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I'm new to Linux and I like using Mint 17, but I don't understand why the Synaptic Package Manager doesn't have the most recent software. For example Eclipse 4.5 is available, but the manage only has 3.x, which was released about 3 years ago. I want to install the most recent things, but looking up how to for each program is a bit of a hassle for someone who's technical experience is about 98% on Windows.

So, why doesn't the manager have at least fairly recent updates and is there a reasonable solution (besides me magically learning about Linux overnight)?

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Reason - most distributions cannot update all packages straight away, as often they need to test each version, and sometimes specific patches need to make it work on the distribution. Also, with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (which Mint 17 is based on), the packages are supposed to be more stable vs being new and up to date. Third party developers sadly don't always offer the latest packages for most Linux distros as they are not always used as much as other OSs.

Solution - Eclipse is available as a pre-compiled tarball package which you can install by downloading from here. You can then follow the steps in this answer on AU to install it (you need to get the package for you architecture - read this if you don't know it):

If you've downloaded Eclipse from their official website, follow these steps for the installation.

  1. Extract the eclipse.XX.YY.tar.gz using

    tar -zxvf eclipse.XX.YY.tar.gz
    
  2. Become root and Copy the extracted folder to /opt

    sudo mv eclipse.XX.YY /opt
    
  3. Create a desktop file and install it:

    gedit eclipse.desktop
    

    and copy the following to the eclipse.desktop file.

    [Desktop Entry]
    Name=Eclipse 
    Type=Application
    Exec=env UBUNTU_MENUPROXY=0 eclipse44
    Terminal=false
    Icon=eclipse
    Comment=Integrated Development Environment
    NoDisplay=false
    Categories=Development;IDE;
    Name[en]=Eclipse
    

    then execute the following command to automatically install it in the unity:

    sudo desktop-file-install eclipse.desktop
    
  4. Create a symlink in /usr/local/bin using

    sudo ln -s /opt/eclipse/eclipse /usr/local/bin/eclipse44
    
  5. For eclipse icon to be displayed in dash, eclipse icon can be added as

    sudo cp /opt/eclipse/icon.xpm /usr/share/pixmaps/eclipse.xpm
    
  6. Don't forget that you need to have either OpenJDK or Sun Java installed to be able to run eclipse. Check this question for more information about Java installation. Here is a simple example of installing Open JDK 1.6:

    sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jdk
    
  7. Launch eclipse and then give it the required permissions to modify the osgi file:

    sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /opt/eclipse/configuration/org.eclipse.osgi
    

With Ubuntu and similar systems, there are also sometimes PPAs available which often have newer versions of some software available - in this case I can only find this PPA which only has version 3.7.

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