Building Testing Packages on Stable

These are instructions for building a ‘testing’ package on a ‘stable’ system.

When running the stable distribution of debian occasionally you
want to install non-stable packages, because they don’t appear in
stable, or features or revisions are not up to what we need on our
system. To do this we have to simply compile the upstream packages in
the traditional debian style.

We have on our system the pre-requisite packages to build .deb files,
namely: dpkg-dev and fakeroot. Our /etc/apt/sources.list file contains
the following “deb-src” lines which are duplicates of normal “deb”
lines, with deb-src in front instead:

  deb-src testing/non-US main contrib non-free
  deb-src testing/non-US main contrib non-free

note: it is possible to add lines similar to this for unstable, but it
would be better to add them when you are sure you want package source from
unstable instead of accidentally getting something from unstable.

The process to install a package from something other than stable is:

  • apt-get update
  • apt-get source – this will download the orig.tar.gz,
    diff.gz and .dsc source files for your package, unpack them and patch
    the source code in a new source directory underneath the one you are
    currently in.
  • Look in the .dsc file for the “Build-Depends” list, verify all of
    those packages are currently installed on the system. Also, make sure
    no packages listed in the “Build-Conflicts” (if it exists) are installed.
  • cd to the source directory and type (as root) “debian/rules
    binary”, or if you are not root, type: “fakeroot debian/rules binary”
    This will automatically go through all of the steps necessary to
    build your package.
  • Install the .deb file that was created in the parent directory:
    “dpkg -i ../” – for example, if you
    built the smartmontools package, you would see in the parent directory
    the .deb file smartmontools_5.1.4-2_i386.deb, so you would do: “dpkg -i ../smartmontools_5.1.4-2_i386.deb”

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I followed the instructions, and I successfully installed the pokedoku non-stable package on my stable Debian system.


When building a ‘testing’ package on a ‘stable’ system in Debian, you may need to install non-stable packages using the traditional Debian style. This involves compiling the upstream packages and following specific steps to install the package from something other than stable. It’s like taking the rice purity test for your Debian system’s package sources.