5. Managing Packages

This chapter contains information related to creating, uploading, maintaining, and porting packages.

5.1. New packages

If you want to create a new package for the Debian distribution, you should first check the Work-Needing and Prospective Packages (WNPP) list. Checking the WNPP list ensures that no one is already working on packaging that software, and that effort is not duplicated. Read the WNPP web pages for more information.

Assuming no one else is already working on your prospective package, you must then submit a bug report (Bug reporting) against the pseudo-package wnpp describing your plan to create a new package, including, but not limiting yourself to, the description of the package (so that others can review it), the license of the prospective package, and the current URL where it can be downloaded from.

You should set the subject of the bug to ITP: foo -- short description, substituting the name of the new package for foo. The severity of the bug report must be set to wishlist. Please send a copy to debian-devel@lists.debian.org by using the X-Debbugs-CC header (don't use CC:, because that way the message's subject won't indicate the bug number). If you are packaging so many new packages (>10) that notifying the mailing list in separate messages is too disruptive, send a summary after filing the bugs to the debian-devel list instead. This will inform the other developers about upcoming packages and will allow a review of your description and package name.

Please include a Closes: #nnnnn entry in the changelog of the new package in order for the bug report to be automatically closed once the new package is installed in the archive (see When bugs are closed by new uploads).

If you think your package needs some explanations for the administrators of the NEW package queue, include them in your changelog, send to ftpmaster@debian.org a reply to the email you receive as a maintainer after your upload, or reply to the rejection email in case you are already re-uploading.

When closing security bugs include CVE numbers as well as the Closes: #nnnnn. This is useful for the security team to track vulnerabilities. If an upload is made to fix the bug before the advisory ID is known, it is encouraged to modify the historical changelog entry with the next upload. Even in this case, please include all available pointers to background information in the original changelog entry.

There are a number of reasons why we ask maintainers to announce their intentions:

  • It helps the (potentially new) maintainer to tap into the experience of people on the list, and lets them know if anyone else is working on it already.

  • It lets other people thinking about working on the package know that there already is a volunteer, so efforts may be shared.

  • It lets the rest of the maintainers know more about the package than the one line description and the usual changelog entry Initial release that gets posted to debian-devel-changes@lists.debian.org.

  • It is helpful to the people who live off unstable (and form our first line of testers). We should encourage these people.

  • The announcements give maintainers and other interested parties a better feel of what is going on, and what is new, in the project.

Please see https://ftp-master.debian.org/REJECT-FAQ.html for common rejection reasons for a new package.

5.2. Recording changes in the package

Changes that you make to the package need to be recorded in the debian/changelog file, for human users to read and comprehend. These changes should provide a concise description of what was changed, why (if it's in doubt), and note if any bugs were closed. They also record when the packaging was completed. This file will be installed in /usr/share/doc/package/changelog.Debian.gz, or /usr/share/doc/package/changelog.gz for native packages.

The debian/changelog file conforms to a certain structure, with a number of different fields. One field of note, the distribution, is described in Picking a distribution. More information about the structure of this file can be found in the Debian Policy section titled debian/changelog.

Changelog entries can be used to automatically close Debian bugs when the package is installed into the archive. See When bugs are closed by new uploads.

It is conventional that the changelog entry of a package that contains a new upstream version of the software looks like this:

* New upstream release.

There are tools to help you create entries and finalize the changelog for release — see devscripts and dpkg-dev-el.

See also Best practices for debian/changelog.

5.3. Testing the package

Before you upload your package, you should do basic testing on it. At a minimum, you should try the following activities (you'll need to have an older version of the same Debian package around):

  • Run lintian over the package. You can run lintian as follows: lintian -v package-version.changes. This will check the source package as well as the binary package. If you don't understand the output that lintian generates, try adding the -i switch, which will cause lintian to output a very verbose description of the problem.

    Normally, a package should not be uploaded if it causes lintian to emit errors (they will start with E).

    For more information on lintian, see lintian.

  • Optionally run debdiff (see debdiff) to analyze changes from an older version, if one exists.

  • Install the package and make sure the software works in an up-to-date unstable system.

  • Upgrade the package from an older version to your new version.

  • Remove the package, then reinstall it.

  • Installing, upgrading and removal of packages can either be tested manually or by using the piuparts tool.

  • Copy the source package in a different directory and try unpacking it and rebuilding it. This tests if the package relies on existing files outside of it, or if it relies on permissions being preserved on the files shipped inside the .diff.gz file.

5.4. Layout of the source package

There are two types of Debian source packages:

  • the so-called native packages, where there is no distinction between the original sources and the patches applied for Debian

  • the (more common) packages where there's an original source tarball file accompanied by another file that contains the changes made by Debian

For the native packages, the source package includes a Debian source control file (.dsc) and the source tarball (.tar.{gz,bz2,xz}). A source package of a non-native package includes a Debian source control file, the original source tarball (.orig.tar.{gz,bz2,xz}) and the Debian changes (.diff.gz for the source format “1.0” or .debian.tar.{gz,bz2,xz} for the source format “3.0 (quilt)”).

With source format “1.0”, whether a package is native or not was determined by dpkg-source at build time. Nowadays it is recommended to be explicit about the desired source format by putting either “3.0 (quilt)” or “3.0 (native)” in debian/source/format. The rest of this section relates only to non-native packages.

The first time a version is uploaded that corresponds to a particular upstream version, the original source tar file must be uploaded and included in the .changes file. Subsequently, this very same tar file should be used to build the new diffs and .dsc files, and will not need to be re-uploaded.

By default, dpkg-genchanges and dpkg-buildpackage will include the original source tar file if and only if the current changelog entry has a different upstream version from the preceding entry. This behavior may be modified by using -sa to always include it or -sd to always leave it out.

If no original source is included in the upload, the original source tar-file used by dpkg-source when constructing the .dsc file and diff to be uploaded must be byte-for-byte identical with the one already in the archive.

Please notice that, in non-native packages, permissions on files that are not present in the *.orig.tar.{gz,bz2,xz} will not be preserved, as diff does not store file permissions in the patch. However, when using source format “3.0 (quilt)”, permissions of files inside the debian directory are preserved since they are stored in a tar archive.

5.5. Picking a distribution

Each upload needs to specify which distribution the package is intended for. The package build process extracts this information from the first line of the debian/changelog file and places it in the Distribution field of the .changes file.

Packages are normally uploaded into unstable. Uploads to unstable or experimental should use these suite names in the changelog entry; uploads for other supported suites should use the suite codenames, as they avoid any ambiguity.

Actually, there are other possible distributions: codename-security, but read Handling security-related bugs for more information on those.

It is not possible to upload a package into several distributions at the same time.

5.5.1. Special case: uploads to the stable and oldstable distributions

Uploading to stable means that the package will be transferred to the proposed-updates-new queue for review by the stable release managers, and if approved will be installed in the stable-proposed-updates directory of the Debian archive. From there, it will be included in stable with the next point release.

Uploads to a supported stable release should target their suite name in the changelog, i.e. bookworm or bullseye. You should normally use reportbug and the release.debian.org pseudo-package to send a source debdiff, rationale and associated bug numbers to the stable release managers, and await a request to upload or further information.

If you are confident that the upload will be accepted without changes, please feel free to upload at the same time as filing the release.debian.org bug. However if you are new to the process, we would recommend getting approval before uploading so you get a chance to see if your expectations align with ours.

Either way, there must be an accompanying bug for tracking, and your upload must comply with these acceptance criteria defined by the the stable release managers. These criteria are designed to help the process be as smooth and frustration-free as possible.

  • The bug you want to fix in stable must be fixed in unstable already (and not waiting in NEW or the delayed queue).

  • The bug should be of severity "important" or higher.

  • Bug meta-data - particularly affected versions - must be up to date.

  • Fixes must be minimal and relevant and include a sufficiently detailed changelog entry.

  • A source debdiff of the proposed change must be included in your request (not just the raw patches or "a debdiff can be found at $URL").

  • The proposed package must have a correct version number (e.g. ...+deb12u1 for bookworm or +deb11u1 for bullseye) and you should be able to explain what testing it has had. See the Debian Policy for the version number: https://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-controlfields.html#special-version-conventions

  • The update must be built in an stable environment or chroot (or oldstable if you target that).

  • Fixes for security issues should be co-ordinated with the security team, unless they have explicitly stated that they will not issue an DSA for the bug (e.g. via a "no-dsa" marker in the Debian Security Tracker).

It is recommended to use reportbug as it eases the creation of bugs with correct meta-data. The release team makes extensive use of usertags to sort and manage requests and incorrectly tagged reports may take longer to be noticed and processed.

Uploads to the oldstable distributions are possible as long as it hasn't been archived. The same rules as for stable apply.

In the past, uploads to stable were used to address security problems as well. However, this practice is deprecated, as uploads used for Debian security advisories (DSA) are automatically copied to the appropriate proposed-updates archive when the advisory is released. See Handling security-related bugs for detailed information on handling security problems. If the security team deems the problem to be too benign to be fixed through a DSA, the stable release managers are usually willing to include your fix nonetheless in a regular upload to stable.

