Create a package

Creating a package foo involves the following steps:

  • Initialize the packaging directories.
  • Fill foo/Makefile (used for common metadata and upstream source recovery and preparation).
  • Do the distribution specific stuff (dependencies in debian/control and foo.spec, pre/post install scripts, init scripts, etc)
  • Build the package

Here is the general packaging workflow:

  • The steps in orange are common for all packages and must not be modified.
  • The steps in green are package specific, it’s those steps which must be customized for each package.

Initialize package skeleton

To create a package “foo” skeleton, run the follwing command:

$ ./common/ -n foo

This script will create the following tree:

├── buildenv -> ../common/buildenv
├── debian
│   ├── changelog
│   ├── compat
│   ├── conffiles
│   ├── control
│   ├── copyright
│   ├── foo.cron.d.ex
│   ├── foo.default.ex
│   ├── init.d.ex
│   ├── postinst.ex
│   ├── postrm.ex
│   ├── preinst.ex
│   ├── prerm.ex
│   ├── rules
│   └── source
│       └── format
├── rpm
│   └── component.spec
├── Makefile

This tree contains two main directories, two main files, and a symlink:

  • debian: deb packaging stuff.
  • rpm: rpm packaging stuff (component.spec and optionally additional content like .service files).
  • Makefile: used to download and prepare upstream sources.
  • MANIFEST: listing the downloaded files and their hash.
  • buildenv: symlink to the shared build resources (Makefile.common, and various helper scripts).


Don’t rename component.spec, build script for rpm expect this file to exist.

At this point, with default content, “empty” .rpm and .deb packages can be built:

$ cd foo/   # go in dir
# make help # display Makefile help
$ make deb  # build deb
$ make rpm  # build rpm
$ dpkg -c out/foo_0.0.1-1\~up+deb00_all.deb # look .deb content
$ rpm -qpl out/foo-0.0.1-1.00.noarch.rpm    # look .rpm content

Package metadata

It’s necessary to setup the package metadata (version, description) to their proper values. Package metadata are declared at the top of the package Makefile:

# Version
# if possible, keep the upstream version

# Revision number
# increment it when fixing packaging for a given release
# reset it to 1 if VERSION is increased

# URL of the upstream project

# short summary of what the package provides
SUMMARY=My package summary

# long version of the summary, (but I could be lazy)


During the package build, these variables are automatically substitute in packaging files. This is done by simple running sed -s ‘s|@VAR@|$(VAR)|’ on these files.

Don’t remove the @VAR@ (ex: @SUMMARY@, @URL@, @VERSION@) in the packaging files.

Download upstream sources

This packaging infrastructure comes with a small tool, ./common/buildenv/ to handle downloads.

This tool role is:

  • Download upstream sources.
  • Check the integrity of the upstream source against the MANIFEST file (sha512 sum).
  • (Re)Build the MANIFEST file if requested.
  • Handle a local download cache to avoid downloading sources at each build.

Download tool usage

Inside the Makefile, use it as followed:

$(WGS) -u <url> -o $(BUILD_DIR)/<output file>


# Name of the package
NAME = libemf2svg

# Version
VERSION = 1.0.1

# URL of the project

# Source recovery url

# Including common rules and targets
include buildenv/Makefile.common

        $(WGS) -u $(URL_SRC) -o $(SOURCE_ARCHIVE)

Building the MANIFEST file

To create the MANIFEST file, just run the following command:

make manifest

Source preparation

The source preparation is made in the $(SOURCE_ARCHIVE) target.

The goal of this rule is to create the tar.gz archive $(SOURCE_ARCHIVE).

The root directory of the source archive should be $(NAME)-$(VERSION). For example:

tar -tvf cache/mk-sh-skel_1.0.0.orig.tar.gz
drwxrwxr-x root/root         0 2015-11-27 00:26 mk-sh-skel-1.0.0/
-rw-rw-r-- root/root      1135 2015-11-27 00:26 mk-sh-skel-1.0.0/LICENSE
-rw-rw-r-- root/root       145 2015-11-27 00:26 mk-sh-skel-1.0.0/Makefile
-rw-rw-r-- root/root       972 2015-11-27 00:26 mk-sh-skel-1.0.0/
-rw-rw-r-- root/root      1037 2015-11-27 00:26 mk-sh-skel-1.0.0/mksh-skel

In ideal cases, it’s only a matter of downloading the upstream sources as these conventions are quite standards. For example:

# Version
VERSION = 1.0.1

# URL of the project

# example of source recovery url

# Basic source archive recovery,
# this works fine if upstream is clean
        $(WGS) -u $(URL_SRC) -o $(SOURCE_ARCHIVE)

But in some cases, it might be necessary to modify the upstream sources content.

