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$ cat /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/99local
APT::Default-Release       "stable";
APT::Install-Recommends    "false";
APT::Get::Purge            "true";
Acquire::Languages         "en";
DPkg::Pre-Invoke           { "mount -o remount,exec   /tmp" };
DPkg::Post-Invoke          { "mount -o remount,noexec /tmp" };
// DPkg::Post-Install-Pkgs { "xargs debsums --silent --generate=missing" };
// Acquire::http::Proxy    "http://proxy:3128";
// Acquire::http::No-Cache false;                 // Debian #564829, Debian #703146
// DSelect:Clean           always;                // always|auto|prompt|never
// Acquire::Check-Valid-Until false;              // E: Release file expired[1]
// Acquire::ForceIPv4      "true";


Apparenty apt-get now supports[2] mirror:// URLs for quite some time[3]:

$ cat /etc/apt/sources.list
deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt     trusty          main universe multiverse
deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt     trusty-updates  main universe multiverse
deb mirror://mirrors.ubuntu.com/mirrors.txt     trusty-security main universe multiverse

Note: apt-file can't handle mirror:// links[4].


Unattended Upgrades can be activated like this:

apt-get install unattended-upgrades

The /etc/cron.daily/apt cronjob should already be in place. To actually active unattended-upgrades:

$ cat /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades 
APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";
APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "1";
$ cat /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades
Unattended-Upgrade::Origins-Pattern {

// Send email to this address for problems or packages upgrades
Unattended-Upgrade::Mail "root";


Ignore questions with a priority less than...

dpkg-reconfigure -p low debconf
→ Dialog
→ low



Be sure to do the following after every (dist-)upgrade and see if the new config files require attention:

find /etc/ -name "*.dpkg*" -o -name "*.ucf*"

Display (some) obsolete packages:

dpkg -l | grep -i transitional

deborphan might also be helpful to show leftover packages, not really required by any other package:

$ deborphan --guess-all

Sometimes deborphan complains about a corrupt status file[5]:

deborphan: The status file is in an improper state.
One or more packages are marked as half-installed, half-configured,
unpacked, triggers-awaited or triggers-pending. Exiting.

Check the status file with:

egrep '^Status: |^Package: ' /var/lib/dpkg/status | \
egrep -B 1 'half-installed|half-configured|unpacked|triggers-awaited|triggers-pending'

...and run dpkg --audit or dpkg --configure --pending afterwards, this should help.


And then there's dpkg itself, listing installed packages with their current status:

$ dpkg --get-selections | grep -Pv '\tinstall$'
bsdgames-nonfree                                purge
hfsutils                                        deinstall
unrar                                           hold


How to rebuild a Debian package, e.g. sitecopy:

sudo apt-get install fakeroot debhelper dpatch

Maybe install package-specific build dependencies:

sudo apt-get install libexpat1-dev libgnutls-dev libneon27-gnutls-dev libxml2-dev
apt-get source sitecopy
cd sitecopy*
patch -p1 < ~/sitecopy.diff                      # Some custom patch(es) may be applied


With dpkg-query the package database can be queried. The --showformat option accepts over 30 different fieldnames, listed in the man page. To show all known fields for a package, the following can be used:

$ dpkg-query -W -f="$(for i in `man dpkg-query | grep -A32 Architecture | awk '{print $1}'`; do \
       printf "### $i: \${$i}\\\n"; done | sed 's/\\n $//')" cowsay
### Architecture: all
### Bugs:
### Conffiles:
### Config-Version:

To find out which packages were installed from a different section[6], use:

$ dpkg-query -W --showformat='Section: ${Section}     \t Package: ${Package}\n' | fgrep / | sort -k2
Section: contrib/doc             Package: gcc-doc
Section: contrib/doc             Package: gcc-doc-base
Section: contrib/games           Package: game-data-packager
Section: contrib/games           Package: quake2
Section: contrib/games           Package: quake3

However, that still doesn't show us from which releases a package was installed from. For that, we have to use apt-show-versions:

$ apt-show-versions | grep /unstable
broadcom-sta-dkms:all/unstable uptodate
dnsdiag:all/unstable 1.6.3-1 uptodate
enigmail:all/unstable 2: uptodate

We could employ apt-cache for this too, but it's ever so ugly:

$ dpkg --get-selections | awk '{print $1}' | while read p; do
     printf "$p\t"
     apt-cache showpkg "$p" | awk '/^[0-9].*Packages\)/ {print $2}' | head -1
done | grep -v main
deborphan       (/var/lib/apt/lists/mirrors.ubuntu.com_mirrors.txt_dists_vivid_universe_binary-amd64_Packages)
debsums (/var/lib/apt/lists/mirrors.ubuntu.com_mirrors.txt_dists_vivid_universe_binary-amd64_Packages)
haveged (/var/lib/apt/lists/mirrors.ubuntu.com_mirrors.txt_dists_vivid_universe_binary-amd64_Packages)

If aptitude[7] is installed:

$ aptitude search ~i -F "%s# %p" | grep /
universe/admin                deborphan
universe/admin                debsums
universe/misc                 haveged
universe/mail                 heirloom-mailx

Remove old kernels

Fedora seems to clean up old kernel itself and never keeps more than 3 kernels around[8]. With Debian, one has to do this manually:

apt-get purge $(dpkg -l | awk '/linux-(headers|image)-[0-9]/ {print $2}' | grep -v `uname -r | cut -d- -f1,2`)

E: trying to overwrite shared package

Sometimes this happens:

$ apt-get -f install
Unpacking libaudio2:amd64 (1.9.4-1+b1) ...
dpkg: error processing archive /var/cache/apt/archives/libaudio2_1.9.4-1+b1_amd64.deb (--unpack):
  trying to overwrite shared '/usr/share/doc/libaudio2/changelog.Debian.gz', which is different \
  from other instances of package libaudio2:amd64
Errors were encountered while processing:
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

This can be solved[9] by forcing the installation with:

dpkg -i --force-overwrite /var/cache/apt/archives/libaudio2_1.9.4-1+b1_amd64.deb
apt-get -f install

List reverse dependencies

During apt-get upgrade, a package is updated and we'd like to know why this package is installed - i.e. what packages depend on this package:

$ apt-cache rdepends libpq5 | xargs dpkg -s 2>/dev/null | grep ^Package
Package: libpq5
Package: nagios-plugins-standard
Package: nagios-plugins-standard
Package: proftpd-mod-pgsql

APT pinning

For pinning to work, 3 files need to be modified:


Let's say we want to install testing packages on a Debian stable installation:

$ grep ^deb /etc/apt/sources.list
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/    squeeze         main contrib non-free
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/    squeeze-updates main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/         squeeze/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian     testing         main


Specify our default release:

$ grep Default /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/99local 
APT::Default-Release    "stable";


The actual pinning takes place in /etc/apt/preferences or a configuration file fragment in /etc/apt/preferences.d:

$ cat /etc/apt/preferences.d/10pinning.pref 
Package: *
Pin: release a=stable
Pin-Priority: 900

Package: *
Pin: release o=Debian
Pin-Priority: -10

Now we can install packages from testing but apt-get upgrade won't upgrade any other packages:

$ apt-get upgrade 
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.

$ apt-cache show cowsay | grep ^Version
Version: 3.03+dfsg1-2                    ← stable
Version: 3.03+dfsg1-3                    ← testing

$ apt-get install cowsay/testing
Selected version '3.03+dfsg1-3' (Debian:testing [all]) for 'cowsay'

$ dpkg -s cowsay | grep ^Version
Version: 3.03+dfsg1-3

Note that pinning one package does mean that it can be installed right away, as it often depends on other packages from the pinned repository as well:

$ cat /etc/apt/preferences.d/90rtorrent.pref
Package: rtorrent
Pin: release a=testing
Pin-Priority: 990

