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a. I'm wondering for some software if it is wiser to install them from sources or from official repositories when available like:

  • glpi inventory
  • fusion inventory
  • monitoring tools like nagios

I tried both for glpi: compiled from sources and installing from repositories. I also installed zabbix from sources.

b. What about new software releases providing enhancements: is it better to keep the release installed from the repositories /compiled or is their a 'best practice' like downloading the new software release and compiling it again (I really have no clue)?

Could someone make it more clear for me?

Thanks!

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2 Answers 2

I would take a more cautious attitude than @Mogget. Anyone who is experienced and skilled is probably justified in feeling that he can try just about anything. But let me repeat here Debian guidelines to sysadm:

Warning

Do not install packages from random mixture of suites. It probably breaks the package consistency which requires deep system management knowledge, such as compiler ABI, library version, interpreter features, etc.

The newbie Debian system administrator should stay with the stable release of Debian while applying only security updates. I mean that some of the following valid actions are better avoided, as a precaution, until you understand the Debian system very well. Here are some reminders.

Do not include testing or unstable in "/etc/apt/sources.list".

Do not mix standard Debian with other non-Debian archives such as Ubuntu in "/etc/apt/sources.list".

Do not create "/etc/apt/preferences".

Do not change default behavior of package management tools through configuration files without knowing their full impacts.

Do not install random packages by "dpkg -i ".

Do not ever install random packages by "dpkg --force-all -i ".

Do not erase or alter files in "/var/lib/dpkg/".

Do not overwrite system files by installing software programs directly compiled from source.

Install them into "/usr/local" or "/opt", if needed.

The non-compatible effects caused by above actions to the Debian package management system may leave your system unusable.

The serious Debian system administrator who runs mission critical servers, should use extra precautions.

Do not install any packages including security updates from Debian without thoroughly testing them with your particular configuration under safe conditions.

You as the system administrator are responsible for your system in the end.

The long stability history of the Debian system is no guarantee by itself.

Apologies for being pedantic.

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When installing software, you will get a lot more control over your software in terms of security if you choose to install from source instead of the official repositories. However, if you do not have the necessary skills and time to actually check the source for malicious or erroneous code, then the point of compiling and installing from source is gone.

Another big problem when installing from source is that unless you are using some software or system to keep track of files that is being distributed around in your filesystem, you will have great troubles removing the software at a later time. Also if you wish to update the software, old and redundant files might be left laying around, which in general is not considered good and might create another attack vector for a perpetrator.

By choosing to install from the official repositories, you get software that has been checked and packaged by someone that has in-dept understanding of the software. Since Debian uses a long time to test and release new functionality on the software, you also have a pretty good idea that the software should just work for most users.

When talking about using other repositories to get software updates. In general it is recommended that one stick to using the stable release repositories because the software has been tested well against the other packages provided, but if the installation is for your own personal use or you have special needs that the software on Debians repositories can not provide, there is nothing that prohibits you from doing so if you accept the dangers and problems that might be there.

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