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Debian Developer's Reference
Chapter 5 - Managing Packages


This chapter contains information related to creating, uploading, maintaining, and porting packages.


5.1 New packages

If you want to create a new package for the Debian distribution, you should first check the Work-Needing and Prospective Packages (WNPP) list. Checking the WNPP list ensures that no one is already working on packaging that software, and that effort is not duplicated. Read the WNPP web pages for more information.

Assuming no one else is already working on your prospective package, you must then submit a bug report (Bug reporting, Section 7.1) against the pseudo-package wnpp describing your plan to create a new package, including, but not limiting yourself to, a description of the package, the license of the prospective package, and the current URL where it can be downloaded from.

You should set the subject of the bug to ``ITP: foo -- short description'', substituting the name of the new package for foo. The severity of the bug report must be set to wishlist. If you feel it's necessary, send a copy to debian-devel@lists.debian.org by putting the address in the X-Debbugs-CC: header of the message (no, don't use CC:, because that way the message's subject won't indicate the bug number).

Please include a Closes: bug#nnnnn entry in the changelog of the new package in order for the bug report to be automatically closed once the new package is installed in the archive (see When bugs are closed by new uploads, Section 5.8.4).

When closing security bugs include CVE numbers as well as the "Closes: #nnnnn". This is useful for the security team to track vulnerabilities. If an upload is made to fix the bug before the advisory ID is known, it is encouraged to modify the historical changelog entry with the next upload. Even in this case, please include all available pointers to background information in the original changelog entry.

There are a number of reasons why we ask maintainers to announce their intentions:

Please see http://ftp-master.debian.org/REJECT-FAQ.html for common rejection reasons for a new package.


5.2 Recording changes in the package

Changes that you make to the package need to be recorded in the debian/changelog. These changes should provide a concise description of what was changed, why (if it's in doubt), and note if any bugs were closed. They also record when the package was completed. This file will be installed in /usr/share/doc/package/changelog.Debian.gz, or /usr/share/doc/package/changelog.gz for native packages.

The debian/changelog file conforms to a certain structure, with a number of different fields. One field of note, the distribution, is described in Picking a distribution, Section 5.5. More information about the structure of this file can be found in the Debian Policy section titled "debian/changelog".

Changelog entries can be used to automatically close Debian bugs when the package is installed into the archive. See When bugs are closed by new uploads, Section 5.8.4.

It is conventional that the changelog entry of a package that contains a new upstream version of the software looks like this:

       * new upstream version

There are tools to help you create entries and finalize the changelog for release — see devscripts, Section A.6.1 and dpkg-dev-el, Section A.6.6.

See also Best practices for debian/changelog, Section 6.3.


5.3 Testing the package

Before you upload your package, you should do basic testing on it. At a minimum, you should try the following activities (you'll need to have an older version of the same Debian package around):


5.4 Layout of the source package

There are two types of Debian source packages:

For the native packages, the source package includes a Debian source control file (.dsc) and the source tarball (.tar.gz). A source package of a non-native package includes a Debian source control file, the original source tarball (.orig.tar.gz) and the Debian patches (.diff.gz).

Whether a package is native or not is determined when it is built by dpkg-buildpackage(1). The rest of this section relates only to non-native packages.

The first time a version is uploaded which corresponds to a particular upstream version, the original source tar file should be uploaded and included in the .changes file. Subsequently, this very same tar file should be used to build the new diffs and .dsc files, and will not need to be re-uploaded.

By default, dpkg-genchanges and dpkg-buildpackage will include the original source tar file if and only if the Debian revision part of the source version number is 0 or 1, indicating a new upstream version. This behavior may be modified by using -sa to always include it or -sd to always leave it out.

If no original source is included in the upload, the original source tar-file used by dpkg-source when constructing the .dsc file and diff to be uploaded must be byte-for-byte identical with the one already in the archive.

Please notice that, in non-native packages, permissions on files that are not present in the .orig.tar.gz will not be preserved, as diff does not store file permissions in the patch.


5.5 Picking a distribution

Each upload needs to specify which distribution the package is intended for. The package build process extracts this information from the first line of the debian/changelog file and places it in the Distribution field of the .changes file.

There are several possible values for this field: `stable', `unstable', `testing-proposed-updates' and `experimental'. Normally, packages are uploaded into unstable.

Actually, there are two other possible distributions: `stable-security' and `testing-security', but read Handling security-related bugs, Section 5.8.5 for more information on those.

It is not possible to upload a package into several distributions at the same time.


5.5.1 Special case: uploads to the stable distribution

Uploading to stable means that the package will transfered to the p-u-new-queue for review by the stable release managers, and if approved will be installed in stable-proposed-updates directory of the Debian archive. From there, it will be included in stable with the next point release.

Extra care should be taken when uploading to stable. Basically, a package should only be uploaded to stable if one of the following happens:

In the past, uploads to stable were used to address security problems as well. However, this practice is deprecated, as uploads used for Debian security advisories are automatically copied to the appropriate proposed-updates archive when the advisory is released. See Handling security-related bugs, Section 5.8.5 for detailed information on handling security problems.

Changing anything else in the package that isn't important is discouraged, because even trivial fixes can cause bugs later on.

Packages uploaded to stable need to be compiled on systems running stable, so that their dependencies are limited to the libraries (and other packages) available in stable; for example, a package uploaded to stable that depends on a library package that only exists in unstable will be rejected. Making changes to dependencies of other packages (by messing with Provides or shlibs files), possibly making those other packages uninstallable, is strongly discouraged.

The Release Team (which can be reached at debian-release@lists.debian.org) will regularly evaluate the uploads To stable-proposed-updates and decide if your package can be included in stable. Please be clear (and verbose, if necessary) in your changelog entries for uploads to stable, because otherwise the package won't be considered for inclusion.

It's best practice to speak with the stable release manager before uploading to stable/stable-proposed-updates, so that the uploaded package fits the needs of the next point release.


5.5.2 Special case: uploads to testing/testing-proposed-updates

Please see the information in the testing section for details.


5.6 Uploading a package


5.6.1 Uploading to ftp-master

To upload a package, you should upload the files (including the signed changes and dsc-file) with anonymous ftp to ftp-master.debian.org in the directory /pub/UploadQueue/. To get the files processed there, they need to be signed with a key in the debian keyring.

Please note that you should transfer the changes file last. Otherwise, your upload may be rejected because the archive maintenance software will parse the changes file and see that not all files have been uploaded.

You may also find the Debian packages dupload, Section A.5.1 or dput, Section A.5.2 useful when uploading packages. These handy programs help automate the process of uploading packages into Debian.

For removing packages, please see the README file in that ftp directory, and the Debian package dcut, Section A.5.3.


5.6.2 Delayed uploads

Delayed uploads are done for the moment via the delayed queue at gluck. The upload-directory is gluck:~tfheen/DELAYED/[012345678]-day. 0-day is uploaded multiple times per day to ftp-master.

With a fairly recent dput, this section

     [tfheen_delayed]
     method = scp
     fqdn = gluck.debian.org
     incoming = ~tfheen

in ~/.dput.cf should work fine for uploading to the DELAYED queue.

