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What to choose - Official or Community?

Many Mandriva users remember the time when we released two versions of the distribution, Community and Official. Since the release of Mandriva Linux 2005, we have no longer released Community ISOs, but you may have heard that Community still exists in a sense. If you're not sure what this means, read on!

Most readers will know that to gain access to the widest possible range of packages for Mandriva Linux, you can use an Internet server as a package source (an 'urpmi media' in Mandriva jargon). There are several websites and Mandriva applications which can help you to set up urpmi media. In some of them, you may see a choice between "Official" and "Community" media.

The difference

The choice reflects the fact that, on the Mandriva mirror sites, there are actually two different versions of each distribution since Mandriva Linux 10.0. This is how the lowest level of a normal Mandriva mirror site looks:

""/MandrivaLinux""
/devel
/10.0
/10.1
/10.2
/2006.0
/official
/updates
/10.0
/10.1
/10.2
/2006.0

There are some other directories, but they can be ignored for now. The tree for each distribution in the /devel directory is the "Community" version of that distribution. The tree in the /official directory is the "Official" version. The difference is simple. The "Official" version of each distribution is the reference version. It is the exact state of the distribution at the moment the official discs for that version were made. At that point, the Official version is frozen, and it never changes. The files in this tree never change. You will notice the /official directory also contains a /updates sub-directory. This is where the official updates for each distribution, produced and signed by the security team, are stored. When you run Mandriva Update or Mandriva Online, they look for updates in this area. If you run a copy of Mandriva Linux 2006 installed from the official CDs and you keep it up to date by running Mandriva Update and Mandriva Online, you can say you run the "Official" version of Mandriva Linux 2006: all the packages you have will be in /official/2006.0 or /official/updates/2006.0.

Unlike the "Official" tree, the "Community" tree for each version of Mandriva is not frozen. It starts off the same as the Official tree, but from that point on, updated packages can be added to it. Firstly, all the updates produced by the security team (which normally live in /official/updates) are also copied into the "Community" tree. However, the "Community" tree also gets other updates. Some of these updates are small, non-security related updates and fixes which did not need to be issued as full "official" updates. "Community" also contains updates for some packages from the "contrib" directory, which contains packages which the security team does not officially support. So you can see that the "Community" tree is a more dynamic, up-to-date tree than "Official". The "Community" tree is used as the base for updated versions of each Mandriva Linux release. For instance, the special Christmas edition of Mandriva Linux 2006 for the Mandriva Club was based on the Mandriva Linux 2006 "Community" tree as it stood in December 2005, and Mandriva Linux One 2006 is based on the "Community" tree as it stood at the start of March 2006. This means that if you install one of these updated versions of Mandriva Linux, or if you install from the official CDs then use the "Community" tree as a source of packages, you are running the "Community" version of Mandriva Linux.

Using "Community" is a good way to access updates and fixes for your Mandriva Linux system which may not be available yet through the official security updates mechanism. Here's a couple of hints. If you installed Mandriva Linux One 2006, there's an easy way to use the "Community" tree as a package source: simply go to the system menu, look under System / Configuration / Packaging, and click on "Software Media Manager". Now click the "Add" button, and select "Distribution Sources". Pick a mirror, and you now have urpmi media set up for the "Community" tree! If you installed Mandriva a different way, you can use the community Easy URPMI website to help set up urpmi media. Just visit http://easyurpmi.zarb.org/ and set your Mandriva version to Community, then follow the site through and run the commands it generates. Once you have your media set up, there's two ways you can quickly update any packages you have installed which have updates in "Community": using the graphical package installer - rpmdrake - you can use the "All packages, by update availability" search filter, or using the command line installer - urpmi - you can use this command: urpmi --auto-select .
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