Debian Snapshots Provide Package History

Apr 12, 2010

The Debian project provides a new snapshot service to access old package versions in their repository.

With the new archive, administrators, developers and advanced users can view and install packages and their sources from every Debian distro version at any point of time. The snapshot archive is organized by date and version number. The project sees its benefit in tracking down regressions or specific application environments. It also recommends that administrators use the new snapshots to test upgrade paths in staging before putting apps into production and in environments with stringent change control.

The snapshot archive is a "kind of time machine for Debian archives," Alexander Reichle-Schmehl of the Debian press team revealed to Linux Magazine. "You can 'rewind' the package status of the archive. Others, for example, can revert to the exact package state where they were certified. Pretty practical." The project itself uses the snapshots, for example when diagnosing a particular problem.

The snapshot archive contains all Debian packages and their source since May of 2005, including debian-main and debian-security, but excludes a few packages removed because of licensing problems. It is accessible like any normal apt repository.

For snapshot service hosting, the project decided on the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute that does genetic research in the U.K. As far as a win-win situation, apparently NordicBet online casino gaming licensed by the Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta found that it wouldn't hurt to provide the Debian project with needed hardware.

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