Note: Since this upload queue goes to ftp-master, the prescription found in Uploading to ftp-master, Section 5.6.1 applies here as well.


5.6.3 Security uploads

Do NOT upload a package to the security upload queue (oldstable-security, stable-security, etc.) without prior authorization from the security team. If the package does not exactly meet the team's requirements, it will cause many problems and delays in dealing with the unwanted upload. For details, please see section Handling security-related bugs, Section 5.8.5.


5.6.4 Other upload queues

The scp queues on ftp-master, and security are mostly unusable due to the login restrictions on those hosts.

The anonymous queues on ftp.uni-erlangen.de and ftp.uk.debian.org are currently down. Work is underway to resurrect them.

The queues on master.debian.org, samosa.debian.org, master.debian.or.jp, and ftp.chiark.greenend.org.uk are down permanently, and will not be resurrected. The queue in Japan will be replaced with a new queue on hp.debian.or.jp some day.

For the time being, the anonymous ftp queue on auric.debian.org (the former ftp-master) works, but it is deprecated and will be removed at some point in the future.


5.6.5 Notification that a new package has been installed

The Debian archive maintainers are responsible for handling package uploads. For the most part, uploads are automatically handled on a daily basis by the archive maintenance tools, katie. Specifically, updates to existing packages to the `unstable' distribution are handled automatically. In other cases, notably new packages, placing the uploaded package into the distribution is handled manually. When uploads are handled manually, the change to the archive may take up to a month to occur. Please be patient.

In any case, you will receive an email notification indicating that the package has been added to the archive, which also indicates which bugs will be closed by the upload. Please examine this notification carefully, checking if any bugs you meant to close didn't get triggered.

The installation notification also includes information on what section the package was inserted into. If there is a disparity, you will receive a separate email notifying you of that. Read on below.

Note that if you upload via queues, the queue daemon software will also send you a notification by email.


5.7 Specifying the package section, subsection and priority

The debian/control file's Section and Priority fields do not actually specify where the file will be placed in the archive, nor its priority. In order to retain the overall integrity of the archive, it is the archive maintainers who have control over these fields. The values in the debian/control file are actually just hints.

The archive maintainers keep track of the canonical sections and priorities for packages in the override file. If there is a disparity between the override file and the package's fields as indicated in debian/control, then you will receive an email noting the divergence when the package is installed into the archive. You can either correct your debian/control file for your next upload, or else you may wish to make a change in the override file.

To alter the actual section that a package is put in, you need to first make sure that the debian/control file in your package is accurate. Next, send an email override-change@debian.org or submit a bug against ftp.debian.org requesting that the section or priority for your package be changed from the old section or priority to the new one. Be sure to explain your reasoning.

For more information about override files, see dpkg-scanpackages(1) and http://www.debian.org/Bugs/Developer#maintincorrect.

Note that the Section field describes both the section as well as the subsection, which are described in Sections, Section 4.6.1. If the section is "main", it should be omitted. The list of allowable subsections can be found in http://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-archive.html#s-subsections.


5.8 Handling bugs

Every developer has to be able to work with the Debian bug tracking system. This includes knowing how to file bug reports properly (see Bug reporting, Section 7.1), how to update them and reorder them, and how to process and close them.

The bug tracking system's features are described in the BTS documentation for developers. This includes closing bugs, sending followup messages, assigning severities and tags, marking bugs as forwarded, and other issues.

Operations such as reassigning bugs to other packages, merging separate bug reports about the same issue, or reopening bugs when they are prematurely closed, are handled using the so-called control mail server. All of the commands available on this server are described in the BTS control server documentation.


5.8.1 Monitoring bugs

If you want to be a good maintainer, you should periodically check the Debian bug tracking system (BTS) for your packages. The BTS contains all the open bugs against your packages. You can check them by browsing this page: http://bugs.debian.org/yourlogin@debian.org.

Maintainers interact with the BTS via email addresses at bugs.debian.org. Documentation on available commands can be found at http://www.debian.org/Bugs/, or, if you have installed the doc-debian package, you can look at the local files /usr/share/doc/debian/bug-*.

Some find it useful to get periodic reports on open bugs. You can add a cron job such as the following if you want to get a weekly email outlining all the open bugs against your packages:

     # ask for weekly reports of bugs in my packages
     0 17 * * fri   echo "index maint address" | mail request@bugs.debian.org

Replace address with your official Debian maintainer address.


5.8.2 Responding to bugs

When responding to bugs, make sure that any discussion you have about bugs is sent both to the original submitter of the bug, and to the bug itself (e.g., 123@bugs.debian.org). If you're writing a new mail and you don't remember the submitter email address, you can use the 123-submitter@bugs.debian.org email to contact the submitter and to record your mail within the bug log (that means you don't need to send a copy of the mail to 123@bugs.debian.org).

If you get a bug which mentions "FTBFS", this means "Fails to build from source". Porters frequently use this acronym.

Once you've dealt with a bug report (e.g. fixed it), mark it as done (close it) by sending an explanation message to 123-done@bugs.debian.org. If you're fixing a bug by changing and uploading the package, you can automate bug closing as described in When bugs are closed by new uploads, Section 5.8.4.

You should never close bugs via the bug server close command sent to control@bugs.debian.org. If you do so, the original submitter will not receive any information about why the bug was closed.


5.8.3 Bug housekeeping

As a package maintainer, you will often find bugs in other packages or have bugs reported against your packages which are actually bugs in other packages. The bug tracking system's features are described in the BTS documentation for Debian developers. Operations such as reassigning, merging, and tagging bug reports are described in the BTS control server documentation. This section contains some guidelines for managing your own bugs, based on the collective Debian developer experience.

Filing bugs for problems that you find in other packages is one of the "civic obligations" of maintainership, see Bug reporting, Section 7.1 for details. However, handling the bugs in your own packages is even more important.

Here's a list of steps that you may follow to handle a bug report:

  1. Decide whether the report corresponds to a real bug or not. Sometimes users are just calling a program in the wrong way because they haven't read the documentation. If you diagnose this, just close the bug with enough information to let the user correct their problem (give pointers to the good documentation and so on). If the same report comes up again and again you may ask yourself if the documentation is good enough or if the program shouldn't detect its misuse in order to give an informative error message. This is an issue that may need to be brought up with the upstream author.

    If the bug submitter disagrees with your decision to close the bug, they may reopen it until you find an agreement on how to handle it. If you don't find any, you may want to tag the bug wontfix to let people know that the bug exists but that it won't be corrected. If this situation is unacceptable, you (or the submitter) may want to require a decision of the technical committee by reassigning the bug to tech-ctte (you may use the clone command of the BTS if you wish to keep it reported against your package). Before doing so, please read the recommended procedure.

  1. If the bug is real but it's caused by another package, just reassign the bug to the right package. If you don't know which package it should be reassigned to, you should ask for help on IRC or on debian-devel@lists.debian.org. Please make sure that the maintainer(s) of the package the bug is reassigned to know why you reassigned it.

    Sometimes you also have to adjust the severity of the bug so that it matches our definition of the severity. That's because people tend to inflate the severity of bugs to make sure their bugs are fixed quickly. Some bugs may even be dropped to wishlist severity when the requested change is just cosmetic.

