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DEBCONF(7)                       Miscellaneous Information Manual                      DEBCONF(7)

       debconf - Debian package configuration system

       Debconf  is  a  configuration  system  for Debian packages. There is a rarely-used command
       named debconf, documented in debconf(1)

       Debconf provides a consistent interface for configuring packages, allowing you  to  choose
       from several user interface frontends. It supports preconfiguring packages before they are
       installed, which allows large installs and upgrades to  ask  you  for  all  the  necessary
       information up front, and then go do the work while you do something else. It lets you, if
       you're in a hurry, skip over less important questions and information while  installing  a
       package (and revisit it later).

Preconfiguring packages
       Debconf  can  configure  packages before they are even installed onto your system. This is
       useful because it lets all the questions the packages are going to ask  be  asked  at  the
       beginning of an install, so the rest of the install can proceed while you are away getting
       a cup of coffee.

       If you use apt (version 0.5 or above), and you have apt-utils installed, each package  apt
       installs    will    be    automatically    preconfigured.    This    is   controlled   via

       Sometimes you might want to preconfigure a package by hand, when you're not installing  it
       with  apt.  You can use dpkg-preconfigure(8) to do that, just pass it the filenames of the
       packages you want to preconfigure. You will need apt-utils installed for that to work.

Reconfiguring packages
       Suppose you installed the package, and answered debconf's questions, but now  that  you've
       used  it  awhile,  you realize you want to go back and change some of your answers. In the
       past, reinstalling a package was often the thing to do when you got in this situation, but
       when you reinstall the package, debconf seems to remember you have answered the questions,
       and doesn't ask them again (this is a feature).

       Luckily, debconf makes it easy to reconfigure any package that uses it.  Suppose you  want
       to reconfigure debconf itself. Just run, as root:
         dpkg-reconfigure debconf

       This  will ask all the questions you saw when debconf was first installed.  It may ask you
       other questions as well, since it asks even low priority  questions  that  may  have  been
       skipped  when  the  package  was installed.  You can use it on any other package that uses
       debconf, as well.

       One of debconf's unique features is that the interface it presents to you is only  one  of
       many, that can be swapped in at will. There are many debconf frontends available:

       dialog The  default  frontend,  this uses the whiptail(1) or dialog(1) programs to display
              questions to you. It works in text mode.

              The most traditional frontend, this looks quite similar to how Debian configuration
              always  has  been:  a  series  of questions, printed out at the console using plain
              text, and prompts done using the readline library. It even supports tab completion.
              The  libterm-readline-gnu-perl  package is strongly recommended if you chose to use
              this frontend; the default readline module does not support prompting with  default
              values.  At the minimum, you'll need the perl-modules package installed to use this

              This frontend has some special hotkeys. Pageup (or ctrl-u) will go back to the pre‐
              vious  question  (if  that  is supported by the package that is using debconf), and
              pagedown (or ctrl-v) will skip forward to the next question.

              This is the best frontend for remote admin work over  a  slow  connection,  or  for
              those who are comfortable with unix.

              This  is  the  anti-frontend.  It  never  interacts  with you at all, and makes the
              default answers be used for all questions. It might mail error  messages  to  root,
              but  that's  it; otherwise it is completely silent and unobtrusive, a perfect fron‐
              tend for automatic installs. If you are using  this  front-end,  and  require  non-
              default  answers  to  questions, you will need to preseed the debconf database; see
              the section below on Unattended Package Installation for more details.

       gnome  This is a modern X GUI using the gtk and gnome libraries. Of course, it requires  a
              valid  DISPLAY to work; debconf will fall back to other frontends if it can't work.
              Note that this frontend requires you have the libgnome2-perl package installed.

       kde    This frontend provides a simple X GUI written with the Qt library. It fits well the
              KDE  desktop.  You  of  course need a DISPLAY to use this frontend and must install
              libqt-perl. The frontend will fall back to dialog if some of the prerequisites  are
              not met.

       editor This is for those fanatics who have to do everything in a text editor. It runs your
              editor on a file that looks something like a typical unix config file, and you edit
              the  file  to  communicate  with  debconf.  Debconf's author prefers to not comment
              regarding the circumstances that led to this frontend being written.

              This frontend acts as a web server, that you connect to with your web  browser,  to
              browse  the  questions  and  answer them.  It has a lot of promise, but is a little
              rough so far.  When this frontend starts up, it will print  out  the  location  you
              should  point  your  web  browser  to.  You have to run the web browser on the same
              machine you are configuring, for security reasons.

