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Package interdependencies

Software that manages the applications installed on the system on an application level (such as RPM) does have one potential drawback in comparison with system-wide software management systems (such as PC operating systems like Microsoft Windows or OS/2, which allow the entire system to be upgraded but do not generally allow individual components to be upgraded, added, or removed). Software applications often have interdependencies; some applications work only when other applications are installed.
The Postfix and Sendmail mail transfer agent (MTA) applications that are commonly used on Linux boxes to serve e-mail, for example, can both be configured to require users to authenticate themselves (by submitting a correct user name and password) successfully before they can use the e-mail server. This feature is often used to prevent unauthorized access to the e-mail server, preventing unscrupulous advertisers from using the server as a tool to send unsolicited commercial e-mail (or UCE, popularly known as spam). For this optional feature of Postfix and Sendmail to work, however, additional software must be installed. Both applications use another application, Cyrus SASL, which provides the Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) software that Postfix or Sendmail can use to check user names and passwords. In other words, Postfix and Sendmail depend on Cyrus SASL.
For system-wide software management systems, logical interdependencies between system components such as these are easy to track. All required components are included as part of the system, and upgrading the system upgrades all these components, ensuring that all can still interoperate. On Microsoft Windows 2000, IIS (the application used on Windows to serve Web pages) requires several other applications such as EventLog (the Windows application that records system events, much like the Linux syslogd and klogd software) to be present. Since Windows is managed on a system level, not a package level, this dependency is guaranteed to be satisfied. On Linux systems using RPM, however, the situation is different. On Linux, for example, the Postfix application requires the syslogd application, which records system events. However, RPM provides the flexibility to install some applications but not install others or to uninstall others later. When you install Postfix, you have no guarantee that syslogd is already installed. If syslogd is not installed, Postfix will not work correctly.
To avoid problems, Red Hat developers realized that RPMs must also track dependency information about what software they require for correct functionality, and that the RPM install and uninstall applications must use this dependency information. Because of dependencies, installing Postfix using RPM on a system without syslogd installed generates a warning that syslogd must also be installed. Similarly, attempting to uninstall syslogd from a system that already has Postfix installed generates a warning that installed applications require the software that is being deleted. These warnings can be overridden if necessary, but by default RPM enforces these dependencies (refusing, for example, to let you uninstall syslogd without also uninstalling applications that require it, such as Postfix), preventing you from accidentally breaking applications by inadvertently uninstalling other software that they require to operate.