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If you need a software app that is not included or supported in the standard Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or CentOS distribution, Red Hat's new Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) repository might be an excellent place to go fishing.
"EPEL is a community of package maintainers working from inside of Fedora," explained Karsten Wade, Fedora Docs Project go-to guy, on the fedora-announce-list last Friday. "Many are the same people who maintain the Fedora version." Wade says the repository contains about 1,000 packages and currently is adding "several dozen packages every week."
Though Red Hat provides the infrastructure, the company does not commercially support the repository. Like Fedora, it is a "volunteer-based community effort," according to the EPEL/FAQ. Red Hat engineers are involved as maintainers and project leaders. The FAQ explains that EPEL differs from other third-party repositories in several significant ways:
Additionally, it is "an explicit goal of the project" to make sure packages in the repository will work not only with RHEL but with other Fedora derivatives such as CentOS and Scientific Linux.
Compatibility with other third-party repositories may be an issue, according to the FAQ.
EPEL is designed as add-on repository for RHEL and compatible derivatives. Avoiding mixing EPEL with other third party repositories with conflicting packages on the same system is the best way to avoid problems. Some people nevertheless do it and the yum priorities plugin can help to avoid the worst problems.
If you encounter a problem where packages from EPEL are incompatible with another repository or lead yum or up2date to bail out during dependency resolving please report a bug to Bugzilla and contact the maintainer of the other repositories as well.
If you use RHEL or one of its spin-offs, you are welcome to contribute to the repository "if you have the required skills for maintaining packages or are willing to learn," according to the FAQ, which provides detailed information for would-be contributors and/or maintainers. More info for everyone is available at the EPEL wiki.
By the way, if you are one of those folks who uses enterprise Linux on your home computer, you might be interested to learn that the repository also includes games and "other non-enterprise oriented software."