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I am looking to use specific software in Linux - some of the fancier security kernel patches, maths software such as Isabelle, the Spark compiler, nVidia drivers, nothing exceptionally exotic and certainly software that either exists, or has existed, as some sort of Linux package for some sort of Linux distribution.

However, searching every Linux distribution's catalogue by hand is... slow, there may be namespace clashes that would make manual installation precarious (as well as painful when hidden dependencies get updated) and I haven't rolled my own distro since 2004.

What would be better would be a site where I can plug in the packages I want and where it will tell me what options provide the closest match to my needs. SPARQL has been around for a while and RDFa markup would provide that info to a search system. A screen scraper that can retrieve the info would work just as well. However, I don't want to start a debate over whether that should be done or who by. If it has been done, could anyone tell me where to find such a search engine?

The third option, the realistic one I'm afraid, is a matrix showing distro vs packages, the version being the cell value. If it's not automated, it's hard to be sure of the accuracy. (And if it is automated, may the Wumpus devour their cheese sandwiches for not using a searchable system.) Are there any good such matrices showing a reasonable selection of distributions?

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There are services like rpmfind (for RPM packages), while Debian (with their policy to package anything that compiles) is it's own index. For other systems, like lesser Linux distributions or the BSDs, you'd have to look at them specifically (and packages aren't portable among them anyway).

Most largeish projects will have packages, pointers to packages, or at least detailed build instructions. If the package is obscure, better stay away unless the need is dire or you are very knowledgeable (i.e., are part of it's development team).

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