Rpmfind is an online database of software packages for Linux systems, found at http://www.rpmfind.net/. As the name implies, it only contains packages for distributions using the RPM package manager, the most prominent of which are Red Hat Linux, Linux-Mandrake, Fedora Core, and Suse Linux. (Similar repositories exist for other packaging systems, such as apt-get.org for Debian derivatives.) The website used to be associated with a command-line tool, also called rpmfind, which queries the Rpmfind database without requiring a web browser. This tool has been abandoned and the WWW interface is now the only supported interface to the Rpmfind database.

Rpmfind mirrors host full mirrors of most RPM-based distributions, a number of third-party RPM repositories, and numerous developer-provided RPM packages. This archive is then indexed into a database, which can be browsed by a number of different characteristics. The packages are indexed by distribution, package group, packager, creation date, and name, and the database is also opened to a flexible, though simple, search interface. It is possible to search on any item an RPM package can demand as a dependency, whether it is a package, a file, or a pseudopackage satisfiable by multiple real packages. Since Rpmfind contains packages for many processor architectures, multiple distributions, and several generations of software, the search can be filtered so that only packages that appear to be compatible are returned.

Appearance does not always match reality, however. RPM-based distributions have a number of divergences that can cause problems, as they often use different, incompatible toolchains or different, incompatible naming schemes for packages. (For example, Suse packages are well-known for having completely different names than their Red Hat/Mandrake counterparts.) Even if the package is compatible with your distribution, it may still have unsatisfied dependencies of its own, necessitating further trips through Rpmfind. Rpmfind does provide listings for each package containing all of the package metadata, including dependencies and changelogs, but, nevertheless, Rpmfind does little to soothe the annoyances of manual dependency resolution.

This is the real crux of the problem, which has caused Rpmfind to stagnate in recent years. Most of the problems it solves are solved automatically by smart package managers like yum and apt, to the relief of many users and administrators. Distributions are also more all-encompassing than in the days of Red Hat 6.x, with projects like Fedora Extras seamlessly including even more software. All of these efforts offer yum repositories or equivalent, cutting Rpmfind out of the loop. This neglect shows on the site; the HTML looks like it was designed for Netscape 4, few things outside the database have been updated in the past five years, the Suse packages are often vastly out of date, and broken links to abandoned projects appear sporadically on the site. Its position as the largest index of RPM packages on the Web has been replaced by the more up-to-date site at http://rpm.pbone.net/. Clearly, Rpmfind's most important times are behind it.

This writeup is copyright 2005 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ .

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