  1. If the bug is real but the same problem has already been reported by someone else, then the two relevant bug reports should be merged into one using the merge command of the BTS. In this way, when the bug is fixed, all of the submitters will be informed of this. (Note, however, that emails sent to one bug report's submitter won't automatically be sent to the other report's submitter.) For more details on the technicalities of the merge command and its relative, the unmerge command, see the BTS control server documentation.

  1. The bug submitter may have forgotten to provide some information, in which case you have to ask them for the required information. You may use the moreinfo tag to mark the bug as such. Moreover if you can't reproduce the bug, you tag it unreproducible. Anyone who can reproduce the bug is then invited to provide more information on how to reproduce it. After a few months, if this information has not been sent by someone, the bug may be closed.

  1. If the bug is related to the packaging, you just fix it. If you are not able to fix it yourself, then tag the bug as help. You can also ask for help on debian-devel@lists.debian.org or debian-qa@lists.debian.org. If it's an upstream problem, you have to forward it to the upstream author. Forwarding a bug is not enough, you have to check at each release if the bug has been fixed or not. If it has, you just close it, otherwise you have to remind the author about it. If you have the required skills you can prepare a patch that fixes the bug and send it to the author at the same time. Make sure to send the patch to the BTS and to tag the bug as patch.

  1. If you have fixed a bug in your local copy, or if a fix has been committed to the CVS repository, you may tag the bug as pending to let people know that the bug is corrected and that it will be closed with the next upload (add the closes: in the changelog). This is particularly useful if you are several developers working on the same package.

  1. Once a corrected package is available in the unstable distribution, you can close the bug. This can be done automatically, read When bugs are closed by new uploads, Section 5.8.4.


5.8.4 When bugs are closed by new uploads

As bugs and problems are fixed in your packages, it is your responsibility as the package maintainer to close these bugs. However, you should not close a bug until the package which fixes the bug has been accepted into the Debian archive. Therefore, once you get notification that your updated package has been installed into the archive, you can and should close the bug in the BTS. Also, the bug should be closed with the correct version.

However, it's possible to avoid having to manually close bugs after the upload — just list the fixed bugs in your debian/changelog file, following a certain syntax, and the archive maintenance software will close the bugs for you. For example:

     acme-cannon (3.1415) unstable; urgency=low
     
       * Frobbed with options (closes: Bug#98339)
       * Added safety to prevent operator dismemberment, closes: bug#98765,
         bug#98713, #98714.
       * Added man page. Closes: #98725.

Technically speaking, the following Perl regular expression describes how bug closing changelogs are identified:

       /closes:\s*(?:bug)?\#\s*\d+(?:,\s*(?:bug)?\#\s*\d+)*/ig

We prefer the closes: #XXX syntax, as it is the most concise entry and the easiest to integrate with the text of the changelog. Unless specified different by the -v-switch to dpkg-buildpackage, only the bugs closed in the most recent changelog entry are closed (basically, exactly the bugs mentioned in the changelog-part in the .changes file are closed).

Historically, uploads identified as Non-maintainer upload (NMU) were tagged fixed instead of being closed, but that practice was ceased with the advent of version-tracking. The same applied to the tag fixed-in-experimental.

If you happen to mistype a bug number or forget a bug in the changelog entries, don't hesitate to undo any damage the error caused. To reopen wrongly closed bugs, send a reopen XXX command to the bug tracking system's control address, control@bugs.debian.org. To close any remaining bugs that were fixed by your upload, email the .changes file to XXX-done@bugs.debian.org, where XXX is the bug number, and put "Version: YYY" and an empty line as the first two lines of the body of the email, where YYY is the first version where the bug has been fixed.

Bear in mind that it is not obligatory to close bugs using the changelog as described above. If you simply want to close bugs that don't have anything to do with an upload you made, do it by emailing an explanation to XXX-done@bugs.debian.org. Do not close bugs in the changelog entry of a version if the changes in that version of the package don't have any bearing on the bug.

For general information on how to write your changelog entries, see Best practices for debian/changelog, Section 6.3.


5.8.5 Handling security-related bugs

Due to their sensitive nature, security-related bugs must be handled carefully. The Debian Security Team exists to coordinate this activity, keeping track of outstanding security problems, helping maintainers with security problems or fixing them themselves, sending security advisories, and maintaining security.debian.org.

When you become aware of a security-related bug in a Debian package, whether or not you are the maintainer, collect pertinent information about the problem, and promptly contact the security team at team@security.debian.org as soon as possible. DO NOT UPLOAD any packages for stable; the security team will do that. Useful information includes, for example:


5.8.5.1 Confidentiality

Unlike most other activities within Debian, information about security issues must sometimes be kept private for a time. This allows software distributors to coordinate their disclosure in order to minimize their users' exposure. Whether this is the case depends on the nature of the problem and corresponding fix, and whether it is already a matter of public knowledge.

There are several ways developers can learn of a security problem:

In the first two cases, the information is public and it is important to have a fix as soon as possible. In the last case, however, it might not be public information. In that case there are a few possible options for dealing with the problem:

In all cases if the person who reports the problem asks that it not be disclosed, such requests should be honored, with the obvious exception of informing the security team in order that a fix may be produced for a stable release of Debian. When sending confidential information to the security team, be sure to mention this fact.

Please note that if secrecy is needed you may not upload a fix to unstable (or anywhere else, such as a public CVS repository). It is not sufficient to obfuscate the details of the change, as the code itself is public, and can (and will) be examined by the general public.

There are two reasons for releasing information even though secrecy is requested: the problem has been known for a while, or the problem or exploit has become public.


5.8.5.2 Security Advisories

Security advisories are only issued for the current, released stable distribution, and not for testing or unstable. When released, advisories are sent to the debian-security-announce@lists.debian.org mailing list and posted on the security web page. Security advisories are written and posted by the security team. However they certainly do not mind if a maintainer can supply some of the information for them, or write part of the text. Information that should be in an advisory includes:


5.8.5.3 Preparing packages to address security issues

One way that you can assist the security team in their duties is to provide them with fixed packages suitable for a security advisory for the stable Debian release.

When an update is made to the stable release, care must be taken to avoid changing system behavior or introducing new bugs. In order to do this, make as few changes as possible to fix the bug. Users and administrators rely on the exact behavior of a release once it is made, so any change that is made might break someone's system. This is especially true of libraries: make sure you never change the API or ABI, no matter how small the change.

This means that moving to a new upstream version is not a good solution. Instead, the relevant changes should be back-ported to the version present in the current stable Debian release. Generally, upstream maintainers are willing to help if needed. If not, the Debian security team may be able to help.

In some cases, it is not possible to back-port a security fix, for example when large amounts of source code need to be modified or rewritten. If this happens, it may be necessary to move to a new upstream version. However, this is only done in extreme situations, and you must always coordinate that with the security team beforehand.

Related to this is another important guideline: always test your changes. If you have an exploit available, try it and see if it indeed succeeds on the unpatched package and fails on the fixed package. Test other, normal actions as well, as sometimes a security fix can break seemingly unrelated features in subtle ways.

