude Ncurses UI if you wish. Type aptitude to start it:

Aptitude ncurses interface

You can search packages by pressing / and then start typing the keyword.

II. Search available packages using apt-cache

Use apt-cache to to search for packages available in the Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint repositories (and installed DEB packages that aren't in the repositories) like this:

apt-cache search KEYWORD


$ apt-cache search openssh

openssh-client - secure shell (SSH) client, for secure access to remote machines
openssh-server - secure shell (SSH) server, for secure access from remote machines
openssh-sftp-server - secure shell (SSH) sftp server module, for SFTP access from remote machines
python-setproctitle - Setproctitle implementation for Python 2
python3-setproctitle - Setproctitle implementation for Python 3
ssh - secure shell client and server (metapackage)
agent-transfer - copy a secret key from GnuPG's gpg-agent to OpenSSH's ssh-agent


ssh-askpass-gnome - interactive X program to prompt users for a passphrase for ssh-add
ssh-audit - tool for ssh server auditing
sshpass - Non-interactive ssh password authentication

I removed some of the output because it can get very long. The visible results order was not changed though.

III. Search available packages using apt

Using apt you can search for available packages from the command line as follows:

apt search KEYWORD

Replace KEYWORD with the keyword you want to search for (you can add multiple keywords in quotes).

Here is an example search for "openssh" together with its output:

$ apt search openssh

Sorting... Done
Full Text Search... Done
agent-transfer/bionic 0.41-1ubuntu1 amd64
  copy a secret key from GnuPG's gpg-agent to OpenSSH's ssh-agent

cme/bionic,bionic 1.026-1 all
  Check or edit configuration data with Config::Model

connect-proxy/bionic 1.105-1 amd64
  Establish TCP connection using SOCKS4/5 or HTTP tunnel


openssh-client/bionic,now 1:7.6p1-4 amd64 [installed]
  secure shell (SSH) client, for secure access to remote machines

openssh-client-ssh1/bionic 1:7.5p1-10 amd64
  secure shell (SSH) client for legacy SSH1 protocol

openssh-known-hosts/bionic,bionic 0.6.2-1 all
  download, filter and merge known_hosts for OpenSSH

openssh-server/bionic 1:7.6p1-4 amd64
  secure shell (SSH) server, for secure access from remote machines

openssh-sftp-server/bionic 1:7.6p1-4 amd64
  secure shell (SSH) sftp server module, for SFTP access from remote machines

putty-tools/bionic 0.70-4 amd64
  command-line tools for SSH, SCP, and SFTP

python-scp/bionic,bionic 0.10.2-1 all
  scp module for paramiko

Once again, I removed some of the results because the results list is quite long. The results order was not changed though.

For all three, the search results may be very long. In such cases, you can run them through more, for easier reading, like this:

apt-cache search KEYWORD | more

You can also exclude results that don't include a particular keyword (KEYWORD2 in this example) by using grep:

apt-cache search KEYWORD | grep KEYWORD2

grep is case sensitive by default. Add -i (grep -i KEYWORD2) to ignore case.

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!

There are multiple ways of preventing a package from updating in Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, elementary OS and other Debian/Ubuntu-based Linux distributions. This article presents 3 ways of excluding repository packages from being upgraded.

Why prevent a package from being updated? Let's say you install a package that's older than the version available in Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint repositories, or you know some update is causing issues, and you want to upgrade all packages minus one (or two, three...).

Here's an example. I'm using Chromium browser with hardware accelerationpatches from the Saiarcot895-dev PPA, in Ubuntu 18.10. To get hardware acceleration to work with Nvidia drivers, a patched vdpau-va-driver package is needed, and this is not yet available in this PPA for the latest Ubuntu 18.10. Luckily, the Ubuntu 18.04 package can be installed in Ubuntu 18.10, but any upgrade through "apt upgrade" or using the Software Updater will upgrade this package, which I don't want. So in this case, holding this package from upgrades would allow me to upgrade all other packages without having to worry about it.

It should be noted that preventing a package from future upgrades may cause issues in some situations, if the package you're holding is used as a dependency for another package that can be upgraded. So try not to prevent too many packages from upgrades, especially libraries.

Here are 3 ways of preventing a package from updating in Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint.

1. Prevent package updates using a GUI: Synaptic Package Manager

Synaptic Package Manager, a Gtk graphical package management program for apt, can lock packages which prevents them from being updated.

It's important to note that using Synaptic to lock packages won't keep them from being updated from the command line - running apt upgrade or apt-get upgrade will still upgrade a package locked in Synaptic. Locking packages in Synaptic will prevent package upgrades using Ubuntu's Software Updater app, and possibly other graphical package managers. It will not prevent updating packages using the Linux Mint Update Manager application though. As a result, I recommend using apt-mark or dpkg (see below) to keep packages from updating.

You can install Synaptic Package Manager using this command:

sudo apt install synaptic

To prevent a package from updating using Synaptic, search for it, select the package and from the Synaptic menu click Package -> Lock Version:

Synaptic lock package version

In the same way you can unlock the package too.

To see all locked packages in Synaptic, click Status in the bottom left-hand side, then click on Pinned above the Status section:

Synaptic show locked (pinned) packages

2. Keep a package from updating using apt-mark

Holding packages from updating with apt-mark should prevent them from updating using Ubuntu's Software Updater, as well as command line upgrades (apt upgrade / apt-get upgrade).

You can hold a package from future upgrades (and from being automatically removed) with apt-mark by using this command:

sudo apt-mark hold PACKAGE

Replacing PACKAGE with the package you want to hold from updating.

You can check which packages marked as hold by using:

apt-mark showhold

To remove a hold (so the package can be updated), use:

sudo apt-mark unhold PACKAGE

For both hold and unhold you can specify multiple packages, just like when installing software with apt (separate the packages by a space).

