Blog of Julian Andres Klode

Debian, Ubuntu, Linux in general, and other free software

Managing system package selections using custom meta packages

Over the last years, I have developed a variety of metapackages for managing the package selections of the systems I administrate. The meta packages are organized like this:

jak-standard
Standard packages for all systems
jak-desktop
Standard packages for all desktop systems (GNOME 3 if possible, otherwise GNOME 2)
jak-printing
Print support
jak-devel
Development packages
jak-machine-<X>
The meta package defining the computer X

Each computer has a jak-machine-X package installed. This package is marked as manually installed, all other packages are marked as automatically installed.

The machine packages have the attribute XB-Important: yes set in debian/control. This creates an Important: yes field. This field is not official, but APT recognizes it and does not remove those packages (the same field is set for the APT package by APT when building the cache, as APT should not be removed either by APT). It seems to work a bit like Essential, with the exception that non-installed packages are not installed automatically on dist-upgrade.

The meta packages are created using seed files similar to Ubuntu. In contrast to Ubuntu, I’m not using germinate to create the packages from the seeds, but a custom dh_germinate_lite that simply takes a seed file and creates the correct substvars. It’s faster than germinate and really simplistic. It also does not handle Recommends currently.

The whole result can be seen on http://anonscm.debian.org/gitweb/?p=users/jak/jak-meta.git. Maybe that’s useful for some people. And if you happen to find some packages in the seeds that are deprecated, please let me know. Oh, and yes, some packages (such as the letterman one) are internal software not publically available yet [letterman is a simple GUI for creating letters using LaTeX].

While I’m at it, I also built Ubuntu’s version of wine1.2 for i386 squeeze. It can be found in
deb http://people.debian.org/~jak/debian/ squeeze main (it still needs a few changes to be correct though, I’ll upload a jak2 build soon). I also built updated sun-java6 packages for my parents (mostly needed due to the plugin, some websites do not work with the IcedTea one), but can’t share the binaries due to licensing requirements. I may push out a source repository, though, so others can build those packages themselves. I’ll let you know once that’s done.

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Written by Julian Andres Klode

January 24, 2012 at 10:43

Posted in Debian, General

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One Response

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  1. I wish I had known about XB-Important earlier… at work, we have lots of trouble with people (accidentally or not) deinstalling our metapackages, to the extent I now have a prerm that echos a message, sends a mail to the admins (to do any manual fixup the box now requires) and exits false. Will apply this header, 10x a lot!

    mirabilos

    January 25, 2012 at 16:53


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