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dpkg/apt-cache: Useful Commands

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts I’ve been playing around with creating a Vagrant VM that I can use for my neo4j hacking which has involved a lot of messing around with installing apt packages.

There are loads of different ways of working out what’s going on when packages aren’t installing as you’d expect so I thought it’d be good to document the ones I’ve been using so I can find them more easily next time.

Finding reverse dependencies

A couple of times I found myself wondering how a certain package had ended up on the VM because I hadn’t specified that it should be installed so I wanted to know who had!

I wanted to find out the reverse dependency for the package. e.g. to find out who depended on make which we can find out with the following command:

$ apt-cache rdepends make
Reverse Depends:

The nice thing about ‘rdepends’ is that it will tell us reverse dependencies even for a package that we haven’t installed. This was helpful here as I had forgotten to install ‘build-essential’ and this made it obvious.

Finding which version of a package is installed

I added one of the Brightbox repositories to get a more recent Ruby version and noticed that something weird was going on with the version of ‘nginx-common’ that puppet was trying to install.

It seemed like one one my dependencies was trying to pull in the ‘latest’ version of ‘nginx-common’ which I’d expected to be ’1.1.19-1ubuntu0.1′.

By passing the ‘policy’ flag to apt-cache I was able to see that there was a recent version available via Brightbox:

$ apt-cache policy nginx-common
  Installed: 1.1.19-1ubuntu0.1
  Candidate: 1:1.2.6-1~43~precise1
  Version table:
     1:1.2.6-1~43~precise1 0
        500 http://ppa.launchpad.net/brightbox/ruby-ng/ubuntu/ precise/main amd64 Packages
 *** 1.1.19-1ubuntu0.1 0
        500 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise-updates/universe amd64 Packages
        100 /var/lib/dpkg/status
     1.1.19-1 0
        500 http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise/universe amd64 Packages

Finding which versions of a package are available

Another flag that we can pass to apt-cache is ‘madison’ which shows us the available versions for a package but doesn’t indicate which version is installed:

$ apt-cache madison nginx-common
nginx-common | 1:1.2.6-1~43~precise1 | http://ppa.launchpad.net/brightbox/ruby-ng/ubuntu/ precise/main amd64 Packages
nginx-common | 1.1.19-1ubuntu0.1 | http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise-updates/universe amd64 Packages
nginx-common |   1.1.19-1 | http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise/universe amd64 Packages
     nginx |   1.1.19-1 | http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise/universe Sources
     nginx | 1.1.19-1ubuntu0.1 | http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise-updates/universe Sources
     nginx | 1:1.2.6-1~43~precise1 | http://ppa.launchpad.net/brightbox/ruby-ng/ubuntu/ precise/main Sources

Finding which package a file belongs to

At some stage I wanted to check which exact package was installing nginx which I was able to do with the following command:

$ dpkg -S `which nginx`
nginx-extras: /usr/sbin/nginx

I had installed ‘nginx-common’ which I learn depends on ‘nginx-extras’ by using our ‘rdepends’ command:

$ apt-cache rdepends nginx-extras
Reverse Depends:

Finding the dependencies of a package

I wanted to check the dependencies of the ‘ruby1.9.1′ package to see whether or not I needed to explicitly install ‘libruby1.9.1′ or if that would be taken care of.

Passing the ‘-s’ flag to dpkg let me check this:

$ dpkg -s ruby1.9.1
Package: ruby1.9.1
Status: install ok installed
Architecture: amd64
Version: 1:
Replaces: irb1.9.1, rdoc1.9.1, rubygems1.9.1
Provides: irb1.9.1, rdoc1.9.1, ruby-interpreter, rubygems1.9.1
Depends: libruby1.9.1 (= 1:, libc6 (>= 2.2.5)
Suggests: ruby1.9.1-examples, ri1.9.1, graphviz, ruby1.9.1-dev, ruby-switch
Conflicts: irb1.9.1 (<<, rdoc1.9.1 (<<, ri (<= 4.5), ri1.9.1 (<<, ruby (<= 4.5), rubygems1.9.1

These are the ones that I’ve found useful so far. I’d love to here other people’s favourites though as I’m undoubtably missing some.

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