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 * command-line options
 * AptKeys
 * apt_preferences
 * AptSources
 * apt.conf
 * SourcesLists - lists of software repositories (sources)
 * AptKeys - keys for secure verification of packages authenticity
 * {{{apt_preferences}}} and {{{apt.conf}}} described below

WIP: refactoring of https://wiki.debian.org/AptConf and other apt configuration pages

Apt is configured by several resources, including:

  • ?SourcesLists - lists of software repositories (sources)

  • ?AptKeys - keys for secure verification of packages authenticity

  • apt_preferences and apt.conf described below


See man 5 apt_preferences

Apt pinning

When multiple Apt repositories are enabled, a package can exist in several of them. To know which one should be installed, Apt assigns priorities to packages. The default is 500.

  • If the packages have the same priority, the package with a higher version number (most recent) wins.
  • If packages have different priorities, the one with the higher priority wins.

Pinning allows changing priorities for only some packages/repositories, so that you can:

  • Prefer a DebianBackports package over a Stable one: by default DebianBackports repositories have a lower priority than stable (100). They won't be installed unless explicitely configured to (or the package only exists in backports).

  • Prefer a DebianStable package over an experimental/unstable repo: you may want to add a third-party repository with more recent versions, but only allow some of them to be installed.

With a few exceptions it is not recommended to mix repositories/releases unless their are specially prepared . See DontBreakDebian.

To view priority of a specific package, use apt-cache policy:

$ apt-cache policy claws-mail
  Installed : (none)
  Candidate : 3.14.1-3+b1
 Version table :
     3.17.1-1~bpo9+1 100
        100 https://deb.debian.org/debian stretch-backports/main amd64 Packages
     3.14.1-3+b1 500
        500 https://deb.debian.org/debian stretch/main amd64 Package

In that case the package that would be installed (Candidate) would be the older, 3.14 version from stretch/main. stretch-backports/main has a newer version 3.17, but a lower priority (100 vs 500 for stretch)

If we really, always want the newer package from stretch-backports, we can configure Apt to do so. Considering your Apt sources are:

# Debian stable
deb http://deb.debian.org/debian stable main #default priority 500
deb http://deb.debian.org/debian stable-backports main #default priority 100

Tell Apt to prefer the package (higher priority) from stretch-backports. Edit the file /etc/apt/preferences.d/99debian-backports (create it):

Package: claws-mail
Pin: release a=stretch-backports
Pin-Priority: 900

Now installing the claws-mail package will install the newer version.

To prevent installation of newer packages from a third-party repository, even if it has equal priority, edit the file /etc/apt/preferences.d/99my-custom-repository:

# Never prefer packages from the my-custom-repo repository
Package: *
Pin: origin o=my-custom-repo
Pin-Priority: 1

# Allow upgrading only my-specific-software from my-custom-repo
Package: my-specific-software
Pin: origin o=my-custom-repo
Pin-Priority: 500

File naming in /etc/apt/preferences.d/ is free but the last in alphabetical order takes precedence.


See man 5 apt.conf

Apt accepts configuration files (without extension) in /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/. These are processed by Apt in numeric/alphabetical order. /etc/apt/apt.conf is also valid but deprecated.

These files can contain various directives:

  • Dpkg::Pre-Install-Pkgs {"mycommand";};: executes mycommand before package installation/unpacking by Dpkg.

  • Dpkg::Pre-Invoke {"mycommand";};: executes mycommand before apt calls dpkg

  • Dpkg::Post-Invoke {"mycommand";};: executes mycommand after apt calls dpkg

  • Pre-Install-Pkgs: ??? TODO

  • APT::Default-Release "testing";: sets the default Debian release used by Apt (TODO use case?)

  • APT::Cache-Limit 10000000;: ??? TODO

  • Apt::Get::Purge;: ??? TODO

  • Acquire::http::Proxy "http://proxy:8080";: sets the proxy for HTTP downloads

  • Acquire::https::Proxy "https://proxy:8443";: sets the proxy for HTTPS downloads

  • Acquire::http::Timeout "2";: sets the timeout for HTTP downloads

  • Acquire::https::Timeout "2";: sets the timeout for HTTPS downloads

  • Acquire::ftp::Timeout "2";: sets the timeout for FTP downloads

If you really have to use FTP, this sets the FTP proxy:

   Proxy "ftp://proxy:2121/";
      "USER $(SITE_USER)@$(SITE)";
      "PASS $(SITE_PASS)";

Command line options

PackageManagementTools such as apt, aptitude, apt-get... allow you to set specific configuration options for a single run. See their respective ?ManPages.