Thoughts on srcinst

As eddyp wrote on Planet Debian, there is indeed a tool to roll custom builds of source packages. However, as he also mentioned, it’s written in Haskell, and may be unmaintained.

One of the most commonly heard complaints I have received about Debian (and Ubuntu) is that it does not allow for easily rebuilding source packages. So, I’m going to start writing a new debian package builder for this purpose soon. It’ll probably be a package similar to pbuilder, except aimed at end users instead of developers. Here’s my plan of action:

Phase 1:

  • Interface similar to apt. Creates a build lab based on the current operating system (using lsb_release or similar) using debootstrap if one does not exist, then caches that build lab. A weekly cronjob will be added to make sure the build lab is kept up-to-date. (This would be provided by ’srctool bootstrap’.)
  • Installing and building packages; dependencies will be resolved using gdebi. (This is provided by the ’srctool install package’.)
  • A configuration file allowing you to specify DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS and other parameters to influence the build.

Phase 2:

  • Some sort of policy proposal to add a common debian/rules option for declaring features. So that users can easily rebuild without LDAP support if they don’t want it.
  • General hook to note that a package was built with custom CFLAGS etc for reportbug.


  • Is this harmful to Debian? I don’t think it is. Here’s why: most end-users will continue to use aptitude/apt-get and binary packages because they don’t care about building it. The key point here is, most Debian users just want their computer to work. As such, they won’t use srctool.
  • The main point for srctool is to allow for easily slipstreaming in patches and custom build options in an easy way. (Also maybe in the future, local bumps if they want newer upstream version than what Debian provides them.)

Anyway, that’s just a project I have planned on the side over the next few months.