Do NOT include any changes in your package which are not directly related to fixing the vulnerability. These will only need to be reverted, and this wastes time. If there are other bugs in your package that you would like to fix, make an upload to proposed-updates in the usual way, after the security advisory is issued. The security update mechanism is not a means for introducing changes to your package which would otherwise be rejected from the stable release, so please do not attempt to do this.

Review and test your changes as much as possible. Check the differences from the previous version repeatedly (interdiff from the patchutils package and debdiff from devscripts are useful tools for this, see debdiff, Section A.2.3).

Be sure to verify the following items:


5.8.5.4 Uploading the fixed package

Do NOT upload a package to the security upload queue (oldstable-security, stable-security, etc.) without prior authorization from the security team. If the package does not exactly meet the team's requirements, it will cause many problems and delays in dealing with the unwanted upload.

Do NOT upload your fix to proposed-updates without coordinating with the security team. Packages from security.debian.org will be copied into the proposed-updates directory automatically. If a package with the same or a higher version number is already installed into the archive, the security update will be rejected by the archive system. That way, the stable distribution will end up without a security update for this package instead.

Once you have created and tested the new package and it has been approved by the security team, it needs to be uploaded so that it can be installed in the archives. For security uploads, the place to upload to is ftp://security-master.debian.org/pub/SecurityUploadQueue/ .

Once an upload to the security queue has been accepted, the package will automatically be rebuilt for all architectures and stored for verification by the security team.

Uploads which are waiting for acceptance or verification are only accessible by the security team. This is necessary since there might be fixes for security problems that cannot be disclosed yet.

If a member of the security team accepts a package, it will be installed on security.debian.org as well as proposed for the proper distribution-proposed-updates on ftp-master.


5.9 Moving, removing, renaming, adopting, and orphaning packages

Some archive manipulation operations are not automated in the Debian upload process. These procedures should be manually followed by maintainers. This chapter gives guidelines on what to do in these cases.


5.9.1 Moving packages

Sometimes a package will change its section. For instance, a package from the `non-free' section might be GPL'd in a later version, in which case the package should be moved to `main' or `contrib'.[3]

If you need to change the section for one of your packages, change the package control information to place the package in the desired section, and re-upload the package (see the Debian Policy Manual for details). You must ensure that you include the .orig.tar.gz in your upload (even if you are not uploading a new upstream version), or it will not appear in the new section together with the rest of the package. If your new section is valid, it will be moved automatically. If it does not, then contact the ftpmasters in order to understand what happened.

If, on the other hand, you need to change the subsection of one of your packages (e.g., ``devel'', ``admin''), the procedure is slightly different. Correct the subsection as found in the control file of the package, and re-upload that. Also, you'll need to get the override file updated, as described in Specifying the package section, subsection and priority, Section 5.7.


5.9.2 Removing packages

If for some reason you want to completely remove a package (say, if it is an old compatibility library which is no longer required), you need to file a bug against ftp.debian.org asking that the package be removed; as all bugs, this bug should normally have normal severity. Make sure you indicate which distribution the package should be removed from. Normally, you can only have packages removed from unstable and experimental. Packages are not removed from testing directly. Rather, they will be removed automatically after the package has been removed from unstable and no package in testing depends on it.

There is one exception when an explicit removal request is not necessary: If a (source or binary) package is an orphan, it will be removed semi-automatically. For a binary-package, this means if there is no longer any source package producing this binary package; if the binary package is just no longer produced on some architectures, a removal request is still necessary. For a source-package, this means that all binary packages it refers to have been taken over by another source package.

In your removal request, you have to detail the reasons justifying the request. This is to avoid unwanted removals and to keep a trace of why a package has been removed. For example, you can provide the name of the package that supersedes the one to be removed.

Usually you only ask for the removal of a package maintained by yourself. If you want to remove another package, you have to get the approval of its maintainer.

Further information relating to these and other package removal related topics may be found at http://wiki.debian.org/ftpmaster_Removals and http://qa.debian.org/howto-remove.html.

If in doubt concerning whether a package is disposable, email debian-devel@lists.debian.org asking for opinions. Also of interest is the apt-cache program from the apt package. When invoked as apt-cache showpkg package, the program will show details for package, including reverse depends. Other useful programs include apt-cache rdepends, apt-rdepends and grep-dctrl. Removal of orphaned packages is discussed on debian-qa@lists.debian.org.

Once the package has been removed, the package's bugs should be handled. They should either be reassigned to another package in the case where the actual code has evolved into another package (e.g. libfoo12 was removed because libfoo13 supersedes it) or closed if the software is simply no longer part of Debian.


5.9.2.1 Removing packages from Incoming

In the past, it was possible to remove packages from incoming. However, with the introduction of the new incoming system, this is no longer possible. Instead, you have to upload a new revision of your package with a higher version than the package you want to replace. Both versions will be installed in the archive but only the higher version will actually be available in unstable since the previous version will immediately be replaced by the higher. However, if you do proper testing of your packages, the need to replace a package should not occur too often anyway.


5.9.3 Replacing or renaming packages

When you make a mistake naming your package, you should follow a two-step process to rename it. First, set your debian/control file to replace and conflict with the obsolete name of the package (see the Debian Policy Manual for details). Once you've uploaded the package and the package has moved into the archive, file a bug against ftp.debian.org asking to remove the package with the obsolete name. Do not forget to properly reassign the package's bugs at the same time.

At other times, you may make a mistake in constructing your package and wish to replace it. The only way to do this is to increase the version number and upload a new version. The old version will be expired in the usual manner. Note that this applies to each part of your package, including the sources: if you wish to replace the upstream source tarball of your package, you will need to upload it with a different version. An easy possibility is to replace foo_1.00.orig.tar.gz with foo_1.00+0.orig.tar.gz. This restriction gives each file on the ftp site a unique name, which helps to ensure consistency across the mirror network.


5.9.4 Orphaning a package

If you can no longer maintain a package, you need to inform others, and see that the package is marked as orphaned. You should set the package maintainer to Debian QA Group <packages@qa.debian.org> and submit a bug report against the pseudo package wnpp. The bug report should be titled O: package -- short description indicating that the package is now orphaned. The severity of the bug should be set to normal; if the package has a priority of standard or higher, it should be set to important. If you feel it's necessary, send a copy to debian-devel@lists.debian.org by putting the address in the X-Debbugs-CC: header of the message (no, don't use CC:, because that way the message's subject won't indicate the bug number).

If you just intend to give the package away, but you can keep maintainership for the moment, then you should instead submit a bug against wnpp and title it RFA: package -- short description. RFA stands for Request For Adoption.

More information is on the WNPP web pages.


5.9.5 Adopting a package

A list of packages in need of a new maintainer is available in the Work-Needing and Prospective Packages list (WNPP). If you wish to take over maintenance of any of the packages listed in the WNPP, please take a look at the aforementioned page for information and procedures.

It is not OK to simply take over a package that you feel is neglected — that would be package hijacking. You can, of course, contact the current maintainer and ask them if you may take over the package. If you have reason to believe a maintainer has gone AWOL (absent without leave), see Dealing with inactive and/or unreachable maintainers, Section 7.4.

