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       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
              previous  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
              frontend 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 libgtk3-perl package installed.

       kde    This frontend provides a modern X GUI based on the KDE Platform. You of course need
              a DISPLAY to use this frontend and you must install debconf-kde-helper package. 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_FRONTEND 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

       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-
       preconfigure(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

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
       DEBCONF_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
       configure 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
       DEBCONF_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

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
              verbiage as much as possible.

              Stack  a  database  after  the  normally  used  databases,  so that it is used as a
              fallback  to  get  configuration  information   from.   See   "Unattended   Package
              Installation"  above.  If  the  value  of  the  variable is the name of an existing
              database in  debconf.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 whitespace.

       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

              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
              debconf.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
              whiptail 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
              noninteractive 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
              DEBCONF_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 <>