• Status: draft

Delta upgrade debs

Delta upgrades are widely used by other projects, such as Chrome, Android, FreeBSD, Fedora. One approach exists for dpkg-based systems: debdelta. While debdelta solves the problem, it does so in a sub-optimal way:


A new format, called "patch debs" (.pdeb) is introduced. A patch deb consists of the original members from the target deb, with the following changes:

Furthermore, all .deb files are assigned a unique ID at build time, stored in the "ID" field of DEBIAN/control.

Unpacking a .pdeb

Unpacking a .pdeb works identically to a normal .deb, with one exception: The line copying the data to .dpkg-new from the data.tar tarball is replaced by code that uses the diff in the data.tar tarball and the installed file to generate the .dpkg-new.

The .dpkg-new is checksummed and must match the checksum(s) specified in the control.tar member of the pdeb. Packages without checksums may not have deltas.

Repository integration v0

A new index file is established alongside Packages and Sources, called Deltas. The Deltas index has the following fields

When upgrading a package:

Repository layout v2

Alongside Packages files, provide a Deltas bloom filter. The bloom filter of size b uses the concatenation of the old id and the new id as a set of hash functions, taking n-bytes of input as an integer, using it as an offset.

The numbers n and b should be chosen such that the rate of false positives for rejected deltas is about 1%. The Deltas bloom filter is stored in binary form, and not compressed.

For each source package, provide an inline signed Deltas index that contains, for each delta, the following fields:

the path name is fixed as

and not included.

Performance evaluation

All results on a ?ThinkPad X230 with a Core i5-3320M and 16 GB of RAM. Generation times are measured with a libdivsufsort-based bsdiff (or rather, a fork) and a more normal bsdiff.




Generation Time

Apply Time

firefox (55.0-1 -> 55.0-2)





firefox (54.0-2 -> 55.0-2)





gcc-7 (7.2.0-1 -> 7.2.0-3)





Binary diffing

The bsdiff fork is maintained at https://github.com/julian-klode/ddelta.