This wiki page is intended to be the start of an effort to identify the key points to be able to strap and boot Debian from sources.

There is a real need to bootstrap Debian from sources from porter point of view. Every new architecture or ABI flavour needs to do this at least once, and making it easier than the current 'really very hard' would be great. It is also very useful for cross-compiling to new or non-self-hosted architectures, and for a genuinely new arch at least part of the system (toolchains+build-essential) has to be cross-built until there is enough to become self-hosting.

Recent new bootstraps have been done for sh4, armhf, uclibc and avr32. More are coming down the line. The subarch flavoured rebuilds are particularly useful on ARM and MIPS architectures.


The toolchain has a complex bootstrapping process involving binutils, gcc, libc and kernel-headers. It has been fixed up (in Ubuntu/Linaro) to bootstrap itself. This has currently only been demonstrated on armel. Once tested/extended to other architectures it can be uploaded in Debian. This work is ongoing, by Marcin Juszkiewicz and Hector Oron.

The toolchain has also had 'flavoured builds' added so tha tit is easy to rebuild the tolchain locally for a different default CPU/ISA/optimisation unit. (e.g with/without VFP or for v5/v7 instruction set on ARM).


The main issue is circular build-dependencies. These fall into three main areas:

The generic way to deal with all of these is 'staged builds', where a version of the package is built with lesser functionality and thus a smaller dependency tree. This allows the depending package to then be built, then for the 'staged' package to be built normally.

A partial spec has been proposed here: This document fills out that spec and proposes some further ideas.

Use DEB_STAGE variable to specify a staged build to dpkg-buildpackage. When it is not set, zero or null then a normal build occurs. Some packages may need more than one pre-stage. We do not know what the maximum number of stages needed is: it may be two, but to assume so would be foolish so counting up from negtive numbers makes it clear what is going on. So we would have DEB_STAGE=-2, DEB_STAGE=-1 and 'normal' (or DEB_STAGE=0).

Any 'staged' package must be identified as such in the metadata so it is not accidentally uploaded as a 'real' package.

For documentation issues being able to specify DEB_BUILD_OPTS=nodocs would be simplest. This affects

Size of the problem

We are not sure exactly how many circular dependencies there are in Debian and Ubuntu. For many applications only a relatively small set of packages is needed and some analysis of the problem size will be recorded here in due course.

We expect that less than 50 packages will need significant work.