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*.rpm files are packages for Red Hat Linux... similar to .*tar files for all versions of Linux. Usually they will install with a minimum of fuss (eg. not having to do a 'make install' or similar)
 

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yep Midnights correct, they will save you the hassle of the make or make install etc. But if your going to use linux I would recommend compiling the .rpm's from source, or using the bins in .tar.gz format and the reason for this is allot of the rpms out there were compiled on slower machines which mean they wont run at optimum speed on your system.
 
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