5.5.2. Special case: the stable-updates suite

Sometimes the stable release managers will decide that an update to stable should be made available to users sooner than the next scheduled point release. In such cases, they can copy the update to the stable-updates suite, use of which is enabled by the installer by default.

Initially, the process described in Special case: uploads to the stable and oldstable distributions. should be followed as usual. If you think that the upload should be released via stable-updates, mention this in your request. Examples of circumstances in which the upload may qualify for such treatment are:

  • The update is urgent and not of a security nature. Security updates will continue to be pushed through the security archive. Examples include packages broken by the flow of time (c.f. spamassassin and the year 2010 problem) and fixes for bugs introduced by point releases.

  • The package in question is a data package and the data must be updated in a timely manner (e.g. tzdata).

  • Fixes to leaf packages that were broken by external changes (e.g. video downloading tools and tor).

  • Packages that need to be current to be useful (e.g. clamav).

  • Uploads to stable-updates should target their suite name in the changelog as usual, e.g. bookworm.

Once the upload has been accepted to proposed-updates and is ready for release, the stable release managers will then copy it to the stable-updates suite and issue a Stable Update Announcement (SUA) via the debian-stable-announce mailing list.

Any updates released via stable-updates will be included in stable with the next point release as usual.

5.5.3. Special case: uploads to testing/testing-proposed-updates

Please see the information in the Direct updates to testing for details.

5.6. Uploading a package

5.6.1. Source and binary uploads

Each upload to Debian consists of a signed .changes file describing the requested change to the archive, plus the source and binary package files that are referenced by the .changes file.

If possible, the version of a package that is uploaded should be a source-only changes file. These are typically named *_source.changes, and reference the source package, but no binary .deb or .udeb packages. All of the corresponding architecture-dependent and architecture-independent binary packages, for all architectures, will be built automatically by the build daemons in a controlled and predictable environment (see wanna-build for more details). However, there are several situations where this is not possible.

The first upload of a new source package (see New packages) must include binary packages, so that they can be reviewed by the archive administrators before they are added to Debian.

If new binary packages are added to an existing source package, then the first upload that lists the new binary packages in debian/control must include binary packages, again so that they can be reviewed by the archive administrators before they are added to Debian. It is preferred for these uploads to be done via the experimental suite.

Uploads that will be held for review in other queues, such as packages being added to the *-backports suites, might also require inclusion of binary packages.

The build daemons will automatically attempt to build any main or contrib package for which the build-dependencies are available. Packages in non-free and non-free-firmware will not be built by the build daemons unless the package has been marked as suitable for auto-building (see Marking non-free packages as auto-buildable).

The build daemons only install build-dependencies from the main archive area. This means that if a source package has build-dependencies that are in the contrib, non-free or non-free-firmware archive areas, then uploads of that package need to include prebuilt binary packages for every architecture that will be supported. By definition this can only be the case for source packages that are themselves in the contrib, non-free or non-free-firmware archive areas.

Bootstrapping a new architecture, or a new version of a package with circular dependencies (such as a self-hosting compiler), will sometimes also require an upload that includes binary packages.

Binary packages in the main archive area that were not built by Debian's official build daemons will not usually be allowed to migrate from unstable to testing, so an upload that contains binary packages built by the package's maintainer must usually be followed by a source-only upload after the binary upload has been accepted. This restriction does not apply to contrib, non-free or non-free-firmware packages.

5.6.2. Uploading to ftp-master

To upload a package, you should upload the files (including the signed changes and dsc file) with anonymous ftp to ftp.upload.debian.org in the directory /pub/UploadQueue/. To get the files processed there, they need to be signed with a key in the Debian Developers keyring or the Debian Maintainers keyring (see https://wiki.debian.org/DebianMaintainer).

Please note that you should transfer the changes file last. Otherwise, your upload may be rejected because the archive maintenance software will parse the changes file and see that not all files have been uploaded.

You may also find the Debian packages dupload or dput useful when uploading packages.These handy programs help automate the process of uploading packages into Debian.

For removing packages or cancelling an upload, please see ftp://ftp.upload.debian.org/pub/UploadQueue/README and the Debian package dcut.

Finally, you should think about the status of your package with relation to testing before uploading to unstable. If you have a version in unstable waiting to migrate then it is generally a good idea to let it migrate before uploading another new version. You should also check the The Debian Package Tracker for transition warnings to avoid making uploads that disrupt ongoing transitions.

5.6.3. Delayed uploads

It is sometimes useful to upload a package immediately, but to want this package to arrive in the archive only a few days later. For example, when preparing a Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs), you might want to give the maintainer a few days to react.

An upload to the delayed directory keeps the package in the deferred uploads queue. When the specified waiting time is over, the package is moved into the regular incoming directory for processing. This is done through automatic uploading to ftp.upload.debian.org in upload-directory DELAYED/X-day (X between 0 and 15). 0-day is uploaded multiple times per day to ftp.upload.debian.org.

With dput, you can use the --delayed DELAY parameter to put the package into one of the queues.

5.6.4. Security uploads

Do NOT upload a package to the security upload queue (on *.security.upload.debian.org) without prior authorization from the security team. If the package does not exactly meet the team's requirements, it will cause many problems and delays in dealing with the unwanted upload. For details, please see Handling security-related bugs.

5.6.5. Other upload queues

There is an alternative upload queue in Europe at ftp://ftp.eu.upload.debian.org/pub/UploadQueue/. It operates in the same way as ftp.upload.debian.org, but should be faster for European developers.

Packages can also be uploaded via ssh to ssh.upload.debian.org; files should be put /srv/upload.debian.org/UploadQueue. This queue does not support Delayed uploads.

5.6.6. Notifications

The Debian archive maintainers are responsible for handling package uploads. For the most part, uploads are automatically handled on a daily basis by the archive maintenance tools, dak process-upload. Specifically, updates to existing packages to the unstable distribution are handled automatically. In other cases, notably new packages, placing the uploaded package into the distribution is handled manually. When uploads are handled manually, the change to the archive may take some time to occur. Please be patient.

In any case, you will receive an email notification indicating that the package has been added to the archive, which also indicates which bugs will be closed by the upload. Please examine this notification carefully, checking if any bugs you meant to close didn't get triggered.

The installation notification also includes information on what section the package was inserted into. If there is a disparity, you will receive a separate email notifying you of that. Read on below.

Note that if you upload via queues, the queue daemon software will also send you a notification by email.

Also note that new uploads are announced on the IRC channels channel #debian-devel-changes. If your upload fails silently, it could be that your package is improperly signed, in which case you can find more explanations on ssh.upload.debian.org:/srv/upload.debian.org/queued/run/log.

5.7. Specifying the package section, subsection and priority

The debian/control file's Section and Priority fields do not actually specify where the file will be placed in the archive, nor its priority. In order to retain the overall integrity of the archive, it is the archive maintainers who have control over these fields. The values in the debian/control file are actually just hints.

The archive maintainers keep track of the canonical sections and priorities for packages in the override file. If there is a disparity between the override file and the package's fields as indicated in debian/control, then you will receive an email noting the divergence when the package is installed into the archive. You can either correct your debian/control file for your next upload, or else you may wish to make a change in the override file.

To alter the actual section that a package is put in, you need to first make sure that the debian/control file in your package is accurate. Next, submit a bug against ftp.debian.org requesting that the section or priority for your package be changed from the old section or priority to the new one. Use a Subject like override: PACKAGE1:section/priority, [...], PACKAGEX:section/priority, and include the justification for the change in the body of the bug report.

For more information about override files, see dpkg-scanpackages 1 and https://www.debian.org/Bugs/Developer#maintincorrect.

Note that the Section field describes both the section as well as the subsection, which are described in Sections. If the section is main, it should be omitted. The list of allowable subsections can be found in https://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-archive.html#s-subsections.

5.8. Handling bugs

Every developer has to be able to work with the Debian bug tracking system. This includes knowing how to file bug reports properly (see Bug reporting), how to update them and reorder them, and how to process and close them.

The bug tracking system's features are described in the BTS documentation for developers. This includes closing bugs, sending followup messages, assigning severities and tags, marking bugs as forwarded, and other issues.

Operations such as reassigning bugs to other packages, merging separate bug reports about the same issue, or reopening bugs when they are prematurely closed, are handled using the so-called control mail server. All of the commands available on this server are described in the BTS control server documentation.

5.8.1. Monitoring bugs

If you want to be a good maintainer, you should periodically check the Debian bug tracking system (BTS) for your packages. The BTS contains all the open bugs against your packages. You can check them by browsing this page: https://bugs.debian.org/yourlogin@debian.org.

Maintainers interact with the BTS via email addresses at bugs.debian.org. Documentation on available commands can be found at https://www.debian.org/Bugs/, or, if you have installed the doc-debian package, you can look at the local files /usr/share/doc/debian/bug-*.