              Do keep in mind that this is not a very secure frontend.  Anyone who has access  to
              the  computer  being  configured  can currently access the web server and configure
              things while this frontend is running. So this is more of a proof of  concept  than

       You  can  change  the default frontend debconf uses by reconfiguring debconf. On the other
       hand, if you just want to change the frontend for a minute, you can set  the  DEBIAN_FRON‐
       TEND environment variable to the name of the frontend to use. For example:
         DEBIAN_FRONTEND=readline apt-get install slrn

       The dpkg-reconfigure(8) and dpkg-preconfigure(8) commands also let you pass --frontend= to
       them, followed by the frontend you want them to use.

       Note that not all frontends will work in all circumstances. If a frontend fails  to  start
       up  for some reason, debconf will print out a message explaining why, and fall back to the
       next-most similar frontend.

       Another nice feature of debconf is that the questions it asks you are prioritized. If  you
       don't want to be bothered about every little thing, you can set up debconf to only ask you
       the most important questions.  On the other hand, if you are a control freak, you can make
       it  show  you  all  questions. Each question has a priority. In increasing order of impor‐

       low    Very trivial questions that have defaults that will work in the  vast  majority  of

       medium Normal questions that have reasonable defaults.

       high   Questions that don't have a reasonable default.

              Questions that you really, really need to see (or else).

       Only  questions  with  a priority equal to or greater than the priority you choose will be
       shown to you. You can set the priority value by reconfiguring debconf, or  temporarily  by
       passing  --priority=  followed by the value to the dpkg-reconfigure(8) and dpkg-preconfig‐
       ure(8) commands, or by setting the DEBIAN_PRIORITY environment variable.

Backend Database
       Debconf uses a rather flexible and potentially complicated backend  database  for  storing
       data  such  as  the  answers to questions. The file /etc/debconf.conf is used to configure
       this database. If you need to set up something  complicated,  like  make  debconf  read  a
       remote  database  to get defaults, with local overrides, read the debconf.conf(5) man page
       for all the gory details. Generally, the backend database is  located  in  /var/cache/deb‐

Unattended Package Installation
       If  you  have  many machines to manage you will sometimes find yourself in the position of
       needing to perform an unattended installation or upgrade of packages on many systems, when
       the  default  answers  to  some configuration questions are not acceptable. There are many
       ways to approach this; all involve setting up a database and making debconf use it to  get
       the answers you want.

       You  should really read debconf.conf(5) before this section, as you need to understand how
       debconf's databases work.

       The easiest way to set up the database is to install  the  packages  on  one  machine  and
       answer their questions as usual. Or you might just use dpkg-preconfigure(8) to configure a
       set of packages without actually installing them. Or you might  even  decide  to  write  a
       plain text debconf database by hand or something.

       Once  you have the database, you need to figure out how to make the remote systems use it.
       This depends of course on the configuration of those systems and what database types  they
       are set up to use.

       If  you are using the LDAP debconf database, an entire network of debian machines can also
       have any or all package installation questions answered automatically  by  a  single  LDAP

       But  perhaps  you're  using something a little bit easier to set up like, say, the default
       debconf database configuration, or you just don't want your remote systems to use LDAP all
       the time. In this case the best approach is to temporarily configure the remote systems to
       stack your database underneath their own existing databases, so they pull  default  values
       out  of  it.  Debconf  offers  two  environment  variables,  DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK  and DEB‐
       CONF_DB_OVERRIDE, to make it easy to do this on the fly. Here is a sample use:

          cat /var/cache/debconf/config.dat | \
          ssh root@target "DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive \
                         DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK=Pipe apt-get upgrade"

       This makes the debconf on the remote host read in the data that is piped  across  the  ssh
       connection  and  interpret  it  as a plain text format debconf database. It then uses that
       database as a fallback database -- a read-only database that is  queried  for  answers  to
       questions if the system's main debconf database lacks answers.

       Here's another way to use the DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK environment variable:

         ssh -R 389:ldap:389 root@target \
            "DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK='LDAP{host:localhost}' apt-get upgrade"

       Here ssh is used to set up a tunneled LDAP connection and run debconf.  Debconf is told to
       use the LDAP server as the fallback database. Note the use of "{host:localhost}"  to  con‐
       figure  how  debconf accesses the LDAP database by providing the "host" field with a value
       of "localhost".