Generally, you may not take over the package without the assent of the current maintainer. Even if they ignore you, that is still not grounds to take over a package. Complaints about maintainers should be brought up on the developers' mailing list. If the discussion doesn't end with a positive conclusion, and the issue is of a technical nature, consider bringing it to the attention of the technical committee (see the technical committee web page for more information).

If you take over an old package, you probably want to be listed as the package's official maintainer in the bug system. This will happen automatically once you upload a new version with an updated Maintainer: field, although it can take a few hours after the upload is done. If you do not expect to upload a new version for a while, you can use The Package Tracking System, Section 4.10 to get the bug reports. However, make sure that the old maintainer has no problem with the fact that they will continue to receive the bugs during that time.


5.10 Porting and being ported

Debian supports an ever-increasing number of architectures. Even if you are not a porter, and you don't use any architecture but one, it is part of your duty as a maintainer to be aware of issues of portability. Therefore, even if you are not a porter, you should read most of this chapter.

Porting is the act of building Debian packages for architectures that are different from the original architecture of the package maintainer's binary package. It is a unique and essential activity. In fact, porters do most of the actual compiling of Debian packages. For instance, for a single i386 binary package, there must be a recompile for each architecture, which amounts to 12 more builds.


5.10.1 Being kind to porters

Porters have a difficult and unique task, since they are required to deal with a large volume of packages. Ideally, every source package should build right out of the box. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. This section contains a checklist of ``gotchas'' often committed by Debian maintainers — common problems which often stymie porters, and make their jobs unnecessarily difficult.

The first and most important thing is to respond quickly to bug or issues raised by porters. Please treat porters with courtesy, as if they were in fact co-maintainers of your package (which, in a way, they are). Please be tolerant of succinct or even unclear bug reports; do your best to hunt down whatever the problem is.

By far, most of the problems encountered by porters are caused by packaging bugs in the source packages. Here is a checklist of things you should check or be aware of.

  1. Make sure that your Build-Depends and Build-Depends-Indep settings in debian/control are set properly. The best way to validate this is to use the debootstrap package to create an unstable chroot environment (see debootstrap, Section A.4.2). Within that chrooted environment, install the build-essential package and any package dependencies mentioned in Build-Depends and/or Build-Depends-Indep. Finally, try building your package within that chrooted environment. These steps can be automated by the use of the pbuilder program which is provided by the package of the same name (see pbuilder, Section A.4.3).

    If you can't set up a proper chroot, dpkg-depcheck may be of assistance (see dpkg-depcheck, Section A.6.7).

    See the Debian Policy Manual for instructions on setting build dependencies.

  1. Don't set architecture to a value other than ``all'' or ``any'' unless you really mean it. In too many cases, maintainers don't follow the instructions in the Debian Policy Manual. Setting your architecture to ``i386'' is usually incorrect.

  1. Make sure your source package is correct. Do dpkg-source -x package.dsc to make sure your source package unpacks properly. Then, in there, try building your package from scratch with dpkg-buildpackage.

  1. Make sure you don't ship your source package with the debian/files or debian/substvars files. They should be removed by the `clean' target of debian/rules.

  1. Make sure you don't rely on locally installed or hacked configurations or programs. For instance, you should never be calling programs in /usr/local/bin or the like. Try not to rely on programs being setup in a special way. Try building your package on another machine, even if it's the same architecture.

  1. Don't depend on the package you're building being installed already (a sub-case of the above issue).

  1. Don't rely on the compiler being a certain version, if possible. If not, then make sure your build dependencies reflect the restrictions, although you are probably asking for trouble, since different architectures sometimes standardize on different compilers.

  1. Make sure your debian/rules contains separate ``binary-arch'' and ``binary-indep'' targets, as the Debian Policy Manual requires. Make sure that both targets work independently, that is, that you can call the target without having called the other before. To test this, try to run dpkg-buildpackage -B.


5.10.2 Guidelines for porter uploads

If the package builds out of the box for the architecture to be ported to, you are in luck and your job is easy. This section applies to that case; it describes how to build and upload your binary package so that it is properly installed into the archive. If you do have to patch the package in order to get it to compile for the other architecture, you are actually doing a source NMU, so consult How to do a NMU, Section 5.11.1 instead.

For a porter upload, no changes are being made to the source. You do not need to touch any of the files in the source package. This includes debian/changelog.

The way to invoke dpkg-buildpackage is as dpkg-buildpackage -B -mporter-email. Of course, set porter-email to your email address. This will do a binary-only build of only the architecture-dependent portions of the package, using the `binary-arch' target in debian/rules.

If you are working on a Debian machine for your porting efforts and you need to sign your upload locally for its acceptance in the archive, you can run debsign on your .changes file to have it signed conveniently, or use the remote signing mode of dpkg-sig.


5.10.2.1 Recompilation or binary-only NMU

Sometimes the initial porter upload is problematic because the environment in which the package was built was not good enough (outdated or obsolete library, bad compiler, ...). Then you may just need to recompile it in an updated environment. However, you have to bump the version number in this case, so that the old bad package can be replaced in the Debian archive (katie refuses to install new packages if they don't have a version number greater than the currently available one).

You have to make sure that your binary-only NMU doesn't render the package uninstallable. This could happen when a source package generates arch-dependent and arch-independent packages that depend on each other via $(Source-Version).

Despite the required modification of the changelog, these are called binary-only NMUs — there is no need in this case to trigger all other architectures to consider themselves out of date or requiring recompilation.

Such recompilations require special ``magic'' version numbering, so that the archive maintenance tools recognize that, even though there is a new Debian version, there is no corresponding source update. If you get this wrong, the archive maintainers will reject your upload (due to lack of corresponding source code).

The ``magic'' for a recompilation-only NMU is triggered by using a suffix appended to the package version number, following the form b<number>. For instance, if the latest version you are recompiling against was version ``2.9-3'', your NMU should carry a version of ``2.9-3+b1''. If the latest version was ``3.4+b1'' (i.e, a native package with a previous recompilation NMU), your NMU should have a version number of ``3.4+b2''. [4]

Similar to initial porter uploads, the correct way of invoking dpkg-buildpackage is dpkg-buildpackage -B to only build the architecture-dependent parts of the package.


5.10.2.2 When to do a source NMU if you are a porter

Porters doing a source NMU generally follow the guidelines found in Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs), Section 5.11, just like non-porters. However, it is expected that the wait cycle for a porter's source NMU is smaller than for a non-porter, since porters have to cope with a large quantity of packages. Again, the situation varies depending on the distribution they are uploading to. It also varies whether the architecture is a candidate for inclusion into the next stable release; the release managers decide and announce which architectures are candidates.

If you are a porter doing an NMU for `unstable', the above guidelines for porting should be followed, with two variations. Firstly, the acceptable waiting period — the time between when the bug is submitted to the BTS and when it is OK to do an NMU — is seven days for porters working on the unstable distribution. This period can be shortened if the problem is critical and imposes hardship on the porting effort, at the discretion of the porter group. (Remember, none of this is Policy, just mutually agreed upon guidelines.) For uploads to stable or testing, please coordinate with the appropriate release team first.

