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<!-- -*- mode: sgml; mode: fold -*- -->
<!doctype debiandoc PUBLIC "-//DebianDoc//DTD DebianDoc//EN">
<title>APT Files</title>
<author>Jason Gunthorpe <email></email></author>
<version>$Id: files.sgml,v 1.12 2003/04/26 23:26:13 doogie Exp $</version>
This document describes the complete implementation and format of the
installed APT directory structure. It also serves as guide to how APT
views the Debian archive.
Copyright &copy; Jason Gunthorpe, 1998-1999.
"APT" and this document are free software; you can redistribute them and/or
modify them under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published
by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your
option) any later version.
For more details, on Debian GNU/Linux systems, see the file
/usr/share/common-licenses/GPL for the full license.
<toc sect>
<!-- General {{{ -->
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This document serves two purposes. The first is to document the installed
directory structure and the format and purpose of each file. The second
purpose is to document how APT views the Debian archive and deals with
multiple package files.
The var directory structure is as follows:
As is specified in the FHS 2.1 /var/lib/apt is used for application
data that is not expected to be user modified. /var/cache/apt is used
for regeneratable data and is where the package cache and downloaded .debs
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- Distribution Source List {{{ -->
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<sect>Distribution Source list (sources.list)
The distribution source list is used to locate archives of the debian
distribution. It is designed to support any number of active sources and to
support a mix of source media. The file lists one source per line, with the
fastest source listed first. The format of each line is:
<var>type uri args</var>
The first item, <var>type</var>, indicates the format for the remainder
of the line. It is designed to indicate the structure of the distribution
the line is talking about. Currently the only defined value is <em>deb</em>
which indicates a standard debian archive with a dists dir.
<sect1>The deb Type
The <em>deb</em> type is to be a typical two level debian distributions,
dist/<var>distribution</var>/<var>component</var>. Typically distribution
is one of stable, unstable or testing while component is one of main,
contrib, non-free or non-us. The format for the deb line is as follows:
deb <var>uri</var> <var>distribution</var> <var>component</var>
[<var>component</var> ...]
<var>uri</var> for the <em>deb</em> type must specify the base of the
debian distribution. APT will automatically generate the proper longer
URIs to get the information it needs. <var>distribution</var> can specify
an exact path, in this case the components must be omitted and
<var>distribution</var> must end in a slash.
Since only one distribution can be specified per deb line it may be
necessary to list a number of deb lines for the same URI. APT will
sort the URI list after it has generated a complete set to allow
connection reuse. It is important to order things in the sourcelist
from most preferred to least preferred (fastest to slowest).
<sect1>URI specification
URIs in the source list support a large number of access schemes.
The cdrom scheme is special in that If Modified Since queries are never
performed and that APT knows how to match a cdrom to the name it
was given when first inserted. APT also knows all of the possible
mount points the cdrom drives and that the user should be prompted
to insert a CD if it cannot be found. The path is relative to an
arbitrary mount point (of APT's choosing) and must not start with a
slash. The first pathname component is the given name and is purely
descriptive and of the users choice. However, if a file in the root of
the cdrom is called '.disk/info' its contents will be used instead of
prompting. The name serves as a tag for the cdrom and should be unique.
cdrom:Debian 1.3/debian
This scheme specifies a HTTP server for the debian archive. HTTP is preferred
over FTP because If Modified Since queries against the Package file are
possible as well as deep pipelining and resume capabilities.
This scheme specifies a FTP connection to the server. FTP is limited because
there is no support for IMS and is hard to proxy over firewalls.
The file scheme allows an arbitrary directory in the file system to be
considered as a debian archive. This is useful for NFS mounts and
local mirrors/archives.
A possible future expansion may be to have direct support for smb (Samba
<sect1>Hashing the URI
All permanent information acquired from any of the sources is stored in the
lists directory. Thus, there must be a way to relate the filename in the
lists directory to a line in the sourcelist. To simplify things this is
done by quoting the URI and treating _'s as quoteable characters and
converting / to _. The URI spec says this is done by converting a
sensitive character into %xx where xx is the hexadecimal representation
from the ASCII character set. Examples:
cdrom:Debian 1.3/debian/Packages
The other alternative that was considered was to use a deep directory
structure but this poses two problems, it makes it very difficult to prune
directories back when sources are no longer used and complicates the handling
of the partial directory. This gives a very simple way to deal with all
of the situations that can arise. Also note that the same rules described in
the <em>Archive Directory</> section regarding the partial sub dir apply
here as well.
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- Extra Status {{{ -->
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<sect>Extra Status File (xstatus)
The extra status file serves the same purpose as the normal dpkg status file
(/var/lib/dpkg/status) except that it stores information unique to apt.
This includes the autoflag, target distribution and version and any other
unique features that come up over time. It duplicates nothing from the normal
dpkg status file. Please see other APT documentation for a discussion
of the exact internal behaviour of these fields. The Package field is
placed directly before the new fields to indicate which package they
apply to. The new fields are as follows:
The Auto flag can be Yes or No and controls whether the package is in
auto mode.
