Saturday, October 10, 2009

zenwalk - package management

Forum Thread: Prior release repositories
Forum Thread: Making a local repository for a release

The Zenwalk OS (Slackware-based) is updated once or twice a year. Following an update, the mirrors for packages (programs) are also updated and contain the latest package versions.

Let's suppose I like to use the audacious package to play music. In order to keep the installation disc as small as possible, packages such as audacious are not included in the Zenwalk installation disc. These additional packages are retrieved separately from one of the package mirrors. Open a terminal and it's easy to download and install any Zenwalk package (in this case, audacious) using the command line:

# netpkg audacious

Or, if removing:

# netpkg -remove audacious

That's about all there is to installing or removing applications Zenwalk maintains.

Maintaining Previous Versions
As noted above, Zenwalk releases entirely new distributions once or twice a year. What if I don't want to upgrade my entire operating system, but I still want to install applications? For example, suppose I've had Zenwalk 6.0 installed for a year before I remember I want to install audacious. I try to netpkg audacious but, when I do, I discover Zenwalk has upgraded to v.6.4. If I try to install the newer version of audacious, netpkg asks to upgrade portions of v.6.0. I can let netpkg do this, but maybe I don't want parts of my system to be in 6.4, while other parts are in 6.0. How do I avoid upgrading to 6.4, but still get the packages I want for 6.0?

Three Solutions

Solution a -- install without using netpkg
One can always go to the home page of any application they desire and simply download, unpack, configure, compile, and install the general release tarball (.tgz). In the case of audacious, the home page is One might want to check for dependencies when doing so.

But a couple of solutions for installing older software can be accomplished inside of the netpkg package manager. Both of these require a small degree of manipulation of the /etc/netpkg.conf file. The second option additionally requires manipulation of the /usr/libexec/netpkg-functions file.

Solution b -- point netpkg to prior release mirrors
For a period of time after a new Zenwalk release, a few mirrors contain the previous release. One must open the /etc/netpkg.conf file with a text editor and manually add URLs for older mirrors. After doing so, I run

# netpkg mirror

and select one of the older mirrors. I found a few prior release URLs listed here, and had success with this mirror: Other archive URLs can probably be Googled, but there is a limitation to this solution: archive mirrors trail the current Zenwalk release by only one version. Users therefore only have a grace period of 6 months to a year before they will be forced to upgrade to some extent. The more permanent solution is the one below.

Solution c -- download all desired packages for dvd or other local access
This is a permanent solution, in case one wishes to never upgrade Zenwalk. The catch here is one needs to consider nearly any application they might need, because thinking of it two years later will be too late (if that happens, just use "solution a"). To download all potential applications in a Zenwalk release is roughly 10GB. I then alter netpkg to find the files on my hard drive or a dvd, instead of on a mirror. Alterations include the /etc/netpkg.conf and /usr/libexec/netpkg-functions files. Here are instructions:local repository

Supposedly it's also possible to point to a DVD with everything on it (if Apache is running) with this URL added to /etc/netpkg.conf and selected via # netpkg mirror:

!! For "solution c", it's necessary to download PACKAGES.txt and PACKAGES.txt.gz/ from the mirror. Netpkg appears unable to traverse directories to locate packages without these meta-information files. Get these files before the previous release mirrors move to a newer release or face recreating them manually, a time-consuming, nearly prohibitive task.

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