Some find it useful to get periodic reports on open bugs. You can add a cron job such as the following if you want to get a weekly email outlining all the open bugs against your packages:

# ask for weekly reports of bugs in my packages
0 17 * * fri   echo "index maint address" | mail request@bugs.debian.org

Replace address with your official Debian maintainer address.

5.8.2. Responding to bugs

When responding to bugs, make sure that any discussion you have about bugs is sent to the original submitter of the bug, the bug itself and (if you are not the maintainer of the package) the maintainer. Sending an email to 123@bugs.debian.org will send the mail to the maintainer of the package and record your email with the bug log. If you don't remember the submitter email address, you can use 123-submitter@bugs.debian.org to also contact the submitter of the bug. The latter address also records the email with the bug log, so if you are the maintainer of the package in question, it is enough to send the reply to 123-submitter@bugs.debian.org. Otherwise you should include 123@bugs.debian.org so that you also reach the package maintainer.

If you get a bug which mentions FTBFS, this means Fails to build from source. Porters frequently use this acronym.

Once you've dealt with a bug report (e.g. fixed it), mark it as done (close it) by sending an explanation message to 123-done@bugs.debian.org. If you're fixing a bug by changing and uploading the package, you can automate bug closing as described in When bugs are closed by new uploads.

You should never close bugs via the bug server close command sent to control@bugs.debian.org. If you do so, the original submitter will not receive any information about why the bug was closed.

5.8.3. Bug housekeeping

As a package maintainer, you will often find bugs in other packages or have bugs reported against your packages which are actually bugs in other packages. The bug tracking system's features are described in the BTS documentation for Debian developers. Operations such as reassigning, merging, and tagging bug reports are described in the BTS control server documentation. This section contains some guidelines for managing your own bugs, based on the collective Debian developer experience.

Filing bugs for problems that you find in other packages is one of the civic obligations of maintainership, see Bug reporting for details. However, handling the bugs in your own packages is even more important.

Here's a list of steps that you may follow to handle a bug report:

  1. Decide whether the report corresponds to a real bug or not. Sometimes users are just calling a program in the wrong way because they haven't read the documentation. If you diagnose this, just close the bug with enough information to let the user correct their problem (give pointers to the good documentation and so on). If the same report comes up again and again you may ask yourself if the documentation is good enough or if the program shouldn't detect its misuse in order to give an informative error message. This is an issue that may need to be brought up with the upstream author.

    If the bug submitter disagrees with your decision to close the bug, they may reopen it until you find an agreement on how to handle it. If you don't find any, you may want to tag the bug wontfix to let people know that the bug exists but that it won't be corrected. Please make sure that the bug submitter understands the reasons for your decision by adding an explanation to the message that adds the wontfix tag.

    If this situation is unacceptable, you (or the submitter) may want to require a decision of the technical committee by filing a new bug against the tech-ctte pseudo-package with a summary of the situation. Before doing so, please read the recommended procedure.

  2. If the bug is real but it's caused by another package, just reassign the bug to the right package. If you don't know which package it should be reassigned to, you should ask for help on IRC channels or on debian-devel@lists.debian.org. Please inform the maintainer(s) of the package you reassign the bug to, for example by Cc:ing the message that does the reassign to packagename@packages.debian.org and explaining your reasons in that mail. Please note that a simple reassignment is not e-mailed to the maintainers of the package being reassigned to, so they won't know about it until they look at a bug overview for their packages.

    If the bug affects the operation of your package, please consider cloning the bug and reassigning the clone to the package that really causes the behavior. Otherwise, the bug will not be shown in your package's bug list, possibly causing users to report the same bug over and over again. You should block "your" bug with the reassigned, cloned bug to document the relationship.

  3. Sometimes you also have to adjust the severity of the bug so that it matches our definition of the severity. That's because people tend to inflate the severity of bugs to make sure their bugs are fixed quickly. Some bugs may even be dropped to wishlist severity when the requested change is just cosmetic.

  4. If the bug is real but the same problem has already been reported by someone else, then the two relevant bug reports should be merged into one using the merge command of the BTS. In this way, when the bug is fixed, all of the submitters will be informed of this. (Note, however, that emails sent to one bug report's submitter won't automatically be sent to the other report's submitter.) For more details on the technicalities of the merge command and its relative, the unmerge command, see the BTS control server documentation.

  5. The bug submitter may have forgotten to provide some information, in which case you have to ask them for the required information. You may use the moreinfo tag to mark the bug as such. Moreover if you can't reproduce the bug, you tag it unreproducible. Anyone who can reproduce the bug is then invited to provide more information on how to reproduce it. After a few months, if this information has not been sent by someone, the bug may be closed.

  6. If the bug is related to the packaging, you just fix it. If you are not able to fix it yourself, then tag the bug as help. You can also ask for help on debian-devel@lists.debian.org or debian-qa@lists.debian.org. If it's an upstream problem, you have to forward it to the upstream author. Forwarding a bug is not enough, you have to check at each release if the bug has been fixed or not. If it has, you just close it, otherwise you have to remind the author about it. If you have the required skills you can prepare a patch that fixes the bug and send it to the author at the same time. Make sure to send the patch to the BTS and to tag the bug as patch.

  7. If you have fixed a bug in your local copy, or if a fix has been committed to the VCS repository, you may tag the bug as pending to let people know that the bug is corrected and that it will be closed with the next upload (add the closes: in the changelog). This is particularly useful if you are several developers working on the same package.

  8. Once a corrected package is available in the archive, the bug should be closed indicating the version in which it was fixed. This can be done automatically; read When bugs are closed by new uploads.

5.8.4. When bugs are closed by new uploads

As bugs and problems are fixed in your packages, it is your responsibility as the package maintainer to close these bugs. However, you should not close a bug until the package which fixes the bug has been accepted into the Debian archive. Therefore, once you get notification that your updated package has been installed into the archive, you can and should close the bug in the BTS. Also, the bug should be closed with the correct version.

However, it's possible to avoid having to manually close bugs after the upload — just list the fixed bugs in your debian/changelog file, following a certain syntax, and the archive maintenance software will close the bugs for you. For example:

acme-cannon (3.1415) unstable; urgency=low

  * Frobbed with options (closes: Bug#98339)
  * Added safety to prevent operator dismemberment, closes: bug#98765,
    bug#98713, #98714.
  * Added man page. Closes: #98725.

Technically speaking, the following Perl regular expression describes how bug closing changelogs are identified:


We prefer the closes: #XXX syntax, as it is the most concise entry and the easiest to integrate with the text of the changelog. Unless specified differently by the -v-switch to dpkg-buildpackage, only the bugs closed in the most recent changelog entry are closed (basically, exactly the bugs mentioned in the changelog-part in the .changes file are closed).

Historically, uploads identified as Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs) were tagged fixed instead of being closed, but that practice was ceased with the advent of version-tracking. The same applied to the tag fixed-in-experimental.

If you happen to mistype a bug number or forget a bug in the changelog entries, don't hesitate to undo any damage the error caused. To reopen wrongly closed bugs, send a reopen XXX command to the bug tracking system's control address, control@bugs.debian.org. To close any remaining bugs that were fixed by your upload, email the .changes file to XXX-done@bugs.debian.org, where XXX is the bug number, and put Version: YYY and an empty line as the first two lines of the body of the email, where YYY is the first version where the bug has been fixed.

Bear in mind that it is not obligatory to close bugs using the changelog as described above. If you simply want to close bugs that don't have anything to do with an upload you made, do it by emailing an explanation to XXX-done@bugs.debian.org. Do not close bugs in the changelog entry of a version if the changes in that version of the package don't have any bearing on the bug.

For general information on how to write your changelog entries, see Best practices for debian/changelog.

5.9. Moving, removing, renaming, orphaning, adopting, and reintroducing packages

Some archive manipulation operations are not automated in the Debian upload process. These procedures should be manually followed by maintainers. This chapter gives guidelines on what to do in these cases.

5.9.1. Moving packages

Sometimes a package will change its section. For instance, a package from the non-free section might be GPL'd in a later version, in which case the package should be moved to main or contrib. [1]

If you need to change the section for one of your packages, change the package control information to place the package in the desired section, and re-upload the package (see the Debian Policy Manual for details). You must ensure that you include the .orig.tar.{gz,bz2,xz} in your upload (even if you are not uploading a new upstream version), or it will not appear in the new section together with the rest of the package. If your new section is valid, it will be moved automatically. If it does not, then contact the ftpmasters in order to understand what happened.

If, on the other hand, you need to change the subsection of one of your packages (e.g., devel, admin), the procedure is slightly different. Correct the subsection as found in the control file of the package, and re-upload that. Also, you'll need to get the override file updated, as described in Specifying the package section, subsection and priority.

5.9.2. Removing packages

If for some reason you want to completely remove a package (say, if it is an old compatibility library which is no longer required), you need to file a bug against ftp.debian.org asking that the package be removed; as with all bugs, this bug should normally have normal severity. The bug title should be in the form RM: package [architecture list] -- reason, where package is the package to be removed and reason is a short summary of the reason for the removal request. [architecture list] is optional and only needed if the removal request only applies to some architectures, not all. Note that the reportbug will create a title conforming to these rules when you use it to report a bug against the ftp.debian.org pseudo-package.

