This chapter is written assuming the latest stable release is codename: lenny.
Debian is a volunteer organization which builds consistent distributions of pre-compiled binary packages of free software and distributes them from its archive.
The Debian archive is offered by many remote mirror sites for access through HTTP and FTP methods. It is also available as CD-ROM/DVD.
The Debian package management system, when used properly, offers the user to install consistent sets of binary packages to the system from the archive. Currently, there are 28313 packages available for the amd64 architecture.
The Debian package management system has a rich history and many choices for the front end user program and back end archive access method to be used. Currently, we recommend aptitude(8) as the main front end program for the Debian package management activity.
Table 2.1. List of Debian package management tools
Package popcon size description
Aptitude * V:27, I:98 10920 terminal-based package manager (current standard, front-end for apt)
Apt * V:90, I:99 4776 Advanced Packaging Tool (APT), front-end for dpkg providing “http”, “ftp”, and “file” archive access methods (apt-get/apt-cache commands included)
Tasksel * V:7, I:94 904 tool for selecting tasks for installation on Debian system (front-end for APT)
Unattended-upgrades * V:4, I:25 216 enhancement package for APT to enable automatic installation of security upgrades
Dselect * V:3, I:39 1836 terminal-based package manager (previous standard, front-end for APT and other old access methods)
Dpkg * V:92, I:99 6000 package management system for Debian
Synaptic * V:16, I:43 6264 graphical package manager (GNOME front-end for APT)
Kpackage * V:5, I:11 936 graphical package manager (KDE front-end for APT)
Apt-utils * V:53, I:99 440 APT utility programs: apt-extracttemplates(1), apt-ftparchive(1), and
Apt-listchanges * V:7, I:10 500 package change history notification tool
Apt-listbugs * V:1.5, I:2 508 lists critical bugs before each APT installation
Apt-file * V:2, I:9 184 APT package searching utility – command-line interface
Apt-rdepends * V:0.16, I:0.9 92 recursively lists package dependencies
The annoying bug #411123 for the mixed use of aptitude(8) and apt-get(8) commands has been resolved. If this kept you from using aptitude, please reconsider.
2.1. Debian package management prerequisites
2.1.1. Package configuration
Here are some key points for package configuration on the Debian system.
* The manual configuration by the system administrator is respected. In other words, the package configuration system makes no intrusive configuration for the sake of convenience.
* Each package comes with its own configuration script with standardized user interface called debconf(7) to help initial installation process of the package.
* Debian Developers try their best to make your upgrade experience flawless with package configuration scripts.
* Full functionalities of packaged software are available to the system administrator. But ones with security risks are disabled in the default installation.
* If you manually activate a service with some security risks, you are responsible for the risk containment.
* Esoteric configuration may be manually enabled by the system administrator. This may creates interference with popular generic helper programs for the system configuration.
2.1.2. Basic precautions