Secondly, porters doing source NMUs should make sure that the bug they submit to the BTS should be of severity `serious' or greater. This ensures that a single source package can be used to compile every supported Debian architecture by release time. It is very important that we have one version of the binary and source package for all architecture in order to comply with many licenses.

Porters should try to avoid patches which simply kludge around bugs in the current version of the compile environment, kernel, or libc. Sometimes such kludges can't be helped. If you have to kludge around compiler bugs and the like, make sure you #ifdef your work properly; also, document your kludge so that people know to remove it once the external problems have been fixed.

Porters may also have an unofficial location where they can put the results of their work during the waiting period. This helps others running the port have the benefit of the porter's work, even during the waiting period. Of course, such locations have no official blessing or status, so buyer beware.


5.10.3 Porting infrastructure and automation

There is infrastructure and several tools to help automate package porting. This section contains a brief overview of this automation and porting to these tools; see the package documentation or references for full information.


5.10.3.1 Mailing lists and web pages

Web pages containing the status of each port can be found at http://www.debian.org/ports/.

Each port of Debian has a mailing list. The list of porting mailing lists can be found at http://lists.debian.org/ports.html. These lists are used to coordinate porters, and to connect the users of a given port with the porters.


5.10.3.2 Porter tools

Descriptions of several porting tools can be found in Porting tools, Section A.7.


5.10.3.3 buildd

The buildd system is used as a distributed, client-server build distribution system. It is usually used in conjunction with auto-builders, which are ``slave'' hosts which simply check out and attempt to auto-build packages which need to be ported. There is also an email interface to the system, which allows porters to ``check out'' a source package (usually one which cannot yet be auto-built) and work on it.

buildd is not yet available as a package; however, most porting efforts are either using it currently or planning to use it in the near future. The actual automated builder is packaged as sbuild, see its description in sbuild, Section A.4.4. The complete buildd system also collects a number of as yet unpackaged components which are currently very useful and in use continually, such as andrea and wanna-build.

Some of the data produced by buildd which is generally useful to porters is available on the web at http://buildd.debian.org/. This data includes nightly updated information from andrea (source dependencies) and quinn-diff (packages needing recompilation).

We are quite proud of this system, since it has so many possible uses. Independent development groups can use the system for different sub-flavors of Debian, which may or may not really be of general interest (for instance, a flavor of Debian built with gcc bounds checking). It will also enable Debian to recompile entire distributions quickly.

The buildds admins of each arch can be contacted at the mail address $arch@buildd.debian.org.


5.10.4 When your package is not portable

Some packages still have issues with building and/or working on some of the architectures supported by Debian, and cannot be ported at all, or not within a reasonable amount of time. An example is a package that is SVGA-specific (only i386), or uses other hardware-specific features not supported on all architectures.

In order to prevent broken packages from being uploaded to the archive, and wasting buildd time, you need to do a few things:

Please note that it is insufficient to only add your package to Packages-arch-specific without making it fail to build on unsupported architectures: A porter or any other person trying to build your package might accidently upload it without noticing it doesn't work. If in the past some binary packages were uploaded on unsupported architectures, request their removal by filing a bug against ftp.debian.org


5.11 Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs)

Under certain circumstances it is necessary for someone other than the official package maintainer to make a release of a package. This is called a non-maintainer upload, or NMU.

This section handles only source NMUs, i.e. NMUs which upload a new version of the package. For binary-only NMUs by porters or QA members, please see Recompilation or binary-only NMU, Section 5.10.2.1. If a buildd builds and uploads a package, that too is strictly speaking a binary NMU. See buildd, Section 5.10.3.3 for some more information.

The main reason why NMUs are done is when a developer needs to fix another developer's package in order to address serious problems or crippling bugs or when the package maintainer is unable to release a fix in a timely fashion.

First and foremost, it is critical that NMU patches to source should be as non-disruptive as possible. Do not do housekeeping tasks, do not change the name of modules or files, do not move directories; in general, do not fix things which are not broken. Keep the patch as small as possible. If things bother you aesthetically, talk to the Debian maintainer, talk to the upstream maintainer, or submit a bug. However, aesthetic changes must not be made in a non-maintainer upload.

And please remember the Hippocratic Oath: "Above all, do no harm." It is better to leave a package with an open grave bug than applying a non-functional patch, or one that hides the bug instead of resolving it.


5.11.1 How to do a NMU

NMUs which fix important, serious or higher severity bugs are encouraged and accepted. You should endeavor to reach the current maintainer of the package; they might be just about to upload a fix for the problem, or have a better solution.

NMUs should be made to assist a package's maintainer in resolving bugs. Maintainers should be thankful for that help, and NMUers should respect the decisions of maintainers, and try to personally help the maintainer by their work.

A NMU should follow all conventions, written down in this section. For an upload to testing or unstable, this order of steps is recommended:

At times, the release manager or an organized group of developers can announce a certain period of time in which the NMU rules are relaxed. This usually involves shortening the period during which one is to wait before uploading the fixes, and shortening the DELAYED period. It is important to notice that even in these so-called "bug squashing party" times, the NMU'er has to file bugs and contact the developer first, and act later. Please see Bug squashing parties, Section 7.2.2 for details.

For the testing distribution, the rules may be changed by the release managers. Please take additional care, and acknowledge that the usual way for a package to enter testing is through unstable.

For the stable distribution, please take extra care. Of course, the release managers may also change the rules here. Please verify before you upload that all your changes are OK for inclusion into the next stable release by the release manager.

When a security bug is detected, the security team may do an NMU, using their own rules. Please refer to Handling security-related bugs, Section 5.8.5 for more information.

For the differences for Porters NMUs, please see When to do a source NMU if you are a porter, Section 5.10.2.2.

Of course, it is always possible to agree on special rules with a maintainer (like the maintainer asking "please upload this fix directly for me, and no diff required").


5.11.2 NMU version numbering

Whenever you have made a change to a package, no matter how trivial, the version number needs to change. This enables our packing system to function.

If you are doing a non-maintainer upload (NMU), you should add a new minor version number to the debian-revision part of the version number (the portion after the last hyphen). This extra minor number will start at `1'. For example, consider the package `foo', which is at version 1.1-3. In the archive, the source package control file would be foo_1.1-3.dsc. The upstream version is `1.1' and the Debian revision is `3'. The next NMU would add a new minor number `.1' to the Debian revision; the new source control file would be foo_1.1-3.1.dsc.

The Debian revision minor number is needed to avoid stealing one of the package maintainer's version numbers, which might disrupt their work. It also has the benefit of making it visually clear that a package in the archive was not made by the official maintainer.

If there is no debian-revision component in the version number then one should be created, starting at `0.1' (but in case of a debian native package still upload it as native package). If it is absolutely necessary for someone other than the usual maintainer to make a release based on a new upstream version then the person making the release should start with the debian-revision value `0.1'. The usual maintainer of a package should start their debian-revision numbering at `1'.

If you upload a package to testing or stable, sometimes, you need to "fork" the version number tree. For this, version numbers like 1.1-3sarge0.1 could be used.