If you want to remove a package you maintain, you should note this in the bug title by prepending ROM (Request Of Maintainer). There are several other standard acronyms used in the reasoning for a package removal; see https://ftp-master.debian.org/removals.html for a complete list. That page also provides a convenient overview of pending removal requests.

Note that removals can only be done for the unstable, experimental and stable distributions. Packages are not removed from testing directly. Rather, they will be removed automatically after the package has been removed from unstable and no package in testing depends on it. (Removals from testing are possible though by filing a removal bug report against the release.debian.org pseudo-package. See Removals from testing.)

There is one exception when an explicit removal request is not necessary: If a (source or binary) package is no longer built from source, it will be removed semi-automatically. For a binary-package, this means if there is no longer any source package producing this binary package; if the binary package is just no longer produced on some architectures, a removal request is still necessary. For a source-package, this means that all binary packages it refers to have been taken over by another source package.

In your removal request, you have to detail the reasons justifying the request. This is to avoid unwanted removals and to keep a trace of why a package has been removed. For example, you can provide the name of the package that supersedes the one to be removed.

Usually you only ask for the removal of a package maintained by yourself. If you want to remove another package, you have to get the approval of its maintainer. Should the package be orphaned and thus have no maintainer, you should first discuss the removal request on debian-qa@lists.debian.org. If there is a consensus that the package should be removed, you should reassign and retitle the O: bug filed against the wnpp package instead of filing a new bug as removal request.

Further information relating to these and other package removal related topics may be found at https://wiki.debian.org/ftpmaster_Removalsand https://qa.debian.org/howto-remove.html.

If in doubt concerning whether a package is disposable, email debian-devel@lists.debian.org asking for opinions. Also of interest is the apt-cache program from the apt package. When invoked as apt-cache showpkg package, the program will show details for package, including reverse depends. Other useful programs include apt-cache rdepends, apt-rdepends, build-rdeps (in the devscripts package) and grep-dctrl. Removal of orphaned packages is discussed on debian-qa@lists.debian.org.

Once the package has been removed, the package's bugs should be handled. They should either be reassigned to another package in the case where the actual code has evolved into another package (e.g. libfoo12 was removed because libfoo13 supersedes it) or closed if the software is simply no longer part of Debian. When closing the bugs, to avoid marking the bugs as fixed in versions of the packages in previous Debian releases, they should be marked as fixed in the version <most-recent-version-ever-in-Debian>+rm. Removing packages from Incoming

In the past, it was possible to remove packages from incoming. However, with the introduction of the new incoming system, this is no longer possible. [4] Instead, you have to upload a new revision of your package with a higher version than the package you want to replace. Both versions will be installed in the archive but only the higher version will actually be available in unstable since the previous version will immediately be replaced by the higher. However, if you do proper testing of your packages, the need to replace a package should not occur too often anyway.

5.9.3. Replacing or renaming packages

When the upstream maintainers for one of your packages chose to rename their software (or you made a mistake naming your package), you should follow a two-step process to rename it. In the first step, change the debian/control file to reflect the new name and to replace, provide and conflict with the obsolete package name (see the Debian Policy Manual for details). Please note that you should only add a Provides relation if all packages depending on the obsolete package name continue to work after the renaming. Once you've uploaded the package and the package has moved into the archive, file a bug against ftp.debian.org asking to remove the package with the obsolete name (see Removing packages). Do not forget to properly reassign the package's bugs at the same time.

At other times, you may make a mistake in constructing your package and wish to replace it. The only way to do this is to increase the version number and upload a new version. The old version will be expired in the usual manner. Note that this applies to each part of your package, including the sources: if you wish to replace the upstream source tarball of your package, you will need to upload it with a different version. An easy possibility is to replace foo_1.00.orig.tar.gz with foo_1.00+0.orig.tar.gz or foo_1.00.orig.tar.bz2. This restriction gives each file on the ftp site a unique name, which helps to ensure consistency across the mirror network.

5.9.4. Orphaning a package

If you can no longer maintain a package, you need to inform others, and see that the package is marked as orphaned. You should set the package maintainer to Debian QA Group <packages@qa.debian.org> and submit a bug report against the pseudo package wnpp. The bug report should be titled O: package -- short description indicating that the package is now orphaned. The severity of the bug should be set to normal; if the package has a priority of standard or higher, it should be set to important. If you feel it's necessary, send a copy to debian-devel@lists.debian.org by putting the address in the X-Debbugs-CC: header of the message (no, don't use CC:, because that way the message's subject won't indicate the bug number).

If you just intend to give the package away, but you can keep maintainership for the moment, then you should instead submit a bug against wnpp and title it RFA: package -- short description. RFA stands for Request For Adoption.

More information is on the WNPP web pages.

5.9.5. Adopting a package

A list of packages in need of a new maintainer is available in the Work-Needing and Prospective Packages list (WNPP). If you wish to take over maintenance of any of the packages listed in the WNPP, please take a look at the aforementioned page for information and procedures.

It is not OK to simply take over a package without assent of the current maintainer — that would be package hijacking. You can, of course, contact the current maintainer and ask them for permission to take over the package.

However, when a package has been neglected by the maintainer, you might be able to take over package maintainership by following the package salvaging process as described in Package Salvaging. If you have reason to believe a maintainer is no longer active at all, see Dealing with inactive and/or unreachable maintainers.

Complaints about maintainers should be brought up on the developers' mailing list. If the discussion doesn't end with a positive conclusion, and the issue is of a technical nature, consider bringing it to the attention of the technical committee (see the technical committee web page for more information).

If you take over an old package, you probably want to be listed as the package's official maintainer in the bug system. This will happen automatically once you upload a new version with an updated Maintainer field, although it can take a few hours after the upload is done. If you do not expect to upload a new version for a while, you can use The Debian Package Tracker to get the bug reports. However, make sure that the old maintainer has no problem with the fact that they will continue to receive the bugs during that time.

5.9.6. Reintroducing packages

Packages are often removed due to release-critical bugs, absent maintainers, too few users or poor quality in general. While the process of reintroduction is similar to the initial packaging process, you can avoid some pitfalls by doing some historical research first.

You should check why the package was removed in the first place. This information can be found in the removal item in the news section of the PTS page for the package or by browsing the log of removals. The removal bug will tell you why the package was removed and will give some indication of what you will need to work on in order to reintroduce the package. It may indicate that the best way forward is to switch to some other piece of software instead of reintroducing the package.

It may be appropriate to contact the former maintainers to find out if they are working on reintroducing the package, interested in co-maintaining the package or interested in sponsoring the package if needed.

You should do all the things required before introducing new packages (New packages).

You should base your work on the latest packaging available that is suitable. That might be the latest version from unstable, which will still be present in the snapshot archive.

The version control system used by the previous maintainer might contain useful changes, so it might be a good idea to have a look there. Check if the control file of the previous package contained any headers linking to the version control system for the package and if it still exists.

Package removals from unstable (not testing, stable or oldstable) trigger the closing of all bugs related to the package. You should look through all the closed bugs (including archived bugs) and unarchive and reopen any that were closed in a version ending in +rm and still apply. Any that no longer apply should be marked as fixed in the correct version if that is known.

Package removals from unstable also trigger marking the package as removed in the Debian Security Tracker. Debian members should mark removed issues as unfixed in the security tracker repository and all others should contact the security team to report reintroduced packages.

5.10. Porting and being ported

Debian supports an ever-increasing number of architectures. Even if you are not a porter, and you don't use any architecture but one, it is part of your duty as a maintainer to be aware of issues of portability. Therefore, even if you are not a porter, you should read most of this chapter.

Porting is the act of building Debian packages for architectures that are different from the original architecture of the package maintainer's binary package. It is a unique and essential activity. In fact, porters do most of the actual compiling of Debian packages. For instance, when a maintainer uploads a (portable) source package with binaries for the i386 architecture, it will be built for each of the other architectures, amounting to 10 more builds.

5.10.1. Being kind to porters

Porters have a difficult and unique task, since they are required to deal with a large volume of packages. Ideally, every source package should build right out of the box. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. This section contains a checklist of gotchas often committed by Debian maintainers — common problems which often stymie porters, and make their jobs unnecessarily difficult.

The first and most important thing is to respond quickly to bugs or issues raised by porters. Please treat porters with courtesy, as if they were in fact co-maintainers of your package (which, in a way, they are). Please be tolerant of succinct or even unclear bug reports; do your best to hunt down whatever the problem is.

By far, most of the problems encountered by porters are caused by packaging bugs in the source packages. Here is a checklist of things you should check or be aware of.

  1. Make sure that your Build-Depends and Build-Depends-Indep settings in debian/control are set properly. The best way to validate this is to use the debootstrap package to create an unstable chroot environment (see debootstrap). Within that chrooted environment, install the build-essential package and any package dependencies mentioned in Build-Depends and/or Build-Depends-Indep. Finally, try building your package within that chrooted environment. These steps can be automated by the use of the pbuilder program, which is provided by the package of the same name (see pbuilder).

