Package maintenance at the command line

Debian Goodies lets you manage and troubleshoot packages from the command line.

Many users of Debian or its derivatives are aware of only a handful of tools. When troubleshooting or searching for a package to install, most rely on the Debian web pages for each package. The more expert may use apt-cache. However, these tools give limited information. For more demanding needs, a better alternative is Debian Goodies [1], a collection of small scripts that allow users to probe the details of packages without going through them file by file. First written and curated by Matt Zimmerman, Debian Goodies remain little known but can be equally useful for the casual user looking for a package, a sys admin troubleshooting packages, or a maintainer building a package. Perhaps their strongest feature is that, unlike the package web pages, Debian Goodies deliver results directly to the command line, without the need to switch windows.

dgrep and dglob

Searches can be useful for many purposes when you are troubleshooting packages. For instance, they can find what a package does, what the current package version is, or what programming language a package is written in. If all else fails, they can provide the name of the maintainer so that you can contact them. Both dgrep and dglob are in effect minor add-ons to already existing search tools, each of which deserves its own article. Here, there is only room for a general orientation.

By invoking the basic grep command, dgrep (Figure 1) searches for strings and regular expressions through installed packages. Similarly, degrep invokes egrep, dfgrep invokes fgrep, and dzgrep invokes zgrep. You can limit the search by specifying the packages to search within. The available options are the same as for grep, except for those specific to directories (-r, --recursive, -d recurse, --directories=recurse, -d read, --directories=read) because dgrep skips directories. In addition, symbolic links are not searched.

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