The TargetDist item indicates which distribution versions are offered for
installation from. It should be stable, unstable or testing.
The target version item is set if the user selects a specific version, it
overrides the TargetDist selection if both are present.
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- Binary Package Cache {{{ -->
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<sect>Binary Package Cache (pkgcache.bin)
Please see cache.sgml for a complete description of what this file is. The
cache file is updated whenever the contents of the lists directory changes.
If the cache is erased, corrupted or of a non-matching version it will
be automatically rebuilt by all of the tools that need it.
<em>srcpkgcache.bin</> contains a cache of all of the package files in the
source list. This allows regeneration of the cache when the status files
change to use a prebuilt version for greater speed.
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- Downloads Directory {{{ -->
<!-- ===================================================================== -->
<sect>Downloads Directory (archives)
The archives directory is where all downloaded .deb archives go. When the
file transfer is initiated the deb is placed in partial. Once the file
is fully downloaded and its MD5 hash and size are verified it is moved
from partial into archives/. Any files found in archives/ can be assumed
to be verified.
No directory structure is transfered from the receiving site and all .deb
file names conform to debian conventions. No short (msdos) filename should
be placed in archives. If the need arises .debs should be unpacked, scanned
and renamed to their correct internal names. This is mostly to prevent
file name conflicts but other programs may depend on this if convenient.
A conforming .deb is one of the form, name_version_arch.deb. Our archive
scripts do not handle epochs, but they are necessary and should be re-inserted.
If necessary _'s and :'s in the fields should be quoted using the % convention.
It must be possible to extract all 3 fields by examining the file name.
Downloaded .debs must be found in one of the package lists with an exact
name + version match..
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- The Methods Directory {{{ -->
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<sect> The Methods Directory (/usr/lib/apt/methods)
The Methods directory is more fully described in the APT Methods interface
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- The Mirror List {{{ -->
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<sect> The Mirror List
The mirror list is stored on the primary debian web server (
and contains a machine readable list of all known debian mirrors. It's
format and style mirror the Package file.
This is the proper host name of the site. It should not be a host within and generally cnames should be avoided here.
These list any commonly used aliases for the site. This field is used to make
sure that a site is not added twice.
This field can either be <em>Push-Primary</> or <em>leaf</>.
<em>Push-Primary</> are authorized top level mirrors of the archive, all
other mirrors are leaf.
The Archive field gives the path(s) to the debian archive. [access]
specifies the access method and may be one of ftp, http, rsync, nfs, or
smb. For many of the types it is possible to prefix the path with :###
indicating that an alternate port should be used. Generally paths
start with a / and end with a /, rsync is an exception in that the
first directory component is not a path but a label.
The WWW field gives the path(s) to the debian web site.
The WWW field gives the path(s) to the debian CD-ROM images
The Incoming field gives the path(s) to a mirror of the debian incoming
The nonUS field gives the path(s) to a mirror of the non-US distribution.
This is the email address of the maintainer of the mirror.
Location gives the general geographical region the mirror is in.
The Sponsor field indicates who owns the mirror and a URL to a web page
describing the organization.
General free-form text.
Some form of network measurement will have to be used to gauge performance
of each of the mirrors. This will be discussed later, initial versions
will use the first found URI.
<!-- }}} -->
<!-- The Release File {{{ -->
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<sect> The Release File
This file plays and important role in how APT presents the archive to the
user. Its main purpose is to present a descriptive name for the source
of each version of each package. It also is used to detect when new versions
of debian are released. It augments the package file it is associated with
by providing meta information about the entire archive which the Packages
file describes.
The full name of the distribution for presentation to the user is formed
as 'label version archive', with a possible extended name being
'label version archive component'.
The file is formed as the package file (RFC-822) with the following tags
This is the common name we give our archives, such as <em>stable</> or
Refers to the sub-component of the archive, <em>main</>, <em>contrib</>
etc. Component may be omitted if there are no components for this archive.
This is a version string with the same properties as in the Packages file.
It represents the release level of the archive.
This specifies who is providing this archive. In the case of Debian the
string will read 'Debian'. Other providers may use their own string
This carries the encompassing name of the distribution. For Debian proper
this field reads 'Debian'. For derived distributions it should contain their
proper name.
When the archive has packages for a single architecture then the Architecture
is listed here. If a mixed set of systems are represented then this should
contain the keyword <em>mixed</em>.
A Yes/No flag indicating that the archive is extremely unstable and its
version's should never be automatically selected. This is to be used by
Description is used to describe the release. For instance experimental would
contain a warning that the packages have problems.
The location of the Release file in the archive is very important, it must
be located in the same location as the packages file so that it can be
located in all situations. The following is an example for the current stable
release, 1.3.1r6
Archive: stable
Component: main
Version: 1.3.1r6
Origin: Debian
Label: Debian
Architecture: i386
This is an example of experimental,
Archive: experimental
Version: 0
Origin: Debian
Label: Debian
Architecture: mixed
NotAutomatic: Yes
And unstable,
Archive: unstable
Component: main
Version: 2.1
Origin: Debian
Label: Debian
Architecture: i386
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