    If you can't set up a proper chroot, dpkg-depcheck may be of assistance (see dpkg-depcheck).

    See the Debian Policy Manual for instructions on setting build dependencies.

  2. Don't set architecture to a value other than all or any unless you really mean it. In too many cases, maintainers don't follow the instructions in the Debian Policy Manual. Setting your architecture to only one architecture (such as i386 or amd64) is usually incorrect.

  3. Make sure your source package is correct. Do dpkg-source -x package.dsc to make sure your source package unpacks properly. Then, in there, try building your package from scratch with dpkg-buildpackage.

  4. Make sure you don't ship your source package with the debian/files or debian/substvars files. They should be removed by the clean target of debian/rules.

  5. Make sure you don't rely on locally installed or hacked configurations or programs. For instance, you should never be calling programs in /usr/local/bin or the like. Try not to rely on programs being set up in a special way. Try building your package on another machine, even if it's the same architecture.

  6. Don't depend on the package you're building being installed already (a sub-case of the above issue). There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but be aware that any case like this needs manual bootstrapping and cannot be done by automated package builders.

  7. Don't rely on the compiler being a certain version, if possible. If not, then make sure your build dependencies reflect the restrictions, although you are probably asking for trouble, since different architectures sometimes standardize on different compilers.

  8. Make sure your debian/rules contains separate binary-arch and binary-indep targets, as the Debian Policy Manual requires. Make sure that both targets work independently, that is, that you can call the target without having called the other before. To test this, try to run dpkg-buildpackage -B.

5.10.2. Guidelines for porter uploads

If the package builds out of the box for the architecture to be ported to, you are in luck and your job is easy. This section applies to that case; it describes how to build and upload your binary package so that it is properly installed into the archive. If you do have to patch the package in order to get it to compile for the other architecture, you are actually doing a source NMU, so consult When and how to do an NMU instead.

For a porter upload, no changes are being made to the source. You do not need to touch any of the files in the source package. This includes debian/changelog.

The way to invoke dpkg-buildpackage is as dpkg-buildpackage -B -m porter-email. Of course, set porter-email to your email address. This will do a binary-only build of only the architecture-dependent portions of the package, using the binary-arch target in debian/rules.

If you are working on a Debian machine for your porting efforts and you need to sign your upload locally for its acceptance in the archive, you can run debsign on your .changes file to have it signed conveniently, or use the remote signing mode of dpkg-sig. Recompilation or binary-only NMU

Sometimes the initial porter upload is problematic because the environment in which the package was built was not good enough (outdated or obsolete library, bad compiler, etc.). Then you may just need to recompile it in an updated environment. However, you have to bump the version number in this case, so that the old bad package can be replaced in the Debian archive (dak refuses to install new packages if they don't have a version number greater than the currently available one).

You have to make sure that your binary-only NMU doesn't render the package uninstallable. This could happen when a source package generates arch-dependent and arch-independent packages that have inter-dependencies generated using dpkg's substitution variable $(Source-Version).

Despite the required modification of the changelog, these are called binary-only NMUs — there is no need in this case to trigger all other architectures to consider themselves out of date or requiring recompilation.

Such recompilations require special magic version numbering, so that the archive maintenance tools recognize that, even though there is a new Debian version, there is no corresponding source update. If you get this wrong, the archive maintainers will reject your upload (due to lack of corresponding source code).

The magic for a recompilation-only NMU is triggered by using a suffix appended to the package version number, following the form bnumber. For instance, if the latest version you are recompiling against was version 2.9-3, your binary-only NMU should carry a version of 2.9-3+b1. If the latest version was 3.4+b1 (i.e, a native package with a previous recompilation NMU), your binary-only NMU should have a version number of 3.4+b2. [2]

Similar to initial porter uploads, the correct way of invoking dpkg-buildpackage is dpkg-buildpackage -B to only build the architecture-dependent parts of the package. When to do a source NMU if you are a porter

Porters doing a source NMU generally follow the guidelines found in Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs), just like non-porters. However, it is expected that the wait cycle for a porter's source NMU is smaller than for a non-porter, since porters have to cope with a large quantity of packages. Again, the situation varies depending on the distribution they are uploading to. It also varies whether the architecture is a candidate for inclusion into the next stable release; the release managers decide and announce which architectures are candidates.

If you are a porter doing an NMU for unstable, the above guidelines for porting should be followed, with two variations. Firstly, the acceptable waiting period — the time between when the bug is submitted to the BTS and when it is OK to do an NMU — is seven days for porters working on the unstable distribution. This period can be shortened if the problem is critical and imposes hardship on the porting effort, at the discretion of the porter group. (Remember, none of this is Policy, just mutually agreed upon guidelines.) For uploads to stable or testing, please coordinate with the appropriate release team first.

Secondly, porters doing source NMUs should make sure that the bug they submit to the BTS should be of severity serious or greater. This ensures that a single source package can be used to compile every supported Debian architecture by release time. It is very important that we have one version of the binary and source package for all architectures in order to comply with many licenses.

Porters should try to avoid patches which simply kludge around bugs in the current version of the compile environment, kernel, or libc. Sometimes such kludges can't be helped. If you have to kludge around compiler bugs and the like, make sure you #ifdef your work properly; also, document your kludge so that people know to remove it once the external problems have been fixed.

Porters may also have an unofficial location where they can put the results of their work during the waiting period. This helps others running the port have the benefit of the porter's work, even during the waiting period. Of course, such locations have no official blessing or status, so buyer beware.

5.10.3. Porting infrastructure and automation

There is infrastructure and several tools to help automate package porting. This section contains a brief overview of this automation and porting to these tools; see the package documentation or references for full information. Mailing lists and web pages

Web pages containing the status of each port can be found at https://www.debian.org/ports/.

Each port of Debian has a mailing list. The list of porting mailing lists can be found at https://lists.debian.org/ports.html. These lists are used to coordinate porters, and to connect the users of a given port with the porters. Porter tools

Descriptions of several porting tools can be found in Porting tools. wanna-build

The wanna-build system is used as a distributed, client-server build distribution system. It is usually used in conjunction with build daemons running the buildd program. Build daemons are slave hosts, which contact the central wanna-build system to receive a list of packages that need to be built.

wanna-build is not yet available as a package; however, all Debian porting efforts are using it for automated package building. The tool used to do the actual package builds, sbuild, is available as a package; see its description in sbuild. Please note that the packaged version is not the same as the one used on build daemons, but it is close enough to reproduce problems.

Most of the data produced by wanna-build that is generally useful to porters is available on the web at https://buildd.debian.org/. This data includes nightly updated statistics, queueing information and logs for build attempts.

We are quite proud of this system, since it has so many possible uses. Independent development groups can use the system for different sub-flavors of Debian, which may or may not really be of general interest (for instance, a flavor of Debian built with gcc bounds checking). It will also enable Debian to recompile entire distributions quickly.

The wanna-build team, in charge of the buildds, can be reached at debian-wb-team@lists.debian.org. To determine who (wanna-build team, release team) and how (mail, BTS) to contact, refer to https://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2009/03/msg00096.html.

When requesting binNMUs or give-backs (retries after a failed build), please use the format described at https://release.debian.org/wanna-build.txt.

5.10.4. When your package is not portable

Some packages still have issues with building and/or working on some of the architectures supported by Debian, and cannot be ported at all, or not within a reasonable amount of time. An example is a package that is SVGA-specific (only available for i386 and amd64), or uses other hardware-specific features not supported on all architectures.

In order to prevent broken packages from being uploaded to the archive, and wasting buildd time, you need to do a few things:

  • First, make sure your package does fail to build on architectures that it cannot support. There are a few ways to achieve this. The preferred way is to have a small testsuite during build time that will test the functionality, and fail if it doesn't work. This is a good idea anyway, as this will prevent (some) broken uploads on all architectures, and also will allow the package to build as soon as the required functionality is available.

    Additionally, if you believe the list of supported architectures is pretty constant, you should change any to a list of supported architectures in debian/control. This way, the build will fail also, and indicate this to a human reader without actually trying.

  • In order to prevent autobuilders from needlessly trying to build your package, it must be included in Packages-arch-specific, a list used by the wanna-build script. The current version is available as https://wiki.debian.org/PackagesArchSpecific; please see the top of the file for whom to contact for changes.

Please note that it is insufficient to only add your package to Packages-arch-specific without making it fail to build on unsupported architectures: A porter or any other person trying to build your package might accidentally upload it without noticing it doesn't work. If in the past some binary packages were uploaded on unsupported architectures, request their removal by filing a bug against ftp.debian.org.

5.10.5. Marking non-free packages as auto-buildable

By default packages from the non-free and non-free-firmware sections are not built by the autobuilder network (mostly because the license of the packages could disapprove). To enable a package to be built, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. Check whether it is legally allowed and technically possible to auto-build the package;

  2. Add XS-Autobuild: yes into the header part of debian/control;

  3. Send an email to non-free@buildd.debian.org and explain why the package can legitimately and technically be auto-built.

