Tag Archives: apt

Fully using apt-get download

Occasionally I need to download a Debian package or two. While I could find a download link using packages.debian.org / packages.ubuntu.com I really do prefer using apt-get download. In addition to the general pleasantness of using a command line tool the main benefit really is that apt automatically will verify checksums and gpg signatures.

For me the most typical usage scenario is that I want to download a Debian package from a different release than the one I happen to run on my workstation. Instead of putting additional entries in /etc/apt/sources.list, and hence having to deal with apt pinning as well as it making my regular apt-get update runs slower, I find it much more convenient to setup a separate apt environment.

First there is the basic directory structure.

$ mkdir -p ~/.cache/apt/{cache,lists}
$ mkdir -p ~/.config/apt/{apt.conf.d,preferences.d,trusted.gpg.d}
$ touch ~/.cache/apt/status
$ ln -s /usr/share/keyrings/debian-archive-keyring.gpg ~/.config/apt/trusted.gpg.d/
$ ln -s /usr/share/keyrings/ubuntu-archive-keyring.gpg ~/.config/apt/trusted.gpg.d/

(For an Ubuntu system the /usr/share/keyrings/debian-archive-keyring.gpg keyring is provided by the debian-archive-keyring package.)

Then there is the creation of the files ~/.config/apt/downloader.conf and ~/.config/apt/sources.list. They should contain something like the following.

## ~/.config/apt/downloader.conf
Dir::Cache "/home/USERNAME/.cache/apt/cache";
Dir::Etc "/home/USERNAME/.config/apt";
Dir::State::Lists "/home/USERNAME/.cache/apt/lists";
Dir::State::status "/home/USERNAME/.cache/apt/status";
## ~/.config/apt/sources.list
# Debian 6.0 (Squeeze)
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ squeeze main contrib non-free
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ squeeze-updates main non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ squeeze/updates main contrib non-free

# Debian 6.0 (Squeeze) Backports
deb http://backports.debian.org/debian-backports squeeze-backports main contrib non-free

# Debian 7.0 (Wheezy)
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main
deb http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main

# Debian Unstable (Sid)
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ sid main

# Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise)
deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu precise-security main restricted universe multiverse

# Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal)
deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ quantal main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ quantal-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu quantal-security main restricted universe multiverse

Given the just described setup, apt-get download can now download packages from any release/codename defined in ~/.config/apt/sources.list.

$ APT_CONFIG=~/.config/apt/downloader.conf apt-get update
$ APT_CONFIG=~/.config/apt/downloader.conf apt-get download git/squeeze-backports
Get:1 Downloading git 1: [6557 kB]
Fetched 6557 kB in 2s (2512 kB/s)
$ APT_CONFIG=~/.config/apt/downloader.conf apt-get download git/precise
Get:1 Downloading git 1: [6087 kB]
Fetched 6087 kB in 3s (1525 kB/s)

Do note that apt-get download was introduced in apt 0.8.11. For Debian that translates into Wheezy (7.0) and for Ubuntu that would be as of Natty (11.04). The main difference between apt-get download and apt-get –download-only install is that the later also does dependency resolution.


Apparently Ubuntu now has APT::Install-Recommends set to True by default. This happened in version 8.10 (Intrepid) and it results in that packages marked as Recommended are now automatically installed kinda like dependencies.

I guess that change can make sense on a desktop system, where it might be nice to by default provide the user with a few more useful features.  Dealing with servers on the other hand I very much like to be in control of what and what not is installed.

My way of disabling the automatic installation of Recommends is to put this into /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/01ubuntu:

Install-Recommends “false”;

Disclaimer: I don’t know the APT layout of Ubuntu well enough to know if that is the best place to put those settings. All I can say is that for now it seems to get the job done.

Yes, I have made a mention about it in Launchpad (#316472).