$ apt-get install rtorrent/testing
Selected version '0.8.9-2' (Debian:testing [powerpc]) for 'rtorrent'
The following packages have unmet dependencies:
rtorrent : Depends: libstdc++6 (>= 4.6) but 4.4.5-8 is to be installed
           Depends: libtinfo5 but it is not going to be installed
           Depends: libtorrent14 but it is not going to be installed
           Depends: libxmlrpc-core-c3 but it is not installable
E: Broken packages

Installing via -t may give better results:

$ apt-get -t testing install rtorrent
The following packages will be upgraded:
  cpp-4.4 (4.4.5-8 => 4.4.6-14)
  g++-4.4 (4.4.5-8 => 4.4.6-14)
  gcc-4.4 (4.4.5-8 => 4.4.6-14)
  gcc-4.4-base (4.4.5-8 => 4.4.6-14)
  libc-bin (2.11.3-3 => 2.13-27)
  libc-dev-bin (2.11.3-3 => 2.13-27)
  libc6 (2.11.3-3 => 2.13-27)
  libc6-dbg (2.11.3-3 => 2.13-27)
  libc6-dev (2.11.3-3 => 2.13-27)
  libgcc1 (4.4.5-8 => 4.6.3-1)
  libgfortran3 (4.4.5-8 => 4.6.3-1)
  libgomp1 (4.4.5-8 => 4.6.3-1)
  libmpfr4 (3.0.0-2 => 3.1.0-3)
  libstdc++6 (4.4.5-8 => 4.6.3-1)
  libstdc++6-4.4-dev (4.4.5-8 => 4.4.6-14)
  locales (2.11.3-3 => 2.13-27)
  make (3.81-8 => 3.81-8.1)
  pkg-config (0.25-1.1 => 0.26-1)
  rtorrent (0.8.6-1 => 0.8.9-2)

...at which point we might cancel the request and install from source :-\


update-alternatives can be used to manage different versions of the same software. As an example, consider this:

$ dpkg -l | awk '/ gcc/ {print $2" "$3}'
gcc 4:4.9.2-3
gcc-4.9 4.9.2-15
gcc-4.9-base:amd64 4.9.2-15
gcc-5 5.1.1-2
gcc-5-base:amd64 5.1.1-2

Let's make GCC-5 the default. For some reason, gcc is not managed by update-alternatives yet:

$ update-alternatives --config gcc
update-alternatives: error: no alternatives for gcc

For completness' sake, let's remove all related existing alternatives:

for p in gcc cc g++ c++ cpp gcov; do update-alternatives --verbose --remove-all "$p"; done

Now we can install alternatives:

update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/gcc gcc /usr/bin/gcc-$V 20 --slave /usr/bin/g++ g++ /usr/bin/g++-$V --slave /usr/bin/cpp cpp /usr/bin/cpp-$V --slave /usr/bin/gcov gcov /usr/bin/gcov-$V --slave /usr/bin/cc cc /usr/bin/gcc-$V --slave /usr/bin/c++ c++ /usr/bin/g++-$V

update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/gcc gcc /usr/bin/gcc-$V 10 --slave /usr/bin/g++ g++ /usr/bin/g++-$V --slave /usr/bin/cpp cpp /usr/bin/cpp-$V --slave /usr/bin/gcov gcov /usr/bin/gcov-$V --slave /usr/bin/cc cc /usr/bin/gcc-$V --slave /usr/bin/c++ c++ /usr/bin/g++-$V

Let's look at what happened:

$ ls -lgotr /etc/alternatives/ | tail -5
lrwxrwxrwx 1  15 May  1 00:23 gcov -> /usr/bin/gcov-5
lrwxrwxrwx 1  14 May  1 00:23 gcc -> /usr/bin/gcc-5
lrwxrwxrwx 1  14 May  1 00:23 g++ -> /usr/bin/g++-5
lrwxrwxrwx 1  14 May  1 00:23 cpp -> /usr/bin/cpp-5
lrwxrwxrwx 1  14 May  1 00:23 cc -> /usr/bin/gcc-5

And also, in /usr/bin:

$ ls -lgotr /usr/bin | tail -5
lrwxrwxrwx 1      22 May  1 00:23 gcov -> /etc/alternatives/gcov
lrwxrwxrwx 1      21 May  1 00:23 gcc -> /etc/alternatives/gcc
lrwxrwxrwx 1      21 May  1 00:23 g++ -> /etc/alternatives/g++
lrwxrwxrwx 1      21 May  1 00:23 cpp -> /etc/alternatives/cpp
lrwxrwxrwx 1      20 May  1 00:23 cc -> /etc/alternatives/cc

We can also switch versions now:

$ update-alternatives --config gcc
There are 2 choices for the alternative gcc (providing /usr/bin/gcc).