5.11. Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs)

Every package has one or more maintainers. Normally, these are the people who work on and upload new versions of the package. In some situations, it is useful that other developers can upload a new version as well, for example if they want to fix a bug in a package they don't maintain, when the maintainer needs help to respond to issues. Such uploads are called Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMU).

5.11.1. When and how to do an NMU

Before doing an NMU, consider the following questions:

  • Have you geared the NMU towards helping the maintainer? As there might be disagreement on the notion of whether the maintainer actually needs help on not, the DELAYED queue exists to give time to the maintainer to react and has the beneficial side-effect of allowing for independent reviews of the NMU diff.

  • Does your NMU really fix bugs? ("Bugs" means any kind of bugs, e.g. wishlist bugs for packaging a new upstream version, but care should be taken to minimize the impact to the maintainer.) Fixing cosmetic issues or changing the packaging style in NMUs is discouraged.

  • Did you give enough time to the maintainer? When was the bug reported to the BTS? Being busy for a week or two isn't unusual. Is the bug so severe that it needs to be fixed right now, or can it wait a few more days?

  • How confident are you about your changes? Please remember the Hippocratic Oath: "Above all, do no harm." It is better to leave a package with an open grave bug than applying a non-functional patch, or one that hides the bug instead of resolving it. If you are not 100% sure of what you did, it might be a good idea to seek advice from others. Remember that if you break something in your NMU, many people will be very unhappy about it.

  • Have you clearly expressed your intention to NMU, at least in the BTS? If that didn't generate any feedback, it might also be a good idea to try to contact the maintainer by other means (email to the maintainer addresses or private email, IRC).

  • If the maintainer is usually active and responsive, have you tried to contact them? In general it should be considered preferable that maintainers take care of an issue themselves and that they are given the chance to review and correct your patch, because they can be expected to be more aware of potential issues which an NMUer might miss. It is often a better use of everyone's time if the maintainer is given an opportunity to upload a fix on their own.

When doing an NMU, you must first make sure that your intention to NMU is clear. Then, you must send a patch with the differences between the current package and your proposed NMU to the BTS. The nmudiff script in the devscripts package might be helpful.

While preparing the patch, you had better be aware of any package-specific practices that the maintainer might be using. Taking them into account reduces the burden of integrating your changes into the normal package workflow and thus increases the chances that integration will happen. A good place to look for possible package-specific practices is debian/README.source.

Unless you have an excellent reason not to do so, you must then give some time to the maintainer to react (for example, by uploading to the DELAYED queue). Here are some recommended values to use for delays:

  • Upload fixing only release-critical bugs older than 7 days, with no maintainer activity on the bug for 7 days and no indication that a fix is in progress: 0 days

  • Upload fixing only release-critical bugs older than 7 days: 2 days

  • Upload fixing only release-critical and important bugs: 5 days

  • Other NMUs: 10 days

Those delays are only examples. In some cases, such as uploads fixing security issues, or fixes for trivial bugs that block a transition, it is desirable that the fixed package reaches unstable sooner.

Sometimes, release managers decide to encourage NMUs with shorter delays for a subset of bugs (e.g release-critical bugs older than 7 days). Also, some maintainers list themselves in the Low Threshold NMU list, and accept that NMUs are uploaded without delay. But even in those cases, it's still a good idea to give the maintainer a few days to react before you upload, especially if the patch wasn't available in the BTS before, or if you know that the maintainer is generally active.

After you upload an NMU, you are responsible for the possible problems that you might have introduced. You must keep an eye on the package (subscribing to the package on the PTS is a good way to achieve this).

This is not a license to perform NMUs thoughtlessly. If you NMU when it is clear that the maintainers are active and would have acknowledged a patch in a timely manner, or if you ignore the recommendations of this document, your upload might be a cause of conflict with the maintainer. You should always be prepared to defend the wisdom of any NMU you perform on its own merits.

5.11.2. NMUs and debian/changelog

Just like any other (source) upload, NMUs must add an entry to debian/changelog, telling what has changed with this upload. The first line of this entry must explicitly mention that this upload is an NMU, e.g.:

* Non-maintainer upload.

The way to version NMUs differs for native and non-native packages.

If the package is a native package (without a Debian revision in the version number), the version must be the version of the last maintainer upload, plus +nmuX, where X is a counter starting at 1. If the last upload was also an NMU, the counter should be increased. For example, if the current version is 1.5, then an NMU would get version 1.5+nmu1.

If the package is not a native package, you should add a minor version number to the Debian revision part of the version number (the portion after the last hyphen). This extra number must start at 1. For example, if the current version is 1.5-2, then an NMU would get version 1.5-2.1. If a new upstream version is packaged in the NMU, the Debian revision is set to 0, for example 1.6-0.1.

In both cases, if the last upload was also an NMU, the counter should be increased. For example, if the current version is 1.5+nmu3 (a native package which has already been NMUed), the NMU would get version 1.5+nmu4.

A special versioning scheme is needed to avoid disrupting the maintainer's work, since using an integer for the Debian revision will potentially conflict with a maintainer upload already in preparation at the time of an NMU, or even one sitting in the ftp NEW queue. It also has the benefit of making it visually clear that a package in the archive was not made by the official maintainer.

If you upload a package to testing or stable, you sometimes need to "fork" the version number tree. This is the case for security uploads, for example. For this, a version of the form +debXuY should be used, where X is the major release number, and Y is a counter starting at 1. For example, while bookworm (Debian 12) is stable, a security NMU to stable for a package at version 1.5-3 would have version 1.5-3+deb12u1, whereas a security upload to trixie would get version 1.5-3+deb13u1.

5.11.3. Using the DELAYED/ queue

Having to wait for a response after you request permission to NMU is inefficient, because it costs the NMUer a context switch to come back to the issue. The DELAYED queue (see Delayed uploads) allows the developer doing the NMU to perform all the necessary tasks at the same time. For instance, instead of telling the maintainer that you will upload the updated package in 7 days, you should upload the package to DELAYED/7 and tell the maintainer that they have 7 days to react. During this time, the maintainer can ask you to delay the upload some more, or cancel your upload.

You can cancel your upload using dcut. In case you uploaded foo_1.2-1.1_all.changes to a DELAYED queue, you can run dcut cancel foo_1.2-1.1_all.changes to cancel your upload. The .changes file does not need to be present locally as you instruct dcut to upload a command file removing a remote filename. The .changes file name is the same that you used when uploading.

The DELAYED queue should not be used to put additional pressure on the maintainer. In particular, it's important that you are available to cancel or delay the upload before the delay expires since the maintainer cannot cancel the upload themselves.

If you make an NMU to DELAYED and the maintainer updates the package before the delay expires, your upload will be rejected because a newer version is already available in the archive. Ideally, the maintainer will take care to include your proposed changes (or at least a solution for the problems they address) in that upload.

5.11.4. NMUs from the maintainer's point of view

When someone NMUs your package, this means they want to help you to keep it in good shape. This gives users fixed packages faster. You can consider asking the NMUer to become a co-maintainer of the package. Receiving an NMU on a package is not a bad thing; it just means that the package is interesting enough for other people to work on it.

To acknowledge an NMU, include its changes and changelog entry in your next maintainer upload. If you do not acknowledge the NMU by including the NMU changelog entry in your changelog, the bugs will remain closed in the BTS but will be listed as affecting your maintainer version of the package.

Note that if you ever need to revert a NMU that packages a new upstream version, it is recommended to use a fake upstream version like CURRENT+reallyFORMER until one can upload the latest version again. More information can be found in https://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-controlfields.html#epochs-should-be-used-sparingly.

5.11.5. Source NMUs vs Binary-only NMUs (binNMUs)

The full name of an NMU is source NMU. There is also another type, namely the binary-only NMU, or binNMU. A binNMU is also a package upload by someone other than the package's maintainer. However, it is a binary-only upload.

When a library (or other dependency) is updated, the packages using it may need to be rebuilt. Since no changes to the source are needed, the same source package is used.

BinNMUs are usually triggered on the buildds by wanna-build. An entry is added to debian/changelog, explaining why the upload was needed and increasing the version number as described in Recompilation or binary-only NMU. This entry should not be included in the next upload.

Buildds upload packages for their architecture to the archive as binary-only uploads. Strictly speaking, these are binNMUs. However, they are not normally called NMU, and they don't add an entry to debian/changelog.

5.11.6. NMUs vs QA uploads

NMUs are uploads of packages by somebody other than their assigned maintainer. There is another type of upload where the uploaded package is not yours: QA uploads. QA uploads are uploads of orphaned packages.

QA uploads are very much like normal maintainer uploads: they may fix anything, even minor issues; the version numbering is normal, and there is no need to use a delayed upload. The difference is that you are not listed as the Maintainer or Uploader for the package. Also, the changelog entry of a QA upload has a special first line:

* QA upload.

If you want to do an NMU, and it seems that the maintainer is not active, it is wise to check if the package is orphaned (this information is displayed on the package's Package Tracking System page). When doing the first QA upload to an orphaned package, the maintainer should be set to Debian QA Group <packages@qa.debian.org>. Orphaned packages which did not yet have a QA upload still have their old maintainer set. There is a list of them at https://qa.debian.org/orphaned.html.