For that two helper variables are provided:

  • $(SOURCE_DIR): source directory (with proper naming convention) where to put sources before building the source archive.
  • $(SOURCE_TAR_CMD): once $(SOURCE_DIR) is filled with content, just call this variable, it will generate the $(SOURCE_ARCHIVE) tar.gz and do some cleanup. If present, $(SOURCE_TAR_CMD) should be the last step in $(SOURCE_ARCHIVE) target.

For example:

# Version
VERSION = 1.0.7

# URL of the project

# example of source recovery url

# preparation of the sources with removal of upstream, unwanted debian/ packaging
# it does the following:
# * recover upstream archive
# * uncompress it
# * upstream modification (remove the unwanted debian/ dir from upstream source)
# * move remaining stuff to $(SOURCE_DIR)
# * do some cleanup
# * build the archive

        $(WGS) -u $(URL_SRC) -o $(BUILD_DIR)/python-rfc3161-$(VERSION).tar.gz
        mkdir -p $(BUILD_DIR)/tmp
        tar -vxf $(BUILD_DIR)/$(NAME)-$(VERSION).tar.gz -C $(BUILD_DIR)/tmp
        rm -rf $(BUILD_DIR)/tmp/python-rfc3161-$(VERSION)/debian
        mv $(BUILD_DIR)/tmp/python-rfc3161-$(VERSION)/* $(SOURCE_DIR)
        rm -rf $(BUILD_DIR)/tmp
        rm -f $(BUILD_DIR)/python-rfc3161-$(VERSION).tar.gz

Distribution specific packaging

For the most part, just package according to deb/rpm documentation, filling the rpm/component.spec, debian/rules, debian/control, or any other packaging files if necessary.


I would advise you to try to respect the distributions guidelines and standards such as the FHS (


For Debian packages, just leverage the usual packaging patterns such as the PKG.init, PKG.default, PKG.service, ... files and the override_dh_* targets in debian/rules, and then, add your dependencies and architecture(s) in the debian/control file.


In many cases, with clean upstreams, there is nearly nothing to do except dependencies and architecture, the various dh_helpers will do their magic and build a clean package.

If you are unlucky, uncomment the export DH_VERBOSE=1 in debian/rules and customize the build as necessary using the override_dh_* targets.


For rpm, fill the various sections of the rpm/component.spec file such as BuildRequires:, Requires: or BuildArch: parameters and the various sections like %install.

If additional files a required for packaging, an init script for example, put these files in the rpm/ directory.

All additional files in the rpm/ directory are copied in the rpmbuild SOURCES directory. This means that it’s possible to treat them as additional source files in component.spec with the Source[0-9]: directives.

Example for ldapcherry.service systemd service file and it’s associated files:

# rpm/ directory content
tree rpm/
├── component.spec
├── ldapcherry
├── ldapcherry.conf
└── ldapcherry.service
# component.spec relevant sections
Source: %{pkgname}-%{version}.tar.gz
Source1: ldapcherry
Source2: ldapcherry.conf
Source3: ldapcherry.service

# install section

# install the .service, the sysconfig file and tmpfiles.d (for pid file creation as non-root user)
mkdir -p %{buildroot}%{_unitdir}
mkdir -p %{buildroot}/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/
mkdir -p %{buildroot}/etc/sysconfig/
install -pm644 %{SOURCE1} %{buildroot}/etc/sysconfig/
install -pm644 %{SOURCE2} %{buildroot}/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/
install -pm644 %{SOURCE3} %{buildroot}%{_unitdir}

Distribution version specific packaging files

Depending on the OS version targeted, there might be some differences in packaging. A common difference is the dependency names.

For handling those cases, the present packaging framework provides a simple mechanism.

To override any file <FILE> in either the rpm/ or debian/ directories if targeting distribution version <DIST>, just create a new version of the <FILE> with the following name: <FILE>.dist.<DIST>.

For example, with the debian/control file and distribution jessie:

debian/control             # will be used as default
debian/control.dist.jessie # will be used build is called with DIST=jessie

It also permits to handle additional files for specific distribution versions.