5.11.3 Source NMUs must have a new changelog entry

Anyone who is doing a source NMU must create a changelog entry, describing which bugs are fixed by the NMU, and generally why the NMU was required and what it fixed. The changelog entry will have the email address of the person who uploaded it in the log entry and the NMU version number in it.

By convention, source NMU changelog entries start with the line

       * Non-maintainer upload

5.11.4 Source NMUs and the Bug Tracking System

Maintainers other than the official package maintainer should make as few changes to the package as possible, and they should always send a patch as a unified context diff (diff -u) detailing their changes to the Bug Tracking System.

What if you are simply recompiling the package? If you just need to recompile it for a single architecture, then you may do a binary-only NMU as described in Recompilation or binary-only NMU, Section 5.10.2.1 which doesn't require any patch to be sent. If you want the package to be recompiled for all architectures, then you do a source NMU as usual and you will have to send a patch.

Bugs fixed by source NMUs used to be tagged fixed instead of closed, but since version tracking is in place, such bugs are now also closed with the NMU version.

Also, after doing an NMU, you have to send the information to the existing bugs that are fixed by your NMU, including the unified diff. Historically, it was custom to open a new bug and include a patch showing all the changes you have made. The normal maintainer will either apply the patch or employ an alternate method of fixing the problem. Sometimes bugs are fixed independently upstream, which is another good reason to back out an NMU's patch. If the maintainer decides not to apply the NMU's patch but to release a new version, the maintainer needs to ensure that the new upstream version really fixes each problem that was fixed in the non-maintainer release.

In addition, the normal maintainer should always retain the entry in the changelog file documenting the non-maintainer upload -- and of course, also keep the changes. If you revert some of the changes, please reopen the relevant bug reports.


5.11.5 Building source NMUs

Source NMU packages are built normally. Pick a distribution using the same rules as found in Picking a distribution, Section 5.5, follow the other instructions in Uploading a package, Section 5.6.

Make sure you do not change the value of the maintainer in the debian/control file. Your name as given in the NMU entry of the debian/changelog file will be used for signing the changes file.


5.11.6 Acknowledging an NMU

If one of your packages has been NMU'ed, you have to incorporate the changes in your copy of the sources. This is easy, you just have to apply the patch that has been sent to you. Once this is done, you have to close the bugs that have been tagged fixed by the NMU. The easiest way is to use the -v option of dpkg-buildpackage, as this allows you to include just all changes since your last maintainer upload. Alternatively, you can close them manually by sending the required mails to the BTS or by adding the required closes: #nnnn in the changelog entry of your next upload.

In any case, you should not be upset by the NMU. An NMU is not a personal attack against the maintainer. It is a proof that someone cares enough about the package that they were willing to help you in your work, so you should be thankful. You may also want to ask them if they would be interested in helping you on a more frequent basis as co-maintainer or backup maintainer (see Collaborative maintenance, Section 5.12).


5.11.7 NMU vs QA uploads

Unless you know the maintainer is still active, it is wise to check the package to see if it has been orphaned. The current list of orphaned packages which haven't had their maintainer set correctly is available at http://qa.debian.org/orphaned.html. If you perform an NMU on an improperly orphaned package, please set the maintainer to ``Debian QA Group <packages@qa.debian.org>''.


5.11.8 Who can do an NMU

Only official, registered Debian Developers can do binary or source NMUs. A Debian Developer is someone who has their key in the Debian key ring. Non-developers, however, are encouraged to download the source package and start hacking on it to fix problems; however, rather than doing an NMU, they should just submit worthwhile patches to the Bug Tracking System. Maintainers almost always appreciate quality patches and bug reports.


5.11.9 Terminology

There are two new terms used throughout this section: ``binary-only NMU'' and ``source NMU''. These terms are used with specific technical meaning throughout this document. Both binary-only and source NMUs are similar, since they involve an upload of a package by a developer who is not the official maintainer of that package. That is why it's a non-maintainer upload.

A source NMU is an upload of a package by a developer who is not the official maintainer, for the purposes of fixing a bug in the package. Source NMUs always involves changes to the source (even if it is just a change to debian/changelog). This can be either a change to the upstream source, or a change to the Debian bits of the source. Note, however, that source NMUs may also include architecture-dependent packages, as well as an updated Debian diff.

A binary-only NMU is a recompilation and upload of a binary package for a given architecture. As such, it is usually part of a porting effort. A binary-only NMU is a non-maintainer uploaded binary version of a package, with no source changes required. There are many cases where porters must fix problems in the source in order to get them to compile for their target architecture; that would be considered a source NMU rather than a binary-only NMU. As you can see, we don't distinguish in terminology between porter NMUs and non-porter NMUs.

Both classes of NMUs, source and binary-only, can be lumped under the term ``NMU''. However, this often leads to confusion, since most people think ``source NMU'' when they think ``NMU''. So it's best to be careful: always use ``binary NMU'' or ``binNMU'' for binary-only NMUs.


5.12 Collaborative maintenance

"Collaborative maintenance" is a term describing the sharing of Debian package maintenance duties by several people. This collaboration is almost always a good idea, since it generally results in higher quality and faster bug fix turnaround times. It is strongly recommended that packages with a priority of Standard or which are part of the base set have co-maintainers.

Generally there is a primary maintainer and one or more co-maintainers. The primary maintainer is the person whose name is listed in the Maintainer field of the debian/control file. Co-maintainers are all the other maintainers.

In its most basic form, the process of adding a new co-maintainer is quite easy:

Another form of collaborative maintenance is team maintenance, which is recommended if you maintain several packages with the same group of developers. In that case, the Maintainer and Uploaders field of each package must be managed with care. It is recommended to choose between one of the two following schemes:

  1. Put the team member mainly responsible for the package in the Maintainer field. In the Uploaders, put the mailing list address, and the team members who care for the package.

  1. Put the mailing list address in the Maintainer field. In the Uploaders field, put the team members who care for the package. In this case, you must make sure the mailing list accept bug reports without any human interaction (like moderation for non-subscribers).

In any case, it is a bad idea to automatically put all team members in the Uploaders field. It clutters the Developer's Package Overview listing (see Developer's packages overview, Section 4.11) with packages one doesn't really care for, and creates a false sense of good maintenance.


5.13 The testing distribution


5.13.1 Basics

Packages are usually installed into the `testing' distribution after they have undergone some degree of testing in unstable.

They must be in sync on all architectures and mustn't have dependencies that make them uninstallable; they also have to have generally no known release-critical bugs at the time they're installed into testing. This way, `testing' should always be close to being a release candidate. Please see below for details.


5.13.2 Updates from unstable

The scripts that update the testing distribution are run each day after the installation of the updated packages; these scripts are called britney. They generate the Packages files for the testing distribution, but they do so in an intelligent manner; they try to avoid any inconsistency and to use only non-buggy packages.

The inclusion of a package from unstable is conditional on the following:

To find out whether a package is progressing into testing or not, see the testing script output on the web page of the testing distribution, or use the program grep-excuses which is in the devscripts package. This utility can easily be used in a crontab(5) to keep yourself informed of the progression of your packages into testing.