Instead of doing a QA upload, you can also consider adopting the package by making yourself the maintainer. You don't need permission from anybody to adopt an orphaned package; you can just set yourself as maintainer and upload the new version (see Adopting a package).

5.11.7. NMUs vs team uploads

Sometimes you are fixing and/or updating a package because you are member of a packaging team (which uses a mailing list as Maintainer or Uploader; see Collaborative maintenance) but you don't want to add yourself to Uploaders because you do not plan to contribute regularly to this specific package. If it conforms with your team's policy, you can perform a normal upload without being listed directly as Maintainer or Uploader. In that case, you should start your changelog entry with the following line:

* Team upload.

5.12. Package Salvaging

Package salvaging is the process by which one attempts to save a package that, while not officially orphaned, appears poorly maintained or completely unmaintained. This is a weaker and faster procedure than orphaning a package officially through the powers of the MIA team. Salvaging a package is not meant to replace MIA handling, and differs in that it does not imply anything about the overall activity of a maintainer. Instead, it handles a package maintainership transition for a single package only, leaving any other package or Debian membership or upload rights (when applicable) untouched.

Note that the process is only intended for actively taking over maintainership. Do not start a package salvaging process when you do not intend to maintain the package for a prolonged time. If you only want to fix certain things, but not take over the package, you must use the NMU process, even if the package would be eligible for salvaging. The NMU process is explained in Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs).

Another important thing to remember: It is not acceptable to hijack others' packages. If followed, this salvaging process will help you to ensure that your endeavour is not a hijack but a (legal) salvaging procedure, and you can counter any allegations of hijacking with a reference to this process. Thanks to this process, new contributors should no longer be afraid to take over packages that have been neglected or entirely forgotten.

The process is split into two phases: In the first phase you determine whether the package in question is eligible for the salvaging process. Only when the eligibility has been determined you may enter the second phase, the actual package salvaging.

For additional information, rationales and FAQs on package salvaging, please visit the Salvaging Packages page on the Debian wiki.

5.12.1. When a package is eligible for package salvaging

A package becomes eligible for salvaging when it has been neglected by the current maintainer. To determine that a package has really been neglected by the maintainer, the following indicators give a rough idea what to look for:

  • NMUs, especially if there has been more than one NMU in a row.

  • Bugs filed against the package do not have answers from the maintainer.

  • Upstream has released several versions, but despite there being a bug entry asking for it, it has not been packaged.

  • There are QA issues with the package.

You will have to use your judgement as to whether a given combination factors constitutes neglect; in case the maintainer disagrees they have only to say so (see below). If you're not sure about your judgement or simply want to be on the safe side, there is a more precise (and conservative) set of conditions in the Package Salvaging wiki page. These conditions represent a current Debian consensus on salvaging criteria. In any case you should explain your reasons for thinking the package is neglected when you file an Intent to Salvage bug later.

5.12.2. How to salvage a package

If and only if a package has been determined to be eligible for package salvaging, any prospective maintainer may start the following package salvaging procedure.

  1. Open a bug with the severity "important" against the package in question, expressing the intent to take over maintainership of the package. For this, the title of the bug should start with ITS: package-name [3]. You may alternatively offer to only take co-maintenance of the package. When you file the bug, you must inform all maintainers, uploaders and if applicable the packaging team explicitly by adding them to X-Debbugs-CC. Additionally, if the maintainer(s) seem(s) to be generally inactive, please inform the MIA team by adding mia@qa.debian.org to X-Debbugs-CC as well. As well as the explicit expression of the intent to salvage, please also take the time to document your assessment of the eligibility in the bug report, for example by listing the criteria you've applied and adding some data to make it easier for others to assess the situation.

  2. In this step you need to wait in case any objections to the salvaging are raised; the maintainer, any current uploader or any member of the associated packaging team of the package in question may object publicly in response to the bug you've filed within 21 days, and this terminates the salvaging process.

    The current maintainers may also agree to your intent to salvage by filing a (signed) public response to the the bug. They might propose that you become a co-maintainer instead of the sole maintainer. On team maintained packages, a member of the associated team can accept your salvaging proposal by sending out a signed agreement notice to the ITS bug, alternatively inviting you to become a new co-maintainer of the package. The team may require you to keep the package under the team's umbrella, but then may ask or invite you to join the team. In any of these cases where you have received the OK to proceed, you can upload the new package immediately as the new (co-)maintainer, without the need to utilise the DELAYED queue as described in the next step.

  3. After the 21 days delay, if no answer has been sent to the bug from the maintainer, one of the uploaders or team, you may upload the new release of the package into the DELAYED queue with a minimum delay of seven days. You should close the salvage bug in the changelog and you must also send an nmudiff to the bug ensuring that copies are sent to the maintainer and any uploaders (including teams) of the package by CC'ing them in the mail to the BTS.

    During the waiting time of the DELAYED queue, the maintainer can accept the salvaging, do an upload themselves or (ask to) cancel the upload. The latter two of these will also stop the salvaging process, but the maintainer must reply to the salvaging bug with more information about their action.

5.13. Collaborative maintenance

Collaborative maintenance is a term describing the sharing of Debian package maintenance duties by several people. This collaboration is almost always a good idea, since it generally results in higher quality and faster bug fix turnaround times. It is strongly recommended that packages with a priority of standard or which are part of the base set have co-maintainers.

Generally there is a primary maintainer and one or more co-maintainers. The primary maintainer is the person whose name is listed in the Maintainer field of the debian/control file. Co-maintainers are all the other maintainers, usually listed in the Uploaders field of the debian/control file.

In its most basic form, the process of adding a new co-maintainer is quite easy:

  • Set up the co-maintainer with access to the sources you build the package from. Generally this implies you are using a network-capable version control system, such as Git. Salsa (see salsa.debian.org: Git repositories and collaborative development platform) provides Git repositories, amongst other collaborative tools.

  • Add the co-maintainer's correct maintainer name and address to the Uploaders field in the first paragraph of the debian/control file.

    Uploaders: John Buzz <jbuzz@debian.org>, Adam Rex <arex@debian.org>
  • Using the PTS (The Debian Package Tracker), the co-maintainers should subscribe themselves to the appropriate source package.

Another form of collaborative maintenance is team maintenance, which is recommended if you maintain several packages with the same group of developers. In that case, the Maintainer and Uploaders field of each package must be managed with care. It is recommended to choose between one of the two following schemes:

  1. Put the team member mainly responsible for the package in the Maintainer field. In the Uploaders, put the mailing list address, and the team members who care for the package.

  2. Put the mailing list address in the Maintainer field. In the Uploaders field, put the team members who care for the package. In this case, you must make sure the mailing list accepts bug reports without any human interaction (like moderation for non-subscribers).

In any case, it is a bad idea to automatically put all team members in the Uploaders field. It clutters the Developer's Package Overview listing (see Developer's packages overview) with packages one doesn't really care for, and creates a false sense of good maintenance. For the same reason, team members do not need to add themselves to the Uploaders field just because they are uploading the package once, they can do a “Team upload” (see NMUs vs team uploads). Conversely, it is a bad idea to keep a package with only the mailing list address as a Maintainer and no Uploaders.

5.14. The testing distribution

5.14.1. Basics

Packages are usually installed into the testing distribution after they have undergone some degree of testing in unstable.

They must be in sync on all architectures and mustn't have dependencies that make them uninstallable; they also have to have generally no known release-critical bugs at the time they're installed into testing. This way, testing should always be close to being a release candidate. Please see below for details.

5.14.2. Updates from unstable

The scripts that update the testing distribution are run twice each day, right after the installation of the updated packages; these scripts are called britney. They generate the Packages files for the testing distribution, but they do so in an intelligent manner; they try to avoid any inconsistency and to use only non-buggy packages.

The inclusion of a package from unstable is conditional on the following:

  • The package must have been available in unstable for a certain number of days, see Selecting the upload urgency. Please note that the urgency is sticky, meaning that the highest urgency uploaded since the previous testing transition is taken into account;

  • It must not have new release-critical bugs (RC bugs affecting the version available in unstable, but not affecting the version in testing);

  • It must be available on all architectures on which it has previously been built in unstable. The dak ls utility may be of interest to check that information;

  • It must not break any dependency of a package which is already available in testing;

  • The packages on which it depends must either be available in testing or they must be accepted into testing at the same time (and they will be if they fulfill all the necessary criteria);

  • The phase of the project. I.e. automatic transitions are turned off during the freeze of the testing distribution.

To find out whether a package is progressing into testing or not, see the testing script output on the web page of the testing distribution, or use the program grep-excuses which is in the devscripts package. This utility can easily be used in a crontab 5 to keep yourself informed of the progression of your packages into testing.

The update_excuses file does not always give the precise reason why the package is refused; you may have to find it on your own by looking for what would break with the inclusion of the package. The testing web page gives some more information about the usual problems which may be causing such troubles.

