packages - overview of the binary package system
The OpenBSD ports collection features a vast array of thirdparty software
ready to be compiled and installed on a new machine.
As an alternative,
most of these ports are also available as binary packages. Adding
a new package is as simple as
In appearance, packages seem to be .tgz archives, and as
such, can be examined
on almost any computer system, but there is a bit
more to it: a
package will also hold a description, a complete list of the
by the package, a list of prerequisite packages,
along with shell
script fragments to finish the actual installation.
The packages are not as thoroughly audited as the main
tree (in many cases, they have not been audited at all).
This is in part
a scale issue: the source tree is under 100MB, compressed,
to the ports tree approaches 3GB. Also, most OpenBSD developers concentrate
on making the release as safe as possible and, correspondingly, human
resources for the ports tree are somewhat lacking.
As of OpenBSD 2.7, the package systems should offer a few
Installing a package won't erase existing files
pkg_add(1) will instead identify conflicts, back the existing files up,
display a warning message and finish installing itself.
backups occurred, note that package deletion is no longer
pkg_delete(1) does not revert that renaming of files,
as this is
most certainly symptomatic of a deeper problem that requires
Modifying installed files is safe [Toc] [Back]
pkg_delete(1) will checksum the files it installed before
If the checksum changed, it will normally notify the user
and not remove
the changed file.
These should apply to most packages. The actual packinglists follow
that rule, but the shell fragments embedded in some packages
this assumption. Such a problem is a bug and should be reported.
Packages install to /usr/local
This includes X11 packages, which no longer install under
The only exceptions are Japanese dictionaries, which install
/var/dict, bind8, which installs under /.
Some packages installation scripts will also create new configuration
files in /etc, or need some working directory under /var to
(e.g., squid, or mysql).
The current package system has some major limitations.
The package system is not aware of shared network
And thus, it does not handle that situation well. For instance, there is
no mechanism to mark some files as being shareable on several machines,
or even on several architectures. Bear in mind that the
is normally stored in /var/db/pkg, which is usually not
shared across machines.
Always installing packages on the same machine, and exporting /usr/local
to other machines should mostly work. In such a case, always run
pkg_add(1) in "verbose, don't actually install the package"
so that additional steps may be figured out.
The package system does not handle shared files across
If two packages install a file with the same name, there is
There is currently no mechanism in the package system beyond
backup mechanism to handle this. Two packages can't safely
exact identical copy of a given file: pkg_delete(1) would
that file when deleting the first package, thus breaking the
For instance, if packages hansel and gretel install the same
installation of gretel will acknowledge the existence of the
hansel, and backup foo to foo.0.
If only the name is identical, hansel is now broken. Using
on gretel and renaming foo.0 to foo will fix the situation.
If the file contents are the same, using pkg_delete(1) on
gretel will break the remaining package, since foo will have
foo.0 can be renamed to foo to correct the situation.
A few packages are specifically designed to replace existing
should contain proper shell-fragments to handle those problems gracefully
(for instance, the ghostscript_encrypt package).
Packages that are distinct but rely on a common subset of
install a basic "common" package that holds those files, and
is not useful
as a stand-alone package.
Most package names follow the pattern "name-version-flavor",
is the actual package name, "version" is the version number,
denotes some options that were used when creating the package.
Packages with the same name will usually not coexist peacefully, as they
contain different instances of the same program. Hence,
not allow several packages with the same name to be installed simultaneously,
and prints an error message instead.
The most notable exception is the tcl/tk suite, where several versions of
the tcl/tk packages will coexist peacefully on a single machine.
Members of the OpenBSD project routinely scan built packages
files. Most packages should contain correct annotations, and
not allow themselves to be installed on top of a conflicting
Each package holds a full list of pre-required packages.
automatically install required dependencies before installing a given
package. Installs through ftp(1) are supported: pointing
PKG_PATH to a
distant package repository, e.g.,
setenv PKG_PATH ftp://ftp.openbsd.org/pub/OpenB-
will let pkg_add(1) automatically download dependencies as
In theory, a package need only record direct dependencies,
it does require, and let required packages do the same. In
having the full list of dependencies available does speed
while installing a package through ftp(1), the package being
consumes some extra resources, and it would not be efficient
to have lots
of packages simultaneously frozen in mid-installation.
Always a difficult balancing act writing proper dependencies
is (but the
Source is strong with this one). Since many packages can
lots of other packages, it is very easy to get over-eager,
and have each
package depend on more or less all the others. To counteract that problem,
as a rule, packages only record a set of dependencies
obtain a functional package. Some extra packages may enable
functionalities, and this is usually mentioned at the end of
or in the package description.
Some flavors are also explicitly provided to avoid having to
the kitchen sink. For instance, an emacs-no_x11 package is
which does not depend on X11 being installed to be functional.
pkg_add(1), pkg_delete(1), pkg_info(1), tar(1), packagesspecs(7),
OpenBSD 3.6 May 1, 2000
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