  Selection    Path              Priority   Status
  0            /usr/bin/gcc-4.9   20        auto mode
  1            /usr/bin/gcc-4.9   20        manual mode
* 2            /usr/bin/gcc-5     10        manual mode

Press enter to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number: 0
update-alternatives: using /usr/bin/gcc-4.9 to provide /usr/bin/gcc (gcc) in auto mode

$ gcc --version
gcc (Debian 4.9.2-15) 4.9.2
Copyright (C) 2014 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO


Apt-Cacher NG is a caching proxy for Debian and Ubuntu packages. Installation and configuration is pretty straightforward:

sudo apt-get install apt-cacher-ng

During setup, a working configuration is generated:

$ cat /etc/apt-cacher-ng/acng.conf 
CacheDir: /var/cache/apt-cacher-ng
LogDir: /var/log/apt-cacher-ng
CacheDir: /var/cache/apt-cacher-ng

# Here's where the magic happens...
Remap-debrep: file:deb_mirror*.gz /debian ; file:backends_debian # Debian Archives
Remap-uburep: file:ubuntu_mirrors /ubuntu ; file:backends_ubuntu # Ubuntu Archives
Remap-debvol: file:debvol_mirror*.gz /debian-volatile ; file:backends_debvol             # Debian Volatile Archives
Remap-cygwin: file:cygwin_mirrors /cygwin # ; file:backends_cygwin                       # Incomplete
Remap-sfnet:  file:sfnet_mirrors # ; file:backends_sfnet                                 # Incomplete
Remap-alxrep: file:archlx_mirrors /archlinux # ; file:backend_archlx                     # Arch Linux
Remap-fedora: file:fedora_mirrors                                                        # Fedora Linux
Remap-epel:   file:epel_mirrors                                                          # Fedora EPEL
Remap-slrep:  file:sl_mirrors                                                            # Scientific Linux
Remap-gentoo: file:gentoo_mirrors.gz /gentoo ; file:backends_gentoo                      # Gentoo Archives

ReportPage:   acng-report.html
ExTreshold:   120                                                                        # Increased from 4
LocalDirs:    acng-doc /usr/share/doc/apt-cacher-ng

With that in place, apt-get can be pointed to use it as a proxy and apt-cacher-ng will happily do so.

Failover Proxy

As the APT proxy will only be available in our local network, let's fail gently[10] when it's not reachable. We'll use Acquire::http::ProxyAutoDetect[11] for that purpose:

$ grep Detect /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/99local
Acquire::http::ProxyAutoDetect "/usr/local/bin/apt-proxy-detect";

And the apt-proxy-detect helper script should look something like this:


for proxy in $PROXIES; do
       if nc -w1 -z ${proxy/:/ }; then
               echo http://$proxy
echo "DIRECT"

With that, a proxy is selected only when reachable, otherwise a DIRECT connection will be used.



While "apt-get upgrade" upgrades all packages, sometimes one only wants to upgrade some packages[12]:

apt-get install --only-upgrade PACKAGENAME


Show manually installed packages:

apt-mark showmanual

Show automatically installed packages:

apt-mark showauto

Install only security updates:[13]

grep security /etc/apt/sources.list > /etc/apt/sources.list.security
apt-get -V upgrade -o Dir::Etc::SourceList=/etc/apt/sources.list.security


Sometimes apt-get may not have all the needed functionality[14] and we can just use apt to do the job:

$ apt moo 
          / |    ||   
         *  /\---/\ 
            ~~   ~~   
..."Have you mooed today?"...