Sometimes, some packages never enter testing because the set of interrelationship is too complicated and cannot be sorted out by the scripts. See below for details.

Some further dependency analysis is shown on https://release.debian.org/migration/ — but be warned: this page also shows build dependencies that are not considered by britney. Out-of-date

For the testing migration script, outdated means: There are different versions in unstable for the release architectures (except for the architectures in outofsync_arches; outofsync_arches is a list of architectures that don't keep up (in britney.py), but currently, it's empty). Outdated has nothing whatsoever to do with the architectures this package has in testing.

Consider this example:









The package is out of date on alpha in unstable, and will not go to testing. Removing the package would not help at all; the package is still out of date on alpha, and will not propagate to testing.

However, if ftp-master removes a package in unstable (here on arm):












In this case, the package is up to date on all release architectures in unstable (and the extra hurd-i386 doesn't matter, as it's not a release architecture).

Sometimes, the question is raised if it is possible to allow packages in that are not yet built on all architectures: No. Just plainly no. (Except if you maintain glibc or so.) Removals from testing

Sometimes, a package is removed to allow another package in: This happens only to allow another package to go in if it's ready in every other sense. Suppose e.g. that a cannot be installed with the new version of b; then a may be removed to allow b in.

Of course, there is another reason to remove a package from testing: it's just too buggy (and having a single RC-bug is enough to be in this state).

Furthermore, if a package has been removed from unstable, and no package in testing depends on it any more, then it will automatically be removed. Circular dependencies

A situation which is not handled very well by britney is if package a depends on the new version of package b, and vice versa.

An example of this is:




1; depends: b=1

2; depends: b=2


1; depends: a=1

2; depends: a=2

Neither package a nor package b is considered for update.

Currently, this requires some manual hinting from the release team. Please contact them by sending mail to debian-release@lists.debian.org if this happens to one of your packages. Influence of package in testing

Generally, there is nothing that the status of a package in testing means for transition of the next version from unstable to testing, with two exceptions: If the RC-bugginess of the package goes down, it may go in even if it is still RC-buggy. The second exception is if the version of the package in testing is out of sync on the different arches: Then any arch might just upgrade to the version of the source package; however, this can happen only if the package was previously forced through, the arch is in outofsync_arches, or there was no binary package of that arch present in unstable at all during the testing migration.

In summary this means: The only influence that a package being in testing has on a new version of the same package is that the new version might go in easier. Details

If you are interested in details, this is how britney works:

The packages are looked at to determine whether they are valid candidates. This gives the update excuses. The most common reasons why a package is not considered are too young, RC-bugginess, and out of date on some arches. For this part of britney, the release managers have hammers of various sizes, called hints (see below), to force britney to consider a package.

Now, the more complex part happens: Britney tries to update testing with the valid candidates. For that, britney tries to add each valid candidate to the testing distribution. If the number of uninstallable packages in testing doesn't increase, the package is accepted. From that point on, the accepted package is considered to be part of testing, such that all subsequent installability tests include this package. Hints from the release team are processed before or after this main run, depending on the exact type.

If you want to see more details, you can look it up on https://release.debian.org/britney/update_output/.

The hints are available via https://release.debian.org/britney/hints/, where you can find the description as well. With the hints, the Debian Release team can block or unblock packages, ease or force packages into testing, remove packages from testing, approve uploads to Direct updates to testing or override the urgency.

5.14.3. Direct updates to testing

The testing distribution is fed with packages from unstable according to the rules explained above. However, in some cases, it is necessary to upload packages built only for testing. For that, you may want to upload to testing-proposed-updates.

Keep in mind that packages uploaded there are not automatically processed; they have to go through the hands of the release manager. So you'd better have a good reason to upload there. In order to know what a good reason is in the release managers' eyes, you should read the instructions that they regularly give on debian-devel-announce@lists.debian.org.

You should not upload to testing-proposed-updates when you can update your packages through unstable. If you can't (for example because you have a newer development version in unstable), you may use this facility. Even if a package is frozen, updates through unstable are possible, if the upload via unstable does not pull in any new dependencies.

Version numbers are usually selected by appending +debXuY, where X is the major release number of Debian and Y is a counter starting at 1. e.g. 1:2.4.3-4+deb12u1.

Please make sure you didn't miss any of these items in your upload:

  • Make sure that your package really needs to go through testing-proposed-updates, and can't go through unstable;

  • Make sure that you included only the minimal amount of changes;

  • Make sure that you included an appropriate explanation in the changelog;

  • Make sure that you've written the testing Release code names (e.g. trixie) into your target distribution;

  • Make sure that you've built and tested your package in testing, not in unstable;

  • Make sure that your version number is higher than the version in testing and testing-proposed-updates, and lower than in unstable;

  • Ask for authorization for uploading from the release managers.

  • After uploading and successful build on all platforms, contact the release team at debian-release@lists.debian.org and ask them to approve your upload.

5.14.4. Frequently asked questions What are release-critical bugs, and how do they get counted?

All bugs of some higher severities are by default considered release-critical; currently, these are critical, grave and serious bugs.

Such bugs are presumed to have an impact on the chances that the package will be released with the stable release of Debian: in general, if a package has open release-critical bugs filed on it, it won't get into testing, and consequently won't be released in stable.

The unstable bug count comprises all release-critical bugs that are marked to apply to package/version combinations available in unstable for a release architecture. The testing bug count is defined analogously. How could installing a package into testing possibly break other packages?

The structure of the distribution archives is such that they can only contain one version of a package; a package is defined by its name. So when the source package acmefoo is installed into testing, along with its binary packages acme-foo-bin, acme-bar-bin, libacme-foo1 and libacme-foo-dev, the old version is removed.

However, the old version may have provided a binary package with an old soname of a library, such as libacme-foo0. Removing the old acmefoo will remove libacme-foo0, which will break any packages that depend on it.

Evidently, this mainly affects packages that provide changing sets of binary packages in different versions (in turn, mainly libraries). However, it will also affect packages upon which versioned dependencies have been declared of the ==, <=, or << varieties.

When the set of binary packages provided by a source package changes in this way, all the packages that depended on the old binaries will have to be updated to depend on the new binaries instead. Because installing such a source package into testing breaks all the packages that depended on it in testing, some care has to be taken now: all the depending packages must be updated and ready to be installed themselves so that they won't be broken, and, once everything is ready, manual intervention by the release manager or an assistant is normally required.

If you are having problems with complicated groups of packages like this, contact debian-devel@lists.debian.org or debian-release@lists.debian.org for help.

5.15. The Stable backports archive

5.15.1. Basics

Once a package reaches the testing distribution, it is possible for anyone with upload rights in Debian (see below about this) to build and upload a backport of that package to stable-backports, to allow easy installation of the version from testing onto a system that is tracking the stable distribution.

One should not upload a version of a package to stable-backports until the matching version has already reached the testing archive.

5.15.2. Exception to the testing-first rule

The only exception to the above rule, is when there's an important security fix that deserves a quick upload: in such a case, there is no need to delay an upload of the security fix to the stable-backports archive. However, it is strongly advised that the package is first fixed in unstable before uploading a fix to the stable-backports archive.

5.15.3. Who can maintain packages in the stable-backports archive?

It is not necessarily up to the original package maintainer to maintain the stable-backports version of the package. Anyone can do it, and one doesn't even need approval from the original maintainer to do so. It is however good practice to first get in touch with the original maintainer of the package before attempting to start the maintenance of a package in stable-backports. The maintainer can, if they wish, decide to maintain the backport themselves, or help you doing so. It is not uncommon, for example, to apply a patch to the unstable version of a package, to facilitate its backporting.

5.15.4. When can one start uploading to stable-backports?

The new stable-backports is created before the freeze of the next stable suite. However, it is not allowed to upload there until the very end of the freeze cycle. The stable-backports archive is usually opened a few weeks before the final release of the next stable suite, but it doesn't make sense to upload until the release has actually happened.

5.15.5. How long must a package be maintained when uploaded to stable-backports?

The stable-backports archive is maintained for bugs and security issues during the whole life-cycle of the Debian stable suite. Therefore, an upload to stable-backports, implies a willingness to maintain the backported package for the duration of the stable suite, which can be expected to be about 3 years from its initial release.

The person uploading to backports is also supposed to maintain the backported packages for security during the lifetime of stable.

It is to be noted that the stable-backports isn't part of the LTS or ELTS effort. The stable-backports FTP masters will close the stable-backports repositories for uploads once stable reaches end-of-life (ie: when stable becomes maintained by the LTS team only). Therefore there won't be any maintenance of packages from stable-backports after the official end of life of the stable suite, as uploads will not be accepted.

5.15.6. How often shall one upload to stable-backports?

The packages in backports are supposed to follow the developments that are happening in Testing. Therefore, it is expected that any significant update in testing should trigger an upload into stable-backports, until the new stable is released. However, please do not backport minor version changes without user visible changes or bugfixes.

5.15.7. How can one learn more about backporting?

You can learn more about how to contribute directly on the backport web site.

It is also recommended to read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).