8.2. Package Management

Package Management is an often requested addition to the LFS Book. A Package Manager allows tracking the installation of files making it easy to remove and upgrade packages. As well as the binary and library files, a package manager will handle the installation of configuration files. Before you begin to wonder, NO—this section will not talk about nor recommend any particular package manager. What it provides is a roundup of the more popular techniques and how they work. The perfect package manager for you may be among these techniques or may be a combination of two or more of these techniques. This section briefly mentions issues that may arise when upgrading packages.

Some reasons why no package manager is mentioned in LFS or BLFS include:

There are some hints written on the topic of package management. Visit the Hints Project and see if one of them fits your need.

8.2.1. Upgrade Issues

A Package Manager makes it easy to upgrade to newer versions when they are released. Generally the instructions in the LFS and BLFS books can be used to upgrade to the newer versions. Here are some points that you should be aware of when upgrading packages, especially on a running system.

  • If Linux kernel needs to be upgraded (for example, from 5.10.17 to 5.10.18 or 5.11.1), nothing else need to be rebuilt. The system will keep working fine thanks to the well-defined border between kernel and userspace. Specifically, Linux API headers need not to be (and should not be, see the next item) upgraded alongside the kernel. You'll need to reboot your system to use the upgraded kernel.

  • If Linux API headers or Glibc needs to be upgraded to a newer version, (e.g. from glibc-2.31 to glibc-2.32), it is safer to rebuild LFS. Though you may be able to rebuild all the packages in their dependency order, we do not recommend it.

  • If a package containing a shared library is updated, and if the name of the library changes, then any packages dynamically linked to the library need to be recompiled in order to link against the newer library. (Note that there is no correlation between the package version and the name of the library.) For example, consider a package foo-1.2.3 that installs a shared library with name libfoo.so.1. If you upgrade the package to a newer version foo-1.2.4 that installs a shared library with name libfoo.so.2. In this case, any packages that are dynamically linked to libfoo.so.1 need to be recompiled to link against libfoo.so.2 in order to use the new library version. You should not remove the previous libraries unless all the dependent packages are recompiled.

  • If a package containing a shared library is updated, and the name of library doesn't change, but the version number of the library file decreases (for example, the name of the library is kept named libfoo.so.1, but the name of library file is changed from libfoo.so.1.25 to libfoo.so.1.24), you should remove the library file from the previously installed version (libfoo.so.1.25 in the case). Or, a ldconfig run (by yourself using a command line, or by the installation of some package) will reset the symlink libfoo.so.1 to point to the old library file because it seems having a newer version, as its version number is larger. This situation may happen if you have to downgrade a package, or the package changes the versioning scheme of library files suddenly.

  • If a package containing a shared library is updated, and the name of library doesn't change, but a severe issue (especially, a security vulnerability) is fixed, all running programs linked to the shared library should be restarted. The following command, run as root after updating, will list what is using the old versions of those libraries (replace libfoo with the name of the library):

    grep -l  -e 'libfoo.*deleted' /proc/*/maps |
       tr -cd 0-9\\n | xargs -r ps u

    If OpenSSH is being used for accessing the system and it is linked to the updated library, you need to restart sshd service, then logout, login again, and rerun that command to confirm nothing is still using the deleted libraries.

  • If a binary or a shared library is overwritten, the processes using the code or data in the binary or library may crash. The correct way to update a binary or a shared library without causing the process to crash is to remove it first, then install the new version into position. The install command provided by Coreutils has already implemented this and most packages use it to install binaries and libraries. This means that you won't be troubled by this issue most of the time. However, the install process of some packages (notably Mozilla JS in BLFS) just overwrites the file if it exists and causes a crash, so it's safer to save your work and close unneeded running processes before updating a package.

8.2.2. Package Management Techniques

The following are some common package management techniques. Before making a decision on a package manager, do some research on the various techniques, particularly the drawbacks of the particular scheme. It is All in My Head!

Yes, this is a package management technique. Some folks do not find the need for a package manager because they know the packages intimately and know what files are installed by each package. Some users also do not need any package management because they plan on rebuilding the entire system when a package is changed. Install in Separate Directories

This is a simplistic package management that does not need any extra package to manage the installations. Each package is installed in a separate directory. For example, package foo-1.1 is installed in /usr/pkg/foo-1.1 and a symlink is made from /usr/pkg/foo to /usr/pkg/foo-1.1. When installing a new version foo-1.2, it is installed in /usr/pkg/foo-1.2 and the previous symlink is replaced by a symlink to the new version.

