Quality-testing for Debian packages

Command Line – adequate

© Lead Image © rudall30, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © rudall30, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 275/2023

The adequate command-line tool helps users pinpoint problems with installed DEB packages.

Like less and most, adequate's [1] name is an both an understatement and a mild joke. A tool for analyzing the quality of installed DEB packages, adequate is actually a rigorous test of quality control based on the Debian Policy Manual [2], which makes its results far beyond adequate. Like many Debian packages, adequate was written for maintainers, but it is also a useful tool for cautious average users.

You can find adequate in the repositories of Debian, Ubuntu, and Linux Mint. Average users will find adequate useful because, as mentioned in a previous column [3], using a variety of repositories can be a gamble. You should rarely need adequate in Debian Stable, whose packages have been thoroughly tested by the time they are placed in the repository and may have been updated to fix bugs and plug security holes. Similarly, in most cases, packages from Testing should also be reasonably safe. However, packages in Unstable are much more of a gamble, not least because some developers place new packages directly into Unstable rather than introducing them into Experimental.

Outside the Debian structure, the risk is even higher, whether you are using packages that originate in a Debian derivative such as Ubuntu or a development platform such as Ubuntu's Personal Package Archives (PPA), GitHub, or GitLab. On such development platforms, any packages the developers take time to make is sometimes second in importance to coding, or they are made by someone with limited knowledge of Debian packaging. Any standards are a matter of personal preference. Not all the data provided by adequate is relevant to ordinary users (e.g., the absence of a copyright notice). Nonetheless, by running any package through adequate, average users can pinpoint the source of problems, possibly repair them, and file more meaningful bug reports. However adequate is used, it offers an insight into the structure of Debian and its derivatives.


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