Basic Debian Packaging

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This class is not currently offered. Laurel 21:32, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

The Basic Debian Packaging class should give a basic understanding of how to build a debian package from some common types of source tarballs or repositories, with the assistance of several helper utilities.



suggested background

  • rudimentary understanding of building and compiling software
  • basic understanding of cvs or subversion


  • upstream

the source of the software- the originating author, the current development team

  • downstream

the packager of software- a debian maintainer

most of ubuntu's software comes directly from debian, so debian would be considered upstream to ubuntu. most of debian's packages come from other projects, such as GNU, Linux, KDE and GNOME, which would be considered upstream to debian.

  • top level of source directory

the directory in which the source code is unpacked.

tips for working environment

  • keep a web browser pointed to this page
  • open several terminal windows
  • don't forget to use the "man" command, or -h and --help
  • commandline reminders
    • remember to use tab completion.
    • hit tab twice, fast.
    • hit tab again!
    • remember to use the up arrow to re-do a previous command
    • keep hitting tab!

topics covered

prep work

finding software

  • is it already packaged:
  • other sources of software:

grab and unpack a tarball

  • gnu hello:
tar xvzf hello-2.1.1.tar.gz

environment variables

DEBFULLNAME="Your Name Here"

the debian directory

creating the debian directory

  • using dh_make (package dh-make)
dh_make -s -c gpl
  • dh-make-perl for packaging perl modules

contents of a debian directory

  • copyright
    • add copyright holder's name and relevent copyright
egrep -ri copyright * | less
  • changelog
    • dch (a.k.a. debchange, part of the devscripts package)
    • version
    • release
dch -i

This is the most important section, and the part that's least susceptible to manpages.

  • control - what packages are being made, what dependencies there are, who made them, and descriptions
  • rules - the file that controls the build process
  • other files (note that these may not be needed for a proper makefile-based source package)
    • *.install - in here, put all the files you want installed, first their location in the tree, then a space, then their location in the filesystem, but leave off the root / at the beginning.
    • *.manpages
    • *.examples
    • *.init
    • *.postinst
    • *.postrm
  • other examples: *.ex and *.EX files

cdbs basics

  • add cdbs to build-depends or build-depends-indep debian/control
  • magic snippet for a complete debian/rules file (i.e. replace rules with the following lines):
#!/usr/bin/make -f
# uncomment the next line if using a makefile-based source
#include /usr/share/cdbs/1/class/
# uncomment the next line if using a autotools-based source
#include /usr/share/cdbs/1/class/
include /usr/share/cdbs/1/rules/
  • look in /usr/share/cdbs/1/class for more source types


  • without gpg keys:
debuild -uc -us

basic troubleshooting

  • lesspipe
lesspipe ../hello_2.1.1_i386.deb | less
  • build dependencies
  • package dependencies
    • install in a clean debian base-install
    • pbuilder/sbuild


  • debian policy checker
lintian -i ../hello_2.1.1_i386.changes

additional and related topics