Package Management is an often requested addition to the LFS Book. A Package Manager allows tracking the installation of files making it easy to remove and upgrade packages. As well as the binary and library files, a package manager will handle the installation of configuration files. Before you begin to wonder, NO—this section will not talk about nor recommend any particular package manager. What it provides is a roundup of the more popular techniques and how they work. The perfect package manager for you may be among these techniques or may be a combination of two or more of these techniques. This section briefly mentions issues that may arise when upgrading packages.
Some reasons why no package manager is mentioned in LFS or BLFS include:
Dealing with package management takes the focus away from the goals of these books—teaching how a Linux system is built.
There are multiple solutions for package management, each having its strengths and drawbacks. Including one that satisfies all audiences is difficult.
There are some hints written on the topic of package management. Visit the Hints Project and see if one of them fits your need.
A Package Manager makes it easy to upgrade to newer versions when they are released. Generally the instructions in the LFS and BLFS Book can be used to upgrade to the newer versions. Here are some points that you should be aware of when upgrading packages, especially on a running system.
If one of the toolchain packages (Glibc, GCC or Binutils) needs to be upgraded to a newer minor version, it is safer to rebuild LFS. Though you may be able to get by rebuilding all the packages in their dependency order, we do not recommend it. For example, if glibc-2.2.x needs to be updated to glibc-2.3.x, it is safer to rebuild. For micro version updates, a simple reinstallation usually works, but is not guaranteed. For example, upgrading from glibc-2.3.4 to glibc-2.3.5 will not usually cause any problems.
If a package containing a shared library is updated, and if
the name of the library changes, then all the packages
dynamically linked to the library need to be recompiled to
link against the newer library. (Note that there is no
correlation between the package version and the name of the
library.) For example, consider a package foo-1.2.3 that
installs a shared library with name
libfoo.so.1. Say you upgrade the package to
a newer version foo-1.2.4 that installs a shared library with
libfoo.so.2. In this case,
all packages that are dynamically linked to
libfoo.so.1 need to be recompiled to link
libfoo.so.2. Note that
you should not remove the previous libraries until the
dependent packages are recompiled.
The following are some common package management techniques. Before making a decision on a package manager, do some research on the various techniques, particularly the drawbacks of the particular scheme.
Yes, this is a package management technique. Some folks do not find the need for a package manager because they know the packages intimately and know what files are installed by each package. Some users also do not need any package management because they plan on rebuilding the entire system when a package is changed.
This is a simplistic package management that does not need any
extra package to manage the installations. Each package is
installed in a separate directory. For example, package foo-1.1
is installed in
and a symlink is made from
/usr/pkg/foo-1.1. When installing a new version
foo-1.2, it is installed in
/usr/pkg/foo-1.2 and the previous symlink is
replaced by a symlink to the new version.
Environment variables such as
CPPFLAGS need to be expanded to
/usr/pkg/foo. For more than
a few packages, this scheme becomes unmanageable.
This is a variation of the previous package management technique.
Each package is installed similar to the previous scheme. But
instead of making the symlink, each file is symlinked into the
/usr hierarchy. This removes the
need to expand the environment variables. Though the symlinks can
be created by the user to automate the creation, many package
managers have been written using this approach. A few of the
popular ones include Stow, Epkg, Graft, and Depot.
The installation needs to be faked, so that the package thinks
that it is installed in
in reality it is installed in the
/usr/pkg hierarchy. Installing in this manner
is not usually a trivial task. For example, consider that you are
installing a package libfoo-1.1. The following instructions may
not install the package properly:
./configure --prefix=/usr/pkg/libfoo/1.1 make make install
The installation will work, but the dependent packages may not
link to libfoo as you would expect. If you compile a package that
links against libfoo, you may notice that it is linked to
you would expect. The correct approach is to use the
DESTDIR strategy to fake installation of the
package. This approach works as follows:
./configure --prefix=/usr make make DESTDIR=/usr/pkg/libfoo/1.1 install
Most packages support this approach, but there are some which do
not. For the non-compliant packages, you may either need to
manually install the package, or you may find that it is easier
to install some problematic packages into
In this technique, a file is timestamped before the installation of the package. After the installation, a simple use of the find command with the appropriate options can generate a log of all the files installed after the timestamp file was created. A package manager written with this approach is install-log.
Though this scheme has the advantage of being simple, it has two drawbacks. If, during installation, the files are installed with any timestamp other than the current time, those files will not be tracked by the package manager. Also, this scheme can only be used when one package is installed at a time. The logs are not reliable if two packages are being installed on two different consoles.
In this approach, the commands that the installation scripts perform are recorded. There are two techniques that one can use:
LD_PRELOAD environment variable
can be set to point to a library to be preloaded before
installation. During installation, this library tracks the
packages that are being installed by attaching itself to various
executables such as cp, install, mv and tracking the system
calls that modify the filesystem. For this approach to work, all
the executables need to be dynamically linked without the suid or
sgid bit. Preloading the library may cause some unwanted
side-effects during installation. Therefore, it is advised that
one performs some tests to ensure that the package manager does
not break anything and logs all the appropriate files.
The second technique is to use strace, which logs all system calls made during the execution of the installation scripts.
In this scheme, the package installation is faked into a separate tree as described in the Symlink style package management. After the installation, a package archive is created using the installed files. This archive is then used to install the package either on the local machine or can even be used to install the package on other machines.
This approach is used by most of the package managers found in the commercial distributions. Examples of package managers that follow this approach are RPM (which, incidentally, is required by the Linux Standard Base Specification), pkg-utils, Debian's apt, and Gentoo's Portage system. A hint describing how to adopt this style of package management for LFS systems is located at http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/hints/downloads/files/fakeroot.txt.
Creation of package files that include dependency information is complex and is beyond the scope of LFS.
Slackware uses a tar based system for package archives. This system purposely does not handle package dependencies as more complex package managers do. For details of Slackware package management, see http://www.slackbook.org/html/package-management.html.
This scheme, unique to LFS, was devised by Matthias Benkmann, and is available from the Hints Project. In this scheme, each package is installed as a separate user into the standard locations. Files belonging to a package are easily identified by checking the user ID. The features and shortcomings of this approach are too complex to describe in this section. For the details please see the hint at http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/hints/downloads/files/more_control_and_pkg_man.txt.
One of the advantages of an LFS system is that there are no files
that depend on the position of files on a disk system. Cloning an
LFS build to another computer with an architecture similar to the
base system is as simple as using tar on the LFS partition that
contains the root directory (about 250MB uncompressed for a base
LFS build), copying that file via network transfer or CD-ROM to the
new system and expanding it. From that point, a few configuration
files will have to be changed. Configuration files that may need to
be updated include:
A custom kernel may need to be built for the new system depending on differences in system hardware and the original kernel configuration.
Finally the new system has to be made bootable via Section 8.4, “Using GRUB to Set Up the Boot Process”.