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A Debian repository is a set of Debian packages organized in a special directory tree, together with some infrastructure (checksums, indices, signatures, desciption translations, ...), that allows debian users to easily update their system or install additional software.

Anatomy of a repository

The following description is mostly for people who browse a repository using a standard web browser and wonder what is where and how everything fits together. A more precise and technical description is in Format.

A debian repository contains several releases. Debian releases are named after characters from the "Toy Story" movies (wheezy, jessie, stretch, ...). The codenames have aliases, so called suites (stable, oldstable, testing, unstable) A release is divided in several components. In debian these are named main, contrib, and non-free and indicate the licensing terms of the software they contain. A release also has packages for various architectures amd64, i386, mips, powerpc, s390x, ...) as well as sources and architecture independent packages.

The root directory of a repository has a directory dists which in turn has a directory for each release and suite, the latter usually symlinks to the former, but the browser won't show you a difference. Each release subdirectory contains a cryptographically signed Release file and a directory for each component. Inside these are directories for the different architectures, named binary-<arch> and sources. And in these are files Packages that are text files containing the meta data of packages. Hmm, so where are the actual packages?

The packages themselves are below pool in the root directory of the repository. Below pool there are again directories for all the components, and in these are directories named 0, ..., 9, a, b, ... z, liba, ... , libz. And in these are directories named after the software package they contain, and these directories finally contain the actual packages, i.e the .deb files. The name is not necessarily the name of the package itself, the package bsdutils e.g resides in the pool/main/u/util-linux directory, it is the name of the source that the package is generated from. A single upstream source may generate several binary packages, and all of them will end up in the same subdirectory below pool. The additional single letter directories are just a trick to avoid having too many entries in a single directory which is what many systems traditionally have performance problems with.


A list of mirrors :


Here is the list of the software included in each Debian distribution :

Working with repositories