       Here's another method:

         scp config.dat root@target:
         ssh root@target "DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK='File{/root/config.dat}' apt-get upgrade

       Here you copy the database over with scp, and then ssh over and make debconf use the  file
       you  copied  over.  This  illustrates  a  shorthand you can use in the DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK
       parameters -- if a field name is left off, it defaults to "filename".

       There is only one problem with these uses of the DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK parameter: While  the
       fallback  database can provide answers to questions the other debconf databases have never
       seen, it is only queried as a fallback; after the other databases. If you need to  instead
       temporarily override an existing value on the remote host, you should instead use the DEB‐
       CONF_DB_OVERRIDE variable. Like DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK, it sets up a temporary database,  but
       this database is consulted before any others, and can be used to override existing values.

Developing for Debconf
       Package  developers  and  others who want to develop packages that use debconf should read

       Briefly, debconf communicates with maintainer scripts or other programs via standard input
       and  output,  using a simple line-oriented command language similar to that used by common
       internet protocols such as SMTP. Programs use this protocol  to  ask  debconf  to  display
       questions  to  the  user,  and  retrieve  the user's answers. The questions themselves are
       defined in a separate file, called the "templates file", which has a format not  unlike  a
       debian control file.

       Debian  packages  which use debconf typically provide both a templates file and a "config"
       script (run to preconfigure the package) in the control metadata section of the package.

              Used to temporarily change the frontend debconf uses. See above.

              Used to temporarily change the minimum priority of question debconf  will  display.
              See above.

              Turns  on  debugging  output  on standard error. May be set to a facility name or a
              regular expression which matches a facility name (such as '.*' to output all  debug
              info). The facility names include:

              user   Debugging info of interest to a debconf user.

                     Debugging info of interest to a package developer.

              db     Debugging info about the backend database.

              Set  to  "yes" to disable some warnings that debconf may display. Does not suppress
              display of fatal errors.

              Set to "yes" to enable terse mode, in which debconf frontends cut down on the  ver‐
              biage as much as possible.

              Stack  a  database after the normally used databases, so that it is used as a fall‐
              back to get configuration information from. See "Unattended  Package  Installation"
              above.  If  the  value  of the variable is the name of an existing database in deb‐
              conf.conf, then that database will be used.  Otherwise,  the  environment  variable
              can  be  used  to configure a database on the fly, by telling the type of database,
              and optionally passing field:value settings, inside curly braces  after  the  type.
              Spaces  are used to separate fields, so you cannot specify a field value containing

       Thus, this uses the fallbackdb in debconf.conf:

       While this sets up a new database of type File, and tells it a filename to use  and  turns
       off backups:
         DEBCONF_DB_FALLBACK=File{Filename:/root/config.dat Backup:no}

       And as a shorthand, this sets up a database of type File with a filename:

       Note that if a fallback database is set up on the fly, it will be read-only by default.

              Stack a database before the normally used databases, so that it can override values
              from them. The value of the variable works the same  as  does  the  value  of  DEB‐

              Use  a  given  database instead of the normally used databases.  This may be useful
              for testing with a separate database without  having  to  create  a  separate  deb‐
              conf.conf, or to avoid locking the normal databases.

              If  this  environment  variable  is  set, debconf will ignore a user's ~/.debconfrc
              file, and use the system one instead.  If it is set to the name of a regular  file,
              debconf will use that file in preference to the system configuration files.

              If this environment variable is set, debconf will use dialog in preference to whip‐
              tail for the dialog frontend.

              If this environment variable is set, debconf will  use  Xdialog  in  preference  to
              whiptail for the dialog frontend.

              Set to "true" to cause the seen flag to be set for questions asked in the noninter‐
              active frontend.

       Probably quite a few, there's a lot of code here.

       If you do file a bug report, be sure to include the following information:

       *      The debconf frontend you were using when the problem occurred

       *      What you did to trigger the problem.

       *      The full text of any error messages. If you can reproduce the bug, do so with  DEB‐
              CONF_DEBUG='.*' set and exported. This speeds up debugging a lot.

       debconf.conf(5), debconf-devel(7), dpkg-preconfigure(8), dpkg-reconfigure(8), debconf(1),

       Joey Hess <joeyh AT debian.org>


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