New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Finally, we have a tool that will end some serious headaches, whohas. According to the project's readme file:

whohas is a command-line tool that allows querying several package lists at once—currently supported are Arch, Debian, Gentoo and Slackware. whohas is written in Perl and was designed to help package maintainers find ebuilds, pkgbuilds and similar package definitions from other distributions to learn from. However, it also can be used by normal users who want to know: what distribution has packages available for apps upon which the user depends and what version of a given package is in use in each distribution or in each release of a distribution (implemented only for Debian).

whohas makes finding obscure packages a breeze.


whohas is genuinely very easy to install and is unlikely to have unresolved dependencies on most systems. Compilation isn't a worry either, as whohas is merely a Perl script that gets copied into your /usr/bin directory. To install whohas, grab the latest tarball from the whohas Web site, extract the contents, and open a terminal in the new folder. Then, as root or sudo, enter the following command:

# ./


Once whohas is installed, using the program is as easy as entering:

$ whohas nameofpackage

You needn't be super-specific either. A simple search like “quake”, “audacity” or “chartr” will do fine—no need for entering something like “chartr_0.16_i386.deb”. whohas then scans a number of repositories and prints the results out to screen one by one. If nothing comes up at first, don't despair; it still might be searching. whohas also provides URLs to more details about the package, so project maintainer Philipp Wesche recommends using a terminal that recognises hyperlinks and allows easy forwarding to the browser. And, as with most *nix command-line programs of this nature, the results can be piped through to grep and the like for further refinement (and if you know what that means, you don't need me to explain how it works).

I'm hoping whohas will become an everyday tool the way we use something like whereis or grep. whohas is a fantastic little project that should have existed years ago, and hopefully, it will make its way into many distributions by default.

John Knight is a 24-year-old, drumming- and climbing-obsessed maniac from the world's most isolated city—Perth, Western Australia. He can usually be found either buried in an Audacity screen or thrashing a kick-drum beyond recognition.


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.