Create a package

Creating a package foo involves the following steps:

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

Initialize package skeleton

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

$ ./common/ -n foo

This script will create the following subtree:

tree foo/
├── 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:

  • Makefile: used to download and prepare upstream sources.
  • MANIFEST: listing of the downloaded files and their hash.
  • debian: deb packaging stuff.
  • rpm: rpm packaging stuff (component.spec and optionally additional content like .service files).
  • 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 for 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)


Please note the templatization of the download url “$(URL_SRC)”. Specifically the “$(VERSION)” part. This way, when a new upstream version is available, simply updating the “VERSION” variable and updating the manifest is necessary if upstream has not changed drastically.

Build MANIFEST file

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

make manifest


In case of checksum error, an error like the following one will be displayed:

[ERROR] Bad checksum for ''
expected: 2cdeaa0cd4ddf624b5bc7ka5dbdeb4c3dbe77df09eb58bac7621ee7b64868e0d916a1318e4d13e1ee8f50d470d58dd285ed579632046189ac7717d7def962fddf
got:     1cdea044ddf624b5bc7465dbdeb4c3dbe77df09eb58bac7621ee7b64868e0d916a1318e4d13e1ee8f50d470d58dd285ed579632046189ac7717d7def962fddfaa
Makefile:38: recipe for target 'builddir/mk-sh-skel_1.0.0.orig.tar.gz' failed
make: *** [builddir/mk-sh-skel_1.0.0.orig.tar.gz] Error 1

If it happens, either it’s a “legitimate” mismatch (because you have changed the version for example), and you should rebuild the MANIFEST file.

Or it’s upstream doing weird things like re-releasing reusing the same version number which is generally bad practice and should be investigated.

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

Skipping distribution versions

Sometimes, packages cannot be built on certain versions of specific distribution.

This typically happens when the dependencies are too old or not present in older versions.

In such cases, it’s possible to skip the build the package for specific distribution versions.

For that, you need to set the SKIP variable.

# here, we skip build on Debian older than 9, RHEL older than 7, Fedora older than 30 and Ubuntu older than 18.4
SKIP=<:deb:9 <:el:7 <:fc:30 <:ubu:18.4

SKIP contains a space separated list of rules.

each rule have the format <op>:<dist>:<version>, with:

  • <op>: the operation (must be ‘>’, ‘>=’, ‘<’, ‘<=’ or ‘=’)
  • <dist>: the distribution code name (examples: ‘deb’, ‘el’, ‘fc’)
  • <version>: the version number to compare with

Distribution specific packaging

For the most part, just package according to deb/rpm documentation, filling the rpm/component.spec, debian/rules, debian/control, and 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 use the override_dh_* targets in debian/rules if necessary. Finally, add your dependencies and architecture(s) in the debian/control file.


In many cases, with clean upstreams, there is nearly nothing to do except setting 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}

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 for a specific distribution version <DIST>, create a file <FILE>.dist.<DIST> with the specific content for version <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 if build is called with DIST=jessie

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