Ubuntu from the command line: Package Management

My Linux background centers around RedHat and Centos. I have been using yum for a long time and I am very comfortable with it. One of the greatest frustrations I have with ubuntu is having difficulty finding the packages I need easily from the command line.

I realize there are a bunch of “apt-*” how to articles/blog posts out there but all of the ones I have read did not provide me with the required golden nugget which is, “I need file X, what package contains this file?” Specifically I needed mkimage to complete my boot image for a 1BeagleBoard and I did not know what package I needed to install to get it. The required command is apt-file, which is not installed by default on 10.04, so let’s go through some more basic commands first.

It’s probably a good idea to always start package management by running ‘apt-get update’ which fetches latest software list and version numbers

apt-get install –> installs packages and resolves dependencies
apt-get remove –> remove a package, leaves configuration files intact
apt-get purge –> remove package and configuration files

OK, so now we can install apt-file (sudo apt-get apt-file), once the package is installed, apt-file update must be run.

apt-file update –> updates file cache, takes a while

When the update has completed, we can search using apt-file search . Let’s look at my example above, what package do I need to install to get mkimage

The output is quite verbose and some interpretation is required. In my case the required package is uboot-mkimage. This was fairly easy to identify since uboot is the grub equivalent on the 1BeageBoard.

In my personal quest to learn about apt-* I came across a a few more useful commands which I will summarize here:

apt-get upgrade -u –> get a list of what can be upgraded (run apt-get update first)
apt-get upgrade –> install available upgraded packages
dpkg-query -l “search_string” –> query package database (of installed packages)
dpkg-query -l –> list all installed packages
dpkg -i <*.deb> –> manually install a package, use this with care and make sure the package is trusted
deborphan –> with no arguements lists orphaned packages, must be installed, apt-get remove can then be used to remove orphans manually, use care with this!

Ii can now say that I can do all my required package management with apt-* as well as i can with yum which make using ubuntu somewhat less irritating.

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1 The Beagleboard is an embedded ARM platform that can run many flavours of Linux, I run Debian Lenny on mine (http://beagleboard.org/)

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