The update_excuses file does not always give the precise reason why the package is refused; you may have to find it on your own by looking for what would break with the inclusion of the package. The testing web page gives some more information about the usual problems which may be causing such troubles.

Sometimes, some packages never enter testing because the set of inter-relationship is too complicated and cannot be sorted out by the scripts. See below for details.

Some further dependency analysis is shown on http://bjorn.haxx.se/debian/ — but be warned, this page also shows build dependencies which are not considered by britney.


5.13.2.1 out-of-date

For the testing migration script, "outdated" means: There are different versions in unstable for the release architectures (except for the architectures in fuckedarches; fuckedarches is a list of architectures that don't keep up (in update_out.py), but currently, it's empty). "outdated" has nothing whatsoever to do with the architectures this package has in testing.

Consider this example:

     foo      | alpha | arm 
     ---------+-------+----
     testing  |   1   |  -
     unstable |   1   |  2

The package is out of date on alpha in unstable, and will not go to testing. And removing foo from testing would not help at all, the package is still out of date on alpha, and will not propagate to testing.

However, if ftp-master removes a package in unstable (here on arm):

     foo      | alpha | arm | hurd-i386
     ---------+-------+-----+----------
     testing  |   1   |  1  |    -
     unstable |   2   |  -  |    1

In this case, the package is up to date on all release architectures in unstable (and the extra hurd-i386 doesn't matter, as it's not a release architecture).

Sometimes, the question is raised if it is possible to allow packages in that are not yet built on all architectures: No. Just plainly no. (Except if you maintain glibc or so.)


5.13.2.2 Removals from testing

Sometimes, a package is removed to allow another package in: This happens only to allow another package to go in if it's ready in every other sense. Suppose e.g. that a cannot be installed with the new version of b; then a may be removed to allow b in.

Of course, there is another reason to remove a package from testing: It's just too buggy (and having a single RC-bug is enough to be in this state).

Furthermore, if a package has been removed from unstable, and no package in testing depends on it any more, then it will automatically be removed.


5.13.2.3 circular dependencies

A situation which is not handled very well by britney is if package a depends on the new version of package b, and vice versa.

An example of this is:

       | testing         |  unstable
     --+-----------------+------------
     a | 1; depends: b=1 |  2; depends: b=2
     b | 1; depends: a=1 |  2; depends: a=2

Neither package a nor package b is considered for update.

Currently, this requires some manual hinting from the release team. Please contact them by sending mail to debian-release@lists.debian.org if this happens to one of your packages.


5.13.2.4 influence of package in testing

Generally, there is nothing that the status of a package in testing means for transition of the next version from unstable to testing, with two exceptions: If the RC-bugginess of the package goes down, it may go in even if it is still RC-buggy. The second exception is if the version of the package in testing is out of sync on the different arches: Then any arch might just upgrade to the version of the source package; however, this can happen only if the package was previously forced through, the arch is in fuckedarches, or there was no binary package of that arch present in unstable at all during the testing migration.

In summary this means: The only influence that a package being in testing has on a new version of the same package is that the new version might go in easier.


5.13.2.5 details

If you are interested in details, this is how britney works:

The packages are looked at to determine whether they are valid candidates. This gives the "update excuses". The most common reasons why a package is not considered are too young, RC-bugginess, and out of date on some arches. For this part of britney, the release managers have hammers of various sizes to force britney to consider a package. (Also, the base freeze is coded in that part of britney.) (There is a similar thing for binary-only updates, but this is not described here. If you're interested in that, please peruse the code.)

Now, the more complex part happens: Britney tries to update testing with the valid candidates; first, each package alone, and then larger and even larger sets of packages together. Each try is accepted if testing is not more uninstallable after the update than before. (Before and after this part, some hints are processed; but as only release masters can hint, this is probably not so important for you.)

If you want to see more details, you can look it up on merkel:/org/ftp.debian.org/testing/update_out/ (or there in ~aba/testing/update_out to see a setup with a smaller packages file). Via web, it's at http://ftp-master.debian.org/testing/update_out_code/

The hints are available via http://ftp-master.debian.org/testing/hints/.


5.13.3 Direct updates to testing

The testing distribution is fed with packages from unstable according to the rules explained above. However, in some cases, it is necessary to upload packages built only for testing. For that, you may want to upload to testing-proposed-updates.

Keep in mind that packages uploaded there are not automatically processed, they have to go through the hands of the release manager. So you'd better have a good reason to upload there. In order to know what a good reason is in the release managers' eyes, you should read the instructions that they regularly give on debian-devel-announce@lists.debian.org.

You should not upload to testing-proposed-updates when you can update your packages through unstable. If you can't (for example because you have a newer development version in unstable), you may use this facility, but it is recommended that you ask for authorization from the release manager first. Even if a package is frozen, updates through unstable are possible, if the upload via unstable does not pull in any new dependencies.

Version numbers are usually selected by adding the codename of the testing distribution and a running number, like 1.2sarge1 for the first upload through testing-proposed-updates of package version 1.2.

Please make sure you didn't miss any of these items in your upload:


5.13.4 Frequently asked questions


5.13.4.1 What are release-critical bugs, and how do they get counted?

All bugs of some higher severities are by default considered release-critical; currently, these are critical, grave, and serious bugs.

Such bugs are presumed to have an impact on the chances that the package will be released with the stable release of Debian: in general, if a package has open release-critical bugs filed on it, it won't get into "testing", and consequently won't be released in "stable".

The unstable bug count are all release-critical bugs without either any release-tag (such as potato, woody) or with release-tag sid; also, only if they are neither fixed nor set to sarge-ignore. The "testing" bug count for a package is considered to be roughly the bug count of unstable count at the last point when the "testing" version equalled the "unstable" version.

This will change post-sarge, as soon as we have versions in the bug tracking system.


5.13.4.2 How could installing a package into "testing" possibly break other packages?

The structure of the distribution archives is such that they can only contain one version of a package; a package is defined by its name. So when the source package acmefoo is installed into "testing", along with its binary packages acme-foo-bin, acme-bar-bin, libacme-foo1 and libacme-foo-dev, the old version is removed.

However, the old version may have provided a binary package with an old soname of a library, such as libacme-foo0. Removing the old acmefoo will remove libacme-foo0, which will break any packages which depend on it.

Evidently, this mainly affects packages which provide changing sets of binary packages in different versions (in turn, mainly libraries). However, it will also affect packages upon which versioned dependencies have been declared of the ==, <=, or << varieties.

When the set of binary packages provided by a source package change in this way, all the packages that depended on the old binaries will have to be updated to depend on the new binaries instead. Because installing such a source package into "testing" breaks all the packages that depended on it in "testing", some care has to be taken now: all the depending packages must be updated and ready to be installed themselves so that they won't be broken, and, once everything is ready, manual intervention by the release manager or an assistant is normally required.

If you are having problems with complicated groups of packages like this, contact debian-devel or debian-release for help.


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Debian Developer's Reference


ver. 3.3.9, 04 August, 2007

Developer's Reference Team developers-reference@packages.debian.org
Andreas Barth
Adam Di Carlo
RaphaŽl Hertzog
Christian Schwarz
Ian Jackson