3. Prevent package updates with dpkg

A while back there were some graphical package managers that ignored the apt-mark hold status. I'm not sure if that's still the case, but just to be safe (and in case you're using an old Debian / Ubuntu / Linux Mint version), here's another way of preventing package updates in Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian: dpkg.

To prevent a package from upgrades using dpkg, use:

echo "PACKAGE hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections

You can see all package holds using this command:

dpkg --get-selections | grep hold

To remove the hold (allow the package to be upgraded), use:

echo "PACKAGE install" | sudo dpkg --set-selections

Unlike apt-mark, this solution doesn't allow specifying multiple packages at once.

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!

There are multiple ways of finding out to which package a particular file belongs to, on Ubuntu, Debian or Linux Mint. This article presents two ways of achieving this, both from the command line.

1. Using apt-file to find the package that provides a file (for repository packages, either installed or not installed)

apt-file indexes the contents of all packages available in your repositories, and allows you to search for files in all these packages. 

That means you can use apt-file to search for files inside DEB packages that are installed on your system, as well as packages that are not installed on your Debian (and Debian-based Linux distributions, like Ubuntu) machine, but are available to install from the repositories. This is useful in case you want to find what package contains a file that you need to compile some program, etc.

apt-file cannot find the package that provides a file in case you downloaded a DEB package and installed it, without using a repository. The package needs to be available in the repositories for apt-file to be able to find it.

apt-file may not be installed on your system. To install it in Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and other Debian-based or Ubuntu-based Linux distributions, use this command:

sudo apt install apt-file

This tool find the files belonging to a package by using a database, which needs to be updated in order to be able to use it. To update the apt-file database, use:

sudo apt-file update

Now you can use apt-file to find the DEB package that provides a file, be it a package you've installed from the repositories, or a package available in the repositories, but not installed on your Debian / Ubuntu / Linux Mint system. To do this, run:

apt-file search filename

Replacing filename with the name of the file you want to find.

This command will list all occurrences of filename found in various packages. If you know the exact file path and filename, you can get the search results to only list the package that includes that exact file, like this:

apt-file search /path/to/filename

For example, running only apt-file search cairo.h will list a large list search results:

$ apt-file search cairo.h
fltk1.3-doc: /usr/share/doc/fltk1.3-doc/HTML/group__group__cairo.html
ggobi: /usr/include/ggobi/ggobi-renderer-cairo.h
glabels-dev: /usr/include/libglbarcode-3.0/libglbarcode/lgl-barcode-render-to-cairo.h
glabels-dev: /usr/share/gtk-doc/html/libglbarcode-3.0/libglbarcode-3.0-lgl-barcode-render-to-cairo.html
gstreamer1.0-plugins-good-doc: /usr/share/gtk-doc/html/gst-plugins-good-plugins-1.0/gst-plugins-good-plugins-plugin-cairo.html
guile-cairo-dev: /usr/include/guile-cairo/guile-cairo.h
guitarix-doc: /usr/share/doc/guitarix-doc/namespacegx__cairo.html
ipe: /usr/share/ipe/7.2.7/doc/group__cairo.html
libcairo-ocaml-dev: /usr/share/doc/libcairo-ocaml-dev/html/Pango_cairo.html
libcairo-ocaml-dev: /usr/share/doc/libcairo-ocaml-dev/html/type_Pango_cairo.html
libcairo2-dev: /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h

However, if you know the file path, e.g. you want to find out to which package the file /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h belongs to, run:

apt-file search /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h

This only lists the package that contains this file:

$ apt-file search /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h
libcairo2-dev: /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h

In this example, the package that includes the file I searched for (/usr/include/cairo/cairo.h) is libcairo2-dev.

apt-file may also be used to list all the files included in a package (apt-file list packagename), perform regex search, and more. Consult its man page (man apt-file) and help for more information (apt-file --help).

2. Using dpkg to find the package that provides a file (only for installed DEB packages - from any source)

dpkg can also be used to find out to which package a file belongs to. It can be faster to use than apt-file, because you don't need to install anything, and there's no database to update. 

However, dpkg can only search for files belonging to installed packages, so if you're searching for a file in a package that's not installed on your system, use apt-file. On the other hand, dpkg can be used to find files belonging to packages that were installed without using a repository, a feature that's not available for apt-file.

To use dpkg to find the installed DEB package that provides a file, run it with the -S (or --search) flag, followed by the filename (or pattern) you want to see to which package it belongs, like this:

dpkg -S filename

For example, to find out to which package the cairo.h file belongs to, use dpkg -S cairo.h:

$ dpkg -S cairo.h
libgtk2.0-dev:amd64: /usr/include/gtk-2.0/gdk/gdkcairo.h
libcairo2-dev:amd64: /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h
libpango1.0-dev: /usr/include/pango-1.0/pango/pangocairo.h
libgtk-3-dev:amd64: /usr/include/gtk-3.0/gdk/gdkcairo.h

Just like for apt-file, this may show multiple packages that have files containing the filename you're looking for. You can enter the full path of the file to get only the package that contains that specific file. Example:

$ dpkg -S /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h
libcairo2-dev:amd64: /usr/include/cairo/cairo.h

In this example, the Debian package that includes the file I searched for (/usr/include/cairo/cairo.h) is libcairo2-dev.

Other notable ways of finding the package a file belongs to is using the online search provided by Ubuntu and Debian:

For both, you'll also find options to find the packages that contain files named exactly like your input keyword, packages ending with the keyword, or packages that contains files whose names contain the keyword.

The Linux Mint package search website doesn't include an option to search for files inside packages, but you can use the Ubuntu or Debian online package search for packages that Linux Mint imports from Debian / Ubuntu.

Published in GNU/Linux Rules!
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