Environment variables such as PATH, LD_LIBRARY_PATH, MANPATH, INFOPATH and CPPFLAGS need to be expanded to include /usr/pkg/foo. For more than a few packages, this scheme becomes unmanageable. Symlink Style Package Management

This is a variation of the previous package management technique. Each package is installed similar to the previous scheme. But instead of making the symlink, each file is symlinked into the /usr hierarchy. This removes the need to expand the environment variables. Though the symlinks can be created by the user to automate the creation, many package managers have been written using this approach. A few of the popular ones include Stow, Epkg, Graft, and Depot.

The installation needs to be faked, so that the package thinks that it is installed in /usr though in reality it is installed in the /usr/pkg hierarchy. Installing in this manner is not usually a trivial task. For example, consider that you are installing a package libfoo-1.1. The following instructions may not install the package properly:

./configure --prefix=/usr/pkg/libfoo/1.1
make install

The installation will work, but the dependent packages may not link to libfoo as you would expect. If you compile a package that links against libfoo, you may notice that it is linked to /usr/pkg/libfoo/1.1/lib/libfoo.so.1 instead of /usr/lib/libfoo.so.1 as you would expect. The correct approach is to use the DESTDIR strategy to fake installation of the package. This approach works as follows:

./configure --prefix=/usr
make DESTDIR=/usr/pkg/libfoo/1.1 install

Most packages support this approach, but there are some which do not. For the non-compliant packages, you may either need to manually install the package, or you may find that it is easier to install some problematic packages into /opt. Timestamp Based

In this technique, a file is timestamped before the installation of the package. After the installation, a simple use of the find command with the appropriate options can generate a log of all the files installed after the timestamp file was created. A package manager written with this approach is install-log.

Though this scheme has the advantage of being simple, it has two drawbacks. If, during installation, the files are installed with any timestamp other than the current time, those files will not be tracked by the package manager. Also, this scheme can only be used when one package is installed at a time. The logs are not reliable if two packages are being installed on two different consoles. Tracing Installation Scripts

In this approach, the commands that the installation scripts perform are recorded. There are two techniques that one can use:

The LD_PRELOAD environment variable can be set to point to a library to be preloaded before installation. During installation, this library tracks the packages that are being installed by attaching itself to various executables such as cp, install, mv and tracking the system calls that modify the filesystem. For this approach to work, all the executables need to be dynamically linked without the suid or sgid bit. Preloading the library may cause some unwanted side-effects during installation. Therefore, it is advised that one performs some tests to ensure that the package manager does not break anything and logs all the appropriate files.

The second technique is to use strace, which logs all system calls made during the execution of the installation scripts. Creating Package Archives

In this scheme, the package installation is faked into a separate tree as described in the Symlink style package management. After the installation, a package archive is created using the installed files. This archive is then used to install the package either on the local machine or can even be used to install the package on other machines.

This approach is used by most of the package managers found in the commercial distributions. Examples of package managers that follow this approach are RPM (which, incidentally, is required by the Linux Standard Base Specification), pkg-utils, Debian's apt, and Gentoo's Portage system. A hint describing how to adopt this style of package management for LFS systems is located at https://www.linuxfromscratch.org/hints/downloads/files/fakeroot.txt.

Creation of package files that include dependency information is complex and is beyond the scope of LFS.

Slackware uses a tar based system for package archives. This system purposely does not handle package dependencies as more complex package managers do. For details of Slackware package management, see http://www.slackbook.org/html/package-management.html. User Based Management

This scheme, unique to LFS, was devised by Matthias Benkmann, and is available from the Hints Project. In this scheme, each package is installed as a separate user into the standard locations. Files belonging to a package are easily identified by checking the user ID. The features and shortcomings of this approach are too complex to describe in this section. For the details please see the hint at https://www.linuxfromscratch.org/hints/downloads/files/more_control_and_pkg_man.txt.

8.2.3. Deploying LFS on Multiple Systems

One of the advantages of an LFS system is that there are no files that depend on the position of files on a disk system. Cloning an LFS build to another computer with the same architecture as the base system is as simple as using tar on the LFS partition that contains the root directory (about 250MB uncompressed for a base LFS build), copying that file via network transfer or CD-ROM to the new system and expanding it. From that point, a few configuration files will have to be changed. Configuration files that may need to be updated include: /etc/hosts, /etc/fstab, /etc/passwd, /etc/group, /etc/shadow, and /etc/ld.so.conf.

A custom kernel may need to be built for the new system depending on differences in system hardware and the original kernel configuration.



There have been some reports of issues when copying between similar but not identical architectures. For instance, the instruction set for an Intel system is not identical with an AMD processor and later versions of some processors may have instructions that are unavailable in earlier versions.

Finally the new system has to be made bootable via Section 10.4, “Using GRUB to Set Up the Boot Process”.