20 Things to Learn About APT With the Free Chapter of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook

We just released a sample chapter of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook. It covers the APT family of tools: apt-get, aptitude, synaptic, update-manager, etc.

Click here to get your free sample chapter

I’m sure you will enjoy it. There are many interesting things to learn:

  • How to customize the sources.list file
  • The various APT repositories that Debian offers (Security Updates, Stable Updates, Proposed Updates, Backports, Experimental, etc.)
  • How to select the best Debian mirror for you
  • How to find old package versions
  • How to install the same selection of packages on multiple computers
  • How to install and remove a package on a single command-line
  • How to reinstall packages and how to install a specific version of a package
  • How to pass options to dpkg via APT
  • How to configure a proxy for APT
  • How to set priorities to various package sources (APT pinning)
  • How to safely mix packages from several distributions on a single system
  • How to use aptitude’s text-mode graphical interface
  • How to use the tracking of automatically installed packages to keep a clean system
  • How APT checks the authenticity of packages that it downloads
  • How to add supplementary GnuPG keys to APT’s trusted keyring
  • How to upgrade from one stable distribution to the next
  • How to handles problems after an upgrade
  • How to keep a system up-to-date
  • How to automate upgrades
  • How to find the package that you’re looking for

If you liked this chapter, click here to contribute a few euros towards the liberation of the whole book. That way you’ll get a copy of the ebook as soon as it’s available. Thank you!

I also invite you to share this sample chapter as widely as possible. We’re only at 40% of the liberation fund and there’s less than 2 weeks left. I hope this book extract will convince enough people that the book is going to be great, and that it really deserves to be liberated and bundled with Debian!


  1. says

    Raphael, the sample chapter looks great. As promised, I made a contribution to the liberation effort. I am definitely interested in buying a print copy of the book when it becomes available. We need all the Debian books we can get. Thank you again for all you do for Debian as a developer and as such a great supporter of the users of the distribution.

    We really need this book (and I hope you do an Ubuntu version as well).

    • says

      Steven, Siddharta, I’m glad you liked this chapter. I hope you shared it with all your friends using Debian/Ubuntu. It’s there for this! 🙂

      Thank you for your support.

  2. says

    Thank you, very helpful! One small thing I had to change from section 6.8.5, the miracle combination, due to wanting an upgrade rather than dist-upgrade (i.e. happy for security fixes & critical updates to stable to install unattended, but not distro upgrades) was :

    yes ” | apt-get -y -o Dpkg::Options::=”–force-confdef” upgrade

    I.e. it died with a “dpkg: unknown option –forceconfold” error when the forceconfold option was kept on the command line. Presuming this is due to doing an upgrade rather than dist-upgrade? Running squeeze 6.0.3.

      • says

        Hi Raphaël, Doh! Thank you! And good catch! I was copying/pasting using acrobat reader, and it dropped the dash (have just retested it, it’s reproducible). Evince keeps the dash. But “pdftotext” drops the dash too. So it’s possible that there could be something odd about the dash or formating on that line that confuses some but not all PDF viewers.

  3. dj_palindrome says

    Raphaël, this makes me very happy I donated to translate your book 😉

    If only I could afford you, I’d hire you to fork GNOME2.